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.

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La Sportiva Bushido II

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 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 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 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!

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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!]

More Trail Running Shoe Options

To find more options for trail running shoes, check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article and our full collection of trail running shoe reviews.

La Sportiva Bushido II top view

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.