La Sportiva Bushido II Review

La Sportiva’s Bushido II ($130) is a true mountain or technical trail running shoe which speaks to La Sportiva’s long history of creating gear that performs well in steep and burly terrain. In this second iteration of the Bushido, La Sportiva has addressed some of the concerns from the first model. The heel cup and the cushioning have both seen improvements. Runners with narrow and low-profile feet will rejoice to know the shoe is built on a gender-specific last with a performance fit. In plainspeak, the toebox seems to be similar or even a bit narrower and slimmer fitting than before which means those of us with wider feet and gripping toes either have to open the laces way up and wait for the stretchy mesh to break in a bit or switch to a different shoe in La Sportiva’s line.

The weight remains in the middle range for trail shoes at 8.8 ounces/250 grams for a women’s size 7 and 10.5 ounces/298 grams for a men’s size 9 per La Sportiva’s website. Even with the enhanced cushioning, the shoe retains the 6-millimeter drop and low profile (19mm heel/13mm forefoot stack height) thanks to a new dual-compound compressed foam.

All in all, if you were a fan of the narrow-fitting Bushido before, the Bushido II should allow you to find your flow over tech-y trails replete with mud, rocks, and kitty litter with happier heels and forefeet.

La Sportiva Bushido II. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

La Sportiva Bushido II Upper

The upper of the Bushido II is constructed with stretchy AirMesh with a web of microfiber and welded triangular overlays that vary in density and flexibility along the medial and lateral aspects of the upper. It seems that La Sportiva considered areas of shoes that most commonly blow out prematurely or see significant wear and tear from knocks and scuffs along the trail and enhanced the durability and support in those areas. Internally, none of these overlays create any pressure points, and they provide ample support to keep the foot on top of the Ortholite insole in challenging terrain. The highly breathable mesh lining and welded ripstop that further contour around the foot contribute to the overall comfort and fit of the low-profile upper.

The tongue is updated to a more rubbery, padded, and gusseted tongue that you now also see in La Sportiva’s Kaptiva. While I prefer the more traditional tongue, it does adequately protect the foot from the laces and stays in place. My anterior tibialis tendons aren’t quite so sure about the updated tongue but I do prefer this one to the Kaptiva since it’s more flexible as my ankle dorsiflexes forward over it with every step.

The updated heel cup is more structured in the bottom portion and lessens in stiffness as you move up toward the Achilles to provide moderately constructed support. My heel is held comfortably in place with standard lacing, and I had no issues with slippage or blisters while wearing the shoe. The ankle collar and Achilles notch are well padded but not aggressively so and sit away from ankle bones. It’s not intrusive to my Achilles tendons even with strong push-off on the uphills.

The last element of protection in the upper is the semi-flexible TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) toe cap that extends around the entire toe end of the shoe and is reinforced somewhat by a slight wrap of the outsole. I found it to be adequate for most things I generally stub my toe on, and I appreciate that my pinky-toe side is protected as well.

One aspect of the upper that has been a noted challenge in the first Bushido for many runners in wetter climes is the tendency of the shoe to become waterlogged and dry slowly. In the Bushido II, there are more opportunities for the water to drain from the small triangles of exposed mesh around the base of the entire forefoot, so I’d say there’s marginal improvement in this realm. To be fair, the shoe does a great job of keeping sand and other debris out of the shoe, but the type of tongue and the amount of overlays still contribute to some moisture staying in. For me, this hasn’t been the deal breaker it is for others.

La Sportiva Bushido II lateral upper.

La Sportiva Bushido II Midsole

A significant update was made to the midsole of the Bushido II which I think will enhance the experience of most users. La Sportiva now employs a firm but highly responsive 4mm dual-compound EVA/MEMlex compression foam in the midsole which really improves the comfort of the shoe compared to the original Bushido while not changing the stack height significantly. It’s still not what I’d call a ‘well-cushioned shoe,’ but coupled with the 1.5mm compressed EVA rock guard, more incursions in the forefoot are deflected while retaining similar ground feel as before. The cushioning in the heel provides a bit more protection for heel-striking runners while remaining close to the ground. My feet still have limited range in the shoe even with these updates, but I’ve always been one to favor protection over ground feel up to a point. For those who are lighter on their feet, I think the midsole updates will stretch the shoe from trail-half-marathon status to 50k status or a similar ratio of range improvement as long as there is minimal time spent on roads of any type.

The torsional stability of the shoe is still impressive while not being ‘tippy’ at all on uneven cambers. The TPU STB control inserts still cradle the midfoot from the forward aspect of the heel through the arch and are visible medially and laterally just above the outsole. Functionally, it means you can stay upright fairly easy while navigating routes through talus and scree while also cornering hard on buffed-out switchbacks shared with the mountain-bike crowd. Maybe what I should say, is if I fall over in these sections, it’s hard to blame it on the Bushido IIs.

La Sportiva Bushido II medial upper.

La Sportiva Bushido II Outsole

The outsole of the Bushido II utilizes the FriXion XT 2.0 V-Groove2 with the Impact Brake System which incorporates dual-compound rubber to facilitate maximum grip on wet and dry technical terrain. It’s like having sticky, approach-shoe rubber on your well-lugged trail shoes, so they practically beg for some wet, slanted conditions to prove their worth. The mud sheds easily (except true clay) and as long as there’s footing to be had, the Bushido II outsole seems to find adequate purchase. I also found them to be adept at sticking to slabs of rocks like we have on our Hogback and Red Rocks areas in the Colorado Front Range. As with all true approach shoes, however, the stickier the rubber, the less durable they seem to be and the lugs do show some wear and tear after 150 miles. The lugs through the central portion of the shoe seem to work best on downhills and tight corners, though I never had any issues with the shoes slipping out on uphills whether on trail or tundra like some have written about elsewhere on the Internet. I also liked the wrap of the outer ring of lugs that helped significantly on scramble-y sections or where significant rocks and roots make even foot plants impossible.

La Sportiva Bushido II outsole.

La Sportiva Bushido II Overall Impressions

If you have a narrow, low-volume foot and love to tackle burly terrain and conditions with confidence, La Sportiva’s Bushido II is designed for you. While it’s noticeably more cushioned than the first model, a light touch on the trail will definitely allow you to take the shoes further afield than those of us who prefer more protection from the rocks and roots. I can heartily recommend the shoe for a narrow-footed Colorado outdoorswoman ‘triathlon’ of sorts—trail running along the Continental Divide plus disc golf on a mountain course in the hills plus family-style ultimate frisbee on park grass—the traction and handling in each situation was superb. My one caveat to my glowing recommendation is that runners with wider feet (myself included) may need to look elsewhere in the ‘long run’ because the Bushido II seems to be a trimmer cut than before, much like a low-volume soccer boot. I had the shoe opened up as far as my laces would allow, but my friends who have slimmer feet had no issues at all. So, test and see if the Bushido II is where it’s at for you!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Are you running in La Sportiva’s Bushido II? If so, what do you think of the shoe overall?
  • What do you think of the updates made to this second version of the Bushido? Which updates do you like and which do you think could use a little more work?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

La Sportiva Bushido II view from the top.

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 6 comments

  1. Barth Zurbuchen

    Good review Kristen. Yes wider feet do work in the 2s. Start lacing at the bottom, do not cross lace until the 3rd or 4th row, leave a bit loose. This pattern works well in most conditions. In shoe sucking mud simply tighten the top. The side panels flex very well and will conform to accommodate a bunion big toe condition. The insole is a type of foam that remains spongy in dirt slop but will absorb fines over 50 miles necessitating hand wash and wringing until water is clear. They do wash up in the laundry tub with a brush like new and dry quickly when left in the sun. They run small requiring a 13.5 for my 12 foot. I have run these down until the side panels rip out and few lugs are left. Worn Bushidos make great slick rock runners. Since dedicating to these 4 years ago I have not had an ankle issue, tripped/fell/rolled once, or stubbed the big toe. Great overall control, fast confident descents, good ground feedback, no blisters and going on my 21nd pair for a 6-3 180lb frame. Thank you La Sportiva.

  2. David Von Stroh

    After buying six pairs of the Bushido 1s, I was excited when the Bushido 2s came out. And they are definitely an improvement. Amazingly, both the cushioning and the ground fee/grip seem improved. I wore them in my first 100 Miler in September (Pine to Palm) and they performed excellently (I did switch out between two pairs of these at mile 43). I also wore them on the Kilimanjaro Stage Run in August – they did leave something to be desired in terms of grip and control on the very slippery descents into canyons on wet hardened clay and wet granite. Those were conditions I’ve never seen in the Western US, however, so these are still my ride or die shoes. They do seem to drain and dry out quicker than the first model. The only negative or thing that’s worse between Bushido 1 and Bushido 2 is that in longer races/runs (20+ miles), the tongue chafes there around the ankle area on the top of foot. That was never the case in Bushido 1 and so now I do need to apply nut butter to the top of my foot and sides of ankle when I’m embarking on something longer than 20 miles. Other than that, the only blister I’ve ever gotten in eight pairs of Bushidos was on the ball of my foot around mile 90 of Pine to Palm, but not bad enough to hinder me. As for sizing, when I first tried on my first pair of Bushido 1s at REI 3.5 years ago, the guy there recommended a half size up and that has worked perfectly ever since. I usually wear 13 US (47 EU) in other shoes, so I get a 13.5 US (47.5 EU) in these.

  3. Beth McCraw

    As a woman with an AA forefoot, AAA heel and 41 length, I swear by my Bushido 1 women’s model, so I say “yay” that they’ve gone narrower! There are many, many more options for medium to wide feet these days…At least La Sportiva caters to those of us narrow of foot I look forward to the II when my current pair are ready for retirement.

  4. Sam

    I’ve run in the 1’s and 2’ and the 2 is a much better shoe all around. I wear a 44 and it admittedly feels quite snug out of the box. Broke mine in just wearing it around the house for a couple of days and from first run has been great. Excellent responsiveness. So, so good on technical terrain. Absolutely love the shoe and glad if hugs my foot so well. I alternative between my bushido 2 (short faster more technical runs) and my mutants (longer, slower runs). Love both

  5. Galen Hecht

    So far the Bushido 2s have proven to be a good choice for technical trails here in New Mexico. I’ve trained a lot in them and ran two trail races: a 50k with 8k ft climbing and 8k descending and a 9 mile climbing race with just over 4k of vertical gain. I was really stoked on how the shoe felt in both races, and though I generally prefer a wide toe box, I sized up a half size in these and they feel great. I’ve got about 400 miles of exclusively technical trail with mine and the tread still does it’s job, the midsole performs well, and the upper shows little wear. It seems to dry pretty well, although New Mexico isn’t exactly rich with moisture. The only two issues I’ve had are that one of the stabilizers that cups the heel cracked–but I actually haven’t noticed any change in the feel of the shoe–and the inner heel wore through, but I have a weird shaped heel with a bulge, so most runners probably won’t have the heel wear problem to the same degree. All in all, I’d definitely recommend this shoe for other runners who enjoy technical trail and want a durable shoe that can take 500 miles better than most other shoes out there.

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