La Sportiva Anakonda Review

The lottery to get into Seward, Alaska’s Mount Marathon Race is tough and getting tougher. So, when I found myself standing halfway up the mountain as a volunteer (waiting for someone to crash and burn so I could render medical care), I wasn’t surprised or offended to be there. And, not running the race lets a person observe a lot of different things… such as what shoes are represented in the race. For Mount Marathon, the list was pretty simple and went something like this: La Sportiva, Inov-8, La Sportiva, Salomon, Inov-8, La Sportiva (and so on).

The reason for this should be self-apparent: those three brands have established themselves as top suppliers of mountain-racing shoes. They have focused their energies on producing specific models that aren’t as concerned with going a long ways as they are with going up. It is this design emphasis that lays at the heart of the 9.7 ounce La Sportiva Anakonda ($125). They are, unabashedly, a shoe designed for going up (and down) muddy mountains and doing so quickly.

La Sportiva Anakonda

The La Sportiva Anakonda

Upper
Mountain-race shoes are subjected to a lot of abuse. The uppers face a constant barrage of roots, rocks, and mud. The Anakonda responds to these demands with lots of vinyl reinforcement and a heavy-duty mesh. The majority of the reinforcement is around the arch and midfoot of the upper, but it does extend to the toes in a limited fashion. There shouldn’t be a lot of concern here, though. The mesh used is thick and tough. It errs so much on the side of durability that I thought it compromised breathability a bit.

While the Anakonda does have a traditional tongue construction, La Sportiva has elected to overlay it with a continuous layer of mesh. The result is less gravel and dirt going in around the tongue, but you do run the risk of bunching up mesh between the tongue and the laces if you aren’t paying attention. I didn’t have those issues, but I paid attention to my lacing.

The most fascinating aspect of the Anakonda’s upper is the use of a pronounced TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) heel cup. La Sportiva dubs this their “Transkinetic Heel Stabilizer”. Points for a sweet-sounding feature. Polyurethane is light and durable. It is also makes for a rigid heel cup. Really rigid. I can’t imagine it “breaking in” much for a heel that doesn’t fit it well. On my runs, it felt wonderful and secure on my left foot and blistered my right heel. I have notoriously bony and pointy heels, so your fit may vary significantly.

La Sportiva Anakonda - lateral upper

The La Sportiva Anakonda’s lateral upper

Midsole and Fit
The Anakonda sports a 18mm heel height, a 14mm forefoot height, and has 6mm lugs. If you do the quick math, that means you have a 4mm offset and you are riding close to the ground in these shoes. I found the midsole provided ample protection for the hazards of the trail. There is a rockplate in the mid-forefoot that does not compromise front-to-back flexibility, but certainly stiffens the midsole and limits lateral motion. Overall, the ride is about what you should expect from a minimal EVA ride. It keeps the feet happy over plenty of obstacles, but demands a lot of stamina from them in return.

The fit of the Anakonda needs special mention. La Sportiva does provide their consumers with information regarding the fit of their shoes (and boots). They bill the Anakonda as a low-volume shoe (on their European website). It is exactly that. There is minimal, if any, extra room to the interior of this shoe if you pick up your traditional size. These are shoes that are designed to be close-fitting, even intimate, with your feet. The Euro 44 fit my feet like a pair of socks. Stable? Yup. Comfortable? Absolutely. Do I have black toes? You bet. I recommend trying them on before you buy or, if that isn’t possible, order up at least a half size.

La Sportiva Anakonda - medial upper

The La Sportiva Anakonda’s medial upper

Outsole
The “FriXion XF” outsole on the Anakonda is 6mm of toothy and sticky goodness from toe to heel. The lugs are spaced evenly around and do not vary in height. The lugs are shaped like a closed “U.” Three sides of the lug are rounded and one side is flat. The flat face of the lugs are intended to provide significant traction. As such, the flat side faces toward the rear in the midfoot for climbing traction. And, the flat side faces forward in the heel for braking. I can’t argue with the design. It provided great footing and decent braking through all terrains. I did manage to lose my footing on a couple of occasions, but that was more a function of angle and depth of mud than lack of rubber.

The “FriXion XF” rubber is a soft rubber. These aren’t shoes for hard-packed trails or door-to-trail runs (unless you live right beside a muddy trail). I certainly noticed wear when I strayed too far from the soft muck.

La Sportiva Anakonda - outsole

The La Sportiva Anakonda’s outsole

Overall
The Anakonda shows off a lot of the reasons why La Sportiva is a frequent sight at mountain races. They know how to build a lightweight shoe that is capable of withstanding the rigors of that environment. While there are a few quirks for the Anakonda (as with any shoe model), it does exactly what it is designed to do. If you can figure out the correct size for you and are looking for a minimal shoe that is dedicated to the enjoyable task of going up and down slopes, the Anakonda will not disappoint.

Adam Barnhart

discovered from an early age that he loved running , but didn’t like starting guns. As a result, he is frequently found wandering the area trails around Anchorage, AK, but only at races after considerable peer-pressure is applied. When not trail running, Adam keeps pace with his wife and kids, works as a pastor and, with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.

There are 26 comments

  1. astroyam

    Been wondering about these shoes, they look great. Are they substantially stiffer and firmer than Inov-8 X-talon 190s do you know? I would think they are with the stiffening plate.

  2. JaketheMince

    Adam,

    Ever try the X Country? I'm a huge fan of those little dirt bikes. I was curious how the redesigned upper and rock plate affected performance.

    1. alaskaadam

      Jake – Regretfully, those slipped past me. I had considered them last summer, but went in another direction. And, now it looks like they are discontinued.

      How was the fit on them? Fairly tight?

      1. JaketheMince

        Definitely snug. The close fit creates some limitations, but it's also what allows them to excel in conditions that stifle a lot of other trail shoes. I wear them, almost exclusively, in wet weather; the upper becomes a bit more supple, never sloppy, and they really come into their own. I have a ton of miles on them and, counter to the multitude of upper-blowout pics I've seen online, they seem to have a ton of miles left in them. I'm really glad I got a pair before the well ran dry. I was hoping the Anakonda would fill the void in my fleet when my X Countrys, someday, inevitably, give up the ghost. I suspect that weird sand and glue covered textile upper of the X Country is what accounts for their pleasant transformation in the slop. I doubt the mesh and vinyl upper of the Anakonda will reproduce this unique and cherished characteristic.
        Thanks for the review; there hasn't been much user feedback on these since their release. I get the feeling that they, like their predecessor, are a thoughtfully designed shoe that will shine in the right conditions.

        1. alaskaadam

          My pleasure. Thanks for the additional info on the X Countrys. Sounds like I should keep an eye out for a pair of them on closeout.

          You could always take a pair of the Anakonda's and have them rhino-lined on the upper?

  3. Dallasgreen84

    I been wearing these for about a month now running Boulder (Flat Iron Trails etc…) they are very tough indeed but the material (esp the heel) will rub your heel in a not so good way. So prepare for some blisters unless your use to wearing a very leathery/hard material for a heel cup. Other than that its great the lugs are awesome and its a low profile shoe. I do however look forward to seeing how the New Balance version Trail Zerov2 feels compared to these as its a zero drop and even stickier rubber!

    1. Bryon of iRunFar

      Hi Patrick,
      I wanted to let you know that your previous comment via Twitter was approved and I've not yet figured out why it's not being displayed. Just wanted to make clear that it wasn't barred or anything like that.

      -Bryon

      1. patrick_thurber

        Hey, thanks for letting me know! I'd rather continue posting via the Intense Debate profile. So, no worries if the twitter-sent comment never appears. I won't use that account again!

        -Thanks again,
        Patrick T.

    2. alaskaadam

      What kind of terrain was he using them on? I wouldn't be very surprised in that kind of outsole wear if they were seeing hard trails. Super-sticky… very soft.

      1. patrick_thurber

        Well, he was using them on super gnarly trails. But perhaps the photo doesn't explain: The outsole completely separated from the shoe. He's just holding a flap of rubber there.

        1. alaskaadam

          OH! Wow! Yeah, now that I look at the photo again, that's pretty clear… not enough caffeine this morning. I didn't experience any significant delamination of the outsole. But, clearly, it occurs. Did he pursue it with La Sportiva? At the least, most companies like to hear about potential design flaws or manufacturing defects (this would be the latter).

          1. @Maxk_

            Hi Adam, I'm the owner of that shoe (and picture). I send an email to La Sportiva and they never answer me back (bad thing). I would love to think that I had bad luck with the shoe…The outsole starting unglue like 40k in (of purely off road/ mountain running….). I was enjoying the shoe very much until that.

            1. alaskaadam

              The lack of response is disappointing to hear. I haven't had cause to contact La Sportiva's customer service. Hopefully, this is a isolated incident (both the shoe and the lack-o-response).

            2. Bryon of iRunFar

              Have you tried contacting the store from which you bought the shoes? That’s the most common warranty resolution route I’ve heard of for shoes. (Although a brand should still respond, even if it is to point you to the store.)

  4. @andy_dt_82

    These are way more substantial than the x-talon. It's a shame about the heel cup that blisters both my heels after an hour, perfect fell running shoe otherwise. Heel from the Helios would have been nice (I take the same size in both)

  5. jdcheesman

    How do they compare size-wise to other La Sportivas? I've got some Raptors that will need replacing soonish, and these look great… but do they have the same fit?

  6. @Watoni

    I second the love for the X-Country's. Ironically, they were my go to after I had badly bloodied my heels in another brand's shoes, and these were all I could wear for a while. Sticking with the Helios for now ….

  7. JaketheMince

    Looks like we have similar taste, Watoni; I love my Helios as well.

    I think my x countrys may have eaten the proverbial shit this weekend. I may be able to stitch 'em again; won't know 'til I try. Outsole looks great.

  8. Guillaume

    Hi,
    Choise size, other brands.

    For me :
    Nike, Asics = 45
    Adidas, Salomon = 44.5
    Reebok, Inov8 = 44

    You advise what size for Anakonda shoes ?

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