As I’ve gotten more involved in mountain running, I’ve begun blowing through trail running shoes. Saucony Peregrine and Xodus? Great shoes. Blew out five pairs. Altras? Two pairs blown out in under 100 miles. Lugs ripped clean off. Separated soles. Clearly, as I headed into 2015 with several legit mountain races on the calendar, I needed something that would hold up to the abuse of thousands of feet scrambling up and down rocky terrain.
I’d heard great things about LaSportiva in the past – in fact, my hiking boots are LaSportiva and I LOVE them – and kept hearing that they made great mountain running shoes. Knowing the caliber of their mountain running team I figured this was true. I finally bit the bullet in February and shelled out for a pair of Bushidos. (I don’t usually spend a ton on running shoes since I’m fairly proficient at finding online deals for shoes I like on the cheap.) I’ve never spent this much on shoes before. But I have not been disappointed!
It stands to reason that a mountain company would make good mountain shoes. LaSportiva certainly does. Solidly structured shoe, holds your foot in place firmly but gently, great support, super protective design, yet still retains a very lightweight, stripped down feel. The tread on these things is super gnarly. The upper is super durable. I got these in the middle of one of the coldest upstate New York winters on record, and – whereas most trail shoes would have simply shredded through with all the snow and ice running – these things showed very little sign of wear! Heck, they gripped the snow and ice so well that I never got around to putting studs in the soles because they really just didn’t need them. (And we’re not talking dustings of snow. This includes breaking trail through ice-encrusted thigh deep snow… repeatedly.)
Come spring, running mountain repeats on muddy scree, wet roots, rocks, and frozen leaves these things didn’t skip a beat. Traction in spades. Foot protection in spades. And yet, with their fairly low stack height, you still maintained fairly good trail feel for such a stiff (there’s a solid rock plate running the length of these things) shoe. Very responsive feel on the trails for how well-structured a shoe it is.
The ride on the Bushido is also very good. With a 6mm drop, and a wide/low structure, it allows for an aggressive stance from which you can attack the trail. The tread design and compound sticks true allowing you to really crank through crazy terrain without worrying about traction. The shoe performs strongly for both climbing and descending. That said, it’s a stiffer shoe. You’re not going to get a plush, ‘Hoka-esque’ ride in these.
As much as I love these shoes, however, once I hit 300 miles of wear (and +/-100,000′ of elevation change) I noticed rapid decline in the shoe’s impact on my feet. The highly structured heel cup started giving me major achilles problems and I started developing hot spots/blisters that I hadn’t experienced previously. Also, the forefront of the shoe started breaking down inside leading to a numb pain in the balls of my feet that became unbearable after awhile. At this point I can’t wear these for anything longer than an hour. But, given all the miles and climb I put on them right out of the box, I’m guessing they’ve simply reached the end of their useful life. I absolutely thrashed these things on steep, demanding terrain. Anyone running normal trails would get more than 300 miles out of them.
Verdict? For shorter mountain scramble training and races like Rothrock and Escarpment these seem like the perfect mountain running shoe! However, for longer fare I’ll be going with something more forgiving. I’ll be racing Manitou’s Revenge in the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 (although those aren’t going to give me quite the level of traction that I got with the Bushidos, which basically just stick to the trail). That said, it’s important to point out that the Bushido is not designed as an “all around” trail shoe. Rather, it’s a great, mountain-specific tool to have in your trail arsenal if, in fact, you run super technical/mountainous terrain. And as a mountain shoe? The Bushido definitely delivers.
PROS: Firm, yet gentle foot support. Very durable, lightweight upper. Breathable. Drain fairly well, but not great. Absolutely killer traction. Great rock plate protection. 6mm drop on a low stack affords a nice, aggressive stance. Very light (9.81oz) for a full-blown mountain running shoe. Perfectly at home in steep, highly-technical, mountain terrain.
CONS: $125 is a bit steep for 300 miles of wear. Hard heel cup may not be right for everyone. Drain fairly well, but not great. Foot problems after internal shoe wore out. May not afford enough stack cushion for longer ultra distances.
NOTE: Just a note that the sizing on LaSportivas runs a bit different than other brands. I wore a 42.5 in these (I’m normally a size 9), so it’s best to get these fitted at a retailer.
MORE INFO: LASPORTIVA BUSHIDO