Written by James Elson - http://www.centurionrunning.com
When Neil Bryant and I were first handed the advance model of this shoe in early 2013, we felt that we were looking at perhaps the perfect answer for an a minimal around trail shoe. La Sportiva had combined their incredibly lightweight Vertical K model with the heavier mountain running designs of the Wildcat and the Raptor. Rather than be a compromise, this shoe held on to the best assets of all three and has subsequently become the go-to utility trail and ultra race shoe for the some of our team. Dan Doherty raced to 3rd overall at the Salomon Zuggspitz 100km just a few weeks ago in them.
Upper: The first thing that strikes you when you pick up this shoe is the weight and that's in large part due to the light weight mesh upper which allows for good drainage of water without letting in excess debris. The lacing system is integrated with the upper and pulls the shoe together really nicely for a close but comfortable fit. The tongue is thick and cushioned, perhaps a confusing aspect of the shoe, until you run in areas with scores of loose rocks (the Lakes/ Snowdonia). It might sound utterly ridiculous but if you've ever really booted a rock with the top of your foot, as I regularly do in the Lakes, some cushioning on the upper is actually incredibly beneficial.
Mid-Sole: A great balance of cushioning and support. There is some arch support but the LaSpeva plate makes the shoe sit on that middle ground I talked about between being too rigid and too soft. It gives control, adds fluidity to your gait and works on all terrain types, including rocks.
Out Sole: Here is the best part of the shoe. The sole is made up of La Sportiva's Frixion material, laid out in rubber grips including indents going back and forward on the sole. The level of ground contact is significant enough to offer grip on all trail types including mud and rocks, yet not too broad to turn the shoes in to skates on wet grass/ mud. Non-studded trail shoes often perform very poorly on wet grass but the Helios indents give enough grip to offer confidence.
Sizing: The shoe comes up slightly small and if you are between sizes it's worth considering going half a size/ a size bigger than you usually would. In fact i'd say the same for all LS models.
Overall the shoe is light, but doesn't feel inadequate. It includes a level of protection through the mid-sole which will handle most all terrain types. The upper is comfortable and can be drawn in as tight as you like. And the out sole is the grippy, responsive and great on all underfoot conditions. The shoe could easily be worn for long periods of time on any terrain including road, making it for me the go to Ultra Trail shoe of the moment. I would describe it as the perfect trail shoe for those looking for the balance of lightweight and comfort with all round terrain handling.
I asked one or two of the team to let me know what they think of the shoe. I should add that we operate a very honest policy with Lyon and La Sportiva and until now have felt that the majority of their models were simply too much shoe for running here in the UK.
I have run nearly all my life in Asics shoes and have really struggled to find an off road shoe that works for me. I have worn shoes by other brands and for various reasons they have not worked for me so I was somewhat sceptical when the Helios arrived. Before I even tried them on I was impressed with the lightness of the shoe. After my first run in these shoes I realised I had finally discovered the off road shoe for me, it seemed to stick to the trail, despite of its light weight it is still a sturdy shoe and it even feels on home on the road. For me its a trail shoe that feels like a road shoe and are perfect for me. I would happily buy these shoes!