La Sportiva Akasha II Review: Ready for Anton’s Side of the Mountain
TAYLOR: For us American trail runners, the name Anton immediately launches a discussion on true legends of the wilderness. He holds a pretty important place in the past and present of the trail. He’s almost mythical. You can bet that anything he does will be imitated but not replicated because he’s “an endurance monster,” as quoted by Ultimate Direction cofounder Buzz Burell.
Luckily for the mere mortals, we can at least dress the part of Anton. All we have to do is throw on a flannel and tights the next time we go running, biking or skiing.
After all, seasoned pros like Anton are bound to find the gear that works and stick with it. One thing you’ll find in his small but mighty quiver of trail gear is a shoe from La Sportiva called the Akasha II. Ever heard of it? I’d dare to say that this shoe wouldn’t even be in the American market if it wasn’t for Anton. It’s the shoe he chose for his triumphant return to Leadville in 2021, and I’m assuming it goes on foot for some big mountain days, too.
From my time running in the La Sportiva Akasha II, I can see why it would land among a few key pieces for a mountain runner.
TAYLOR: Most “versatile” trail shoes can handle smooth to moderate terrain pretty well. They can tackle a little bit of technical turf, too, but they prefer the wider variety. On the other hand, La Sportiva’s Akasha II loves the technical trail. Sure, it can handle the smooth terrain when needed, but it’s much more comfortable on the mountain.
Almost everything about this shoe is geared toward technical terrain — the shape, underfoot feel, grip, you name it. The La Sportiva Akasha II is made for long days in the mountains, so that’s the lens we are looking at it with.
It’s a moderately stacked (31mm to 25mm/ 6mm drop) trail runner rather than a sky-high stack that takes you away from the ground. Despite a relatively firm midsole, I felt the benefits of protection underfoot, yet I felt grounded at the same time. There’s not a ton of ground feel, but there’s enough for confident footing.
Overall, the whole underfoot experience is firm, but that’s where the protection comes from. A dual-injected EVA midsole lays the base, and the forefoot has a softer feel for comfort while the heel is firmer for more security. Both are still on the firm side, which I don’t mind for a mountain running shoe. The Akasha falls somewhere between the VJ Ultra and the Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra, both on the medium/firm to the hella-firm end of the spectrum. Again, it’s noticeably firm but still comfortable.
I’m assuming that one of the big reasons that the Akasha II is popular with the likes of Anton Krupicka is because of the “mountaineering” approach to trails. The Akasha feels like a cousin to a pair of La Sportiva mountaineering boots in the aforementioned underfoot density and added supports.
La Sportiva utilizes an STP Stabilization system that prevents torsion in both lateral and medial directions. It’s just a fancy way of saying that this shoe is supportive and surprisingly stable. The medial stability is a strong note in the Akasha’s ride, which can be a blessing and a curse. This will be highly appreciated for those craving extra stability on moderate to technical terrain. It feels like the medial-posting of old stability shoes, much like you’d find in mountaineering boots. I initially scoffed at its feel, but it turned out to be a rather smooth system when I applied it to its desired terrain. Part of that would certainly come from the rocker-esque shape of the midsole.
The Akasha is ready to roll up, over, and through any technical terrain despite the stability and high-ish stack. This package features a slim and agile profile. Rather than hugging the foot, a 3D Airmesh upper (similar to the La Sportiva Karacal) molds beautifully around the foot. The mesh is thicker than most but maintains standard breathability anyways. A few seamless overlays give more structure to the upper to keep that mold and add durability.
One of the few updates to the shoes was a new heel counter construction. It’s more molded and firm but well padded for lockdown and comfort. Foot security is terrific because of the heel counter and surrounding mesh. It feels balanced from top to bottom and will undoubtedly hold up for hundreds of miles.
A Frixion XT 2.0 outsole with 4.5mm lugs rocks on various terrain. The uniquely La Sportiva Startrek logo-looking lug pattern and stickiness give great confidence wherever the trail takes you. I’d say that this compound is up there with Inov-8’s Graphene Grip and VJ’s butyl rubber in terms of both grip and durability.
All things considered, I’d expect this shoe to hold up through that rare 500-plus mile mark.Shop Akasha II – Men Shop Akasha II – Women
TAYLOR: All this mountain thrashing goodness comes at a cost. It’s the typical payment too: Weight. Oof. I have to be honest — it’s a put-off right out of the gate. I get that there’s a balance between foot protection, comfort, and weight in all these long-ranger shoes, but 12.4 ounces for a size 11 is a little much in this day and age — especially for a shoe that you might be inspired to run a hundred miles in.
The Akasha weighs the same as its compatriot, the Cyklon, with a BOA lacing system and fully integrated booty. That type of shoe should be a little weightier because of the specs. The Akasha II looks as if it should be much more slimmed down, but don’t be fooled.
Also, the support system feels somewhat outdated and adds a decent amount of weight per shoe. The system did its job on moderate to technical trails, which is good, but hop on the smooth stuff, and it’s just a flow stopper. The STP Stabilization made the transition from heel to toe a clunky experience. If I were to take this out on a trail run, I’d hope that 95% of it was on singletrack or off-trail because the other stuff just wasn’t worth it in the Akasha.
Lastly, a firm ride isn’t for anyone. I didn’t mind the density of the foam for the general run. However, it will be harsher on the legs the longer you go.
Here’s my two cents for future iterations of the Akasha: Swap that midfoot stability system out with something more modern. The Hoka Speedgoat does it well, the Dynafit Ultra 100 found a way, and Topo Athletic Terraventure is a fine example too. They all add stability in a simple way. Find something more natural and lighter, and the Akasha will pull a much larger crowd from the running side of trails rather than the mountaineering side.Shop Akasha II – Men Shop Akasha II – Women
TAYLOR: The Akasha is for the burly sides of the mountain, and it’s built up to do so. Even though it’s a weighty shoe, it boasts a lot of protection, grip, stability, and foot security that will give all-day support.
No matter how much you want to be like Anton, this shoe will fit best for select runners who can access moderately technical terrain on the reg. In some ways, it feels like the intersection between mountaineering and running footwear. The best-case scenario for the La Sportiva Akasha II is going between alpine rambling and the moderately technical trails. The Akasha feels nimble yet very supportive crossing these terrains, but a little overbearing on the smooth stuff like roads, gravel, and paths.
You can pick up the La Sportiva Akasha II for $150 from Moosejaw by using the shop link below.Shop Akasha II – Men Shop Akasha II – Women
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Thank you for the informative, honest review!
The Akasha are themselves a legend, here in Europe!
Greetings from Switzerland.
Having never worn LaS and having to order shoes to try, I was wondering if you could recommend where to start. I wear a 10.5 in Saucony, Scott, Hoka, Nike and Salomon (mostly).
I was going to order 44 and 44.5. Does that seem right to you?
I wear US9 in Hoka, Saucony. US9.5 in Inov-8 (TerraUltraG270). I sized up to US10 (Eur 43) for the Akasha II and don’t regret. Only a few runs, but steep and technical. Superb behaviour, cannot wait to go longer with them. They remind me when I was running mountains with the Bushido, but in a more accommodating and friendly way…
Hope you’ll enjoy the Italian way of running.