Mountain running: which is the most suitable shoe for our needs explained by Nicola Giovanelli

With the trail running season on the doorstep, La Sportiva Team athlete and University professor Nicola Giovanelli guides us in the search of the perfect model for our off road runs, revealing the secrets for choosing the right shoe.

In the trail-running and sky-running world, more than in other disciplines, the shoe’s is essential. On the market there are different kind of footwear styles, with different drops, different uppers, different volumes, different types of midsole ... But which one is more suited to our needs?

First of all, we must start from the type of competition we are thinking about. Let's start from the “easiest” or at least the shorter one:
Vertical km (or only up races). In this case, lightness is everything. We no need a highly protective shoe, but it must be comfortable and reactive, in order to allow us to minimize energy expenditure. Remember that the heavier a shoe is the higher is the energy we loss, about 1-2% more per 100g of weight. Converted into seconds, for a top runner on a 30' vertical race, the difference is about 30'', which is a huge amount of time considering the current standard!
For a good athlete, who does the vertical in 45', the difference can even be almost 1'. A shoe like the VK, super light and new born for this purpose at La Sportiva, developed together with the champion Urban Zemmer, allows you to optimize performance without affecting comfort.

The second case is the athlete who looks for the perfect shoe to run a skyrace (20-25 km and technical terrain). In this case the choice should be oriented towards a fairly light and reactive shoe, but with good protections on the toe and on the sides of the upper. It must also be a "precise" shoe, with an excellent grip for the downhill phase, has the rhythms maintained by the athletes during the race are always pretty high. Ideal for those who have a quite wide feet volume, could be the new Lycan, available to be tested at this first edition of the Run-In-Shop Tour, while for runners with a lower feet volume, Mutant is definitely a product that over the years has become a benchmark for the category.

Finally, for the athletes who aim to run longer distances, the main thing to consider is having a comfortable shoe (leaving out other aspects that may be important over short distances). Try to figure out wearing a shoe for 10-15 hours or more. If it is too tight and snug you could start feeling pain after just a few hours, if the sole is too hard you could have problems and pain on the arch. Therefore, it is important to wear a soft and comfortable shoe with good cushioning. If you’re looking for a long-distance shoe, you can try the new Unika, the first La Sportiva running model completely Made in Europe with a very special design and an innovative midsole that allows the absorption of impacts and at the same time a very high return of elastic energy. Alternative to Unika, is Akasha, a truly endurance weapon with a soft slip-on upper, dedicated to wide feet runners who also love a limited drop (6 mm).

So let’s spend few words about the drop. Which one is better? High, low, zero? Assuming there is no a strict rule but that each athlete should find the one that suits him best. I suggest always to alternate different kind of shoes (in terms of drop, cushioning ...), using one for few days and then skip to the other. However, there are some cases in which a low drop (4-6 mm, like that of Helios 2.0, Lycan, Akasha) is recommended. In case of athletes "at risk of sprains" is better to use a low-cut shoe with low drop (Helios, Bushido or Lycan). While athletes suffering from tendinitis (especially Achilles tendon) I always recommend using a shoe with a high drop, in order to not over-stretch this area. In this case the most suitable model could be Mutant, Akyra or Unika.
In conclusion, the choice of the shoe must depend on the goals, the morphology of the foot and any other characteristic of the athlete (weight, type of run ...). The key would be to have at least two pairs of shoes quite different from each other and alternating them on our outdoor runs, in order to minimize the risk of injury and always have fun!

About the author: Born in 1985, Nicola Giovanelli is now a PhD in physiology and biomechanics of physical exercise and professor at the Motor Sciences Departement at the University of Udine, as well as a La Sportiva Mountain Running Team athlete and athletic trainer specialized in mountain running. After approaching the world of skyrunning at eighteen, in recent years he has focused more on trail and endurance, boasting successes in prestigious competitions such as Camignada Poi Sie Refuge, Troi dei Cimbri e Trail degli Eroi.

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You can find Nicola at the next stages of the Run-In-Shop Tour, where it will be possible to deepen this interesting topic with him.