Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shoe Review: La Sportiva Fireblade


The Skinny:

I decided to begin the shoe reviews with a shoe I have just recently started training in. I am a huge Sportiva fan, and this shoe is a classic in their line-up, so it is fitting to begin with the La Sportiva Fireblade.

The Fireblade is coined as a lightweight stability trainer. It weighs in at 12.8 ounces. Add a superfeet or some other sort of insole and you're looking at 14-ish ounces, so lightweight stability trainer needs to be taken.....lightly. The shoe has a triple density midsole, explaining the weight of the shoe, but the weight is a small price to pay for providing a comfortable ride on gnarly terrain over longer distances.  This is an outstanding long-distance trail runner.

The heel of the Fireblade is a dual-density EVA called Trail Shock. This second density foam firms up the heel counter and keeps the subtalar joint from over-pronating. The genius of the post is that it wraps the entire heel, keeping lateral and medial motion to a minimum. The toe counter is equipped with a high-tensile composite rockguard that successfully protects the ball of the feet from rockier terrain while still having great flexion on the ascents. The undersole of the shoe is a compound sticky rubber that works great on surfaces unless they are acceptionally wet or muddy. The toe is equipped with a rubber guard that is more protection than most trail shoes have, and the heel cup is nice and snug for a lower-volume heel. I have a bunyun, and it didn't feel pinched at all, so even though I believe the shoe's upper can accomadate a medium to slightly wide toe box.

What they are Good For:

After taking the shoes on a test drive up Haypark Trail, a singletrack comprised of rock-strewn, steep inclines and flat, mud-caked two track, I joked that these shoes are a minimal tank. My feet didn't feel worked in the least, even on a trail that could pass as a rock field. These shoes are great at absorbing shock, making them a superb choice for long-distance treks over obstacle-infested terrain. My thoughts go to events such as Speedgoat 50K, Silverton Alpine Marathons, Zane Grey.....Massanutten..........Hardrock.

Why they Work:

A major factor working to the advantage of the Fireblade is that the heel sits at 26mm and the toe at 16mm, making the heel-to-toe differiential only 10mm. Why is that important? Over-pronation takes a toll on the body the longer it continues, and the longer we run the slower we get, meaning the more time our feet naturally spend on the ground. This is where foot, joint, and muscle fatigue can become amplified. The greater the differiential is between the heel and the toe, the longer the foot remains in the mid-stance phase of the gait cycle. If that differiential is decreased, then the foot doesn't have to travel as far, meaning it spends less time in the mid-stance phase and the foot doesn't spend nearly as much time on the ground. This gives the foot less time to pronate. Thus this shoe is a minimal tank.

Is the Price Right?

The Fireblade is sitting pretty at $95 US. That's not bad.

Parting shot. Taking the La Sportiva Fireblades up Arbaney Kittle Trail in Basalt, CO.

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