La Sportiva has made a name for themselves among people who spend time in the mountains, with a well rounded line of climbing shoes and approach shoes. Although lesser known for their running shoes, they’re riding a little under the radar with some nice kicks for various terrain. In my search for a shoe that would carry me 50 to 100 miles at a time in rougher terrain I decided to give the Akasha a try. I’m an ambassador for Inside Trail Racing, who hooked me up with this pair of shoes. This shoe has a lot more cushion, and is somewhat bulkier than I’m accustomed to, but it also has an excellent sticky rubber outsole with an aggressive, yet smooth riding tread pattern. Come along on this rolling review to see how the Akasha stacks up against some other popular favorites.
La Sportiva Akasha Specs at a Glance
- Type: Trail
- Stack: 31/25mm
- Drop: 6mm
- Weight: 394g (13.9 oz/each) Size 13 US (this is closer to size 12)
- Appearance: Black, red, and yellow
- MSRP: $140
The Akasha definitely has that “bulky shoe” personality, but it’s not an extreme ego. They’re a little roomy inside, the tongue is moderately padded, as is the heel cup. The mesh of the uppers are a dual-layer design, with molded overlays for added durability; all of this is fairly flexible, and less stiff than it looks. The overlay forms a pseudo-rand that mostly protects the shoe from just behind the toe box. Presumably this is to facilitate drainage in the front of the shoe, while still offering some protection from scree, etc. La Sportiva runs metric sizing and, for whatever reason, sizes running small seems to be a common issue. My size 12 Salomons measure the same as my size 13 Akashas. Trying them on in a store is highly recommended.
- Compared to the Ultra Raptor: The Raptor is bulkier, heavier, has a larger 7mm drop, and a full rock plate. It also features a full rand, and an outsole that’s more suited to scrambling and travel on slabs, with a flatter profile that prioritizes stability and surface area. Each of these shoes are for different type of adventures. The Akasha is more of a long distance trail shoe, while the raptor will have more traction on rocks, than on trails.
- Compared to the Speed Cross 4: The SpeedCross is a couple of ounces lighter, about the same in terms of bulk, but has a much higher 11mm drop. The SpeedCross 4 has a similar amount of cushion; a little less under the toe, a little more under the heel. Neither shoe has a rock plate. The lugs on the SpeedCross are deeper and fewer in number, creating a more aggressive outer that can find purchase on loose trails and deeper mud, where it may have the edge over the Akasha. This comes at the cost of less stability on firmer surfaces for the SpeedCross, where it feels wobbly. In contrast the Akasha feels more stable on harder terrain. Both shoes seem to have enough cushion to protect from the majority of hard impacts on sharp rocks.
- Compared to the Altra Olympus 2.5: The Olympus is about an ounce lighter, and has a less bulky feel to it. The Olympus is zero drop, like all Altra shoes, and has a stack of 32mm front and back. This gives the Olympus a very padded ride at the expense of groundfeel under the forefoot; it also lacks a rock plate. The toebox of the Olympus is gracious, the Akasha is about average here. The outsole of the Olympus is probably better suited for hard surfaces and slab than loose trails and mud, the Akasha is just the opposite.
Here’s a photo comparison to backup some of the above observations…
Outsole Profiles – Click any thumbnail to compare.
Side Profiles – Click any thumbnail to compare.
La Sportiva Akasha Rolling Review
I didn’t have to buy them, so that’s always nice, but $140 is a on the high end, however they can be found on sale for 20-25% off pretty regularly.
50 miles went by quickly. The cushion of the shoes gave me confidence to just out out and tear up whatever. In this case, the “whatever” ended up being 2 toenails that came off after my first long run in them… to be fair those toenails were already well on their way, but running 12 miles, about half of which was downhill, didn’t feel great. So my takeaway from those first 50 miles was, the shoes may have a little too much volume to keep my foot in place, especially on the downhill sections of trail. I’m close to 100 miles already, so I’ll reserve any other thoughts until I hit that mark.
Last report I had a few toes that were a little mangled from running a 100k (in different shoes) and I wasn’t fully sure how I liked the Akasha’s. I can now say that I’m pretty happy with them overall. I do have to lace them up a fairly tight to keep my feet in place due to the volume of the shoes, but I hope to get used to that in time also. Right now my main impression of these shoes is, they feel like they offer enough cushion to go long distance over rough trails. This is pretty maximal by my standards. The next step up would be something like the Hoka SpeedGoat 2. Speaking of SpeedGoats… I’ll be running that race with these shoes and will report back.
Over 200 miles now. I recently wore this pair to run the SpeedGoat 50k. For those not familiar, it’s a tough mountain race in the Wasatch Range in Utah. I found the Akasha to work out beautifully for the mix of terrain that I had to face. There was a lot of talus, both dry and wet, as well as generally rocky trails, dirt, and a little snow and mud. The upper isn’t overly stiff, and the shoe has a medium flex to it – these were both key elements in getting over the irregular rocky “trails” in comfort. Some of the downhill sections are incredibly steep and I felt that the tread pattern offered pretty good purchase on that stuff, without compromising a smooth ride on other surfaces.
Verdict Thus Far
- Comfort: The cushion is great for long runs on rough trails.
- Durability: So far so good!
- Drain & Dry: Average.
- Stability: Good. The lug pattern and shoe footprint leads to a stable feeling ride.
- Grip On Roads/Solid Rock: Very good
- Grip On Loose Rock/Gravel: Very good
- Grip On Wet Surfaces: Very good.
- Grip In Mud: Adequate.
- For training use? These shoes will make great trainers. Plenty of cushion, stable riding, lots of traction.
- For use as hikers? I can definitely see doing some backpacking in these shoes, and I hope to this summer!
About the Author’s Running Style/Locale
I’m typically a front of the mid-pack runner. I run fire roads and single track in the Marin County area, including Mt. Tam, the Marin Headlands, and all the under-respected hills north of there. Long runs on this hard-packed stuff can leave the feet fairly beat up. The surface consists of loose crushed rock, jagged bedrock, and hardpacked dirt. A typical run for me is 9-15 miles with anywhere from 1500-3000 ft of climbing. My “long” runs are in the 20-30 mile range, usually with 4000-7000 ft of climbing. I occasionally do trail runs/races in the 50 mile to 100k range. When I find a shoe I like, I tend to stick with it for as long as possible. I prefer shoes with 4-6mm of drop; I haven’t really adapted to zero-drop footwear. I also like a shoe right in the middle as far as cushion goes; I need to feel the trail under me. Essentially my shoe quest has been to find shoes that feel nimble and responsive, yet keep my feet from getting beat up by the rocks and distance. Hike It. Like It.