La Sportiva Anakonda review by Neil Bryant www.ultrarunninglife.com
Before I get stuck into this review, I must begin by explaining how I came to own a pair of these shoes. I am very fortunate to be a part of the Centurion Ultra Team which is supported by Lyon Outdoors. Lyon are an import company that support us with a number of brands, one of which being La Sportiva. So yes, I got these shoes for free. I will say though that this will be an absolutely honest account of my personal experience of the La Sportiva Anakonda shoe.
I first got my hands on these shoes during the depth of winter. I live in the Alps and for one reason or another (one being snow) I didn't get to use them for a couple of months. My first impression of them once I got them out of the box was that they seemed fairly light, but super sturdy. The heel cup is remarkably stiff and their construction seemed far more robust than many other equally weighted mountain shoes out there at the moment. The toe box felt fairly wide and the fit was nice. As much as I love the winter, I couldn't wait for the snow to melt and reveal the gnarly trails so that I could try these out. Before I get personal about how I got on with them, lets go over the details.
The main material is the finely woven AirMesh which is fine enough to prevent debris entering but open enough to both keep your feet cool and for easy water drainage. Over the top of this is the Poly Grid which is a thin welded on material over the midfoot which adds stability and ridgidity. Extending from the front of the Poly Grid is a light rand which I think should be a feature on any serious mountain shoe as this is an area where shoes always fail prematurely. It is again pretty thin but certainly enough to also give a little protection from toe stubbs. We then have the heel cup which LS have titled the TPU Transkinetic heel stabiliser. As mentioned before this is pretty stiff and unusually has no material covering it on the outside. Before running in the Anakondas I was concerned that they may rub my heels as there is no give at all.
The laces are threaded through small nylon loops. The tongue is a basic averagely cushioned afair which only looks different due to the scree guard (similar to C-Lite) that stretches between the tongue and laces to add more protection from the ingres of mountain debris.
These shoes look really low to the ground and they are with a minimal 4mm drop. The heel is 18mm and the forefoot is 14mm, but that includes the gnarly lugs that average around 6mm. There is not a lot of shoes between foot and rock! The midsole is constructed from MEMlex which is 80% EVA and 20% SBR that provides a firm, cushioned midsole which is very light. Within this is the UltraGuard rockplate. If you have ever read any of my other reviews then you will be aware how important it is for a shoe to have a rockplate. Even with this rockplate the sole seems really very flexibly which is fantastic for trail feel.
Now down to what has become more and more important for me since moving out here to Chamonix and keeping away from roads and flat and hitting as much steep and super technical stuff as possible in all conditions. The tread design is called the IBS - or the Impact Braking System. The blurb states that it increases braking forces by an average of 20% and decreases impact forces by an average of 20%. I love it when companies come up with stats like this. Too much silly science! The proof is in the pudding! The rubber compound is FriXion XF which is La Sporrtivas own creation and is a very sticky rubber. This is also used on their climbing shoes so I had a lot of faith in their sticky claims.
At just under 290g these are not the lightest out there by a long shot, but that is not what they are trying to be. On their website, they are in the short distance class, and I can see why whith their minimalist, spartan construction and thin sole. I first tried them out for a one hour run on a regular circuit that included pretty much anything you could throw at it. I came back with a grin on my face. They felt so low and sticky I could feel everything going on underneath my feet. I had pretty much made up my mind that these would only be of use on shorter runs of less than two hours, but as seems to happen out here so often a short run turned into a 5 hour run and I was amazed that by the time I got home, I still had a smile on my face. My concern about the stiff heel being a potential rub and the thin sole tenderizing my poor feet was miraculously unfounded. Witchcraft I tell you! How can you have such a thin sole that doesn't hurt my feet like much more padded ones? The rockplate is amazing, enabling me to leap from sharp rock point to sharp rock point on mental descents with little or no pain. Yet somehow they are incredibly flexible! The grip is amazing up and down over everything including not being to bad on smooth wet rock.
I have now worn these shoes almost exclusivally this year and the uppers are bomb proof which makes a nice surprise in this age where the soles usually outlast the uppers. I usually blow out the sides of most shoes but these have yet to show any real wear. The sole is now starting to show some decent wear, but to be honest, I really don't know a shoe that wouldn't with the beating I have given them.
I have had to stop when out on a couple of my longer runs to re-tye the laces as the shoes felt a bit sloppy on my foot. This was after running through lots of snow or through rivers making them very wet though. The one thing I'm not too sure about is the scree guard. It's a great idea but I'm not sure I need it personally. I'm clutching at straws though to be honest. I love this shoe and in a few weeks when I take part in the Mont Blanc 80km which has a lung bursting 6000m of ascent and will probably take over 14hrs I will be wearing my trusty Anakondas and I have faith that they will serve me well whilst I anhilate myself. If I finish the 80km fast enough, I have a entry into the vertical km in the evening too. If I make it, I will wear the same Anakondas as they are so good for climbing in and I will need all the help I can get.
So, after what I would consider to be extensive testing in the Chamonix valley in all conditions and on numerous runs over 5hrs, I am, if you haven't worked it out yet, really happy with how these shoes have performed. From the superb grippy tread that works well on pretty much any surface, to the incredibly low but magicly well protected midsole, these shoes are a superb shoe that I have to admit suprised me. I love the fact that the upper hasen't started to fall apart at all. They are superb for short mountain runs and I am interested to see how far I can comfortably take them. Bravo La Sportiva!