Wednesday, November 27, 2019

La Sportiva Blizzard GTX Multi Tester Review: Winter Warrior!

Article by Allison and Jeff Valliere, and Canice Harte

La Sportiva Blizzard GTX ($199)


Introduction  
Jeff: A new entry from La Sportiva, the Blizzard features a Gore-Tex upper, built in gaiter and most notably, an aggressive outsole with 7 mm lugs topped off with 9 carbide studs to add traction on icy surfaces.  All of the other lugs are designed to accommodate La Sportiva hobnails (sold separately) to improve traction. I have very much enjoyed La Sportiva’s previous winter shoes, particularly the ones with a built in gaiter, such as the similar looking Uragano and Crossover GTX 2 (discontinued).  The Blizzard is designed to provide grip and protection on cold, wet, snowy, icy winter runs.


Pros  
Jeff:  Traction, Security, Stability, Quick and Agile, Waterproof
Allison:  Traction, Waterproof, Warm, Stable
Canice: Traction, traction, traction.. and waterproof


Cons  
Jeff:  Needs more studs, heel blistering during initial break in
Allison:  Could use more spikes
Canice: Stiff toe box, until broken in. No insulation



Stats
Weight:: men's / (US9)  / women's / (US8)
  Official:    13.3 oz/377 g US Men’s size 9
  Samples: 13.9 oz/394 g US Men’s size 10.5, 13.5 oz/383 g US Men’s size 9.5
Stack Height: 18mm heel / 12mm forefoot (6mm drop) plus 7mm lugs and sock liner.
Available Now  $199

Tester Profiles
Allison is a 5th generation Coloradan who is passionate about the outdoors and has been hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing and running in the mountains since she was young.  She has completed all but 5 of the Colorado 14ers (a dozen or so in winter), has many hundreds of year round ascents of 14ers, 13ers and other peaks in Colorado and the West.  Her almost daily routine involves runs/power hikes in the foothills above Boulder, or 4-5 mile flatter runs at 8-10 minute mile pace.  But what really keeps her on her toes is working as a labor and delivery nurse and taking care of her 9 year old twin daughters who are also growing to share her love for the outdoors.
Jeff  runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 
Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other Ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as traditional road races and triathlons.

First Impressions  

Jeff:  The Blizzard sure looks ready to tackle winter conditions with a Gore-Tex upper, built in gaiter and deep 7mm lugs topped off with 9 carbide studs.  I am impressed that somehow, despite my sample size 10.5 weighing in at 13.5 oz., it feels surprisingly lighter than that, in the hand and especially on the foot.  Having run in multiple pairs of La Sportiva Gore-Tex winter shoes in the past, I knew to size up a half size, as they run small and I wear a thicker sock in winter.  Even sizing up a half size, fit is not the least bit generous and I sometimes wonder if I should go up a whole size. I have a slim foot and wear a medium weight sock typically with this shoe, so going up a half size works, but just barely.


Allison:  The Blizzard looks ready to handle wet, snowy, icy, slippery conditions.  I appreciate the built in gaiter and the durable protection on the sides and toe, the Gore Tex upper and huge lugs with carbide studs.  My test pair is a men’s size 9.5 (Euro 42.5/ Women’s 10.5), which I was skeptical at first would fit, but with my thickest wool sock, fits well with no heel slippage and only a bit of extra room in the toe.


Canice: The initial fit is very comfortable, though the feel of the toe box reminds me of the feel of protective footwear. This is okay but it takes a few runs for them to break in enough before the feeling goes away. So realize if you feel this, it will eventually soften. 


The Blizzard does fit ½ size small and like Jeff I sized up from a 10 to a 10.5 and all was good. For my part I find the shoe to have plenty of traction on a variety of terrain and ample protection from the elements. I will say in very cold weather you notice the lack of insulation and on warmer days you love the lack of insulation.


Upper
Same Tempo 2 last/fit as Ultra Raptor Akyra and Mutant and Helios III

Jeff:  The Gore Tex upper is sturdy and well constructed with plenty of protection not only the elements, but from rocks and other obstacles hidden under the snow or for bashing around in talus.  The sides of the upper from the metatarsals back have a hard plastic cross pattern lace anchor type structure to provide added protection and security. The Blizzard, while protective, has good flex and does not feel over built or stiff.  As I expected from a winter Gore-Tex La Sportiva shoe, fit is snug, so I upsized a half size as I often do for winter shoes and always for La Sportiva winter shoes. In Winter I wear a mid weight or thicker sock, which if the shoe is borderline snug to start with normal socks, will definitely be too snug.  Sizing up a half size here definitely helps, but with a mid weight sock, I have little to any extra wiggle room and sometimes wonder if maybe I should have gone up a full size. For my typical daily runs of an hour or two, fit works just fine, but for longer days in colder temps where I may want more room to expand and wear thicker socks, going up a full size might be better.

The criss cross pattern plastic overlays on either side securely anchor the lace eyelets, as well as provide some additional structure and protection.
The built in 4 way stretch gaiter rises about 3 inches above the top of the internal heel collar and fits snugly enough around my thin ankle to keep out snow and any possible debris, but no discomfort or awkwardness.
The view into the shoe above.  Sliding into the Blizzard is not a quick on the go move, but instead involves sitting to work your foot in, though you have the helpful front and rear pull tabs to assist.
The toe bumper is bomber, protective enough for kicking and scuffing on snow covered rock and on a recent run, plowing through hard icy crusted over snow.
The Gore-Tex upper can easily withstand moderate creek crossings and puddle soaking without getting wet.  I have not yet soaked them through, either testing like above, or normal running in deep snow.


Allison:  I have run in the Blizzard in deep snow, cold temps in the teens and even single digits, through slush and water and the Gore Tex upper has kept my feet warm, dry and protected.


Sizing is somewhat tricky as they do run small, so plan accordingly for a thick winter sock.  Overall protection of the upper is excellent with the thick toe bumper and side protection. The integrated gaiter fits well around my ankle and is comfortable, keeping out moisture and drafts.


Canice: My experience with the Blizzard is similar to Allison’s in that I found the shoe to be noticeably stiff until broken in, in particular around the toe box. The shoe is plenty waterproof with the Gore-Tex upper but in single digit temperatures it is cold when stopped. While on the go, the temperature is great but it is not insulated. This both a pro and a con, it just depends on your needs and preferences.


The fit is secure and with the laces you can easily snug the shoe up. I do notice that my tights which fit inside my Salomon Snowcross (old style) tend to ride up with the soft upper gaiter of the Blizzard. So far this has not been a problem but I worry about powder making its way in the shoe.


Midsole


Same midsole 32A  firmness as Kaptiva, Lycan, Akyra, and Mutant. Busihdo II is a bit softer at 35A 


Jeff:  The injection molded EVA midsole is firm, reasonably responsive, well protected and gets the job done in this application.  Despite the Blizzard being on the heavier side, I think this midsole helps the shoe to feel lighter than it’s true weight may suggest, as it is not dense or blocky as other shoes in this category can be.


Allison:  I agree with Jeff’s assessment above, as the Blizzard feels quick and responsive for a full winter shoe.  For the intended purpose of winter use, I think the midsole perfectly suits its design with firm and predictable cushioning.


Canice: The midsole of a spiked winter shoe is an interesting component as when running on packed snow you don’t feel it. You will notice if you’re comfortable or not and one of the reason spiked winter shoes last much longer than your regular running shoes is you get cushioning from the snow, so quite often you don’t feel the midsole.


I did run the Blizzard’s on dry trail and rocks and really enjoyed the cushion and protection of the midsole. We’ll talk about this in the “Ride” section but in general you do not get much of a pop from the midsole while running on rock and dirt but it does feel good on rough terrain.


Outsole


Jeff:  The star of the show here is the Frixon 2.0 AT compound outsole with the massive 7mm lugs on their own are impressive and provide great bite into snow and soft surfaces, but then is capped off with 9 carbide tipped studs really helps provide added bite on hard frozen/icy surfaces.  While the 9 carbide studs help a great deal on predictable, lower grade icy surfaces, 9 studs are simply not enough on steep, iced over technical trails of varying hardness and consistency (often times lovingly referred to as “death ice”). In my opinion, 15 studs should be minimum, but ~20 is closer to ideal.  To help with this, all of the non studded lugs are designed to accommodate the La Sportiva AT Grip Hobnails (sold seperately, $49). I went ahead and added the hobnails, 9 additional per shoe for a total of 18, which really did the trick.  


Above with the 9 added hobnails for a total of 18.


On sections of iced over trail where I was tentative with just the original 9 studs, having 18 studs (with the added hobnails being even more pronounced), I can cruise steep death ice at speed and with only occasional and minimal caution. 


Allison:  Traction is excellent on packed snow and moderate ice and as Jeff says, could definitely use more than the 9 studs that come built into the shoe, as I felt like my feet had less grip on steep, hard ice and I had to use a good bit of caution at times.  Durability so far is very good with not much wear whatsoever.


Canice: I’m glad Jeff included photos of the shoes with the hobnails added. For my part I haven’t needed these but I love that the outsole was designed with this in mind. I live and run in Park City, UT so I’m on snow pretty much from October to April, but the trails we run are the same single track trails we run in the Summer. So they’re very technical but they’re definitely runnable.


I will put a plug in for La Sportiva Hobnails. They are by far the best solution for adding traction to your shoes without going to MicroSpikes. I know everyone loves to be cheap and use sheet metal screws but they fall out and I have stepped on one running in Spring and was not happy to have pull the screw out from foot. The Hobnails are designed to stay in and when you remove them, they do not destroy your outsole.


Another positive of the outsole is that they seemingly last forever. Now this is not literally true but because you’re running on snow you’ll be hard pressed to even see any wear on them. 


The La Sportiva Blizzard has traction for days and they’re incredible in the snow and on ice. And if you find yourself on the asphalt or on rocks you’ll have great traction there too.


A deliberate scratch on the ice.


Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff:  The La Sportiva Blizzard is an amazingly competent all mountain, waterproof Gore-Tex winter trail shoe with impeccable traction, security, control and agility.  Fit is quite snug and sizing up at least a half size is recommended, especially if you wear a thicker weight sock. Though traction is excellent and the carbide studs help on icy surfaces, I find that 9 is not quite enough for hard ice on steep trails.  Luckily, all of the lugs accommodate hobnails, so you can easily add at least 9 extra studs per shoe, which makes for the best traction I have experienced to date. Unfortunately, adding hobnails is an added $49 expense on top of an already expensive shoe.  Though the Blizzard is not particularly light, it feels lighter than its weight implies and is quick and responsive on snowy, slick, icy trails.
Jeff’s Score:  9.0 / 10
Ride: 9.5 / Fit: 8 / Value: 8 / Style: 9 / Traction: 9 / Rock Protection: 10 / Weight: 9


Allison:  I am so happy to have the opportunity to review the La Sportiva Blizzard and they have been my go to Winter shoe when I need traction and waterproofing in the snow, slush or wet, be it running snowy/icy trails, or just walking the dog around the neighborhood. Fit is tricky and the Blizzard definitely needs more studs under foot. $199 is pricey and I feel as though one needs to spend another $49 to bring the Blizzard up to where it should already be out of the box for $199, where if this were the case, I think would score higher.
Allison’s Score: 9.0/10
Ride: 9.5 / Fit: 8 / Value: 8 / Style: 9 / Traction: 9 / Rock Protection: 10 / Weight: 9


Canice: The La Sportiva Blizzard is a great winter running shoe and I highly recommend it. Just be sure to size up and expect the shoe to take a few runs before it breaks in and you’ll be ready to run in any condition Winter throws your way.
Canice’s Score: 9.5/10
The way I run these shoes rock protection doesn't mean much to me so I have left that out as a consideration. I think the shoe has a great ride, great traction and is comfortable once broken in. I know the shoes are $200 but because they last for years, I think the value is actually quite good. I know it’s a lot for a winter specific shoe but if you get a pair you won’t regret it.


Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


La Sportiva Uragano (RTR Review)
Jeff:  Very similar in styling/design, but with different midsoles, different outsoles and slightly different uppers.  OK, so none of it sounds similar, but the look, fit and performance are quite close. Of course the Blizzard has carbide studs built in, but the Uragano can easily take hobnails as its lugs are designed to accommodate them.


Salomon SpikeCross 5 GTX (RTR Review
Jeff:  The SpikeCross 5 GTX, also a Gore Tex upper, but does not have a built in gaiter.  The Salomon has 12 studs per shoe, so 3 more than the Blizzard, which makes a difference, though could still use a few more.  Spikecross fit is more true to size without having to size up and is warmer.


Salomon SnowSpike CSWP (RTR Review)
Jeff:  All the same as comparison with SpikeCross 5 GTX, except that the SnowSpike CSWP has the built in gaiter.  I will also note that both of these Salomon’s have a large and blocky heel which cause instability in tricky, technical terrain, where the Blizzard is much more stable and predictable.

Canice: A few differences you’ll notice is the Salomon SnowSpike has an insulated upper and is noticeably warmer in cold temps. The SnowSpike has more Carbide spikes and the placement of the spikes provides better traction. The exception being, if you add Hobnails to your Blizzard’s. The SnowSpike has a snugger fit but it has a softer feel.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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4 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

mdotts said...

This is really awesome intricate stuff! I am troubled choosing between the SnowSpike and the Blizzard...since I'm in a very cold environment here in the adirondacks of upstate NY the insulation of the salomons vs the sportiva having no insulation might be the major reason for me to get the Salomons instead. Warmth might be number 1 when having long days covering over 10 miles and being out for hours at a time

build royale said...

Very nice shoes. How do I order goods online?

Jeff Valliere said...

Hi build, great question... you can order online through clicking on the links in the review, which helps support our site. Just be careful on sizing (these run small). Thanks.