It’s been a year or two’s pause, and I’m down to the last miles on my final pair of version one, but the La Sportiva Akasha II ($150) has arrived!
I first tested and reviewed the original La Sportiva Akasha in March 2016 — for a fun throwback, here’s our La Sportiva Akasha review from back then — and for the past six years, it has been my trusty companion for all 50-plus-mile races, and any all-day (or night) mountain adventures where happy feet are vital.
It’s also the only current shoe I routinely get 450 to 500 miles out of before I start searching for my next installment. La Sportiva was born from a mountaineering heritage, and it’s that deep understanding of moving quickly in big mountains that informs their focus on design and performance of this outstanding trail ultrarunning shoe.
The La Sportiva Akasha II, like its predecessor, is La Sportiva’s all-day, all-mountain, all-the-miles shoe. It excels in providing a comfortable, supportive ride over technical and less technical mountain running terrain without sacrificing the ability to feel and accommodate to the nuances of the trail.
Only the subtlest of changes have been made to the first version to enhance breathability, durability, and protection of the upper, but the midsole, outsole, and the overall essence remain the same. This means, at least for me, these can come out of the box and right into a burly mountain extravaganza without a worry.
The La Sportiva Akasha II retains the 6-millimeter drop with the stack height of 31 and 25 millimeters from heel to toe. It has an actual weight of 11.5 ounces (325 grams) for the men’s size 9 (EU 42).
It is considered a medium fit in La Sportiva’s line. Personally, I agree with the medium profile analysis, and it’s a highly comfortable and conforming fit due to the stretch in the upper’s mesh. So, while it’s not a wide and roomy shoe by some standards, it’s also not a soccer boot or glove-like fit either. It’s definitely designed to adjust to changes in foot size over the course of a long-distance mountain trail foray.
A size note, the Akasha II is true to size for La Sportiva. I wear a women’s 9.5 (EU 41) for all La Sportiva shoes as compared to an 8.5 (EU 40 and 2/3) in Salomon, 9.5 (EU 41) in Columbia-Montrail, New Balance, and Brooks.
La Sportiva Akasha II Upper
La Sportiva targeted the upper for the updates that make the La Sportiva Akasha II a bit more refined. Breathability has been enhanced with the seamless 3D AirMesh, which feels slightly thinner and more flexible, yet still keeps dirt and sand out better than the previous version, due to a change in the mesh pattern. The Dynamic ProTechTion reinforcements create the overlay pattern providing some structure to the upper as well as some medial and later support on off-camber surfaces.
Compared to the first iteration of the Akasha, these feel slightly less dense and more accommodating to my foot. The pattern of the overlays is also slightly different creating more windows for air and water to pass through a bit easier. Water drainage is faster than the first Akasha, and the shoe dries easily overnight, at least where I live in Colorado. While the Akasha has never run too warm for my foot, these changes definitely improve the temperature regulation within the shoe on the increasingly hot summer days.
The TPU toecap provides excellent density for protection against the inevitable toe stub, but it’s slightly more flexible as well. I found it to be a welcome improvement to the overall comfort of the shoe when the miles really add up on any given day.
Reinforcements around the well-structured heel cup offer excellent security for my heel keeping it in place on the shoe’s platform regardless of terrain angles. They are scaled back slightly which, again, improves breathability and moisture management without sacrificing performance in any way.
The gusseted tongue is thick and padded but has more mesh and less overlay, which protects the foot very well from laces while still allowing for more heat and moisture to move out of the shoe when the temperature really heats up. The laces appear to be unchanged but the way the laces attach to the upper is altered slightly with the small webbing-style loops. I find adjusting the fit of the shoe to my foot to be a breeze and the laces stay tied with a simple double knot with no further adjusting needed during my run. Each of these changes only improve my experience running in the shoe, and there’s absolutely nothing I wish they would have left as before.
I jokingly referred to the first Akasha as a lace-up running slipper, but truly, the Akasha II is so comfortable, that I have no suggestions for improvement.
La Sportiva Akasha II Midsole
The La Sportiva Akasha II midsole remains essentially the same as what La Sportiva categorizes as the 30A cushioning midsole. Incidentally, if you ever want to see which technologies are similar between shoes in the La Sportiva lineup, the website has a very informative comparison chart with each of the current shoes in the running line. In this case, the midsole is comparable to the La Sportiva Akyra, for example. Dual-injection Shock Absorbing MEMlex EVA is the primary compound in the midsole, which creates all-day comfort.
It seems to me that in the Akasha II, the 3 millimeters of EVA overlying the midsole and just beneath the removable Ortholite Hybrid (5% recycled rubber) insole provides a better “cushion platform” (their term) for the foot than the first model. Out of the box, it felt like a slightly springier ride to me, and at 150 miles, it still feels that way.
Enhanced stability is achieved with the La Sportiva TPU STB inserts on both the medial and lateral sides of the midsole. Though the technology here hasn’t changed, my Akasha IIs do demonstrate a bit more torsional flexibility than the original Akasha, but in a way that enhances my running experience. The shoe feels more responsive to the terrain and facilitates a bit more agility than before but not so much that it creates more fatigue. I love how this second iteration functions over the miles.
La Sportiva Akasha II Outsole
The outsole of the La Sportiva Akasha II looks, feels, and performs just like the original. At 475 miles in my last pair of original Akashas, the outsole is now showing some signs of wear uniformly across the bottom, but there’s no loss of function or traction yet. This includes hundreds of miles on the Colorado Trail, various fourteeners in the Rockies, and some miles in the Arizona desert. With 150 miles in the new Akasha II, the only wear on this pair of shoes is trail dust.
This incredibly durable outsole is constructed with the familiar FriXion XT 2.0 and utilizes the same Impact Brake System as before to take some of the stress out of long descents. The 4.5-millimeter bidirectional chevron-shaped lugs provide excellent traction over all surfaces — even moving carpets of tiny rocks — except ice and loose snow, which is consistent with my experience in several pairs over the past six years.
I wouldn’t shy away from taking them on a summer ultra like the San Juan Solstice 50 Mile where some snowfields may be crossed, but in the winter, I’d pick a more aggressively lugged shoe if the snow and ice were my primary running or racing surface. Alternately, the sturdy outsole does pair very well with traction devices, without significant underfoot discomfort.
The subtle, yet very effective, Trail Rocker geometry smooths out the heel-toe transition across any terrain, which means not only do I feel comfortable on steep, technical ups and downs, but I also run easily on the service roads that often contribute to a long route link-up. Though there isn’t an actual rock plate or film of any kind, the density of the outsole coupled with the midsole cushioning technology removes the potential for rock bruises or incursions through the bottom of the shoe.
Despite the protectiveness of the outsole, the shoe flexes and contours just enough to the rocks and roots underfoot that I still have good ground feel and can adapt well to changes in terrain. I’m not someone who wants to feel all the things with my foot bones, so I find the Akasha II outsole to be just the right balance of protection and underfoot sensitivity. In my experience of testing and running thousands of miles in many, many, many shoes, this outsole stands out as one of the best for mountain running, ultrarunning, and long trail running.
La Sportiva Akasha II Overall Impressions
I’m so happy that La Sportiva brought back the Akasha and that the updates are subtle and, in my opinion, only enhance an already high-performing, extremely comfortable shoe. The La Sportiva Akasha II will continue to be my go-to for ultra pacing, racing, and long route goals like the Teton Crest Trail in the Teton Range hopefully coming up this summer. Sure, there are lighter and snappier shoes out there, but none provide the all-mountain, long-ultra comfort, protection, and confidence of the Akasha II.
Call for Comments
- Have you tried the La Sportiva Akasha II? What were your thoughts?
- Do you think the upgrades on the last version were worthwhile?
[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!]
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