Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gear Review: La Sportiva Skylite

Going into the Heartland 100 I was still on-the-fence about which shoe to wear. I knew that the race course was all gravel roads, covering wide range in quality, gravel size etc… I almost went with a pure road shoe but after getting a bit more course beta from race veterans I decided to go with my fairly new pair of La Sportiva Skylites.

As a minimalist runner who is quite comfortable in the Inov-8 line of trail running shoes, the Skylite fits right in as it is very lightweight at just 9.46 oz (268 g) and has a very low profile and awesome grip. Those familiar with the La Sportiva brand have probably seen the Crosslite which looks virtually identical to the Skylite but with a bit more aggressive (thicker) outsole and weighs a little more at 12.35 oz (346 g). I will admit that right out of the box and on my first couple of short runs I was a bit skeptical of this shoe. The shoe is quite a bit more stiff than anything in the Inov-8 line as it contains an embedded nylon molded shank (for what reason I do not know). It took a bit of getting used to this additional stiffness, but after flexing the shoe fully by hand back and forth a few times before and after each run I grew to really like this shoe. Another nice feature of this shoe is the laces are protected by a flexible mesh that keeps small debris from creeping in from around the tongue of the shoe. However, the biggest asset the Skylite has to offer, at least with respect to the Heartland 100 is the FriXion® outsole that protected my feet from even the largest of gravel chunks and rocks that I encountered. This last was very crucial as I aimed to run the tangents on these gravel roads as much as I could which meant that sometimes I was running over some large gauge rocks more frequently.

Like any shoe the La Sportiva Skylite does have its detractors. As already mentioned the Skylite has an embedded nylon shank that makes the shoe very stiff compared to other minimalist shoes on the market. Also the yellow “La Sportiva” lettering that is glued/stitched to the mesh upper started peeling way on my first run! I’d have expected the lettering to stand up a bit better than it has so far; a bit disappointing.

Addendum:  Since the Heartland 100, I have put in many more miles in these shoes so now I can give a definitive judgment.  For dry trails this is an excellent shoe; and training in these shoes through the Heartland 100, that was the only review I could give for this shoe. However, since my 100 miler I've had the chance to run in some wet conditions and suffice it to say that I was very disappointed at how much the shoe slips when taking on wet and mossy limestone rocky trails and slick mud (the norm for around my area).  Every step onto wet rock and deep mud, my feet would slip almost as much as if I was wearing a road shoe on the trails; there simply was no grip! 

Overall this is a pretty good shoe, light, responsive though very stiff at first if you're used to wearing minimalist type trail shoes.  On dry trails this is a very good shoe, but when the going gets wet and slick I'd select a different shoe.

Improvements?  1. The tread pattern itself is pretty good, just deepen it some more.  2. Also, remove the internal nylon shank, it is not needed and unusual for a minimalist shoe.  3. Cosmetically it would be nice if the "La Sportiva" lettering held up a bit better, perhaps a different bonding agent could be used?