La Sportiva Akasha ReviewJune 29, 2016
- Secure wraparound upper
- Comfortable fit
- Great ground-feel
- Fast and agile
- Terrific traction on a wide variety of surfaces
- Sizing runs short
- Very firm heel
- Stiff, low-flexibility midsole
- Uncomfortable heel cup
- Relatively heavy
The brand-new Akasha from La Sportiva is the Italian sportswear giant’s effort to bring together their technical, performance-oriented mountain running shoes with a more comfortable, higher-stack platform. Overall, our wear-testing team had some issues with the sizes being a bit short, but found the Akasha to be a smart compromise between comfort and technical performance. The aggressive tread and stiff midsole make it suitable for shorter, harder efforts on more technical terrain, while the relatively high stack height and roomy toe box make the Akasha a reliable choice for ultramarathons and other long-distance off-road efforts.
Italy’s La Sportiva is well-known across Europe as a mainstay in mountaineering, climbing, skiing and mountain running. They are beginning to make inroads into the North American market with their trail running line, and recently lured ultrarunning legend Anton Krupicka away from New Balance. The Akasha is a brand-new model for 2016, and appears to be La Sportiva’s attempt to bring their technical, performance-oriented approach to a pair of roomier, more comfortable off-road shoes.
The Akasha has a rugged, durable full-rubber outsole under a comfortable, breathable knit upper, all tied together with a midsole-wrapping boot that takes cues from cross-country skiing gear. Although our wear-testers thought the model fit a bit short, they praised the Akasha’s comfort and performance. One area of concern was the stiffness of the midsole, particularly the heel. Multiple wear-testers noted that it seemed inconsistent with the relatively high stack-height or the overall comfort of the upper.
Overall, the Akasha is a versatile, comfortable all-around trail shoe that performs well on a variety of trails and conditions. It feels like a more cushioned, less aggressive younger sibling to the well-regarded La Sportiva Mutant. A slightly softer, more responsive midsole compound in the next iteration would likely make the Akasha a strong contender for Best in Category.
With a breathable knit upper, roomy forefoot, generous toebox, and well-cushioned midsole, the Akasha is a comfortable shoe right out of the box and on the trail. The tongue, in particular, is well-padded and allows runners to wrench down on the laces for technical sections without pressure or pain. Multiple wear-testers noted that the model fits short however, which is compounded by the difficulty of finding the right European size. One wear-tester who typically wears size 12.5 or 13 found size 47.5 Akashas (the largest size La Sportiva makes) nearly too short.
Wear-testers described the Akasha as smooth and confident at high speeds, although the stiff midsole with its relatively large heel stack (26mm) made quick downhills a little sketchier than flats and climbs. Although the model is relatively heavy compared to its peers, it runs lighter and speedier than expected from a nearly 12oz trail shoe (for the equivalent of size 9).
Security of Fit
The wraparound upper, which connects the bottom of the midsole directly to the laces on the medial, interior side gives the Akasha a terrifically secure fit through the midfoot. Likewise, the toebox is roomy without being sloppy, which is appropriate for a shoe intended for long-distance endurance running. Some wear-testers experienced heel-slippage though, likely due to a combination of stiff sole and stiff heel cup.
There was a bit of a divide in our wear-testing team her. One tester describing the Akasha as “swift and agile” which was echoed by others who felt that the shoes felt speedy over a variety of terrain, including ice and hardpack snow. Others felt like the thick, stiff midsole could be a bit jarring and clunky on technical singletrack, and particularly noticeable on downhills.
The Akasha is built without a forefoot rockplate, which often gives a shoe responsiveness and flexibility at the expense of protection. Although none of our wear-testers described the Akasha as a particularly flexible shoe, there was widespread agreement that it offers great groundfeel without sacrificing protection from sharp rocks and other trail obstacles. As one wear-tester put it, “The Akasha has the cushion to go the distance but the firmness and spring for going fast. Don’t let the weight of this shoe fool you. It’s an overweight sprinter in an ultrarunner’s body.”
The Akasha’s full-rubber FriXion outsole is a dual-density compound with sticky rubber under the forefoot/heel and harder, more durable rubber in the high-wear zones around the perimeter. Our wear-testers found it the combination of thick midsole and dual-density rubber outsole both highly durable and high-performing, even without a forefoot rockplate.