La Sportiva Akasha Review

Have you ever sleepily put on a pair of running shoes in preparation for a dawn patrol run and wondered if you mistakenly put on your favorite slippers? My excuse—it was dark, but no, I don’t have lace-up slippers. The La Sportiva Akasha ($140) is just that comfortable out of the box. It’s a higher volume shoe with a slipper sock construction that gently hugs the foot without constricting or gapping. It’s designed specifically for maximum comfort over long endurance efforts and weighs in at approximately 11.5 ounces per shoe (Euro size 42). Those who prefer a lower-than-traditional drop will be pleased with the 6mm drop. Interestingly, it’s one of the only shoes with a 6mm drop that, to me, runs like an 8mm drop. With the comfort, breathability, and lightweight protection this shoe offers, it’s easily a shoe I can imagine wearing all day. For those of you who haven’t had luck with La Sportivas in the past due to the narrower, stiffer fit, these are worth your time to test out.

La Sportiva Akasha

The La Sportiva Akasha.

Upper

The upper on the Akasha is a very accommodating, breathable Air Mesh that snugs up next to the foot and eliminates any compression breaks or discomfort. There are thin PU leather strips that overlay the mesh across the forefoot providing a bit of structure and preventing collapsing of the upper. Thicker overlays along the medial and lateral sides of the upper reinforce the lacing holes and wrap together across the heel. This, in conjunction with a sturdy heel cup, keeps the foot securely atop the platform while ping-ponging across rocks and along cambered trails. The heel notch and ankle collar is padded just enough to keep ankle bones and achilles tendons happy with whatever the trails throw at you. When you’re transporting your shoes, a small piece of webbing near the top of the heel allows you to attach them to the outside of your pack via a carabiner.

The toe is reinforced with what looks and feels like a thin outsole material overlying the PU leather. What this means in my experience is my toes stay painfree no matter how many times I kick rocks or wedge my foot onto ledges and cracks to scramble up a small technical section. This rand protects all the toes from medial to lateral and wraps up to provide a slightly protective overhang. Once the shoe is on, your feet are happily oblivious to the protection.

La Sportiva Akasha - lateral upper

The La Sportiva Akasha’s lateral upper.

The tongue is one of the thickest padded tongues I’ve found in the trail shoe market, but the padding is dense and firm rather than boggy. I didn’t notice excess water absorption in this area while wearing the shoes in slushy, snowy, muddy runs, but they did seem to take a bit longer to dry out at home afterwards. Nonetheless, with our lack of humidity, they were always dry and ready to go by the next day. No pressure from laces can be felt over the tongue, but I did sometimes have to stop mid-run and retie my shoes as the lacing would feel like it loosened up. Whether that’s the nature of the padding in the tongue or the elliptical laces, I’m not sure. The tongue is gusseted from the forefoot back to the third lacing hole from the ankle. It’s adequate to keep the tongue in place and the debris from entering in from the top of the midfoot.

Overall, this upper is one of my favorites simply due to the all-day comfort, breathability, and non-restrictive support it provides.

Midsole

The midsole of the Akasha is an injected EVA which La Sportiva states allows the midsole to retain cushioning and elasticity within the EVA over time versus the standard compression molded EVA that tends to pack out more quickly over the life of the shoe. Coupled with La Sportiva’s Cushion Platform, this shoe maximizes shock absorption, rock protection, and comfort while eliminating a boggy or marshmallowy feel. I did feel like the midsole could use a bit more responsiveness to enhance the efficiency on long climbs. I’m not sure if that would be in the form of a slightly higher durometer of EVA or if it would be a thin molded film of plastic in the midsole that would allow the shoe to translate your midstrike-to-push-off more directly to full forward motion. This is a minor concern. The comfort and protection the shoe provides would likely negate this issue over the 50- to 100-mile distance.

La Sportiva Akasha - medial upper

The La Sportiva Akasha’s medial upper.

The Ortholite Mountain Running Ergonomic insole is a 4mm antimicrobial footbed that does an excellent job of adding to the comfortable ride of the shoe while not retaining moisture. Even with running through slush puddles, streams, and snow, the footbed avoided any sensations of bogginess and dried quickly once removed from the shoe at the end of the run.

Lastly regarding the midsole, my research indicated nothing about the presence or absence of an actual rockplate. What I can state is that these shoes deflected all of the pointy, rounded, odd-angled rocks I could step directly on without issue. My foot remained stable on awkward angles and could torsionally adjust to tippy rocks even with full weightbearing in stride. I’m not sure how La Sportiva achieved this, but instead of feeling the muffled point of a rock, you feel the pressure spread out underfoot from the point. It really is the best of both worlds—excellent rock protection and cushion while still retaining torsional flexibility and control as well as good groundfeel. This might have been my second favorite aspect of the shoe, the first being the entire upper.

Outsole

The outsole of the Akasha utilizes the FriXion XT dual-density compound soles (XF + AT) that optimize the wear-and-tear resistance and shock absorption. The lugs are substantial and deal with mud season quite well yet are unobtrusive when linking singletrack with smoother dirt roads. The tread through the bulk of the outsole is made from the FriXion XF sticky rubber compound that excels on angled rocks and rocks with a film of wet or dry sand on them. Further, it has no trouble providing a comfortable ride banging down a rocky jeep road. La Sportiva uses reverse direction lugs to assist with breaking on downhills and also incorporates their proprietary Trail Rocker system which assists with the natural rolling of the foot through the gait cycle. Higher wear areas at the lateral heel and medial forefoot and toe have the more wear-resistant FriXion AT compound. I would be perfectly happy with this outsole on most of the trails I run on with one caveat—I wasn’t as impressed with the function on snow and ice. The lugs didn’t seem to have the bite I prefer for slippery or sugary conditions. It wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but I’d carry traction devices as needed, or I’d use another pair of shoes in my quiver for those runs.

La Sportiva Akasha - outsole

The La Sportiva Akasha’s outsole.

Overall Impressions

Overall, I really am impressed with the La Sportiva Akasha. I’m pleased with the higher volume shoe and the very accommodating yet supportive upper. I’m about 170 miles into these shoes and I see no significant signs of wear and tear. The upper remains supple and very comfortable especially when I “clean” the mud off in the streams as I splash through them. The level of cushioning and the rock protection continue to shine which keeps the shoe on the short list in my rotation. I’m interested to see how my impression of the shoe’s responsiveness is affected as the snow recedes and longer climbs open up. All in all, I think the Akasha is a worthy shoe for sub-ultra distances as well as 50k-100 miles in most conditions and I look forward to reading your comments as you put them through the paces.

Call for Comments

  • If you’ve got any questions about the shoe, ask away.
  • If you’ve had a chance to run in the shoe, let everyone know what you think!
Kristin Zosel

is a mom, wife, ultrarunner, physical therapist (on sabbatical), and transcriptionist for iRunFar.com. Her love of steep uphills, high mountain environments, and Swiss “lovely cows” keep alpine visions dancing in her head and strong cappuccinos in her mug.

There are 43 comments

  1. Tim

    How do you find the sizing of the shoe? How much space do you have in the front (length wise)? I’m coming from a 44.5 in the mutants, which was a very snug fit without much front toe room. With the rocker like construction I’ve never felt the need to really have that extra “thumbs” width up front. Now I’m struggling to decide between a 44.5 and 45 in these – smaller feels great thru the mid foot but I feel like I’m quite a bit of pressure onto the toes rolling off and not really taking advantage of the cushion, where as the 45 I really have to tighten everything down to get a secure fit and they feel slightly large. Maybe it’s not meant to be with this shoe for me and I should stick with the mutants…

    1. Steve

      I always go with a 1/2 size bigger in nearly every brand running shoe, but in La Sportivas, according to their sizing chart, I go a whole size bigger. That’s 46 for me and I’m normally a 12, but LS converts this to a 12.5. This has worked great on 3 different LS models including this one.

    2. Stanislav

      I have the same dilemma with Akasha sizing. I first tried size 45.5 which is consistent with all other La Sportiva shoes I’ve ever had including Helios, Bushido, Mutant. That seemed comfortable overall but heels just weren’t feeling secure enough even with heel lock lacing. Now I’ve got another pair in 45 and it seems fairly snug in the front.

    3. KristinZ

      I like a little room up front for my toes so they don’t bang against the end (maybe a sideways thumb? more importantly, I don’t like my fourth and fifth toes to rub at all against the end).
      Here are my sizing equivalents in women’s sizes: Salomon speedcross 8.5, montrail caldarado 9.0, pearl izumi N2 Trail 9.0, La Sportiva Mutant and Akasha 9.5. This gives me a similar fit across the board.

      These Akashas are definitely on the roomy side which I appreciate for different reasons… just like I appreciate the glove fit of the speedcross… different shoes in the quiver. :)

    4. Jeff

      I fit in most 10.5 size shoes and some 11’s. In these the sizing was definitely small and I went up to a 11.5 (45 euro) and they fit well.

  2. Andy

    Anyone have a comparison between this shoe and the Helios in terms of fit and ride? I found the Helios to be super comfy but a bit “flat” feeling and not as firm or responsive as I’d like, especially on technical terrain.

  3. Teresa

    I’ve had the Electron, Quantum, Helios, and now Akasha. I didn’t like the Helios (original model). The upper was unsupportive and the outer tread left much to be desired. The Electron was my favorite until the Akasha. The sizing is tricky with LaSportiva. I always go a full size up compared to my Hokas or Brooks. This leaves me with a thumb of room, which is good for swelling or buffer room for kicking obstacles. Yes, the shoe is wider than other models and very comfortable under foot. Akasha is a smooth ride, especially for technical terrain.

  4. Kristin Z

    Jon, in my opinion it feels wider but also the mesh feels more accommodating. Hopefully others can chime in. We also have an earlier video review of the Bushido on iRunFar by Travis L. that might be helpful.

  5. Tim

    Thanks for the replies on sizing folks. I feel like while La sportiva always runs small, it even more so always a little short in length. I’ve gone from 44 in the original Raptors thru 3 pairs of Quantums in a 45, to the Mutants in a 44.5 (tho these are definitely a little snug – “super precise” I would call it). The Akasha in 44.5 feels like I’m sitting on top of the cushion. While I can feel the cushion in a 45, the shoe in general feels a little loose and I contribute that to the design of it (ultra shoe purpose) and not being used to this type of fit.
    Comparing these to the Bushido is difficult for me because I have a very prominent bone on the side of my foot and basically that’s the widest part and then the 5th meta angle inwards not splaying out like normal for most. Thus the bushido for me in a 45 felt super wide in the toe box as it’s tear drop shape didn’t suit my foot well. I found a 44.5 to fit much better (narrower) but swapped to a thinner insoles to wedge my foot in them.
    I’d say the Akasha is more of a conventional shaped shoe from front to back vs the tear drop of the Bushido – the Akasha is wider in the mid-foot.
    I’ve noticed that there is quite a difference between (at least) a 44.5 and 45 sizes – just holding and comparing them it’s obvious.
    Sometimes I wish La sportiva could make a 44.75 sizing – I’d give them more of my money and replace all my shoes with that!

  6. Tim

    Happy to report I settled on the 45’s and right outa the box had an awesome 10 mile run and loved them. Standing around they did feel a little large and looser on my foot than an average La sportiva, but once moving that all disappeared and I was not disappointed at all! The cushion is reminiscent of the Quantum, but with a more relaxed midfoot and lower more stable heel. Great grip and barely any push thru from the pointiest CT traprock. Great transition from midfoot to toeoff. Easy to get up on the toes when needed, climbs great, and feels stable and confident pushing downhills. Love this shoe!

  7. Matt

    Does anybody have any opinions on how these would compare to the Ultra Raptors? I’m looking for trail shoe for a 100k that has more protection than the current Montrail Fluidflexes that I am running in. Thanks!

    1. Steve

      I have run exclusively on Ultra Raptors for the past year or so. I just got the Akashas and really like them, but only two 10 mile runs so far. The Akashas have better traction on dirt/rocks because of the more aggressive lugs, but they feel lighter and more slipper-like than the Ultra Raptors. It also feels like the Ultra Raptors have more of a rockplate-type of protection. I’ve raced in the Ultra Raptors up to 50 miles, and my impression of the Akashas so far is that they could be better for 100K or 100 miles because of the added cushioning. Hope that helps.

  8. Fegy

    I just tested out a new pair of Akasha’s (normally a mutant and bushido wearer) on a brutal course (Tammany Ten) and they fared quite well. I was very happy with their stability and ability to withstand the very-pointy rocks.

  9. Jeff

    I am also liking the Akashas thus far. Given the El Nino conditions this winter where we live, I have been mostly running in Mutants. Prior to a bad ankle injury, I ran in Helios (size 44) and I wear a 43 in the Mutants/Akashas. Akashas are a more cushioned, slightly less technical shoe compared to the Mutant.

  10. Jody

    I’m curious about the fit through the heel on the Akasha. I have a narrow, low volume heel, high arch, and a somewhat wide forefoot. I’m wondering if this shoe would be a good fit for me? Thanks!

  11. Kristin Z

    Jody, I think they’re worth a try. I have a high arch, rigid foot shaped pretty much like a Birkenstock. :) I don’t know that my heel is narrow for a girl… Maybe avg, but I like the forefoot room and my ability to get my heel snugged in… Even in mucky mud and wet snow my heel stays put.

  12. Joe

    Do you think this would be a good shoe for running the Western States in? Or is it too much shoe? Also, what other shoes would be a good fit for that terrain?

    1. Kristin Z

      Personally, if you can do 6mm, it’s a perfect WS shoe–plenty of traction but not overbearing for smooth trail, toe protection, and cushion for the miles. There are many great shoes for WS but it comes down to preference… What do you wear for 50 mi and long training runs?

      1. Joe

        Thanks for your reply. I have been using the Saucony Xodus for years in all my races, from 50-200. The 3 was my favorite, but also liked the 4 but not so much the 5. Ive read that the soon to be released #6 incorporates some changes. So now Im investigating other shoes. Have had good luck with the LaSportiva Ultra Raptor and the Wildcat for hiking and the more technical ultras so I was thinking that the Akasha could be a good shoe for me.

  13. mark

    Can someone please advise on whether the lugs of these shoes are too aggressive for well-groomed trails. I just got the PI Trail N3, but wanted something that would provide all day comfort with slightly less drop than PI’s 8mm drop. Thoughts are appreciated.

    1. Kristin Z

      Unless something has changed, and I don’t think it has, PI drop is 4mm. Check their website. They have what they call a dynamic offset where it’s 4mm at contact and somehow feels like 7mm later in the foot strike, but it’s definitely 4mm.

      These Akashas have great lugs but they are set into the sole rather than protruding. Sounds funny but take a look at the bottom of the shoe at la sportiva online. It has a great ride on the smoother stuff and works well when more traction is needed. These are 6mm.

  14. Jeff

    How would these fare as a hiking shoe? Fast hiking mostly in the rocky white mountains of NH. Need something that has great cushion for hiking up to 35 miles in a day. Not running.
    Male 180 lbs with 10-20 lb pack at most?

    Thanks
    Jeff in MA

    1. KristinZ

      I’m one who only hikes in my trail running shoes,though I usually have a separate pair. I haven’t hiked in the White Mountains, so I can’t fully attest, but I’d imagine these might be great. My only concern for my own feet is on really rocky terrain, I might like a little more stiffness if I was carrying a pack with more gear. These would be a perfect shoe on some of our easier 14’ers here in Colo that I’d do as a run/fast hike (the groomed trails with some rock hopping on top), but I might go for a slightly more protective shoe if I was hitting the rock pile 14’ers with longer approaches.I do really like the Akashas with my heel lift in to make them 10mm drop shoes. The fit is great and my foot doesn’t slip around in or off the shoe at all regardless of how off camber or rubbly it is. I find myself reaching for them frequently.

  15. mike

    how does the cushioning compare to the hoka stinsons? The last three versions of the stinsons have gotten progressively stiffer and less cushy and I’m looking for more of the original stinson feel … thanks

    1. KristinZ

      I can’t attest to the Hokas cushioning changes, etc… These are cushioned for a “middle-of-the-road,” non-maximalist, non-minimalist shoe. In my opinion, Hokas and the Altra Olympus are in their own category re: cushioning, but I don’t wear either brand.

  16. David

    Been out for two runs in my Akashas, and in both of them my toes are suffering on the downhills. They are crushed into the front of the shoe.

    Did I get the wrong size? Is it something I can fix with tighter lacing? Any other advice?

    Except for that I like the shoe.

    1. KristinZ

      Hmmm, I’m not sure. I don’t have this issue with the shoe. The heel fits snugly and the rest of my foot stays in place fine. I tend to buy my shoes with a thumbs width at the front to give my toes room, so…? Perhaps you could try the heel lock lacing style (just google) to see if that helps without irritating your anterior ankle. Trying 1/2 size larger might be helpful? Hard to say from behind a computer screen.

  17. Michele

    I have run for just 20km on the Akasha so it’s soon for a deep response, but I think they are great for traction, while lateral stability is a bit poor (the foot tend to slide aside) as well as a lack of cushioning. Maybe I was expecting more of that since they are selled as “ultra trail shoes”, but next time I will look for a more protective one (Cascadia or Leadville)

  18. MattP

    Two pairs so far. 250+ miles on each pair. Tons of single track uphill/downhill, rooty/rocky terrain. These shoes are almost indestructible. Very little visible wear and tear.

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