Saturday, May 28, 2011

RJ Review: The New La Sportiva Electron. A Wave of Change.

For now, let's forget its technical specs and wonky features and strange wavy-sole, and cut to the chase:  the new La Sportiva Electron makes a bold dash for the trail shoe sweet spot - the nexus of comfort, nimbleness, and durability.  

So many trails shoes these days shine in just one, or maybe even two, of these areas but fall short in the grand triumverate.  And it's something we all put up with, choosing shoes that fit our one or two chosen propensities but leave us quietly yearning to have at least one shoe in our quiver that feels like it does it all, and well. 

The Electron - two years in the making, according to La Sportiva - does a good job filling this tough role, unifying a number of key trail shoe qualities.  

It's not a minimalist shoe, to be sure, but it's got a modest heel-toe drop (11mm) and sits fairly low to the ground. And even though the heel is built up larger than in most low-profile shoes, it has a diagonal cutout at the rear, which helps promote a nice mid-foot strike.

It's not a beefed-up cushy road-type trail shoe, either, but its one piece, slip lasted upper is sock-like and extremely comfortable and form fitting. And its ride is very soft but also very nimble - this due largely to a decently low center of gravity and its new wavy, "MorphoDynamic" sole, which is the fixture of this new line of shoes, which also includes the Quantum.

The "MorphoDynamic" sole is made of the same FiXion AT rubber of the Wildcat sole - mid-stickiness in the La Sportiva running shoe range -  and, in theory, its shape and suppleness help the tread conform to a trail's features, softening the ride and improving grip.  In practice, the sole did have a perceptibly different feel than other shoes in my closet, though it was one of degrees rather than a true sea-change.   On standard, flat trail and climbs, the differences were pretty nominal, but the wavy sole came to life on quick, serpentine, and buffed out descents, where it made the shoe feel fast, supple, and solid.  On craggy, loose, and super technical trail - the bread and butter of La Sportiva trail shoes - it felt much like other Sportiva models, which is to say solid and confidence-building with a good deal of protection.

One key frailty of the new sole that came up in testing was its performance on snow.  On an inch of fresh spring snow, the shoes slipped fairly often on some pretty standard singletrack ascending and, especially, descending, something that rarely happens with my other good trail shoes.  Given the smooth, wavy profile of the sole, this wasn't too surprising but is something worth noting if your spring and fall are marked by a good amount of snow, as they are here at the Run Junkie's Northern Rockies proving ground.

As for fit, the shoe is very comfortable with a good-sized toe box that fit this runner's wide forefoot, but the make-up of the upper should allow the shoe to conform to most foot shapes.  Compared to last season's lines, the modest arch support of the Electron is placed slightly more toward the rear, and the shoe fits a half-size (Euro) larger than the Wildcat.

Its weight, at 337 grams, puts it a bit lighter than the Wildcat and a bit heavier than the new Crosslite 2.0, and more than a 100 grams beefier than the stripped-down New Balance MT101 (221 grams).

The Bottom Line
Minimalists will discount the Electron, and I guess they should; there are a number of other choices to better fulfill fantasies of running barefoot with locks a-flowin'.  But for others looking for some great minimalist qualities wrapped in a shoe that would also be a pleasure to lace up and take out for 30, 50, or 100 hard, technical miles, the Electron is one to try - once the snow clears.

More Run Junkie shoe reviews.

(Test shoes supplied by La Sportiva.)


Gangels said...

How has it held up for you? I was a little disappointed with the new crosslite 2.0 after the side of the shoe blew out after 60 miles.

Hank Dart said...

I've heard that about the Crosslite 2.0. And, to be honest, I haven't put in huge miles on the Electrons yet, since I've been doing a lot of shoe rotation this spring. So, I can't really say right now. That said, I haven't heard about any issues yet, so it could very well be something isolated to the new Crosslites.

Anonymous said...

Hey guy's, just a word of advice. I bought two pair's of Quantum's, and have come up with Plantar Fasciitis. I thought it was just one pair and the sizing was wrong so I put them away. Broke out the other pair to give them a ride and now I am down for the count.

Cheeseburger said...

Hi, I love these shoes! Do you know if they have been discontinued. I managed to purchase a couple of pairs but now I am having a hard time finding my size. And on the LaSportiva website that particular shoe is no on their site. If they have discontinued do you know of alternative LaSportiva shoe I can use. I LOVE THIS SHOE!

Hank Dart said...

Pretty sure they're no longer in the La Sportiva line. The Helios looks like the closest kin. It has the morphodynamic sole, but with lugs, which seems like a good improvement on that front. Cheers.