Sunday, January 20, 2008

La Sportiva Loveliness

Ever since I started running for La Sportiva a year ago, Buzz, the mountain running team manager, has been telling me about the new lightweight shoe that the Italians had/have in the works--the Skylite. I began running for Sportiva because of my preference for the Slingshot, but the Skylite was supposed to be even lighter than its 308 gram predecessor. However, not only is Sportiva coming out with the Skylite in a couple of months, they now have available a very similar shoe--the Skylite's fell-running brother, the Crosslite--which is the exact same shoe as the Skylite except for with a much, much more aggressive (read: heavier) outsole.

Nevertheless, after having my appetite whetted at the Summer Outdoor Retailer Show back in August, and then getting another preview when the Colorado Running Company (the store I work at) brought in a couple (very small) pairs of the Crosslite, I was finally able to get a closer look at the Skylites and actually try on a pair of the Crosslites this past week when Kyle and I took a visit to Boulder for a little ultra running get-together with the Boulder Trail Runners.

All of this anticipation may seem a little ridiculous, but trail running shoes are very important to me. First, since shoes are the only really (mostly) necessary piece of running equipment, and because I am a huge nerd of the sport, I naturally am very geeky about my shoes. Additionally, my particular (minimalist) philosophy of running and running footwear lends me to be even more interested in my shoes.

Second, trail running (and especially, trail racing) footwear is an industry and technology in relative infancy. Trail shoes have only been around for really no more than 15 years, and in the beginning they fell into basically two categories: either brown/black road shoes or a glorified hiking boot. Obviously, neither of these categories really did the job.

In the last few years, though, many companies are understanding that a trail shoe needs to be fundamentally different from both road shoes and hiking boots, and Sportiva (along with Inov-8) has been an industry leader in this idea. With shoes like the Raceblade, Fireblade, Slingshot, and now, the Skylite and Crosslite, Sportiva has shown that they realize a trail shoe will deliver more effectively if it has a lower profile (but more dense than a road shoe) midsole, and that the virtually bomb-proof upper of a hiking boot is simply overkill--and hugely detrimental when running uphill--for a trail running shoe.

Most importantly, they are showing deliberate efforts to manufacture actual trail racing shoes, which probably arises from their European, short, fast, hill climb/mountain running roots, as opposed to the American trail ultra running roots of a company like, say, Montrail. (Although, this season Sportiva has obviously made a concerted effort to start significantly supporting the trail ultra running community in earnest through new sponsorship of many of America's top ultra trail runners and of more ultra-distance trail races.)

After meeting with Buzz and Jonathan (the president of La Sportiva, North America) and picking up a couple pairs of Crosslites to take home and try out, I am quite happy with the shoe. The Crosslite is listed as a men's US 9 (sample size) weighing in at 12.42 oz or 352 grams. That is light for a trail shoe, but actually pretty heavy for a road shoe. The Slingshot was advertised as being 308 grams (previously Sportiva's lightest shoe) and the Skylite has been advertised at both 250 grams and 268 grams (depending on the website). That is a legitimately very light trail shoe. The only other shoe on the market that compares is Inov-8's F-lite 250 (250 grams), which is being updated this year with the lighter F-lite 230. When I took my pair of size EU43.5/US10.5 Crosslite's home, they weighed in at 12.5 oz on the CRC's mail scale.

But, then came the time for my personal modifications. After some extensive carving (which I will get into in detail soon), I now have my size 10.5 Crosslite down to ~8.2 oz. Considering that the the size 9 Skylites are supposed to be ~100 grams (almost 4 oz) lighter than the size 9 Crosslite, I hope to get a pair of Skylites down to the high 6, low 7 oz range...even lighter than Inov-8's F-lite 230s. (I haven't seen a pair of the 230s, but my pair of 250s were already so stripped down that there was basically nothing I could do to them to make them much lighter without significantly compromising their structural integrity---plus, I really believe in the value of supporting/representing a company (Sportiva) that I've already developed a very positive relationship with (Buzz is great) and is doing a ton to positively support the sport of trail running in North America.)

On to the modifications (if I can scrounge up a camera from some body I may post some photos in the coming days):


Travis said...

very good post. I too am a "shoe nerd." I've have almost every type of shoe combo available, lots of support and heavy (Hardrock) down to the light and nimble (Raceblade). I am still looking for that perfect balance of weight and support. I have had some issues in the past with leg injuries due to biomechanics that I still struggle with and a change of shoes obviously can have great impact on reinjury. I have read some interviews with you before and know you moved from a heavier shoe to the stipped down versions you use now. Was there a transition period where you let your feet "build up" or did you just cut over and without much issue?

keep up the great posts!

Unknown said...

just curious, you have done a ton of your training in the cortlandt and h-streets, why bother with trail shoes at all if you are able to run 50 miles in snow with a cross country flat? I will understand if you say because la sportiva sponsers you and you want to support a great company, but from a running shoe nerd perspective you are taking heavier shoes and modifying them down to weights that you start at with the pumas?

tim barnes said...

Nice to hear your report on the Crosslite, Anton. Look forward to seeing your alterations. I was excited about these new shoes when i first heard about them, but became a little less excited when i saw that they where being made on, what seems to be, the raceblade and fireblade platform. Moving from the slingshot to the fireblade was like putting on high-heels. I hope the heel thickness with the skylite & crosslite, even if they are 250 & 352g.

Pam said...

Hi Anton....just wondering if you've ever tried the New Balance 790 trail shoes? They only weigh 6.6 oz. I used to run in Inov-8's, but I find these to be much more comfortable. Very light and flexible, but still good on rocks.

uzalad said...

I guess since you removed the Rocky Racoon 100 from your 2008 Race Calendar, that is canceled for you now?

DW said...

Great review...but why won't those bast*rds make it in a size 48 or 49?

Guess I'm stuck with Inov8's for my oversized feet...

CoyoteGirl said...

Hi Anton -

I'm hoping that you're healing up okay. Are you forgoing RR?

Anton said...

Wow, I've been quite the slacker.

Travis, there definitely was a transition period into more minimalist shoes for me. Look for a post of mine from back in October that goes into the topic in depth.


You got it. LS and other trail shoe companies are willing to support me and Puma probably isn't.


I too wasn't too psyched about the Crosslite/Skylite because I had heard that they were on the same platform as the Race/Fire-blade. However, I was very happy to find that the midsole is definitely more low-voume than those shoes. There's still a definite difference between the forefoot and rearfoot, but it isn't bad (having said that, I cut it down for sure).


I have tried the NB...and I'm just not a fan. Some shoes feel great and some don't---those just don't for me. It's great to see a company making essentially a trail racing flat, though.

Finally, I am forced to forgo Rocky...this shin has been a bit more stubborn than I'd hoped. I'll be posting about it more extensively in the next couple days.


Chris said...

Tony, great blog...I'm a broken down quarter miler from the 70's and have found running trails to be much fun.
If you need any help at the AR50, I live in the Sacramento area.
Get healthy, stay healthy, have a great 08.

noah said...

I like the fire and raceblades. I just got a pair of crosslites for the real technical stuff but am wrestling with whether or not to try the inov-8 roclites over the upcoming skylites as my next purchase. Can anyone compare the inov-8 to the sportivas as i really like the minimalist sportivas but am curious about inov-8

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