La Sportiva for the mountains!

Updated: Apr 20


The Italian company La Sportiva, founded in 1928 in the Val di Fiemme, is a well known brand of footwear specialising in mountaineering, climbing and skiing.

It also produces a range of trail and mountain running shoes squarely aimed at the mountain environment.


Gear review: La Sportiva Akyra

La Sportiva Akyra GTX trail running shoe
La Sportiva Akyra for the mountain trails

The Akyra was originally launched in 2017 and is now almost 4 years old.

I have been using these shoes since 2018.This model has been my main shoe in the Swiss Peaks 360km. It is designed for long days in the mountains and on technical mountain runs.

First impressions of the Akyra, when taken out the box, is the solid feel and look. It becomes clear immediately, that it is not meant for racing over short and medium distances. These shoes deliver the sleek look and quality construction you would expect from La Sportiva. It looks and feels as solid as the rocks it’s intended to conquer on the trails. The impact brake system in the outsole and the flexible fit in the upper make for a durable shoe with great traction.

These are also great looking shoes that I wear happily on my feet away from the trails, strolling through town after a hard day in the mountains.


La Sportiva Akyra trail running shoes after 70km of use.
La Sportiva Akyra after 700km

Upper:

The upper of the Akyra looks more like a hiking shoe. There are a total of 3 layers.

The top layer is a MicroLite Skeleton™ overlay with a stretch AirMesh layer underneath. On top of that is TrailCage™ midfoot wrap to hold the midfoot and provide lateral stability. Despite the complicated and solid upper, it feels quite flexible and breathable on the foot.

The durability has proven to be more than worthy to the La Sportiva name. In the years that I have been using these shoes, I’ve dragged them over sharp rocks, scree, streams, roots, snow and mud, with hardly any signs of wear to be seen. The gusseted tongue does a great job of keeping out dirt and debris. Although, it does happen that some tiny stones and debris sometimes find their way inside the shoe. I can live with that, as it is not a shoe I wear if seconds or minutes are at stake. The toe guard protection would do justice to a tank! Never, in the last 3 years did I suffer with stubbed toes, even on the steepest and longest downhills.


La Sportiva Akyra toe box  and FriXion red outsole
Toe box La Sportiva Akyra and FriXion red outsole

Midsole:

The midsole is injected EVA, with what La Sportiva is calling, an ‘origami design’. The Akyra is listed at 25mm in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot for a 9mm drop. For reference, the Akasha has 26mm in the heel and 20mm in the forefoot for a 6mm drop. This shows the difference between the two La Sportiva models. The Akasha is lighter and more nimble, with less protection overall. The Akyra on the other hand does feel like a tractor, designed for Speed Hiking and running over very long distances, albeit at slower speeds.

There is no rock plate in the Akyra midsole, but the build of this shoe is such, that none is required. I’ve stomped all over rocks, scree fields and mountain ridges over huge distances and my feet never felt a thing. These midsoles offer some serious protection and stability, but without much ground feel. I really like the density of the EVA on the Akyra and sometimes wish the same for the Akasha!

What gives this feeling, is the extended TPU counter that runs from the heel into the forefoot. This TPU counter gives a great deal of lateral stability and overall support. It is probably the most stable running shoe, I have ever had. I often meet curious hikers, perplexed and interested how such a shoe can cope in difficult mountain terrain, where even hikers in serious hiking boots sometimes struggle.


La Sportiva Akyra heel view. The heel is held secure without any movement or chafing. The soft V-notch helps to protect.
Akyra heel view.

Outsole:

The outsole on the Akyra uses La Sportiva’s tried and tested FriXion Red compound. FriXion Red is a dual compound outsole that uses sticky rubber where you need it and a higher abrasion rubber in areas that see more abuse. The Akasha also uses the same compound. These FriXion outsoles are what brings me back to La Sportiva shoes time and time again. The combination of grip, traction and durability is second to none.

The tread pattern on the Akyra is very innovative. The high wear areas on the heel and toe use hexagon shaped lugs, and the rest of the shoe uses phallic chevrons similar as on many hiking boots. The lugs offer a huge surface area which provides great traction. The lugs are also widely spaced and very deep to help provide grip on a multitude of surfaces. Although, on very muddy trails the lugs get clogged up with sticky mud. Not so good on an already very heavy shoe! On the other hand, the Akyra performs admirably in all kinds of snow. Spikes or grippers are seldom required, bar on very hard snow and ice.

I’ve used these shoes on a wide variety of trail surfaces and have yet to find one on which the outsole doesn’t perform well. Except as mentioned on muddy trails.


La Sportiva Akyra in action on the trails
La Sportiva Akyra in action on the trails

Pros:

  • Extremely rugged trail running shoe with great durability for ridge scrambles, loose scree, Speed Hiking and long days of Trail running in the mountains.

  • Stable chassis that will cope with anything you will come across.

  • Outsole with mega grip on most surfaces.

  • Surprisingly breathable shoe. (Not GTX)


Cons:

  • There seems to be issues with the lacing for some runners.

  • These shoes are a bit on the heavy side in favour of ruggedness and durability.

  • Outsole gets clogged up on muddy trails.

  • Not the cheapest on the market.



Summary:

Even though this shoe has been around for almost 4 years. the La Sportiva Akyra is a fantastic trail runner and one that I would highly recommend for Speed Hikers and long distance Mountain Runners. It's versatility allows it to tackle all sorts of terrain while giving you the grip required to scramble up and down steep mountains.

It is not a perfect shoe by any means and will not fit all types of feet. . The lacing system could have been improved. The laces are of a round quite thick design. I find, they always need double knotting, otherwise they come undone. Some runners complain that they can not get a perfect fit. it lacks for instance a dual eyelet at the top for a lace locking technique.

Also, this shoe is one of the few, these days, that need 'running in'!

But after about 20km, the flexibility improves and you feel like 'flowing' over the the mountain trails.

This shoe is the one I would wear on some of my epic trail runs and when I am speed hiking through the Alps.



La Sportiva Akyra GTX  on the winter of Switzerland
The Akyra GTX in snow action




























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GEAR THAT I HAVE USED IN THE SWISS PEAKS TRAIL 360KM
SHOES: La Sportiva Akasha
           La Sportiva Akyra
JACKETS: Mont Bell Versalite
              OMM Kamleika
POLES: LEKI Micro Trail Pro
 BACKPACK: 
Salomon Out Peak 20L
SOCKS: X-Socks
UNDERWEAR: SUB Sports
NUTRITION: Suz's special
flapjacks with Chia seeds.
HEAD TORCHES: Ledlenser MH10
                        Petzl MYOXP