Writing reviews of products is always difficult for me. Most products are pretty good (or else they would never hit the market), and to some extent, most products fulfill a particular nitch within their market area. Shoes are no exception, and to some extent, they are even more difficult to write about then say pants, hydration packs, or something similar. Everyone's feet are unique, and what shoe fits them the best is unique to them, let alone the different “types” of shoes one may be looking for – minimal, maximal, zero-drop, trail, road, and so forth. So with this in mind, it is obvious why I find writing a shoe review that will benefit someone other than myself difficult. However, when I do find a shoe that I like, I want to share it with people who might be looking for a similar type of shoe for their quiver.
I received a pair of La Sportiva Bushidos back at the beginning of June, but am only getting around to writing a review now because I wanted to put enough miles on them to make sure my review was informed and honest. I don't run for them, and so my review is purely my own opinion – I get no kick-backs.
The Bushidos among Old Man of the Mountain wildflowers on the Congressional Circuit run.
At first glance, I was pretty excited to try out the Bushidos. Coming in at ~10 oz the shoes were on the lighter end for a trail shoe, and with their La Sportiva sticky rubber on the soles I was interested in trying them out in the mountains. My normal go-to shoe is the Brooks Cascadia. I like the Cascadia (version 8 and 9 only) because it is a solid, all around trail shoe. Yes, it is a bit clunky, and a bit heavy, but when most of your running is on rocky trails, up and down mountains, over talus, through alpine rivers and the like, you kind of need a solid, slightly beefier shoe to stand up to the wear and tear. The Bushidos seemed like they might be a nice alternative, if not a bit lighter. And so over the course of the summer I intermixed my mountain runs between my Cascadias, the Bushidos, and the Pearl Izumi N2 Trail. Overall, I've put about 300 miles and 75,000' of gain on the Bushidos, and so far they are holding up very nicely. Before I get into my particular likes and dislikes, here are the pertinent stats:
Weight: ~10 oz (depends on size)
Sole: FriXion XT sticky rubber
Upper: Mesh with welded ripstop and a toe cap
Looking down 3,000' of class 3 talus on the north ridge of Torreys Peak
The first thing I noticed about the Bushidos is their glove-like fit. Unlike the Cascadias or N2s, where the shoe comes up and cradles the foot, with the Bushidos the foot rides on top of the insole, almost like on a platform. The mesh upper then surrounds your foot in a very snug and secure glove-like fashion. At first it feels like the shoe is really “shallow” and you are riding up on top of it with a protective mesh layer holding you in, rather than a feeling of wearing a shoe that protects and surrounds your foot. This glove-like shallow feeling – which I got used to pretty fast – is, however, what gives the shoe an extremely nimble and fast feeling. Running up a rocky hill with the Bushidos feels fast, fun, and easy – making quick steps and leaps from rock to rock becomes easy and a joy.
The Bushidos come with LaSportiva’s FriXion XT sticky rubber, which allows them to grip almost any type of rock in all conditions. I took them out the other day during an early fall rainstorm and had no problem running over granite slabs and sandstone cobbles. The shoes tread pattern seems to work well, and although I can’t really say whether the "impact break system" is effective or not, I have been very pleased with it overall. There does seem to be a bit of tread breakage or aggressive wear, similar to what I’ve noticed on the Cascadias, but then again, I don’t know what kind of rubber would hold up to miles of Rocky Mountain talus. Like the Cascadias and the N2, the Bushidos come with a “rock plate” that does an adequate job. I can still feel some of the sharper, smaller pebble size rocks, but I can in other shoes with rock plates as well.
I really only have one dislike about this shoe, and that is the midsole. La Sportiva describes it this way: "MEMlex — A compression molded midsole of 80% EVA and 20% SBR that provides a firm, cushioned midsole that is very lightweight." I agree, that is basically how it felt - firm. For how I am using this shoe in my running quiver, that works fine, but I could see using this shoe for longer runs or races if the midsole was a bit softer or thicker (19mm at the heel, 13mm at the toe). La Sportiva categorizes the shoe as a "performance" shoe, and I would have to agree - so really this is more of a want then a dislike.
For me, the Bushidos are a great shoe for technical, super rocky, shorter runs and races. For anything between 5K and 15 miles that involves a significant amount of vert. or technical footwork, the Bushidos would be my go to shoe. If the race or run were longer, I would probably go with my Cascadias – even though they are a bit heavier, beefier, and a tad more lumbersome – simply because the Bushidos don’t seem to offer enough midsole protection for the longer stuff. On fast and fun runs in the Flatirons, around Apex or Mount Falcon, or on the higher stuff like Grays and Torreys (especially the Kelso Ridge), the Bushidos are the perfect shoe. They provide enough protection, offer superior traction and rubber, and feel light, nimble, and fast. In my quiver of running shoes, that is the role that they seem to play, and will continue to play. For the flatter stuff, sandy runs out of Pine or Buffalo Creek, or for the longer mountain trudge days linking up several peaks, I’ll still select my N2s or Cascadias. But for when I want to go fast over technical terrain, the Bushidos are an excellent choice.