La Sportiva Akasha Review
I've wanted to get a pair of La Sportiva shoes for ages. The reputation of the Trango boot and incredible amount of good reviews of the Ultra Raptor have long intrigued me, yet I couldn't justify new shoes without first wearing out my current crop of footwear. Last month my toes popped out the side of my Peregrines turning them into sandals and giving me a legitimate need for new shoes. I finally had an excuse to get into some La Sportiva footwear.
Enter the La Sportiva Akasha. New for 2016, they are a blend blend of two of La Sportiva's more popular running shoes, the Mutant and Ultra Raptor. They are billed as, "a neutral, highly cushioned shoe delivers the essentials for long runs in challenging terrain with stacks of protection and a roomy fit." After one month of near daily use, I can confirm that the description is more than fitting.
The upper of the Akasha is super comfy and airy. Surrounded by Airmesh, the shoes breath really well on all but the hottest days. They have a TPU (plastic) overlay that cradles the mid foot nicely and there is no heel slip at all. I normally wear a US 10.5 shoe, and did not need to adjust for these at all. La Sportivas are often called out for being too narrow but I found the Akasha to be true to size in both length and girth.
There are plastic overlays on the toebox but I cannot see any purpose for them other than fashion. More than likely there is a reason for them, either way, the look good.
Two things had kept me from picking up a pair of Ultra Raptors. The first was the incredibly small toe bumper. I am known to be hard on gear and the minimal toe bumper on the Ultra Raptor looked like a disaster waiting to happen, at least for me. That's been rectified with the Akasha's large rubber toe bumper that wraps around the toe box nicely. The other thing will be addressed in the mid-sole section.
As I and my previous shoes got older, after long runs my knees got sorer. I don't plan on stopping running anytime soon so I figured I should start to look into shoes with a little more comfort in mind. I had always used shoes with a sole height around 17mm, so the Akasha at 25mm seemed like a good idea. The difference was immediately noticeable as the extra mid-sole cushioning made my knees immediately happier. In fact, they've stayed that way and I do not think I would go back to shoes with less cushioning. I assumed that a thick shoe such as these would feel a little clunky but they are as nimble as anything I've worn before.
The second concern I had was the lack of a rock plate. Several early reviews of the Akasha suggested that with the extra padding there was no way to notice the lack of rock plate in the sole. I was sceptical but ordered a pair of Akasha none the less. Unfortunately for me, I miss the rock plate. On hard packed trails or when running on vegetation I do not notice the lack of rock plate, but those aren't the only places I run. I also find myself scamrbling on small rock and I definitely feel the stones far more than I did with my previous shoes. Is it enough to actually hurt? No, but I certainly miss the rock plate.
The outole is made of two of La Sportiva's Frixion rubbers combined to create Frixion XT. The Frixion AT (red) is meant for durability while the Frixion XF (black) areas are somewhat softer to allow for better grip. Large chevron shaped lugs are interspersed around the outsole and clean themselves quite well in softer terrain and have great grip on all surfaces with mud being the only place I felt a little slippery. Then, what shoes are great in mud? These certainly have better grip than my old Peregrines in the mud. The lugs also never feel a hinderence on harder terrain either.
I have noticed a fair amount of wear starting to show on the Frixion XF areas of the sole. You defintely don't want to run wear these are the road too much or I fear they will wear out a little prematurely. The Akasha are defintely meant for off-road.
They also have the Impact Brake System, which is La Sportiva speak for reversed chevrons on the heel. They do a decent job, but perhaps could use a different acronym other than IBS.
Last week I found myself in Seefeld, Austria checking out a route I will be guiding mid-July. Though I am sure the snow will be gone once I am back with guests I still decided to hit the pass I will be leading through. This meant a few hundred meters climbing in snow, and the Akasha excelled. Obviosuly, my feet were soaking wet. The Akasha were never meant to be waterproof but they had great grip in the snow and got me to the pass in no time flat.
The Akasha also have the Trail rocker system. It is essentially a reverse camber to the outsole intended to promote a more natural stride if you are a heek striker. On the flats I honestly did not notice anything as I am a mid-foot runner, but on the downhill these shoes were great. Whether it was one or all of the Trail Rocker, the IBS or the cush midsole, I'll never know. I do know that runnign downhill in these shoes is comfy.
I am happy with the Akasha. I've run a 22km day as well as put over 1,000 meters verticle over 18km in them and my knees felt fine at the end. They've got grip in spades and dry quite quickly and clean up nicely after a bit of abuse. My biggest dissappointment with them is the lack of a rock plate. If I was not intending to use them on trails with lots of small rock I would certainly buy them again. Perhaps, I should just buy two pairs of shoes! One things for sure, the mid-sole cush of the Akasha is not to be underestimated and I won't ever be buying minimalist shoes after using these.
If you are looking for more info on the Akasha check out La Sportiva here: