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Review: La Sportiva Bushido || A perfect “high route shoe,” if it fits

The La Sportiva Bushido, a 10.5-oz trail runner that is the most perfect “high route shoe” that I have found. But it will only work for those with small-volume and narrow feet.

Last summer on the Glacier Divide Route, Dave raved about the La Sportiva Bushido. I made a mental note, and as I geared up for my yo-yo of the 77-mile Pfiffner Traverse last month, I bought a pair.

In fact, I picked up two. The other I purchased during the post-trip drive home — when you find a winner, stock up, especially when the current colorway is on closeout.

For narrow and small-volume feet, the La Sportiva Bushido is the most perfect “high route shoe” that I have found. It offers:

  • A form-fitting upper,
  • Superb traction,
  • Low center of gravity,
  • Underfoot stiffness,
  • Excellent durability, and
  • Light weight.

With these features and characteristics, the Bushido excels on terrain typical of high routes, which is notably different than what is encountered on a conventional backpacking trip. High routes frequently have:

  • Climbs up, descents down, and side-hills across very steep slopes that can be wet and loose;
  • Bushwhacks through dense brush and understory;
  • Scrambles on talus and slabs, and grinds through scree; and,
  • Travel on lingering snow, with occasional pitches that demand an ice axe and/or crampons.

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Non-high route applications

For trail running — which is the intended purpose of the Bushido — I would use it on trails that are exclusively technical and muddy. But for the conditions I normally encounter (i.e. technical but dry trails, with several miles of pavement at the beginning and end of most runs), I prefer a more agile model like the Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra (my review) or a more cushioned generalist like the Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 (review forthcoming).

And for conventional backpacking trips, which involve more (or exclusively) trail miles and linear travel, I like a more cushioned midsole and a more voluminous upper, as with the Salomon Odyssey Pro (review also forthcoming) or aforementioned Speedgoat.

High routes place different demands on footwear than traditional backpacking trips. Travel is a mix of lovely tundra, tedious talus, lingering snow, and wet meadows — and the footing is constantly off-camber and steep. Photo: Pfiffner Travese below Andrews Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Shoe specs

  • Weight: 10.5 oz (298g) for M9, 11.9 oz (337 g) for M45.5
  • Upper: Ripstop mesh, adhesive microfiber, and TPU exoskeleton
  • Midsole: Compression molded EVA with TPU shank and compressed EVA forefoot rock plate
  • Outsole: Proprietary FriXion rubber with substantial U-shaped lugs
  • Stack height: 25 mm heel, 19 mm forefoot
  • Drop: 6mm
  • $130 MSRP

European sizing

La Sportiva makes European half-sizes, which are on a different scale than US half-sizes. Use this conversion chart to determine your equivalent size.

Personal side note: I’ve always been a 45.5 in La Sportiva shoes, and size 11.5 in US (for Altra, Hoka, Merrell, Salewa, Salomon, Vasque), even though the 45.5 converts to size 12.

Fit

I have narrow and small-volume feet. With normal-sized shoes, I need to crank on the lacing to get them secure. With roomy Altra-style lasts and uppers, I’m limited to flat and linear multi-use trails — my foot swims in the shoe too much to tackle more difficult trails.

When I first slipped on the Bushido, they seemed small even for me, most notably with a low footbox. An hour-long run felt reasonable, but I wasn’t sure if I could hike in them all day. Thankfully, they pack out, and after a few miles they were wonderfully form-fitting, on par with the sock-like fits of the Hoka Clifton 2, Salewa Lite Train, Salomon Sense Pro and Pro 2, and Salomon Sense Ultra.

If you are skeptical of the Bushido’s fit, consider the Salewa Ultra Train (my review) or the La Sportiva Mutant, which are similar to the Bushido in their intended uses but which have wider lasts.

Upper

The upper consists of ripstop mesh, laminated microfiber, and a TPU exoskeleton. It strikes a good balance of breathability, drainage, and durability. For improved durability, I recommend applying Aquaseal to the seams, as Dave explains.

The Bushido doesn’t dry as quickly as I would like, but I haven’t yet found a shoe that does. It’s better than most, mostly because its upper is simple and minimally padded.

The upper combines ripstop mesh (black), adhesive microfiber (dusty gray), and a TPU exoskeleton (clear film strips at the midfoot). Before the trip, I protected the seams with Aquaseal for improved durability.

The toebox is wrapped with a TPU cap, for improved resistance to abrasion and impact, like accidentally kicking rocks or snagging toes on talus. The cap was especially helpful when I had to punch steps on steep snow on Paiute Pass and the Northeast Gully.

The most significant sign of wear on the upper is the seal between the toebox mesh and TPU cap — it has started to peel. I think a bead of Aquaseal should fix it, and an application of Aquaseal to new shoes in this area may prevent it entirely.

The nicely padded tongue is anchored internally on both sides of the foot, keeping it in place.

Besides the outsole, there are two other visible signs of wear: the toecap is delaminating from the toebox mesh, and fabric overlaying the TPU shank has been abraded off.

Outsole

The Bushido features an aggressively lugged outsole made of a proprietary premium rubber, FriXion. It stuck reliably to bare rock, and it bit well into vegetated slopes. Honestly, it’d be greedy to ask for better performance.

After 160 hard miles, the lugs show signs of wear, but so far the stickiness and traction is unaffected. 300-400 “high route miles” is probably a reasonable expectation. That may sound low if you are accustomed to thru-hikes on manicured trails, but it’s actually very good.

After 160 hard miles, the Bushido’s aggressive and grippy outsole is showing wear relative to a fresh pair, but still mostly intact.

Midsole

Performance on uneven terrain is not solely a function of the outsole design and materials. The midsole and aforementioned upper also have pivotal roles.

The Bushido has a thin midsole: its stack height is 25 mm and 19 mm at the heel and toe, respectively, and these measurements include substantial outsole lugs. This gives the Bushido a low center of gravity, reducing its inclination to roll on off-camber surfaces.

The forefoot includes a compressed EVA rock plate and the midfoot has a TPU shank. These features:

  • Achieve underfoot protection without a generously cushioned midsole that is top-heavy; and,
  • Add torsional stiffness, which reduces the strain on foot muscles when edging.

I’m happy to have a rock plate, but I’m dubious of the EVA. It will probably break down prematurely relative to other parts of the shoe. Perhaps the inherent stiffness of the shank and outsole rubber will help offset its deterioration.

What’s been your experience with the Bushido? Or, what questions do you have about them? Leave a comment.

Buy now & support this review: La Sportiva Bushido


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22 Responses to Review: La Sportiva Bushido || A perfect “high route shoe,” if it fits

  1. Juha Ranta August 6, 2017 at 9:16 am #

    # Skurka response
    Earlier this year I posted a comment in other thread where I told about my foot issues around the joint above the big toe, generally around the area people also get bunions and gout I think. I thought I have maybe used too narrow shoes for my too wide feet (which I may have) . I may have also have had wrong kind of stepping, or maybe even actual medical condition.

    I tried Altra Lone Peak 3.0 at size 42 this spring, hoping it would help with my issue, but it was really bad for my feet because the space above the joint was too restricted. I also tried the same show in size 43, and it didn’t have issues with the joint, but it was way too sloppy for Dolomites from where I just returned. I bought La Sportiva Bushido size 42,5 when I was there, and guess what? It seemed very good for me at least in those conditions, so good that I’ll get another pair. The company La Sportiva is located in Dolomites, by the way.

    I think the thing for my specific feet is the issue with easily swollen and inflamed joint above the big toe, and though Bushidos are somewhat tight and sock-like, they have this stretchy mesh upper around which allows the shoe to conform to my feet around the trouble area.

    It’s good to learn what kind of shoes are proper for my needs, even if it’s through trial and error. I’m also keeping the old shoes that didn’t work so well for at least reference, maybe they’ll be useful later on. And I’ll keep exploring if there’s something to do with my foot issues.

  2. Brad R August 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    Ho does the fit compare to the La Sportiva Ultra Raptors or Salomon XA Pro 3D

  3. Susan S August 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    In my second season with them and the lugs are just about chewed over due to a lot of travel over sharp talus on high routes. The sticky rubber is as good as some approach shoes I’ve had. My feet have largely gone without complaint except after 10 miles on a high traverse over large, rolling, uneven talus. My pinky toes got hot spots/blistered from rolling around so much. Still, solid shoe that fits me well since I have low volume feet. I just wish there was a bit more room for that pinky toe.

  4. Eli August 6, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

    I’ve probably had 10 pairs of Bushidos since they came out. They’ve been my go to for steep technical running on and off trail. The grip is great, they are very precise, and well protected for bombing down rocky terrain. I’ve experimented with plenty of similar shoes but I’ve never really liked anything else quite as much.

  5. Jay C August 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    I bought a pair of these after really beating up my feet on talus using my normal shoes, montrail’s mountain masochists. I haven’t haven’t had them out on any real trips yet, but they seem like an improvement.
    A question – are there any running or hiking shoes with a stiffer / more durable rock plate, one not made of EVA?

    • Andrew Skurka August 10, 2017 at 10:06 am #

      “Rock plates” always seem like an exaggerated description to me. I’ve never heard of a company using, say, carbon fiber, for one in a running shoe. That kind of material must be too stiff. So instead they put in something that it semi-stiff but that unfortunately breaks down with use.

      • Jay C August 16, 2017 at 12:07 am #

        I had some inov8 ( I think flyroc 315s) shoes that had some sort of white UHMV or HDPE plate in the forefoot. I loved the shoes, but alas the sole split right where the plate ended – the plastic was only in the fore-foot, and where it ended just after the fore-foot the sole split in half.

        Mostly I was just wondering if this material was common in newer shoes. It sounds like it isn’t.

        Thanks again for the review!

        • Andrew Skurka August 16, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

          I don’t think there’s a standard rock plate design. And I don’t know if La Sportiva avoided that material because of known manufacturing issues.

  6. Sam A. August 7, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

    I was happy to see you reviewed these, because they have been working out really well for me and I wanted to know what you thought.

    I got a pair this past spring. While trying on shoes, I was debating between the Bushido and the Ultra Raptor. I also have very narrow, low volume feet, and deemed the Ultra Raptors to be too roomy for my feet, especially when in a contouring position. I swapped out the stock Ortholite insoles for running shoe insoles, and used them extensively for day trips doing field work for a month or two in the early Arizona summer. The terrain was granitic hills, bare at the ridge tops, with grus-filled washes. I was never that unsure about the grip of the shoes: wherever I stepped, if it was solid rock, I was confident that the shoes would hold (even on the bare weathered granite, although I had trekking poles to distribute my weight). I don’t remember my feet feeling overheated in the shoes. The lugs are showing wear, especially on the forefoot, which is to be expected considering there’s a 20-30′ approach to the field site of walking through grus-filled washes riven with ATV tracks. But besides the lugs and a few picked threads, everything else about the shoe is holding up well.

    There are a lot of speargrass-type grasses in the field site, which can be annoying and painful. The ripstop mesh upper by the toe box is great for breathability, but not so good with keeping those little suckers out of the shoe. The shoes fit me so well that it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

    I can’t speak to the shoe’s comfort in multi-day constant use, but I didn’t find the relatively thin cushioning to be uncomfortable. I’m really pleased with the shoes and will very likely buy them again once the present pair wear out.

  7. seano August 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    Thanks for bringing these to my attention with your detailed review. I haven’t tried this model, but they sound like a good peak-bagging shoe, so I may buy a couple of pairs on sale. Any problems with the goofy multi-part outsole peeling off? I wish companies would just stick to a single, solid piece of rubber…

    • Andrew Skurka August 9, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

      Not in my experience, but I haven’t worn out a pair yet. No one with first-hand experience who commented about my review said anything like that.

  8. Kevin August 9, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

    I have a narrow foot of average to high volume. I am still breaking in my Bushido’s but find myself wanting a slightly wider toe box, which rarely happens in any trail or running shoe I’ve used. I’ll if I feel the same after doing a few 20 milers. Right now I don’t think these will work for 40+ days.

  9. Jmaes M August 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    How do they compare to the Salewa Ultra Train?

    • Andrew Skurka August 10, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      Narrower and small volume
      More reliable lacing system
      Better toecap
      Outsole more appropriate for mud, snow, and slick slopes

  10. Justin LaFrance August 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    There are two seams on either side of the heel. Did you find that these cause rubbing? Might just be my bony heels.

    • Andrew Skurka August 12, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      No irritation for me.

  11. Gordon August 12, 2017 at 6:08 am #

    Sorry, Andrew, somehow I saw an earlier post of yours about the Bushidos that didn’t have the links. Got a pair (from Backcountry Edge for $80) to replace my wearing-out Wildcats. I guess I’m just not an aggressive enough hiker to have had the “too much mesh” problem with the Wildcats that you’ve mentioned, but, I thought, “why not?”, and I found a better deal on the Bushidos than I could on the Ultra Raptors.

    No kidding about “small volume”! That is a good characterization of my feet, but after putting on the Bushidos, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have gone up a half size (from 42.5 to 43).

  12. Doug McCowen August 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

    Have had a pair of Bushidos for a season and the only problem I have experienced is that the heel box is too loose for me. They just don’t hold my heel down, so I need to put tape on them before every hike or I end up with a blister midway up one or both heels. This is even after cranking the laces down pretty tight.

  13. John W August 26, 2017 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m considering replacing my Salewa Alp Trainers and going with a lighter weight option of trail runners like the Bushidos. I primarily hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In your opinion, would the Bushidos make a good peak bagging shoe for the Whites? If not, any recommended alternatives. I weigh approximately 225lbs, if that is a factor. Thanks for the review and your excellent website!

    • Andrew Skurka August 27, 2017 at 12:13 am #

      I would wear them in the Whites. I think they be great on all the muck and granite.

      But at 225 I wonder if they will fit your feet.

  14. Max September 23, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    Hi Andrew, many thanks for your highly informative blog and book.

    I have been using trail running shoes (Merrell Capra) for hunting Caribou in the Norwegian tundra. Great choice in terms of energy savings and quick drying versus heavy hunting boots. However, I have had the problem that my feet seem to slide to the side of the shoes or even slightly off the sole when I’m side hilling or stepping on very uneven ground or rocks hidden under the tundra. The problem is aggravated by wearing a heavy hunting pack (40 lbs without, 65+ lbs with meat).

    How did you deal with this problem on your recent elk hunts?

    Many thanks

    Max

    • Andrew Skurka September 26, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

      Footwear is highly personal. I didn’t have that experience with those shoes. If you are, and can’t endure it, then I suggest you look for a tighter-fitting model.

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