Italian brand La Sportiva have a solid heritage of producing mountain footwear including climbing shoes, walking boots, mountaineering boots and their running shoes are a common site at trail and fell events. I’ve been interested to try some of their shoes for a while and finally settled on the Anakonda as the specification appeared to be the closest match to my usual shoe preferences, i.e light, low and grippy.
The Anakonda’s are clearly designed with soft conditions in mind and the aggressive fit lends itself towards mountain running and fell racing on steep terrain over relatively short distances. Whilst they are primarily a wet conditions shoe, I found that the outsole works well on a variety of surfaces, including hard ground and this makes them an excellent choice for use in the UK where conditions can be highly variable from one mile to the next. It should however be noted that the soft, grippy compound is likely to wear down quickly on hard packed trails or road.
I think that the anaconda’s look fantastic and out of the box you can tell that they are a well-made pair of shoes produced by a company that really understands the rigours of technical off-trail running. They are a little heavier than some of their competitors but every extra gram seems to have gone into trying to make the upper protective and durable.
The fit of the Anakonda is ‘true to size’ but they are designed to be rather snug. They are intended for running fast over steep, technical terrain and it’s certainly true that a secure fit is necessary for this purpose but I don’t particularly enjoy the way that the toe box tapers in on the medial side around the big toe.
As I’ve stated in previous reviews it’s totally possible to produce a secure fitting, high performance shoe that doesn’t squish your toes with the Salomon Sense and New Balance MT110 being excellent examples of this. I can see why they’ve made the toe box narrow but the pointiness would discourage me from using the Anakonda’s for runs longer than a couple of hours. This may or may not be an issue for you depending on your usual preferences for fit. I’d say that it’s comparable to Walshes and some of the narrower Inov-8 shoes for example
Another striking Characteristic of the Anakonda’s is the black TPU heel cup, curiously named as the ‘Transkinetic Heel Stabiliser’. This feature is designed to add stability and makes the heel feel really quite rigid. I haven’t run in a shoe with a stiff heel cup for a long time so I was curious to see how this worked out.
Internally, the heel doesn’t have a much padding and includes a strip of synthetic material around the achilles which La Sportiva call the ‘EZ-In’ heel pocket. This is designed to increase durability and I also found that it made them easy to slide on/off in conjunction with a handy red finger loop.
The forefoot area is highly flexible which is contrasted by a midfoot that is relatively stiff, producing a very definite flex point around the ends of the metatarsals as I’ve tried to show in the picture below. La Sportiva state on their website that there is a rock plate in the forefoot but it feels too flexy for this to be possible and I wonder if something has been lost in translation and it is actually further back in the midfoot which would also explain the the rigidity in this area.
The Anakonda has some distinctive features as I’ve described above and they give the shoe a rather unique feel. I’ve managed to put about 30-40 miles of running on them with a mix of local trails, muddy footpaths, gravel tracks and some enjoyable miles on the rocks and peat bogs of the Peak District which included some steep climbs and technical descents.
I’ve already commented on my issue with the toe box shape and before I go on to talk about the many things that I like about the Anakonda, there is one more niggle that I need to get out of the way and this concerns the ‘Ez-In’ heel pocket which has caused some blistering around my right achilles and could benefit from a little more padding around the collar.
It took me a little longer than usual to get used to running in the Anakonnda’s due to the slightly unusual way that they flex longitudinally. It almost felt as though there is a hinge between the flexible forefoot and the stiffer midfoot section during the first couple or runs and this lead to some foot fatigue. I soon adapted to this and stopped noticing after a while but I think I’d prefer it if they had a more linear increase in stiffness from front to back.
The UK weather has been kind enough to throw a lot of rain at us over the past week or two and this has provided me with the opportunity to give the Anakonda’s some thorough testing in the mud. Grip levels and mud clearance are very good. They bite into grass very aggressively and the soft rubber compound offers better traction on wet rocks than most heavily lugged shoes. The AK’s would be a good choice if you were tackling a route that mixed-up muddy approach running with some easy scrambling on rocks.
I soon got used to the stiff heel cup which produces excellent stability over technical terrain and when traversing steep slopes along with the low-profile midsole. The security, light weight and protective upper inspire confidence and make me feel nimble and agile. Sharp objects can be felt through the forefoot although I never felt as though I was at risk of hurting myself. I really like the design of the rubber toe box bumper and it does a great job of keeping your pinkies safe but I think it contributes to a slight reduction in efficiency of water drainage as the rand prevents it from coming out of the sides so it has to squeeze out of the top of the toe box instead. As I’ve said above, the Anakonda also feels good on hard ground thanks to the versatile outsole and excellent rubber compound but use in these conditions will inevitably contribute to increased wear, especially on tarmac.
Other than a few scuffs on the overlays, the Anakonda’s are still as good as new and I have a good feeling about their long-term durability. I have a lot of shoes in my rotation at the moment so it takes me a while to accumulate a high mileage on a single pair but as usual, I will continue to monitor durability and update the post with any problems.
La Sportiva have done a good job of building a shoe that is very stable and secure, inspiring confidence not only in mud but also on technical terrain. This is no mean feat when you consider the fact that they feature prominent lugs which can sometimes cause problems with stability in other shoes. Along with the excellent outsole compound, this makes them a good choice for runs that mix up steep mud with rocks, roots and uneven ground over short-middle distances.
The pointy toe box and unforgiving heel collar are my main reservations about the Anakonda’s and you would be best to try-before you buy, but they are very well suited to UK conditions and offer a compelling alternative to some of their well established competitors.
This shoe was provided free for testing purposes by Ascent Marketing (thanks guys)
Just a update to say that I steadily reduced the mileage on these since writing the review as unfortunately the blistering that the heel collar caused on my achilles happened a few more times with seemingly increasing frequency. This is a shame and I really hope that they do an update at some point as the Anakonda is very close to being a classic.
The Anakonda is available in two colourways and it can be purchased at Amazon (see link below)
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Have you run in the Anakonda’s? Got any Questions? Please leave your thoughts below