Update: A second-generation Bushido II was released in spring 2019. I have posted a long-term review of it after wearing it in Alaska and Yosemite.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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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