La Sportiva Akyra ReviewAugust 29, 2017
- Aggressive tread
- Narrow fit
- Very stiff
- Not versatile
- High heel-toe drop
The new Akyra from La Sportiva is a brawny, aggressive trail monster. With deep lugs that bite into rough terrain and burly uppers that lock down the foot securely, the Akyra is best suited for hard efforts in rocky, technical mountain terrain. It’s stable and supportive on the most rugged singletrack, but the downside is that it’s not at all suited for casual, mellow cruising on groomed trails.
The new La Sportiva Akyra is a trail shoe built with focus and purpose. La Sportiva is an Italian company with U.S. headquarters in Boulder, so it’s no surprise that their flagship trail shoe is designed to tackle the gnarliest mountain terrain. The Akyra is an aggressive, burly off-road shoe that feels out of place on anything but the most rugged trails. Runners who like La Sportiva’s unique fit but want something less aggressive, will want to check out the Bushido or Akasha instead. Our testers praised the Akyra for its grip, protection, durability, and secure fit, but noted that it felt like overkill on smooth terrain and groomed trails. There was also concern about the Akyra’s snug fit, which some runners may find too constrictive. At 11.3oz (men’s size 9), it was far from the heaviest trail runner in this round of testing, which is surprising for a shoe this beefy. It had the highest heel-to-toe drop in the test with a stack height of 25mm in the heel and 16mm in the forefoot (9mm drop).
For such an aggressive mountain running shoe, the Akyra has surprisingly plush uppers. The Ortholite insole is soft without being mushy, and the three-layer construction of the uppers prevents seams on the sockliner. The heel counter is firm without being uncomfortably stiff, and the achilles notch prevents irritation. Our wear-testers noted the narrow, short fit of the Akyra’s last, with particular concern about the pointed, narrow toe box. Some runners may need to go up a half-size to get a comfortable fit.
As one wear-tester put it, “there’s way too much stability and structure built into this shoe to get it moving at higher speeds.” The Akyra is bulky and overbuilt, which is a wise choice for the terrain it’s designed for. Only elite athletes are going to be throwing down 7-minute miles in these, but they’ll get you through the gnarliest, rockiest mountain terrain faster and more confidently than any other shoe in this round of testing.
Security of Fit
Runners who prefer their shoes snug will appreciate the close-fitting uppers and narrow toe box. On rugged trails, no one wants their foot slipping and sliding inside the shoe. According to one wear-tester, the TPU overlays on the uppers, “gave the mesh some structure and worked flawlessly with the lacing system to give a very even distribution of pressure.” Another tester gave the Akyra’s laces a low score, and thought they felt thin and cheap compared to the high-quality, overbuilt nature of the rest of the shoe.
On the terrain it’s designed for, the Akyra is nimble and agile. As one wear-tester observed, “it was surprisingly easy to get precise foot placement for how bulky the heel of the shoe is. The snug fit and aggressive outsole design really play a huge role here.” The Akyra’s lugs are aggressive and steep, with each lug providing uphill and downhill traction. Some lugs wrap around the toe box and rear of the heel, giving the Akyra huge bite on loose, technical and rocky terrain. The “Trail Bite” heel design digs in hard when you want it to, and our wear-testers felt more stable and confident on technical, challenging descents than in any other shoe in the test. The aggressive lugs feel bulky and slow on groomed trails however. The Akyra is not intended to be a versatile, all-around trail shoe; in fact, La Sportiva calls it a “mountain running boot” which seems appropriate.
As overbuilt and heavily structured as the Akyra is, our wear-testers were surprised by its responsiveness. The midsole foam is not excessively firm and is relatively flexible, particularly through the forefoot. Although the 25mm heel stack height falls right in the middle of the shoes tested this round, the Akyra feels heavy in the back and slightly unbalanced toward the rear. One of our wear-testers described it as “heel-heavy” and said he had a hard time transitioning to a more natural footstrike.
The Akyra is built to plow through the toughest terrain. Although there isn’t a rock plate, the aggressive lugs and thick midsole protect the bottom of the foot from trail obstacles. The midsole is integrated with seamless overlays on the upper that wrap the foot and protect it from side impacts, and the toe bumper is unobtrusive and protective. The uppers prevent intrusion of dust and debris with a gusseted tongue and triple-layer construction. The downside of the protective uppers is that they are hot and don’t drain water as well as shoes with more porous uppers.
Jason is a trail runner and ultra-marathoner who lives with his wife and children in the frozen tundra of northeastern Wisconsin.