There has been a good bit of press recently on LaSportiva. They have really stepped up with sponsorship for a number of well known ultra veterans including Karl Meltzer, Mark Tanaka and Emily Baer. They have sponosored a mountian running team for several years and have had several notable athletes excel at many distances on trails. Their shoes have gotten a lot of press over the last couple of years as the "minimalist" approach to shoes has caught on. I tried some Inov-8 shoes last year and really liked the flexibility but the shoes were just a bit too narrow for me. I also am a big guy at 6'2" and 183 lbs so I have to be a little careful not to use "too little" shoe. With all of that qualification, here are my thoughts on the Raceblade.
I really like the whole set-up of this shoe. It has a very flexible sole and a real "grippy" outsole. I also like the extra protection around the toebox and the general lower profile of the shoe. Even the "Ferrari-esque" color scheme is tolerable. Perhaps my favorite feature is the connected tongue of the shoe. The shoe goes on kind of like a wetsuit booty and fits nice and snug around your foot. Although I haven't run on dusty trails with them, I expect that this will help to keep small rocks and dust out. I tested the shoes a couple of weeks ago while down in Georgia with my family during my kids spring break. I ran some fun trails in and around the Okefenokee Swamp Recreation area. They were flat as a pancake but with a lot of rain in the days before, they were muddy and slick in several spots. I managed to put about 40 miles on the shoes over 4 days and had no issues with them at all. I even ran about 4 miles on asphalt with them and they worked great. The shoes drained very well and did not give me any blisters. The question remaining was how will they work on technical trails and should I use them in a 100 miler?
I ran the Bel Monte 50 Mile in these shoes and the course was a beast (as my previous post says). Lots of rocky trails and a good number of water crossings. I had no issues whatsoever in the shoes including no blister or toenail problems. I did turn my ankle several times but blame my lack of recent rocky trail running for that and not the shoes. Again, the shoes drained very well after several ankle deep water crossings. In short, I really like these shoes a lot and think they are an excellent choice for me. However, I only expect to wear them during the first half of Massanutten. These shoes would be great for someone who is very good at picking lines through very technical terrain, which I am not. I tend to just hop from rock to rock in the really gnarly sections and think a more substantive shoes (i.e., Montrail Vitesse or Vasque Mercury) is more appropriate for this. Particularly in the later stages of Massanuteen when I am fatigued and the rocks grow in size. For me, this shoe is ideal for up to 50 miles or perhaps a 100K distance or a 100 on gentler terrain than MMT. I have not tried the Fireblade but Karl Meltzer seemed to really dig it during the Coyote Two Moon.
I may try the Fireblade later in the season and if so, will post a review. With MMT only a month and a half away, I am hesitant to try something new at this point. LaSportiva shoes are definitely worth checking out.