La Sportiva Fireblade Review

Every once in a while you forget your preconceptions and leave constructs behind as you fall in love with something you’ve got no business falling in love with… and such as been my story with the La Sportiva Fireblade.

You know how the story goes. Maybe your friends tell you about the new girl in town. Though you’ve not yet met her, man, you sure would like to… and you go to bed dreaming as if you had. Then a few weeks later, you’re at a party or a bar, see her across the room and, wow, your friends were right. Time to check her out yourself. So you go strike up a little conversation and it just feels right. After an enjoyable hour together, you two part ways, but before you do you set up a date for the following day. Uncharacteristic? Yup. Against “the rules?” Yup, but who cares. The next day you get together and 6 hours later you two are still enjoying one another’s company despite all your differences. How wonderful.

La Sportiva Fireblade mens orange and grayMen’s La Sportiva Fireblade in orange/grey

Of course, I’m not writing about having a fling with some new lady friend in Asheville, but rather of the La Sportiva Fireblade. Mike Mason tipped me off to the Raceblades recently and after some enlightened feedback from La Sportiva employees and team members, I picked up a pair of the Fireblades at Foot Rx in Asheville on Friday. Almost immediately I hit the trails in the Fireblades and liked them enough to race 40 miles in them the next day. A gamble which paid off.

I should start that two things would have kept me from picking up these shoes had it not been for the recommendations I received.

  1. The Fireblades are a low profile shoe. I’ve never trained in a low profile shoe and never raced further than 10k in such a shoe. I was also particularly worried as I have chronic problems with my right Achilles tendon.
  2. I had never really taken a look at La Sportiva’s shoes. That’s partly because too few stores carry La Sportiva shoes and I had never bought a new brand of trail shoe without first trying them on in a store. Beyond that, I guess I really didn’t know what La Sportiva was all about, and because of that I didn’t look any further. That was a mistake – La Sportiva is a trail shoe company. The primary problem with La Sportiva is consumer perception and knowledge. I think I represent the average American ultrarunner in having previously thought of Montrail, Inov-8 and Vasque as the major specialty trail shoe companies out there. Is it any coincidence that these three companies have had the largest sponsored ultrarunning teams in recent years? Regardless, at least for me, it’s time to recognize La Sportiva as one of the big-time specialty trail shoe companies. Hopefully, La Sportiva’s increased on-the-ground presence through race and runner sponsorship will help others take a second (or first) look at La Sportiva’s shoes for their trail running.

Ok, so finally, what’s the Fireblade like. It is a very lightweight, nimble trail shoe, but not a fell running shoe. Think more along the lines of a trail version of a road racing shoe, rather than the Montrail Highlander or many of Inov-8’s shoes. As you would expect, some foot protection appears to have sacrificed to lighten the shoe to 11.89 oz/337 g. However, the increased nimbleness of the shoe more than makes up for the lesser protection on all but the nastiest of trails and, even then, the trade off for a lighter shoe is worth considering.

The forty miles of the Mount Mitchell Challenge provided a great mix of terrain types on which to test the Fireblade – pavement from flat to steep, nice dirt single track, moderately gravelly fireroads, boggy stretches, and very rocky trail, as well as wet rock face, ice – both obvious and hidden, and wet roots/stairs. The only two times I slipped all day were once on some brown ice and once when cornering at too fast on nice dirt single track. I doubt anything short of spikes would have saved me on the first slip and the second fall was more my fault, although an extremely nubby shoe may have kept me upright. I doubt this would have been an issue had I been paying attention rather than racing a buddy. Overall, I’d say the Fireblade has more than adequate traction for most trail conditions, but they would not be the shoe to wear in extremely muddy or icy conditions if you have a collection of shoes in your closet from which to choose.

As for the rocks, well, I’m used to running on them, quite literally. I often frequent the rocky trails of the Massanutten and Shenandoah Mountains. On these ventures, I’ve almost always worn beefy trail shoes. This practice has led me to be fairly lazy and actually run on top of large rocks rather than around them. This meant, that while I was pretty good about picking my way around the rocks at Mount Mitchell, I would occasionally plant my foot directly on top of big pointy rocks while barreling down the mountain. Much to my surprise given the light weight and minimalist design of the Fireblade, they protected my foot remarkably well. I did feel the rocks a bit more than I would in, say, the Montrail Hardrock, but the rocks never produced any pain nor even any feelings of discomfort for that matter… it was just that I could sense the rocks. Come to think of it, this might be an advantage of wearing the Fireblade for two reasons. First, the feedback from rocks may help the wearer to choose better lines over time. Second, while I’m no sports physiologist, I’d imagine any sensation transmitted to the sole of your foot may aid in proprioception and help avoid ankle injuries. [Am I right, Loomdog?] On that note, I’d guess the low profile of the Fireblade is also beneficial in reducing ankle sprains and similar injuries.

The Mount Mitchell Challenge has more road than I would have expected – I’d guess over 10 miles in total – and I had no problems in the Fireblades. Anyone who’s been trail running for awhile has had at least one pair of trail shoes that they absolutely hate to wear on the roads for any length of time. Although I only have the 10 road miles of MMC and another 3.5 road miles this week in the Fireblades, at this point I would be comfortable trying to cover significant sections of pavement in them. In fact, I plan to try them out as a road trainer for both some shorter easy runs and some faster workouts. The best tests I have so far for the Fireblades on pavement are a 2-3 mile downhill on the Blue Ridge Parkway and a half mile off-the-face-of-planet downhill coming into Montreat. I felt comfortable and smooth in both of those stretches.

The sizing of the La Sportiva Fireblade seems to be pretty close to other shoes. If anything you might want to check out a half size larger than your normal trainers. I picked up the men’s 9 (my normal size) and they ran the slightest bit small through the ball of my foot. I will solve that sizing issue by switching from my thick RBX Ultra Cushion Smartwool socks to
something thinner like the Smartwool Adrenaline Light – something I want to do anyway.

One of the most amazing things about the Fireblade was how well it fit out of the box. Normally, it takes me at least a few runs in a new pair of shoes to get each set of eyelets tweaked to the proper tightness. The Fireblade lacing is slightly unconventional and made it very easy to adjust the shoe’s fit right out of the box. After my first 5.5 mile run, all I had to adjust was the bottom-most eyelet on one shoe after the run and I’ve been set ever since.

La Sportiva Fireblade womens yellowWomen’s Fireblade in Yellow

If you don’t want to take my word for the Fireblades, here’s what La Sportiva, N.A. has to say about the them:

Lightweight performance trainer for any type of trail running. Light, flexible and sticky. This shoe is designed for Mountain Running(r). A sturdy heel cup mixed with a triple density midsole and a high tensile composite RockGuard protects the foot from gnarly terrain. The Fireblade is a stable, mid cushioned shoe ideal for mild pronaters and neutral runners.

La Sportiva also points out that the stretch mesh tongue guard keeps dirt, pebbles and trail debris out.

You can purchase the La Sportiva Fireblade men’s shoe or the women’s shoe from Backcountry.com for $95.

You can also read up on the Fireblade:

As always, be sure to check out the comments for more great info from iRunFar readers such as:

  • Specific instructions for screwing the Fireblades for better traction on ice
  • How the heel/toe height relationship of the Fireblade is very similar to that of road shoes like the Asics 2100 series

Check out iRunFar’s review La Sportiva’s Raceblade.

There are 22 comments

  1. Trail Goat

    Thanks, Meredith. The Fireblades have definitely piqued my interest. I'm looking forward to logging some more miles in them very soon.

  2. Sara

    So glad you liked them, Bryon. I took an old pair and made screw shoes out of them for ice.Looks like you're right back into racing. Have fun!

  3. Derrick

    Great review. Very thorough. Your mention of traction on wet rock is so true. Even though the actual midsole height is a little closer to the ground, it doesn't surprise me that the heel to toe ratio would work for you and not be an issues with your achilles. The Fireblades are listed as a 10mm difference, which I believe is similar to what Asics used to have on their 2100 series (not sure if that's changed recently though).

  4. Trail Goat

    Sara,Thanks for your help in my choosing the Fireblades. I forgot to write in my review, but the Fireblades along with the forthcoming Montrail Streak (should they ever be released) are what I've been waiting for in terms of trail shoes. Not minimalist in that they are really just beefy cross country flats, but lightweight shoes with normal lasts that were designed for trails. If only I had trails to run on a daily basis – I'd be in heaven these days!What size screw did you use? I'd imagine it would have to be shorter than standard recommendations for screwing shoes. Did you have any problem with screws coming out since they wouldn't be in as deep as in a more nubby shoe?Hopefully, I'll be receiving a pair of the Raceblades shortly and I can weigh in on the Fireblade/Raceblade debate. So far the Fireblades look tough to beat. :-)

  5. Trail Goat

    Derrick,Great insight re the toe-heel heights in the Fireblades… I had forgot to think about that and that relationship rather than absolute height is the key with the Achilles.Where did you come across the 10 mm info? I'm an info junky… so much so that I caught a weight typo on the La Sportiva website – the Fireblades are about to get 40 g lighter! :-) -bp

  6. Derrick

    I got the heel/toe heights out of the Mountain Running specific catalogue. They aren't listed in the general La Sportiva catalogue though. (FYI…Skylite, Crosslite and Raceblades are all 10mm, and the other LS Mountain Running Shoes are listed at 12mm.)It's pretty cool as it also has durometer readings for midsole densities listed too.

  7. Derrick

    Oh, and re: screwshoes…Sara and I use 1/2 inch #8 hex head sheet metal screws. We position the screws right on the raised nub along the outside and have never had a problem with them biting through or popping out. We end at the second last nub from the front though as the last one is pretty thin. Looking forward to trying the hobnails that La Sportiva now have, but haven't yet.

  8. Trail Goat

    Derrick,I'll have to find a way to get a copy of the Mountain Running catalog. Sounds like some primo info. I wish that outdoor companies made the technical specs of their products more readily available for comparison purposes. I know I had a heck of a time locating detailed info re Petzl lamps last year. (The info is at the back of the Petzl catalog, which can be found on their website.)Thanks for the specific instructions for screwing the Fireblade!

  9. Buzz

    I was just referred to this website by a friend; the Fireblade Review is very expertly written and produced. So much 'Net content is spray; this is impressive work.As others have correctly noted, the "Delta H" on the Fireblade and all other La Sportiva performance shoes is 10mm, while the other shoes it is 12mm. This is a key performance aspect that is often overlooked. A low Delta H (difference in height or sole thickness between the heel and the ball of the foot) encourages a responsive "weight forward" running style, while a high Delta H tends to encourage a "heel-toe" running style. (Anton grinds rubber off the heels of his shoes to make them even lower).Keep up the good work.

  10. Trail Goat

    Buzz,Thanks for the kind words. It's great to have so many La Sportiva luminaries stopping by the iRunFar blog!Great point re why the Delta H is important. -BryonBTW, I love your green building website. Too bad you don't live closer to Arlington, Virginia. I could use some help greening my inefficient 1932 American Foursquare.

  11. Will

    Just read your review…I'm going to give these a shot. My Asics 2130 trials aren't quite the trail shoe for the longer runs. thanks for the info!

  12. Trail Goat

    Will,I'm hitting the roads for my run today(as I do most days) and I'll be sporting my faithful 2130s, so you should fit pretty well into the Fireblades.If the price is right, please consider buying them the Fireblade from the backcountry.com links in the review – such purchases help support iRunFar.com! :-)

  13. Hilary

    Hi

    I was looking for a shoe to take traveling to South America- something I could hike in and run in and wear around cities and dirt roads. I don't necessarily want to trail run but wanted a multi-purpose shoe. Do you think the La Sportiva's are good for what I am looking for?

    Thanks!

    Hilary

    1. Bryon Powell

      I understand. Definitely a cool time capsule. I was just pointing out the counterpoint to the current trend in that lighter isn't always better. :-) Still crazy to think how much things have changed in so short a time.

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