La Sportiva have been making shoes for a long time, 80+ years! So it feels somewhat crazy that it’s only now that I have slipped on a pair of La Sportiva shoes for a test. I travel a great deal, particularly in Italy and it’s fair to say that Italians are loyal to the Italian brand that are based just outside Canazei in the Dolomites. Adding to the irony, I have driven past the La Sportiva factory many times on my way to the Dolomites SkyRace, year after year.
To provide a perspective of the foothold (pun intended) that the brand has in this area, La Sportiva shoes are the ‘norm’ and yes, even Salomon take 2nd place. The brand is that big!
I digress, needless to say, 80+ years of history and a desire to bring technical footwear to consumers so we can enjoy the playground is the heritage that La Sportiva trade on.
The BUSHIDO shoe (which means way of the warrior) is not a new shoe, not at all. But it is a popular shoe and one that I have been recommended time and time again. So, finally I took the plunge and grabbed a pair.
Like all shoes, different colour ways are available and the BUSHIDO comes in a pretty cool looking black and yellow. I unfortunately got a pair of turquoise and orange (?) – not my favourite colours. Oh vanity…
The BUSHIDO doesn’t look light and at 300g (give or take) they are certainly at the heavier end of shoes that I wear. But then again, everything is relative, this shoe looks like it means business and therefore, as in the way of the warrior, maybe the build quality and weight needs to reflect that?
Slipping the shoe on I was really surprised with the hold the shoe had on my foot. It has a gusseted tongue which La Sportiva call an ‘Internal Slip-On Construction’ and I have to say that the BUSHIDO comes close to Salomon’s ‘Endofit’ as witnessed on the ‘Sense’ range for example. This is a huge compliment to the La Sportiva shoe. I test and wear shoes all the time and Salomon is still the benchmark in terms of how a shoe holds a foot.
Standing up things didn’t feel right? I did my usual walk around, flex the forefoot, bounce around a little and then I stopped. I asked myself the question internally, ‘are these shoes neutral and what is the drop?’
I checked – 6mm drop and neutral.
After running over 100 miles in these shoes I still really question these facts. The BUSHIDO for me does not feel neutral. Actually, I would almost go as far to say that they have a pretty aggressive arch support. I noticed it immediately and the more I ran in the shoes, the more I noticed it.
A 6mm drop should have had me feeling comfortable mid to forefoot striking but no, I felt as though the heal of the shoe was getting in the way. I haven’t had a low drop shoe feel this way before. It may well come from the 13mm to 19mm cushioning at the front and the rear? Yes, the BUSHIDO is a cushioned shoe. The Scott Kinabalu Supertrac (for example) has plenty of cushioning, loads of grip and an 8mm drop and they feel considerably ‘lower’ than the BUSHIDO. I use 8mm drop day-to-day and for long runs and I regularly use and run in 4mm drop for shorter/ faster sessions. However, the BUSHIDO never felt like a 6mm drop. I have found it difficult to pinpoint why but at all times I felt the heel was too pronounced.
Running at first felt somewhat awkward and cumbersome with the shoe lacking flex and feel. It’s rare these days that shoe feels so stiff out of the box. I thought, a few runs and they will soften up. They never did…
I have to say, I was on a slippery slope. I had waited to try the BUSHIDO for quite some time and with every run I was realising that I disliked them more and more.
The build quality is somewhat bullet proof: good toe protection in a TPU toe cap, a dual density compressed rock guard in the midsole, a TPU shank and IPS (impact brake system) and my conclusion? This shoe is completely over engineered and just doesn’t allow me to feel or enjoy the trail in a way that a good shoe should. For a ‘neutral’ shoe I felt as though I was being ‘guided’ with every foot strike as though my mind and my foot were saying, ‘let’s do this’ and then the BUSHIDO would step in and shout at me, ‘NO – YOU ARE DOING THIS!’
This relationship wasn’t going to last.
The outsole is unique with round edges and has two different sections, black and white. In simple terms it’s two different compounds that provide grip on a multitude of surfaces. This works well on dry trail, rocks and gnarly terrain and they grip well on wet rock. However, the outsole won’t handle mud – it’s just not aggressive enough. The black compound is sticky and grips whereas the white compound is more durable provide traction for off camber and irregular trail. Underneath all this you may well just see a flicker of blue? This is the rock plate which protects you (and your foot) from anything sharp, irregular or nasty. Like I said this shoe is bullet proof but all of the above and 13/19mm cushioning make for an unresponsive shoe which lacks feel.
The TPU cradle adds to the problem. This cradle wraps up into the midsole and holds the foot firm. It provides a cradle which the foot sits in. This for me is not really a ‘neutral’ shoe. I want my foot to be free and neutral – not guided.
In the rear of the shoe you can see a little orange piece of plastic which is called ‘STB Control’ – again, the word ‘control’ – I think you are beginning to realise that the BUSHIDO is fighting me and my feet. Also at the rear is another cage like system that holds my heel. More stability, more support designed to hold the foot and stop it rolling or losing control.
The upper is soft and breathable and as I mentioned has the gusseted fit which really is the high point of the shoe. There are no seams so you could, if you wish, go sockless. The tongue is slightly padded adding to the comfort and should you really want to pull your laces tight, this will add some additional protection.
On the sides of the upper there is some reinforcement going into the lace zone and the lace section is additionally reinforced allowing laces to be pulled as tight or as loose as possible. This area follows the theme of the shoe in my opinion – stability, reinforcement and guiding.
The heel cup is tight and secure and is too high potentially causing an issue on the achilles. My left heel rubbed on run one and continued to rub on every run after causing me to add some protection for the test runs.
The toe box has a narrower and more precision fit which works really well for me. The BUSHIDO is designed for the mountains and I don’t want my toes moving left to right when I need reassurance. Of course, if you need a wider toe box this may well not suit you so make sure you try them. Toe protection is excellent.
I wear a UK9.5 and these shoes were true to size. I think it would be easy to think that the BUSHIDO sizes small on first impressions but I would say no! The shoe is designed to fit and hold your foot and so therefore, my advice would be start off with like-for-like sizes and see how you get on.
In conclusion, I have to say that the BUSHIDO and myself just didn’t get on. The shoe has loads of pluses, in particular the sock like fit. On paper I should have liked the shoe – 6mm drop and neutral fit rings all the correct bells. But no! The BUSHIDO at all times felt over engineered, too supportive, lacking feel and I have to say, of all the shoes I have tested in the last few years, this is one shoe that I won’t go back to.
But, many runners out there like this shoe so maybe I am the odd one out? If you are looking for a durable shoe, with loads of protection, a low ‘ish’ drop and plenty of security and guidance – this is the shoe for you… the BUSHIDO does all these things well, maybe too well?
Specs from La Sportiva
Lining Mesh/ Highly breathable lateral mesh inserts/ Stretch AirMesh Tongue
Rear/ Front Cushioning 19mm/ 13mm
Cushioning midsole 32A
With performance driven design, the Bushido is perfect for technical terrain and provides added stability over stones, roots and branches on the trail. The “STB Control” construction utilizes a TPU frame that wraps under foot to provide maximum stability, responsiveness, and reduce overall weight.
- Internal slip-on construction fits the foot like a sock without causing excessive pressure.
- Outsole lugs have rounded edges and wrap over the midsole to provide added traction and enhance stability on off camber terrain.
La Sportiva website HERE