Tuesday, October 05, 2021

La Sportiva Akasha II Multi Tester Review: For Long or Short Hauls on Rough Terrain!

Article by John Tribbia and Jeff Valiiere

La Sportiva Akasha II ($150)


Introduction


John: In a recent product highlight video Jonathan Wyatt, multi-time World Mountain Running champion and La Sportiva Running Product Specialist indicated that the La Sportiva Akasha 2 is getting much anticipated updated features in line with the rising popularity of long distance trail running. 


The Akasha is La Sportiva’s go-to shoe for ultra and long distance trail running, be it for training or racing. The goal of La Sportiva’s updates were to add incremental improvements that increase the shoe’s comfort, durability, and stability. 


In its second iteration, the Akasha 2 gets updates to the lacing and webbing around the lacing cage, allowing for  better adjustability and precision as well as become more eco-conscious with recycled materials. The upper is updated with additional TPU to the anterior side of the shoe and toe bumper for reinforcement and added durability. 


The midsole package is enhanced with 3mm EVA liner that adds dynamism and stability to the shoe’s ride. The Akasha 2 uses a dual compound FriXion XT 2.0 outsole that is supposed to be more durable and perform well on any type of surface. 


The shoe boasts a 6mm drop in the midsole from 31mm in the heel to a forefoot height of 25mm, which offers cushion in the back and ground feel in the front. They come in at approximately 10.92 oz (310 grams) in US9 / 42 EU so a drop of about 0.45 oz/ 12g  from v1.


Jeff V:  John provides a great introduction.  I have tested the first and now the second version of the Akasha and it was one of my favorite shoes of 2016 for it’s secure, but flexible stretch upper, ample cushion for long distances and impeccable traction.  That the shoe did not receive an update for 6 years is testament to its design, quality and effectiveness as a long distance, all mountain trainer and even racer.


Pros: 

Long distance oriented, ground feel with cushion- John

Comfort, protection, security, traction, durability- Jeff


Cons: 

Dense cushion and muted rebound prevent fast paces-- John

Weight, breathability, midsole could be softened/lightened and be more responsive- Jeff



Tester Profiles

John Tribbia (5' 6", 130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost every day.


Jeff Valliere runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Stats

  Official Weight:  10.90 oz/310 grams US9/EU42

  Sample: men's 10.92 oz/310 grams US9/EU42, 11.8 oz. / 334 grams US10

Akasha I US men's size 9(42) 11.35 oz/330 grams

Stack Height: 31mm Heel / 25mm Forefoot, 6mm drop

Available Spring 2022. $150.

  

First Impressions and Fit

John: Although I never ran in the La Sportiva Akasha 1, I am familiar with La Sportiva’s lineup and am excited to test out the Akasha 2. The Akasha 2 is incredibly comfortable, has a soft upper that is not abrasive and breathes well, and holds my heel and foot securely in place. Underfoot, the midsole feels thicker than most La Sportiva shoes and has a slight rocker to it that is subtly noticeable when walking around in them. The forefoot and toe box feels sufficiently spacious for my slightly narrow foot in the sample true to my size US9. The lacing and gusseted tongue provide a secure lockdown to ensure my foot is held in place and enveloped comfortably.


Upper

John:  With a seamless AirMesh upper that is covered with Dynamic ProTechTion overlays and with a thicker TPU toe bumper + heel counter, the upper of the Akasha is an excellent combination of support, breathability, protection, and flexibility. It is precise in fit to accommodate the foot on longer days where feet swell given the support, structure, and stretch of the ProTechTion overlays across the forefoot. 


The TPU Exo Skeleton below the lacing across the midfoot does an outstanding job of providing control and lateral stability. The heel collar is relatively low with just enough padding. There’s an external heel cup overlay that provides sufficient structure to the upper and enhances the heel hold and stability in challenging terrain.


Jeff V:  Like the first Akasha, the upper of the Akasha II is somewhat precise and conforming, but despite feeling somewhat snug, the upper has a really unique and comforting stretch, allowing the foot to breathe and expand a bit, without having excess room, material or bulk.


Sometimes, a flexible upper might be seen as a liability 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.

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


The upgrades for the Akasha II seem to be solely limited to the upper such that the lace eyelets are now slightly different with the addition of lace loops, the ProTechTion reinforcements are slightly redesigned, as are the PU overlays over the midfoot, now in a more criss cross pattern.  How are these changes an advantage over the first version?  I find the lacing to be a bit smoother. I view the design to be perhaps a little more durable.  Otherwise any other differences are nearly imperceptible, though I do think the newer version is a little more flexible.


The gusseted tongue further helps to keep out dirt and debris, but also serves the 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).


The heel counter 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.



Despite having a low volume foot, I have no extra room in the forefoot, and as in the first version, have a precise fit.  The upper materials do however stretch in such a way that the Akasha II will accommodate a wider range of feet than many other La Sportivas.


Midsole

John: the midsole of the Akasha 2 is a dual-injection shock absorbing MEMlex EVA compound that is combined with La Sportiva’s Cushion Platform. The MEMlex is designed to reduce shock when navigating unstable rocky and technical terrain, while the Cushion Platform is intended to provide (obviously) cushion and give springiness even after a long day. There is no traditional rock plate in the Akasha 2. I found the combined midsole provides protection from technical obstacles and, unlike the Jackal or Karacal, I found the cushion plush, responsive, and bouncy, while also providing excellent stability upon impact. 


Jeff V:  The midsole consists of a dual injection shock absorbing MEMlex EVA/Cushion Platform which offers a firm, yet reasonably comfortable and well cushioned ride for long distance training/racing.  While I noted that the first version had good response for a shoe of this class, 6 years later  it is now feeling behind the tech curve when considering the lighter, softer (yet still stable) supercritical or lighter near super foams currently on the market like Hoka’s CMEVA midsole or Brooks DNA Loft v3 (or even v2) immediately come to mind.


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.



Outsole

John: The outsole of the Akasha 2 is a major highlight. The Frixion XT 2.0 rubber is sticky and provides best in class traction on just about every surface I encountered, both wet and dry.  I took the Akasha on dry and wet trail, grass, and rocks. I was confident on all surfaces (with the exception of the ice-like wet rock). The 4.5mm lugs were highly effective and are organized in a way that allows for a variety of surfaces and tempos. Moreover, the Trail Rocker outsole guides the foot through heel-to-toe efficiently. 



Jeff: Frixion XT sticky rubber provides excellent traction on just about any surface, both wet and dry.  


I have been able to run in the Akasha II (and the first model) in a variety of conditions from snow, ice, mud, rain soaked trails, steep rocky technical trails, steep off trail, steep dirt, roads, dirt roads, etc… and I have never felt tentative.


The 6mm lugs, combined with their effective, pointed shape (and directional Impact Braking System) are confidence inspiring in most situations. 

Durability has been excellent in the first version and I expect the same with the Akasha II.


Ride

John:  The ride of the Akasha 2 is anything but flat. I found it lively and efficient on all terrain types and at a variety of paces. Granted, I don’t think this shoe is meant for high turnover runs or races, but it can handle those faster paces for short durations. Traveling over scree or other technical and rocky surfaces feels smooth and responsive. And the cushion is substantial enough to cradle your foot and protect your legs on steep descents and for hard impacts. Despite the cushion, I still felt like the Akasha 2 had exceptional ground feel, which gave me a lot of confidence and control such that I never felt wobbly or disconnected from the terrain even in varied technical situations. 


Jeff: I agree with John on all points and find the ride to be well rounded on a wide variety of terrain, lively when it needs to be, quick for shorter bursts, but this is not the quickest of turnover shoes.  The Akasha II is ideal for long distances (or short) over rough trails and more rugged terrain, while still allowing just enough trail feel to not feel totally disconnected, yet also not feel beat up.



Conclusions and Recommendations

John: If you are looking to add a shoe that is best for really long days on both technical and cruisy terrain, the Akasha 2 is a top choice. The shoe is comfortable, stable, and much more cushioned than others in the La Sportiva lineup. Moreover, the Akasha 2 feels secure and stable when running across varied terrain, sticks to rocky surfaces, and is designed for long days on your feet in the mountains.


John’s Score: 9.2/10 

Ride: 9 (fun mountain shoe with stable and well cushioned ride)

Fit: 9 (the flexible toe box is accommodating and comfortable)

Value: 9 (this is an all-arounder that does well both hiking and running)

Style: 9 (classy La Sportiva look) 

Traction: 10 (best in class)

Rock Protection: 9.5 (toe protection, durable upper, and protective midsole)


Jeff V:  I agree with John on all points.  While I still find the Akasha II to be an excellent shoe and for sure the best La Sportiva option for long distances, I feel like there are many other options out there that have more plush, lighter and more responsive midsoles and with lighter, more flexible, more breathable, minimal, accommodating uppers that still provide remarkable security.  In comparison, the performance of the Akasha II feels a bit uninspiring.  They get the job done and are very consistent, predictable, protective, secure and have remarkable traction, making them a great choice for long distances on rugged terrain (what La Sportiva is known for).

Jeff V’s Score:  9/10

Ride: 8, Fit: 9, Value: 9, Style: 9, Traction: 10, Rock Protection: 10


Comparisons


La Sportiva Karacal (RTR Review)

John: Karacal feels lighter on foot (and is 0.6 oz lighter on the scale)  and is more nimble. I would say the Karacal is best on technical terrain and the Akasha 2 can perform a little better onthe more runnable stuff – I would use the Karacal for shorter peak bagging adventures and I would use the Akasha for short and long outings on mixed terrain where there was more running involved because I like the fit, feel, and ride of the Akasha. The low center of gravity and snug fit of the Karacal yields more ground feel. By contrast, I prefer the Akasha fit and that it has more cushion. 

Jeff V:  Agreed with John on all points.


Hoka Torrent 2  (RTR Review)

John: The Torrent 2 is lighter, faster, with less overall protection. I think the Torrent does well in most terrain, but lacks an edge to the Akasha in longer distances and even rocky and technical terrain. The Akasha is well suited for most trail and off-trail sections where superior traction and protection are needed for the long haul.

Jeff V:  Again, agreed with John on all points.


Saucony Mad River TR 2 (RTR Review)

John:  The Mad River TR 2 feels quicker and more responsive, It is better for road-to-trail and faster running on more buffed out terrain and it is lighter in weight. The Akasha 2 has better traction, stability and agility for rougher trails and off trail.


Jeff V: Agreed with John on all points and will add that as part of the Akasha II’s superiority on rough trails and off trail, part of that is due to superior protection underfoot as well.


Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 (RTR Review)

John: The ATR 6 has a much more plush and cushioned feel but the Akasha 2 has superior traction. However, I felt like the ATR had more snap, was more nimble, and had a more responsive and quicker ride on trail and road compared to the Akasha. The Akasha seemed more muted with less snap in the transition from impact to lift-off, but is built to go in terrain where the ATR would not perform well. Both are excellent options for longer endeavors, with the ATR 6 being a solid option for road-to-trail and the Akasha for more rugged outings.


Salomon Sense Ride 3 (RTR Review)

John: The Sense Ride 3 is Salomon’s heavier duty longer run shoe. It has a greater drop and is slightly lighter than the Akasha. The higher drop makes the Ride 3 a better ascender on the steep stuff compared to the Akasha. Both are incredibly stable and secure; and both invite longer, all-day adventures. I find the Ride 3 to be more snappy and nimble than the Akasha, while the Akasha brings structure and reliable security to its ride. Both feel reasonably and comparably cushioned. 


Salomon Sense Ride 4 (RTR Review

Jeff: The SR 4 is very similar to the 3 and John’s comparison’s of the 3 carry over to the 4.  I prefer the fit and upper of the SR4 to the Akasha II, as it is a bit more versatile and easy on/off.  I would personally choose the Akasha II for more technical off-road and all mountain adventures, with traction/protection being a significant factors.


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Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.


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13 comments:

Martin said...

What about comparison with Hoka Speedgoat 4?

Drew Coughlin said...

Ah, the beloved Akasha - so many pairs, so many miles. Feet come in all shapes and sizes so everyone has to find a brand and model that works best for them but I'd encourage anyone who values a well constructed, durable shoe for ultramarathon events on varied terrain to give these a shot.

Unknown said...

I agree with Drew, great shoe ! There's nothing which really stands out, but the package works together so excellent, that you can run endless in every terreain...can't wait for the second version, review sounds promising (a tad lighter, a bit more cushion, everything else more or less unchanged)

Unknown said...

What about comparison with Akasha 1?

Sam Winebaum said...

As John says he did not run v1. We hope to get more pairs for a multi tester review eventually
Specs indicate tweaks to upper and a new midsole foam for one of the layers.
Sam, Editor

John Tribbia said...

@Martin That's a very good question and, unfortunately, I have yet to run in the Speedgoat. Hopefully a few more people on the RTR team can get into the Akasha II so we can build out more comparisons (including a comparison to the previous model)

rms said...

Can you comment on sizing? I'm very familiar with the Bushido 2, is this a similar fit?

John Tribbia said...

@rms I find the Akasha to have a more relaxed fit compared to the Bushido. There's slightly more forefoot room and play. Depending on the La Sportiva shoe I fit in a 42 or 42.5. In the Bushido I have to go with the 42.5 and in the Akasha I am comfortable in the 42. In other words, Bushido is snug and Akasha is more relaxed, but both are very secure.

Tom said...

@rms it may sound odd, but I run Bushido IIs in size 47.5 and Akashas in 48. Why? Because the Bushido II is my technical mountain running/scrambling shoe and I want it to be as tight as possible without compromising my running. The Akasha on the other hand is my relaxed trail / long run shoe and I don't mind a bit more space. Will be buying same sizes again. But yes, Bushido fits smaller (as intended).

Alberto said...

Thanks for the review!!!

Since the previous model was very popular among long distance runners and many runners know "Akasha I", I think a review by a someone who has run with both would be very interesting, focusing on the differences.

If it really is just an improved (of the already great) "Akasha 1", with a little bit more of the same kind of cushion and a little bit more secure cage, it will be a success!

Thanks for yours great reviews!!

Chris said...

Having never worn LaS and having to order shoes to try, I was wondering if you could recommend where to start. I wear a 10.5 in Saucony, Scott, Hoka, Nike and Salomon (mostly).

I was going to order 44 and 44.5. Does that seem right to you?

Anonymous said...

Hi guys, would be great to get a comparison to the speedgoat 5, slab ultra 3 and the Scarpa golden Gate kima.

I have a technical 50km ultra with 10000ft elevation coming up any other recommendations?

Thanks so much for the reviews such an epic website.

Antoine said...

Hello. Thank you for the review. Excellent as always.
I have made a lot of tries (post-injury weeks) for shoes that allow longish, mountainous, all-terrain (including steep, technical, off-camber). Testings were Speegoat 5, Dynafit Ultra 50, Scarpa Spin infinity, Scarpa Ribelle Run and Akasha II.
I put ~50km in the Speedgoat 5 that sounds really great but the ankle collar is so high that it literally ate my external malleolus, unfortunately not possible for me on uneven ground :-(
Ribelle Run is more for short super-technical runs, because of the very narrow fit (the Presa outsole and in fact the whole shoe look like spectacular if you can afford the fit). Dynafit Ultra 50 are really great shoes with a fantastic Pomoca outsole as well, fit pretty narrow (and problem of sizing for me). Again if the fit is for you, you could love those!
Scarpa Spin infinity and Akasha II are the "real" long distance options but very different actually. Spin infinity feels much lighter in the good but also in the bad way. I felt quite insecure in really rough terrain. I see them as a race machine for extremely well prepared athletes. Akasha II was for my foot and my running style a wonder of shoe. I was anticipating the super secure, supportive, protective and grippy properties. The surprise came from their versatility as they can roll very nicely on flatter or untechnical long descent thanks to a descent amount of cushion, the 6mm drop and maybe the unusual rocker-like outsole. I tuned them a bit by sizing up (compared to Hoka, Saucony) 1/2 size in Eur (corresponding for La Sportiva to a full size up in US). I add an Inov-8 Boomerang TPU insole for an extra bit of rebound and to reduce a little the volume without compromising the so accommodating forefoot.
No shoe is perfect. They are not suited for just flat, hilly, untechnical terrain. Of course Akasha are not light. But this little extra weight is the price I am happy to pay for them being so comfortable and efficient all-day in any mountainous conditions. A wonder of a shoe.
Hope this may help. Greetings from Switzerland. Antoine.