Friday, May 20, 2016

La Sportiva Akasha - Cushion, Protection and Traction For The Long Haul


La Sportiva Akasha

$140. Available now.
According to Running Warehouse31mm (Heel), 25mm (Forefoot); includes 6mm average lug height.
US men's size 9(42) 11.35 oz/330 grams

First Impressions
The Akasha has been heralded as La Sportiva’s entry into the ultra arena with a more roomy fit and more cushion than other models the company has offered thus far.  When I first tried on the Akasha, I was surprised at how snug the shoe felt, as the upper offered my low volume foot very little, if any wiggle room or leeway.  It felt much lighter than expected and the size of the shoe, relative to other size 10 shoes, is on the more compact end of the spectrum.  Comfort, fit and slipper like feel is impressive.

Upper/Fit
The upper is somewhat precise and conforming, but despite it feeling snug, has a really unique and comforting stretch to it, allowing your foot to breathe and expand a bit, without having excess room, material or bulk.
La Sportiva Akasha

Normally, this might be seen an issue when it comes to control, but the Akasha has a very effective array of overlays in the form of ProTechTion reinforcements that hold the foot in place quite well and gives surprisingly good lateral stability.
These ProTechTion overlays across the top of the toebox/forefoot are not continuous or connected like traditional overlays in other shoes, yet do a great job maintaining support and structure, while allowing enough give to not feel confining.  Additionally, the STB Control System and leather PU overlays do a great job contributing to control and lateral stability.
La Sportiva Akasha

The toe box consists of a dual layer, AirMesh that offers a great balance of breathability and dirt deflection.  The rubber toe cap is slim and unnoticeable while wearing the shoe, yet simultaneously substantial, protective and effective.

The gusseted tongue further helps to keep out dirt and debris, but also serves dual purpose of contributing to the slipper like wrapping comfort of the shoe.  The tongue is moderate to thickly padded, very comfortable and is ideal in my opinion (cushion/comfort, positioning, and height).
La Sportiva Akasha
The laces/lace eyelets do a great job securing the foot and staying in place and I was consistently able to adjust the snugness of my shoes properly on the first try.  I did however find that to achieve the perfect fit, I had to pull on the laces a little harder than normal, as they are a bit on the thin side and want to loosen just a little when I release tension to tie a knot in the laces.  As always, I would love to see a slightly thicker, sausage link style lace used here to ease the process by somewhat maintaining that tension when knot tying.
La Sportiva Akasha

The heel cup is very secure/protective and stable without feeling too stiff or overbuilt and is just the proper height, with medium thickness firm cushioning around the edge.
La Sportiva Akasha

Overall, despite the claims that this shoe fits wide, I found that not to be the case.  Despite having a low volume foot, I had no extra room in the forefoot.  It is a pretty precise fit, but the material does stretch in such a way that it may accommodate larger feet just fine.  Also, I am a comfortable size 10 in most shoes and occasionally wear a 9.5 depending on the brand and model, but found the Akasha to be just a touch on the short side, with my toes touching the very end of the shoe.  This was never an issue whatsoever, but be aware if your foot is closer to the next size up or if just need a bit more wiggle room.


Midsole
The midsole comprises of a dual injection shock absorbing MEMlex EVA/Cushion Platform which offers a firm, yet very comfortable and well cushioned ride for long distance training/racing.  Response is excellent for an 11oz long distance training trail shoe.

There is no traditional rock plate in the forefoot, but instead, protection is amply provided in the form of La Sprotiva’s Dual Injection Shock Absorbing MEMlex EVA Cushion Platform  This platform does an excellent job deflecting hard hits on sharp rocks or any other trail obstacles, while simultaneously allowing for excellent ground feel, torsional flex, contouring and stability.

Overall stack height (including lugs) is 26mm in the heel and 20mm in the forefoot.

Outsole
La Sportiva Akasha
The outsole of the Akasha is one of my favorite aspects of this shoe.  The Frixion XT sticky rubber provides excellent traction on just about any surface, both wet and dry.  I was able to use this shoe in a variety of conditions from snow, mud, rain soaked trails, steep rocky technical trails, steep off trail.
La Sportiva Akasha


La Sportiva Akasha
The 6mm lugs, combined with their cleverly pointed shape (and directional Impact Braking System) was confidence inspiring in most situations.  I did find that they slid a bit in the mud, but to be fair it was angled slimy muck that I think just about any shoe would slide.  I was impressed however at the mud shedding ability of the Akasha.

La Sportiva Akasha
La Sportiva Akasha

Often times the trade off for good sticky rubber is a fast wear rate, but that is not the case with the Akasha.  The outsole is dual compound, with the red rubber at the high impact zones of the toe and heel being more resistant to wear.  After 60 or so miles, I am quite pleased to observe that there is minimal wear occurring, just a bit in the forefoot where I toe off and in the heel, which is impressive considering the rocky trails and off trail terrain that I frequent.

Performance
La Sportiva Akasha
The Akasha is one of those shoes, that for me, was great right out of the box and one that I liked more and more with each run.  I found the Akasha to feel much lighter, both in the hand and on the foot than the listed (and measured) weight suggests.  The Akasha is reasonably quick and responsive, agile and nimble.  I found that it performed just as well on an easy day as it did on a fast day.  It runs really well on buffed out singletrack, dirt road and even pavement, as the lugs never seem overly noticeable or get in the way.  Performance on rocky, technical trails and off trail is also top notch, as stability, ground feel, traction and flexibility are excellent.

I did notice that when really pushing the limits of the shoe (and my own) on steep, off camber, technical terrain, I found that my foot felt not quite as secure as I would prefer.  It was subtle and took a lot to get to that point, so if I had to come up with one (minor) limitation, this would be it.

Recommendations
The Akasha is good at just about anything and if one were looking for a trail shoe to do it all, this very well could be it.  It feels at home on just about any type of terrain, does well at any speed and just about any distance, from a short jaunt to much longer days.

Comparisons
I would compare the Akasha to shoes such as the New Balance 1210, Montrail Caldorado and the Brooks Cascadia.  All are similar in weight, cushion, protection, with the Cascadia being a bit stiffer and less forgiving shoe with not nearly as good traction.  The Akasha beats them all in regard to traction and overall versatility.

Score 4.8 out of 5
-0.1 for snug fit.  Though it worked well for me, they are advertised as wide and I can see it being a potential issue for some.  Try them on first.
-0.1 for less secure hold when pushing on steep, off camber terrain.

Photos Credit: Jeff Valliere

The Akasha was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's. 


Interested in other 2016 shoes? Road Trail Run has reviewed 30 different models in the last 6 months! Click here for our summary page with links to all the reviews.

Reviewer Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.


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