La Sportiva Helios
by Luke Garten
To start this review I would just like to say that I was not given these shoes in order to write a positive shoe review. This is my honest opinion of this shoe. I have been wanting to write this review since September 2013 after my first couple of runs in them. I waited to give a review after a complete seasonal usage until the time the shoes were close to retirement. That being said, I love these running shoes. I have yet to own another trail shoe that I was completely happy with being in my weekly rotation. As of today, my pair Helios have about 600 miles on them and are close to being ready for retirement (mostly due to the uppers starting to tear near the midfoot). These shoes have been to some amazing places. Summiting rocky mountain peaks, through sand, creeks, ice, and snow. They have carried me through lots of ultras including one 50 miler.
A First Look
The first time taking the Helios out of the box you will notice how light and flexible they are. At 8.1oz these shoes are noticeably light. For me personally, I will not even consider a shoe that is 10 or more oz. I would not consider the Helios to be a pure minimalist shoe but definitely a light trail racing shoe. The look of the shoe is great. You will notice that the front half of the shoe is covered with a mesh material that resembles that of a screen door. The bottom of the shoe is similar to La Sportiva’s other minimal shoe, the Vertical K. It has a zig-zag shape to it and has a look of Reebok’s Zig shoe. The color of the shoe is not offensively bright like many shoe companies are trending toward which is nice when wearing them while not running.
Trying Them Out
When trying them on you will notice the part that wins me over, which is the Midsole. They are a very comfortable shoe for being a minimal/racing trail shoe. They are not as cushy as other minimal racing shoes like the Montrail Fluidflex, and are also not as firm as shoes like Pearl Izumi N1. You will get the right amount of cushioning needed to use as an everyday trainer or racer. The shoe has a 4mm drop and has a 2mm LaSpeva plate built into the midsole. You feel very low to the ground which gives the runner a lot of confidence on tight single track where you have to dance around rocks and roots.
The mesh outer covering on the uppers actually works better than I thought they would. Normally after running on dusty trails with other trail shoes my socks and toes are filthy. With the mesh, my toes are the cleanest I have ever seen them after a run. It really does work.
The sizing with La Sportiva is a little different. When ordering them you have to choose European sizes. It can be hard since there were no stores in Northern California that carried the shoe to try on. I would say you should order a half size larger than you would with other companies. The toes box fits medium wide and gives plenty of room for your toes to move around and not rub the side. I ran with a size 44.5 (11) and it fits like a 10.5 Montrail Fluidflex, 10.5 Saucony, 10 New Balance, 10.5 to Pearl Izumi.
Where Do They Perform The Best?
I have tested this shoe on every surface available in Northern California. Snow, ice, sand, dusty dirt, extreme rocky granite paths, deep creek crossings and some pavement. The Helios performed the best on very technical single track where you need a sure footed shoe that is stable to the ground. I never am worried about rolling my ankle running fast on tight trails. They also drain exceptionally well on wet trails and you will have no worries about soggy feet for the remainder of your run.
Mesh covering on the upper.
Fit is perfect (never got a single blister with them).
Longevity-almost 600 miles so far (If I can’t get more than 500 miles, it is not worth my money).
4mm drop is perfect.
The open grooves in the tread pattern (lets sharp rocks poke your feet. Also got a rock stuck in one of the grooves).
Longevity of the Mesh (started tearing on the side of the forefoot after 400 miles).
Buy this shoe! This is by far the best trail shoe I have run in yet. If you have to use one pair of trail shoes to get the job done everywhere, this is it. I Hope someday La Sportiva makes a road version of this shoe. I will buy it.