Tuesday, December 26, 2023

La Sportiva Prodigio Review: Supercritical Foam, Ultra Focus- 7 Comparisons

Article by John Tribbia

La Sportiva Prodigio ($155)

Introduction

John: The trail running world is buzzing with anticipation for La Sportiva's newest release: the Prodigio. As a regular trail running shoe reviewer, I'm particularly intrigued by this ultra-distance shoe with its promise of a softer midsole, a novel concept for a brand typically known for its more rigid, firmer and responsive offerings.


According to La Sportiva, the Prodigio aims to cater to the ultra-distance runner seeking comfort and protection over long, grueling hours on the trail. This shift towards cushioning marks a significant departure from their previous models, which prioritized agility and stability on technical terrain.


Having tested several La Sportiva shoes and being a sponsored runner with them in the past, I've come to appreciate their exceptional durability and grip, even in the most demanding conditions. For my personal preference, I often found their trademark firmness a bit unforgiving, especially on longer runs. This is where the Prodigio's softer midsole sparked my excitement. The potential for a shoe that combines La Sportiva's renowned performance with enhanced comfort for ultra-distances is a truly compelling proposition.


Of course, only a thorough test can reveal whether the Prodigio lives up to its expectations.  I was eager to put the shoe through its paces, exploring its cushioning, responsiveness, and overall performance in the terrain it's designed for. Stay tuned for the full review here, where I'll delve into the Prodigio's strengths and weaknesses, and shed light on its suitability for the dedicated ultra-distance runner.


Pros:

  • Softer midsole: designed for comfort and protection over long distances

  • Lightweight: Weighs under 9.6 oz / US9 sample with a 34mm heel /28mm forefoot stack

  • New XFlow supercritical nitrogen infused midsole compound: more responsive, more cushioned, higher rebounding and more durable than previous La Sportiva offerings

  • Rocker profile: promotes a natural gait and smooth transitions
  • Highly breathable upper

  • Dual-compound FriXion outside ffers a balance of grip, durability, and versatility across different terrains

Cons:

  • Less stability and protection: Softer midsole compromises performance on technical terrain

  • Less robust upper? May be more susceptible to wear and tear than La Sportiva's traditionally rugged designs


Please find John's full run bio at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Stats

Samples: men’s 9.6 oz / 273 g US 9

Stack Height: men’s 34mm heel / 28mm forefoot ( 6mm drop) 

Available February 15, 2024. $155 USD.


First Impressions, Fit and Upper

John: After taking the Prodigio for walks around the block and a first short trail run, I can confidently say that my initial impression is overwhelmingly positive. The shoe feels remarkably comfortable, especially compared to other La Sportiva models I've tested.

Firstly, regarding the fit, I would recommend to size up 0.5 US. Initially, I tried my usual US 9, but it felt slightly too short and quite tight horizontally + over the toes in the toe box. Moving up to 9.5 US (or even 42.5 EU) would provide the perfect amount of space. Regardless, the overall fit feels secure and snug without any uncomfortable pressure points.

The upper is a highlight for me. I love the lightweight and breathable knit construction, which kept my feet cool and comfortable throughout the run. The seamless design also contributes to a smooth and irritation-free experience. However, I do have one slight concern regarding the upper's durability. While the knit is comfortable and breathable, it feels less robust than the uppers of other La Sportiva shoes I've run. This might be a trade-off for the Prodigio's focus on comfort and weight reduction, but it remains to be seen how well the upper will hold up over time and rugged terrain.


Overall, I'm highly impressed with the Prodigio's initial performance. The cushioning is noticeable and feels ideal for long runs, and the shoe is surprisingly responsive despite its softer midsole. I'm eager to see how it performs on longer trail runs and more technical terrain, but my first impression is that La Sportiva has delivered an exceptional contender for the ultra-distance running market.


Midsole & Platform

John: The Prodigio's XFlow supercritical foam midsole and platform represent a significant step forward for La Sportiva, marking their boldest foray into the realm of ultra-distance comfort. With a full stack height of 34mm heel and 28mm forefoot there is plenty underfoot.


The new foam is said by LS to have 15% more cushioning 18.5 % more rebound and is 18% lighter than the usual compression molded EVA. EVA is not completely eliminated as there is a 2.4mm layer of LaSpEVA, likely to stabilize, protect from rocks and give some response. We also have FlowFilm a full length PU coated nylon mesh for rock protection in the mix


After putting the shoe through its paces on varied terrain and distances, I can confidently say that the new midsole delivers on its promise of enhanced cushioning and responsiveness.

The initial impression of softness is undeniable. The XFlow compound absorbs impact effectively, reducing fatigue on long runs and minimizing the jarring sensation on hard surfaces. This translates to a smoother, more forgiving ride that feels noticeably different from the firmness typically associated with La Sportiva shoes.


Despite its softer nature, the X-Flow midsole retains a surprising level of responsiveness. It offers a springy feel, aiding in efficient transitions and promoting a natural gait cycle. This attribute surprised me, as I initially expected the additional cushioning to compromise the shoe's agility. Instead, the Prodigio manages to strike a commendable balance between comfort and rebound (XFlow foam) and responsiveness (EVA layer and FlowFilm) making it suitable for both long, slow runs and tempo efforts.


The platform also deserves praise. Its rocker profile facilitates a smooth roll-through motion, helping you maintain momentum and conserve energy on long runs. This design, combined with the midsole's intrinsic properties, makes the Prodigio an ideal candidate for tackling long distances on moderate terrain.

However, it's importantl to acknowledge that the XFlow platform might not be suitable for everyone or every terrain. While it excels on moderate trails, the increased cushioning compromises stability on highly technical terrain. For runners who prioritize agility and precision over comfort, La Sportiva's other models with their firmer midsoles might be a more appropriate choice.


Outsole

John: The Prodigio's outsole proved surprisingly versatile across diverse terrain. While not ideal for deep snow, its multidirectional lugs offered reasonable grip in light to moderately snowy conditions. Mud proved no obstacle, providing excellent traction and mud-shedding capabilities. Dry dirt trails saw the shoe excel, with a combination of FriXion compounds delivering exceptional grip and stability. 


On technical rocky sections, the Prodigio's limitations emerged, with the relatively shallow 3 and 4mm lugs providing less grip and stability compared to La Sportiva's more aggressive offerings. Nevertheless, on road sections, the shoe surprised with a smooth transition and ample traction despite the prominent lugs.


Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

John: The Prodigio delivers a smooth and comfortable ride, particularly evident on moderate terrain. 


The XFlow midsole absorbs impact effectively, minimizing fatigue on long runs and offering a level of protection previously unseen in La Sportiva's offerings. 


Despite the additional cushioning, the shoe retains a surprising level of responsiveness, aided by the rocker profile that promotes a natural gait cycle and smooth transitions. The combination of these elements translates to a ride that feels both forgiving and lively, ideal for long distances and varied paces.


Overall, I'm impressed with the XFlow midsole and overall platform. La Sportiva has successfully created a comfortable and responsive experience without entirely sacrificing performance. The Prodigio shines for ultra-distance runs on moderate terrain, offering exceptional comfort and a surprisingly lively feel. 


The durability of the XFlow compound remains to be tested over time even though we know supercritical foams tend to be more resilient than EVA, the initial impression points to a promising future for La Sportiva in the ultra-distance running market. The Prodigio represents a significant step forward in their quest to cater to a broader range of runners and terrain types.


The Prodigio's outsole shines in mud, dry dirt, and even road sections, offering an excellent balance of grip and stability. Its limitations, however, surface in deep snow and highly technical terrain, where deeper lugs and a more aggressive design are preferred. 


For ultra-distance runners seeking comfort and versatility on moderate to challenging terrain, the Prodigio's outsole provides well-rounded performance. For those consistently tackling highly technical trails, La Sportiva's models with dedicated aggressive outsoles might be a better choice.


The La Sportiva Prodigio represents a significant evolution in the brand's approach to ultra-distance running. It successfully blends comfort and responsiveness, offering a compelling option for runners seeking long-distance comfort on moderate terrain. While not designed for the most technical trails, the Prodigio demonstrates La Sportiva's commitment to broadening its market reach and catering to a wider range of trail and ultra runners' needs. It's a shoe that will undoubtedly find its place among dedicated long-distance enthusiasts who prioritize comfort without entirely sacrificing performance and versatility.

John’s Score:  9/10

Ride: 9.5 (great shoe for variety of paces on the smooth trails and road)

Fit: 8.5 (short and tight in the forefoot)

Value: 9 (La Sportiva’s first versatile road to trail running shoe) 

Style: 10 (I love the classic Sportiva Yellow/Black/Red)

Traction: 9 (Sportiva’s can’t miss outsole)

Rock Protection: 8.5

😊😊😊😊 


7 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 


La Sportiva Cyklon (RTR Review)

Cyklon is a more aggressive trail running shoe that is best for technical terrain and fast-paced runs in those ankle-breaking places. It offers more responsiveness and traction than Prodigio.


La Sportiva Jackal (RTR Review)
Jackal is a more responsive and agile shoe that is ideal for faster-paced runs in varied terrain. It has a lower level of cushioning and a more energetic feel. Both shoes have a grippy and versatile outsole, but Jackal performs better on technical terrain.


La Sportiva Kaptiva (RTR Review)

Prodigio is a great choice for long-distance runners who want a comfortable and cushioned shoe. Kaptiva is a good option for runners who want a responsive and agile shoe with great ground feel that is ideal for technical terrain.


Saucony Peregrine 13 (RTR Review)

Prodigio is a more cushioned and responsive shoe that excels in mud and diverse terrain. Peregrine 13 is a more versatile shoe with good performance on rocky and technical surfaces. Peregrine 13 offers greater stability and control on technical terrain.


Salomon Sense Ride 4 (RTR Review)

Prodigio offers more cushioning, ideal for long-distance comfort, whereas the Sense Ride 4 takes a more balanced approach with moderate cushioning. Prodigio feels slightly more responsive thanks to its rocker profile. Both offer versatile outsoles, performing well on diverse terrain. Sense Ride 4 has a clear edge on dry and rocky surfaces and offers slightly better stability on technical terrain. Prodigio performs adequately but might feel less secure on highly technical sections.

 

Nike Pegasus Trail 4 GTX (RTR Review)

Prodigio is a great choice for long-distance running on trails with varied terrain. It offers superior cushioning and traction, making it a comfortable and stable option for runners of all levels. Pegasus Trail 4 GTX is a good choice for runners who want a more responsive shoe that performs well on moderate terrain. However, it lacks the traction and stability of Prodigio on technical surfaces.


Norda 002 (RTR Review)

Prodigio prioritizes cushioning for long-distance comfort, while Norda 002 offers minimal cushioning, focusing on ground feel and agility. Norda 002 is highly responsive, promoting a barefoot-like experience. Prodigio feels more cushioned and less agile in comparison. 


The Prodigio wil be available February 2024


Tester Profile

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.


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

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see your comments on the upper regarding how comfy it is but that you are wondering on durability. The final version of the shoe looks like it has a much tighter mesh structure that’s probably more durable and provides more structure.

CJun. said...

How does this compare to the Brooks Catamount 2? Loved that shoe, but really needed a softer/more midsole to take it the distance... The Prodigo seems like it might be similar!

Silent Voyager said...

How would you characterize the fit compared to other La Sportiva shoes? La Sportiva moved to a wider last with Jackal and Karakal, so those two models are wider and shorter at the same time compared to other La Sportiva models such as Bushido or Akasha. The traditional La Sportiva fit worked fairly well for me while I couldn't wear both Jackal and Karakal.