Bushido means ‘the way of the (Samurai) warrior’ and that’s fighting talk! La Sportiva have designed them for use in competitive multi-terrain running ‘to guarantee perfect stability on all types of off-road terrain’, from lowland scrub to high alpine snow and everything in between – the rockier the better… but how will they handle SwimRun?
The Bushido vitals, taken from www.lasportiva.com
Price: RRP £100
Uppers: Breathable Air Mesh + thermal adhesive micro fibre; the external structure has high frequency applied to rip-stop fabric.
Lining: Mesh + no sweat lateral mesh inserts + stretch Air Mesh tongue.
Midsole: Compressed EVA + Rock-Guard insert in dual density EVA on the forefoot.
Footbed: 4mm Ortholite Mountain Running Ergonomic.
Sole: Lighter weight Dual mix FriXion XT + Impact Brake System and lugs for attaching AT Grip Spikes.
Sizes: 36-43 (including half sizes)
Weight: 610 g (pair, size 42)
These Bushidos are real head turners with their striking yellow wasp-like styling. Color psychology reveals yellow as a positive and cheerful color and the look of these shoes definitely brings out an enthusiasm for running. The color yellow loves a challenge and these shoes certainly do too. (other colours are available!)
They are an aggressive mid-weight trail running shoe that at first glance look a little chunky if you are used to more minimalist models. This is due to a heavily lugged protruding sole and a lot of protective armory up top. They look ready for battle, living up to their name!
While not a minimalist model, they do approach the form with a low 6mm drop which is balanced by 19mm of foam and rubber cushioning under the heel. The forefoot rock plate guards the ball of your foot from sharp rocks, and A TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) frame at the side of the uppers encases the middle part of the foot. This creates a snug fitting shoe with greater stability. The 4mm Ortholite insoles are designed to cushion and keep your foot cooler and dry with a breathable open cell structure. It also contains anti-microbial agents and is washable to keep cheesiness at bay.
In other more minimalist shoes, I have suffered foot fatigue and bruising on uneven and rocky trails but in the Bushido my foot was well protected from all angles. A TPU toe cap also provides full-coverage around all the toes which gives you protection when accidentally kicking rocks.
The outsole lugs provide good grip on both rocky and muddy terrain. For the outsole La Sportiva have taken inspiration from their classic climbing and approach shoes and have used sticky Frixion rubber on the inner stud like lugs. The outer yellow lugs are designed to keep your foot in continuous contact with the ground during your stride, even on uneven and off camber surfaces.
The Bushido upper is a mix of light weight breathable mesh and ripstop fabric with a reinforcing rubbery coating referred to as ‘high frequency’. Tough microfiber increases durability of the shoe in high wear areas. The lacing system is integrated with the rubber and ripstop upper and pulls the shoe together for an close but comfortable fit. A lightly padded tongue protects and cushions the top of the foot and is attached inside the shoe to a mesh ‘sock’ liner. This is designed to work with the lacing system to help keep the foot securely in place.
The shoe is lighter than most traditional trail-running shoes My size 7.5 UK (41 Euro) weighed 310g (1 shoe). That is a little bit heavier than that weight stated by La Sportiva on their website but is still pretty impressive considering all the protection that is packed into them.
Fit and Feel
Out of the box the Bushido felt really comfortable. The fit was snug but in a comforting rather than restrictive way. The internal ‘sock’ is designed to hug the foot and keep it in place and it does a great job at wrapping around the mid-foot in particular, holding it securely. The lacing is easy to adjust and the tongue has just enough padding to give the top of the foot that extra comfort.
Despite boasting a long list of protective features which you might expect to bog them down, they don’t carry any unnecessary fabric or features so felt nice and light compared to some other trail shoes I’ve tried.
Narrow fit is a staple of La Sportiva shoes so they will best fit you if you have slender feet, especially in the heel. They suit my feel perfectly and have haven’t experienced any blisters, rubbing or heel slippage. I used the top most eyelets for lacing and this may have helped. I’ve read many reviews that state that the shoe sizes come up small and to go up half or even a whole size. This was not true for me and my usual size was perfect, but perhaps this is due to foot width. If you have a wider foot you may need to go up a size to make allowance for this.
If you are used to light weight, supple, minimalist shoes with token padding and foot protection then the Bushido are going to seem chunky on the sole and feel pretty stiff. They feel quite ridged on the first outing but as you start to clock up the miles they do begin to soften to don’t let this put you off. They are never going to give you that ‘bare foot’ feel, but they offer instead a great sense of security. You know your feet are safe in these shoes and for me that meant I could just stop thinking about them and just concentrate on the running! I like the moulded toe cap which really helps when you inevitably kick a rock, these is plenty of room for my toes to splay (this may not be the case for everyone) and I haven’t experienced any toe bashing, not matter now steep the descents.
The low(ish) drop on these give them a really stable feel. I have pretty bendy ankles having injured them numerous times, and have a tendency to turn them while running. Running in these shoes has changed that and not once have I even come to close! I can only put this down to the design of the sole and the good level of ankle support provided by the solid heel cup. The heel collar is stiff but is also well padded.
I’ve run in the Bushido both on road and varied off road terrain, in all seasons, in dry and wet conditions, including swimming. I’ve used them for short daily mountain runs, for SwimRun training but also for longer trail/fell runs so I could test their comfort over longer distances.
The Ups: The sock-like inserts add to the nice snug feel of the shoe and the TPU cradle and lacing system locked my feet in place with no heel slippage on steep, steppy climbs. The friction of the lug design on the sole of the Bushido seemed to increases along with the incline meaning going up didn’t involve one step forward and two steps back, even on real slippery stuff. On flat twisty trails they are springy and aggressive and gripped every edge, keeping my feet stable inside.
The Downs: Every feature of the Bushidos seems geared towards battling technical terrain and they really came into their own on descents. Whether long snaky pitching trails or steep rocky downs, they had no problem absorbing impact from uneven ground, toe punts and high jumps and gripped tight onto just about anything that got in the way. The agility and traction combined with the protection make technical downhill at speed in the Bushido a joy. On less technical terrain they may be slightly overkill in this regard but they still have enough cushioning to make for a very comfortable run, though maybe a bit stiff for very long distances.
Wet Grass: Going straight up and even down on wet grass was no problem for the Bushido, the lugs seems well designed to cope with this, however on a few occasions when running on very wet off camber slopes my feet went sideways out from underneath me. Luckily wet grass tends to be quite soft, so I’d end up wet rather than bruised, still, this is something to be vary of.
Mud: I wondered if the Bushido would tackle muddy patches as well as other models with specifically designed studded soles, but I was pretty impressed with the traction they managed to gain. With all this recent rain conditions on the lower mountains have been getting worst and worse, but the Bushidos have kept me upright on all the mud I’ve encountered. On particularly sticky outings they did trend to carry a bit of mud between the lugs home and I’d end up banging them on the wall when I got back to clear them out.
Roots: It took a bit of time for me to trust the Bushido to carry me over some of the polished roots on the local trails as other shoes have let me go flying in the past! I soon found that I could hop over most of them without trouble in all but the wettest of conditions.
Rocky ground: Hard rough and rocky ground is what this shoe is built for and they really seemed to be at home on this technical terrain. The hard, sticky-rubber lugs lend a sense of surefootedness and the solid foot bed and TPU frame at the side of the mid-foot protected my feet from sharp rocks and prevented any foot fatigue or bruising. Despite this, a good balance between foot protection and sensitivity exists in the Bushido and the low profile design allows you to feel the trail.
Slippery wet rock: Slimy rocks are a challenge for any shoe. I don’t think a design yet exists that can keep any kind of decent traction of those shiny green river rocks. Having said that the Bushido held it’s own fairly well on all but the slickest boulders. Climbing out of the lake onto usually dry rock was certainly not a problem for the Bushido.
Puddles and bog: Deep sticky mud and peat bogs can suck a shoe off you foot on no time but the Bushido fought back and stayed firmly in place! Grip is secondary for me at these times and its more about how well a shoe can keep the crud and water out. Although the sides will keep the water out for a while, the mesh top is not waterproof at all so expect your feet to get wet in any soggy conditions or even if they get splashed. On the plus side they soon seem to shed the water and I’ve never suffered with cold feet wearing them, even when soaked.
Swimming: I’ve worn the Bushido for quite a bit of SwimRunning now. Whilst they can’t boast quite the same level of buoyancy and nonabsorbent properties as say the IceBug Acceleritas, they still perform well for me as a SwimRun shoe. How you swim and the equipment you use during your SwimRuns will dictate your best approach. I’ve tried them with a pull buoy and my feet sat right on the surface of the water. Swimming without a pull-buoy wearing a long and short legged suit, I found them just buoyant enough on their own but depending on your body position you could always add neoprene calf sleeves to give you extra lift. They stayed solid on my feet even when kicking hard and on exiting swim sections they had no problem gripping the rocks as I climbed out.
Drainage: The shoes drained fairly quickly and within about 20-30 foot strikes the worst of the squelching was over. They didn’t seem to pool at the toes too much as any water left was absorbed rather than expelled which did make them feel a little heavier whilst running than some more minimalist shoes designed not to absorb moisture. Overall though I found these shoes comfortable to run in even when soaked and could go a long distance in them with no blisters. After soaking them they were allowed to drain and then weighed again. Each shoe held about 109g of water, not the best result but not bad either! The mesh dries fast and if you take the insoles out the whole shoe dries fairly quickly.
Breathability: They are well ventilated due to the mesh sections on the uppers but are not the coolest shoes out there for summer use which is a compromise on the safety and security aspects of the shoe. In very dry dusty conditions or when running on sand I found that when I took the shoes off I’d find a collection of fine grit under my toes that had come in through the air mesh, but they did a great job of keeping bigger stones and debris out.
La Sportiva call the Bushido ‘sky runners’, and they definitely excel on high, steep, technical terrain where you can bound along with confidence. They are springy and responsive, but at the same time offer plenty of stability and protection. They are a mid-weight shoe designed to keep you comfortable and on your feet in the most challenging conditions. Whilst wearing them I rarely needed to I question my footing.
They are not the lightest, most buoyant or least absorbent shoe out there for SwimRun use, but if, like me, you prefer to sacrifice a bit of weight saving for more comfort over a long distance course then these are worth a try.
After a considerable battering they now look grimy and tired but there is little sign of wear on the fabrics. The only sign of destruction is where one of the tongues has started to come apart but they are still completely usable! The tough outsole only shows noticeable wear on the lugs at the toe and heel.
Some people used to more minimalist shoes will find the Bushido is a little cumbersome and bulky because of the stiffness. It’s very much a personal thing and a toss up between weight, flexibility, cushioning and protection. If you come to the Bushido from a ‘regular’ trail shoe experience, it’s a great shoe to try before moving to an true minimalist low drop shoe… though you might not want to after trying it! Just remember that they are quite narrow so make sure they fit before you commit!
Where to buy
Lyon Equipment distribute La Sportiva in the UK and you can find stockists listed on their website. Lots of online stores stock these at varying prices too.
Written by Chloë: Love SwimRun Organiser. 20/01/16
These shoes were provided to me by La Sportiva for independent product testing. All words and opinions are my own.