Long-term review: La Sportiva Bushido II || Ideal for high routes, Alaska, early-season

The La Sportiva Bushido II ($130, 10.5 oz) is designed as an all-mountain trail running shoe. It may perform well in that application, but I bought a pair earlier this summer to instead hike in Alaska’s Brooks Range and on the Yosemite High Route in early-season conditions.

Over a 5-week period I put 315 demanding miles on the Bushido II, using them to scramble across granite slabs, hold my edge on steep tundra slopes, scurry over talus and through scree, kick steps into spring snow, and push through thick willow, dwarf birch, and alder. For the entirety of Alaska and for about half of Yosemite, they were soaking wet due to countless fords, water-logged ground, and melting snow.

How did the second-generation Bushido perform? And how does it compare to the original Bushido and to other popular backpacking shoes?

I tested the Bushido II while guiding trips in the Brooks Range (photo) and on the Yosemite High Route.

Long-term review: La Sportiva Bushido II

The original Bushido (my long-term review) was a winner for La Sportiva. It was the best-selling women’s trail running shoe at REI, and an employee favorite. Not wanting to ruin a good thing, La Sportiva made only a few tweaks to the second-generation, which it released in spring 2019.

Like its predecessor, the Bushido II is notable for its:

  • Dreamy fit,
  • Superb traction,
  • Low center of gravity,
  • Underfoot stiffness,
  • Reasonable dry time, and
  • Excellent durability for a 10.5-ounce shoe.

With these features and characteristics, the Bushido II excels on high routes, in trail-less wilderness areas, and during early-season conditions. Due to its firm and thin midsole cushioning, it’s not well suited for high-mileage on-trail hiking, specifically thru-hiking.

Also like the original, the Bushido II fits only narrow and low-volume feet (like mine). It retains the same last, and there are no discernible changes to the fit of the upper, either. This will frustrate some, but please its loyal fan base.

After 315 demanding miles, the Bushido II still had some life left. The uppers were mostly intact, and the outsoles had some rubber left.

Key specs

  • Breathable upper made of mesh, synthetic leather panels, and TPU overlays and toecap;
  • Grippy, heavily lugged, and long-lasting outsole made of Dual-Density FriXion XT;
  • Low-volume upper and narrow Racing Lite Ergo last;
  • Stack height of 19 mm and 13 mm at the heel and forefoot, with a 6 mm drop, not including the 6 mm outsole;
  • 4-mm EVA midsole with a 1.5-mm EVA rock guard in the forefoot;
  • Gusseted, thinly cushioned tongue;
  • 10.5 ounces (300 grams) in men’s size 9;
  • 8.8 ounces (250 grams) for women’s size 7;
  • $130 MSRP
  • More information

Bushido vs Bushido II

The original and second-generation Bushido are more alike than different. I detailed the similarities and changes in my Bushido II preview last year, and will summarize them here.

No changes were made to the:

  • Last or fit,
  • Outsole rubber or lug pattern,
  • Stack height or drop,
  • Weight
  • MSRP

Changes include:

  • Redesigned but functionally similar tongue;
  • Inclusion of a more responsive EVA midsole foam, which went unnoticed while hiking;
  • Use of more abrasion-resistant material under the arch;
  • Substitution of more breathable mesh in the upper; and,
  • Redesign of the toe cap.
The original (left) and second-generation Bushido (right) are more alike than different. Most importantly, the fit and outsole are unchanged; and only small changes were made to the upper and midsole.

Fit

When reading shoe reviews, context matters. I have narrow and low-volume feet. My go-to running shoes are the Salomon Sense (any of them: SLAB, Pro, original Ultra) and the SLAB Ultra for longer trail efforts. The Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 mostly fits, though I wish its toebox were not so conical. The Clifton 2 fit me better than the 4 and 5. And my feet swim inside the Altra Lone Peak.

La Sportiva carried over the exact fit of the original Bushido. The Bushido II has the Racing Lite Ergo last, and the upper feels identical despite some re-engineering of it.

Out of the box, the Bushido II is slightly snug on me. But after they pack out, which takes a few miles, I find the fit to be dreamy. My heel stays in place; the wide lacing system and gusseted tongue comfortably cradle my midfoot; and the toebox volume is “just right”: enough to prevent pinching and discomfort, but not so much that lateral control is compromised.

Durability

High routes, off-trail hiking, and early-season conditions are harder on shoes than conventional on-trail miles. The shoes are subjected to more lateral pressure, more stress on the outsole, and more abrasion from rock and brush. Also, the shoes are constantly wet.

Navigating across wet lichen-covered talus in the Brooks Range.

After 315 miles on the Bushido II, my test pair still had life left: the uppers were largely intact, and the outsole still had tread. But I threw them out before my return flight home anyway — I didn’t want their horrendous smell to contaminate my checked luggage or the main cabin.

Based on this experience, I think a reasonable lifespan for the Bushido II is 400 to 500 “high route” miles.

The uppers of the Bushido II are slightly more durable than the original, due to improved construction of the toecap and arch. The first blowout points now seem to be:

  • Fraying of the mesh panels, especially in vulnerable spots like along the outside edge; and,
  • Loose thread ends along the lacing system, which I fixed with an application of Aquaseal.
The mesh panels along the lateral edge showed the most signs of wear.

I also became nervous about the loosening of the liner fabric around the heel cup. It proved immaterial, but I feared it would cause blisters or compromise the fit.

Upper

The upper consists of ripstop mesh, laminated microfiber, and a TPU exoskeleton and toe cap. It strikes a good balance of breathability, drainage, and durability.

The Bushido doesn’t dry as quickly as I would like, but it was better than the other La Sportiva and Salomon models in the group. With its simple and minimally padded upper, it just cannot hold onto much water.

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 new toecap is more durable than the original.

Outsole

The Bushido features an aggressively lugged outsole made of a proprietary premium rubber, FriXion. It sticks reliably to bare rock, bites well into vegetated slopes and spring snow, and was on pace to last 400 to 500 miles. Honestly, it’d be greedy to ask for better performance.

The Bushido II (left) uses the exact same rubber compound and lug pattern as the original (right).

Midsole

The Bushido II sits low to the ground: including the 6-mm outsole, it has a stack height of 25 mm and 19 mm. This results in a stable shoe, but it’s not adequately cushioned for high-mileage outings.

The forefoot includes a compressed EVA rock plate and the midfoot has a TPU shank. When new, these features enhance underfoot protection without sacrificing stability, and add torsional stiffness for improved edging. Over time the rock plate softens, giving up some protection and rigidity.

Comparisons

If you like the performance of the Bushido but need a more generous fit, consider another model that proved worthy in Alaska and Yosmite. The:

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor ($130, 12 oz) has a lot of structure in the heel and upper, which makes it durable but potentially hard on feet. Its outsole is sticky, but less aggressive and long-lasting.

Salomon X-Ultra 3 ($120, 13 oz) fit and perform similar to the Ultra Raptors. They have aggressive and hard-wearing outsoles, and durable uppers. The Quick Laces will fray in gritty environments.

La Sportiva Mutant ($135, 10.7 oz) are the widest of this group, and the least rigid. The laces should be swapped out immediately, but otherwise the durability is very good. The burrito-style lacing system was applauded.

Leave a comment!

  • What questions do you have abou the Bushido II?
  • Do you own a pair? What’s been your experience with them?
  • What other shoes have you found to excel off-trail and in early-season conditions?

Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content

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Posted in , on August 21, 2019
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22 Comments

  1. Matt haigh on August 21, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    Loved the shoe but the toung, which was minimally sewn on, detached after about a week. Back to REI.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 21, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      Wha? Sounds like someone should have caught that sewing error, or like someone doesn’t care.

  2. Jeff Mitchell on August 21, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    I tried a pair of the original bushido and found them too tight in the forefoot- not enough vertical space. I found the bushido II to have slightly more fore foot volume and fit my (also low volume) feet well. I have some heel rub with high miles, but a piece of leokotape on the heel fixes that with no issue. Good shoe, thanks for your recommendation on them.

  3. Brian Vinci on August 21, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    Another decent contender for those that cant fit in the Bushido is the La Sportiva Akyra. Very aggressive lugs, with a fit that’s more inline with average foot shapes. Dries vey quick.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 21, 2019 at 8:04 pm

      Surprisingly, no one had these, because they would work. Justin Simoni had used them in SEKI the year prior, and they struck me as being a lot of shoe: very robust and capable, but kind of stiff and heavy. Interestingly, he complained about them not drying quickly.

  4. Danilo Sanchez Vendruscolo on August 21, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    I have the original bushido too and second the tongue and heel rub problems . The last I guess it could be solved with a bigger size, at least that is what I am doing when I buy the second generation, as I really love the fit. Thanks for the recommendation and great review!

  5. Mike G. on August 22, 2019 at 6:40 am

    Thanks Andrew!

    What recommendations do you have for more on trail hiking? Working my way up to high routes, but not quite there yet.

    I have the Saucony Peregrines which fit well, but the durability is lacking. Less than 200 miles in and there’s already holes developing in the upper along the toe crease.

    • Mike G. on August 22, 2019 at 6:43 am

      In that same thought string…can you point me to your article on preemptively treating/fixing shoes with Aquaseal? I know I read it on here somewhere before but cannot find it…

      • Andrew Skurka on August 22, 2019 at 7:21 am

        It’s not complicated. Just rub it in/on/into the problem spots. So if there’s a seam that regular blows, put a bead over the seam. If it’s a mesh panel, then rub into the mesh.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 22, 2019 at 7:20 am

      I’m not as up on the popular trail shoes of the day. I haven’t pounded out endless trail miles in years.

  6. Jeff Valliere on August 22, 2019 at 8:29 am

    Love the Bushido II for the usage you highlight. Another great similar shoe I am currently reviewing is the Salomon XA Alpine Pro, has a little more of a forgiving toe box as compared to the Bushido and other Salomons, while still retaining excellent foothold and control. The outsole and upper protection (and I predict durability) are outstanding.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 22, 2019 at 8:41 am

      I’ve checked in with Salomon a few times about this shoe, and last time it was still not available. As soon as I saw it at OR, I thought it fall into this same niche. My preview of it, https://andrewskurka.com/preview-salomon-x-alpine-pro/

      • Jakuchu Ito on August 23, 2019 at 5:45 pm

        A perfect alternative to this is the La Sportiva Mutant. Good for scrambling due to its sticky rubber, very good lugs for in muddy or loose ground conditions.

        The fit of the Mutants seem to be good for wide and very narrow feet. I’ve read reviews of people with wide feet finding them great, but I have super narrow feet (have to really crank down on Salomon Ultra) and the Mutants fit great.

        Solid heel cup, roomy toe box, and a mid section that you can perfectly adjust to your feet. Partly this is due to the very smart tongue. It wraps your feet and snugs up the upper when you tighten they laces.

        Worth a look / try.

    • Serge on August 22, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      Looking forward to that review, Jeff. I’ve got 400 rugged miles on my xa alpines with the gaiters and they’ve held up great. Been wanting the meshy version for some time now. Curious to see how protective they are. The bushidos are excellent, but I get nasty poke through on the type of alpine runs I’d like to take them on. I definitely prefer salomons more maleable profeel film to whatever hard rigid rock plate is in the bushidos. I also think that the salomons grip to rock better for the same reason. The bushidos feel pretty board like on the sole, so doesn’t conform to the terrain much. Just my take. Thanks for the review, Andrew. The brooks range is going on my list!

      • Chris on August 28, 2019 at 8:11 am

        What sock/shoe size combo do you recommend? I’ve seen some people use thicker light hiking socks and buy running shoes one to two sizes larger.

        I prefer buying my actual size and use “ultrathin” wool compression running socks like the SmartWool PhD or Defeet.

        Of course super thin socks leave you at the mercy of the shoe interior but in my opinion gives you more nimble footing when off trail.

  7. Lea Ge on August 22, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I love the fit of those shoes, have super narrow feet and those are the first shoes with such a good fit and are super lightweight. Totally agree with your recommendation for the use, I used them on lot on High Routes/Trailless hiking and some trail running this season and the grip is pretty phenomenal.
    Only cons:
    – my sole wore down super fast and gets too soft for longer days on rocky terrain (only 500 km on them so far) but the grip is still pretty good.
    – developed a weird tendonitis the week after I started running in those shoes which makes me believe that there might be some connection – that’s only for running, for hiking that’s not a problem

  8. Hunter on August 22, 2019 at 9:21 am

    At this point, I’ve gone through three pairs of the original and I am on my second pair of #2’s.

    I think it’s the perfect shoe for me and for those that want more cushion, do what I do: Add a stiff or plush insert like the powerstep pinnacle but make sure you size up in the shoe if you are going to do this.

    Maybe it’s how I travel but I find the lugs ceased to be as reliable after about 200 miles.

  9. Paul on September 2, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Andrew, I want to like these shoes but am thinking I may need something different. You say:

    “Due to its firm and thin midsole cushioning, it’s not well suited for high-mileage on-trail hiking, specifically thru-hiking”, and “it’s not adequately cushioned for high-mileage outings”.

    I’m not a thru-hiker but found the cushioning to be inadequate for short, high-daily-mileage outings in the Eastern High Sierra where I typically go. I bought the Bushido for the durability and grip over high rocky passes and generally liked the shoe, but my feet were pretty sore afterwards.

    Do you have any recommendations for comparably grippy/durable shoes that have a bit more cushioning for high mileage, rocky outings?

    Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on September 2, 2019 at 3:18 pm

      Any of the shoes listed at the bottom of this review will have more cushioning.

      Also:
      * The Wildcat is built on the same chasis as the Ultra Raptor, but the upper is made of softer but less durable mesh.
      * Would also look at the Akasha, based on my on-paper understanding of them.
      * The Akyra is a lot of shoe, but definitely has more cushioning than the Bushido.

  10. Neal on September 9, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Andrew, you suggest swapping out the laces on the Mutants. What would you swap them for?

    • Andrew Skurka on September 10, 2019 at 3:18 pm

      Just about anything but the stock laces.

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