First Look Gear Review

La Sportiva Vertical K Review

   

Trail Running Shoes - Men's

  • Currently 4.8/5
Overall avg rating 4.8 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: April 21, 2013
Street Price:   $115 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros:  Insanely light, great traction, keep out snow and dirt.
Cons:  Don't like the logos sprayed all over the upper, sizing seems way off.
Best Uses:  Mountain running and trail running.
User Rating:     
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 (4.0 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Manufacturer:   La Sportiva
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ June 24, 2012  
Overview
The Vertical K is the lightest trail running shoe I have tested. My pair of size 10s weighs just 14.2 ounces, which is about the weight of a pair of Nike Free's. But unlike the Nike Free's, these shoes feel surprisingly stable, durable, and can be used off trail and on rock and snow. To my surprise, such a light shoe also performs well. These have amazing traction in dirt and mud and even scramble well when bagging High Sierra peaks.

O love the La Sportiva C-Lite 2.0 but I love this shoe even more. I'm biased toward the lightest shoes that still perform well and the Vertical K nails it. The C-Lite is for folks that want a little more traction and support (and it looks better).

Weight
These are by far the lightest trail shoes I have used. They're also some of the most comfortable. But other than just feeling light, they are very liberating due to the mesh upper. It feels like you are wearing a low cut neoprene booty you would wear for water sports.

Traction
These have a very unique tread pattern with deep horizontal grooves. These shoes grip mud, dirt and snow surprisingly well. They are some of the better snow and ice climbing trail shoes I have worn. They also are surprisingly sticky on rock. I felt comfortable scrambling steep ridges on High Sierra peaks. As an unsuspected bonus, these leave a deep and distinct shoe print. When returning home from a day of cross country travel, I could easily figure out which faint trails I had been up. This was comforting and could potentially helpful in an emergency situation (though it will not be useful if everyone starts wearing this shoe).

Upper
The uppers are made of mesh that the laces are hidden under. This makes it a little harder to get the shoe on but there is a handy little pull tab. Once the shoe is on, it fits like a glove. The laces are really just there to get you that last 10 percent of tightness. This mesh keeps rocks and debris out and makes the shoes easy to clean. It also repels snow a little. Eventually the shoes will get wet if crossing a snowfield or boggy terrain, but I also felt like the mesh upper helped them dry particularly fast. The one downside to the upper is it is sprayed with the La Sportiva logo. I do not think this is a particularly flattering look and hope the next design tones it down a little. I do not wear these around town for this reason. While these shoes have a lot of support for their weight, I would not describe them as particularly supportive shoes.

Sizing
The sizing seems way off on these compared to other La Sportiva shoes. I wear a 9.5 in the C-Lite. A 9.5 is the Vertical K was WAY too small so I bumped up to a 10. Even that feels small; I wish I had a 10.5. So consider getting these in a half to a full size bigger than you are used to for a good fit (best to try them on in a store first).


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Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 21, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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Apr 21, 2013 - 12:11am
 
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA
I totally agree with the other review - amazing shoe, great cushion but minimal support which is what I like. Ive used them for up to 13 mile hilly trail runs and really have no complaits.

BUT they definitely run SMALL!!! I wear 11 in most shoes, and 45 in most sportivas, sometimes 45.5. I had to get a 46 in the vertical K, which they say is a 12.5 - I've never worn a 46 in anything. I tried a 45.5 for a few runs and they were definitely too tight. I found them on sale at REI for about $80 recently.
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   Jul 12, 2012 - 07:42pm
Auto-X Fil · Climber
These shoes are unlike like anything else. People keep trying to put them somewhere on the spectrum of currently available trail shoes, but that doesn't quite work. I have not run in Hoka One One shoes (those giant squishy things), but a couple people I know have, and they say the Vertical K is sort of a minimimal version of those.

The marshmallow-soft MorphoDynamic midsole and stretchy Lycra upper provide more cushion and protection for the weight than anything else out there. When ledge-hopping and striding out on steep down, they soak up impact like a beefy trail runner weighing twice as much. The one-piece Lycra upper keeps grit out and prevents lace snags if you tuck them in, and the toe bumper is quite adequate. It's the only part of the shoe that could be called stiff. These are not as protective as my Raptors, but they are nearly half the weight. As a comparison, two popular shoes which are almost exactly the same weight are the sock-like New Balance Minimus Trail (MT10), and the Inov8 X-Talon 190 XC racing flat. I like both of those shoes, but I couldn't cover nearly as many miles of hard terrain with them as the Vertical K.

While the shoe offers suprising protection, it offers no support whatsoever. My foot moves in these almost like in a barefoot shoe. The sole flexes laterally and torsionally with very little resistance, and the upper lets the foot move around on top of the midsole. It's an extremely different feeling than a technical trail shoe with a stiff rock-plate bearing mid-sole and lacing system that locks the foot down tight. This thing is more like a soft, grippy sock. The midsole is deep enough that it significantly cushions pointy rocks, but if you make a habit of landing on top of them, you'll feel it more than in a traditional rock-plate style shoe.

For those not familiar with LaSportiva's rubber lineup, FriXion is their in-house sticky rubber. There are several variants - a rock-shoe rubber used on the Tarantulace and kid's climbing shoes, an approach-shoe grade rubber (XF) used on the Raptor and Vertical K, and a harder compound (AT) used on most of their other trail runners (Wildcat, X-Country, Crosslite, etc.). If you're used to Inov8's Sticky rubber, that falls somewhere inbetween the XF and AT. Anyway, this stuff is awesome. The construction of the Vertical K doesn't lend itself to technical climbing, but they make bitchin' approach shoes for scrambling 3rd class before you bust out the rock shoes.

All this means that it's a shoe with the weight and grip of an XC racer, but more cushion and less support. On trails which are hard and rocky, especially on the downhill, I love this shoe. It soaks up the impact and protects me from rocks, while a race shoe tends to put a pounding on the legs during steep, hard downhills.

On technical trails with a lot of lateral movement, sidehilling terrain, and uneven footing, I'm less enthralled. The grip is there for that sort of running, but the flexible sole and stretchy upper make for a very imprecise feel.

So, while I'm going to hang onto them, they are not a one-shoe quiver for me. They will be my go-to shoe for all-day mountain adventures and most trail races, but for fell-running style courses they don't quite cut it for me.

Sizing runs very small. I have a snug, technical fit in Raptors at 41.5. Going up to a 42 in the Vertical K was not just snug, it was tight all over the foot, with my toes right up in the front. Given how stretchy this shoe is, that might work just fine. But, I have made the mistake of buying shoes too small before, so I went up to a 42.5. This gives me the same fit as my Raptors - snug across the laces, with wiggle room for the toes. The heel doesn't lock down at all with this fit, but it doesn't seem to matter given how soft and flexy the shoe is. It just kinda moves with my foot and the ground. I wish I could justify a pair in size 42 to try them out, because I think that tight fit might work really well, and perhaps improve the technical performance of the shoe.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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La Sportiva Vertical K trail running shoes
Credit: La Sportiva
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