Blaze a trail in Hawaii with La Sportiva’s Hellios III and Akyra athletic shoes

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As I post this article, the nation is in the midst of Corona mania. Among other things, health professionals tell us that we need to keep a safe distance, eat right and exercise.

Well, forget about the gym. The time to take long walks and runs is here.

In this piece we’ll review two athletic shoes from La Sportiva, the Italian firm with US headquarters in Boulder, CO. La Sportiva has been manufacturing boots and shoes since 1928. In addition to footwear they also make ski gear and clothing.

The company is probably best known for sponsoring Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson who completed the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan. In fact the shoe that Caldwell used to make his ascent of the iconic Dawn Wall was a product of his collaboration with La Sportiva.

Hellios III is comfortable and terrific looking.

Hellios III

Hellios III, as the name implies, is the third incarnation of this model. The tweaks that were made on this version include an updated upper which means a newly designed tongue and more microfiber around the ankle for better bracing for the back of your foot. There’s also more ventilation on the side panels. The lacing has also been redesigned for better support.

With only 4mm of heel-toe drop and a low 15mm of stack height in the forefoot, the Helios III is as low-profile a shoe as you can get.

It’s incredibly light (7.7 oz)—any extra cushioning that may have been on the drawing board was trimmed.

They call the wavy midsole design “morphdynamic” which essentially means the’re able to cut out a lot of rubber on the sole while still maintain some cushioning. For those interested, it’s made from EVA, which is pretty standard cushioning material for high end shoes these days.

Think of it as a ballet slipper on steroids. You’re going to feel every pebble on the trail with this minimalist design.

The grippy FriXion (which is what La Sportiva call the material on the bottom of these shoes) affords plenty of purchase if you’re scrambling on lava rock, which everyone who hikes in Hawaii specializes in. 

The wavy midsole design on Hellios III affords great purchase. The red rubber on the sole is extra grippy.

Credit the outsole, which adds significant traction despite that the lugs themselves are not very deep.

I think these shoes are excellent for Hawaii or another tropical locale. They afford a great deal of breathability—you’re not going to be sweating. In addition to their lightweight, they are quite flexible and pretty spiffy looking, with red accents on black. They aren’t as stable as a more robust shoe, but if you add an insert, it will help.

If you really want to be close to the surface, this is your shoe.

They are great for double duty and incredibly comfortable. Thus I can see buying a pair for casual use that you can also take on short day trips. And, you can even run on trails with them, which is of course what they were designed for…

Retail Price is $125

Check out the lugs on Akyra. It’s all business on the trail.

Akyra

While the Helio III can do double duty as a crossover product for running the trail or running errands, the Akyra is all business. La Sportiva calls it a trail running shoe, this is a bit of a misnomer. It’s really a kind of a transgender hiking boot stuck in an athletic shoe body.

Just a glance at the high-top cut of the upper and the outsole pattern makes it evident that the shoe was designed for serious hiking. The high wear areas on the heel and toe use hexagon shaped lugs while the rest of the sole has prominent chevrons. The lugs are huge and provide great traction. They are widely spaced and very deep, so you’ll get purchase on all kinds of surfaces.

The outsole in my book is the real secret sauce for the Akyra. It utilizes the FriXion compound that combines two different types of rubber. One is sticky (the red stuff) and a higher abrasion, harder rubber for areas on the sole that will experience more abuse. The combination of grip, traction and durability are pretty compelling.

The toe on Akyra is fortified, so fear not.

This makes the shoe ideal for Hawaii (and other tropical locales) where you’re going to encounter everything from mud to lava rock.

Space age materials and engineering are evident throughout the rest of the shoe too.

The top layer of the Akyra upper consists of a MicroLite Skeleton, which is La Sportiva’s oown design—a TPU thermal adhesive that provides structure and flexibility. It overlays a mesh layer that also allows for breathability. Overlaying that is what the manufacturer calls a “TrailCage” midfoot wrap, essentially a frame to provide lateral stability. The shoe has a gusseted tongue to keeping out dirt and debris. There’s also a toe guard for protection. I don’t’ know how many times this has been a lifesaver.

Moreover, it’s comfortable and if soaked, will dry up fairly quickly. This is really important because you don’t want to be stomping around the rainforest in soaking wet shoes all day.

For an all around super lightweight, trail running/hiker the Akyra is a winner. Price is $140 on Amazon.

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