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La Sportiva Helios 2.0 and Helios SR Dual Review

IMG_2612The original Helios came out in 2013 and used the concept of La Sportivas Vertical K shoe but in a more traditional package.  Essentially the Helios 2.0 and SR remain fairly unchanged at their core compared to the original.  Some upper modifications and rubber compound changes being the most notable. Because the SR and 2.0 are fairly similar I’m going to review them together.

Upper and Fit

In regards to the upper, the SR and 2.0 are nearly identical.  The upper is secure while still being fairly sock-like and generally suits the type of ride and application La Sportiva is going for with the shoe.  The most notable differences are that the 2.0 has no heel counter (something that works really well with this shoe) and the 2.0 has speedlaces (which I removed…the SR’s regular laces work much better and my distaste for speedlaces is well known for regular Runblogger readers).  Overall, the uppers are pretty good.  La Sportiva tends to overcomplicate uppers unnecessarily with many different materials and overlays and these are no exception, but they aren’t distracting in any way.

Fit is very similar, particularly after I removed the speedlaces from the 2.0.

Fit is very similar, particularly after I removed the speedlaces from the 2.0.

Midsole and Ride

The midsole component is literally unchanged from the original Helios and is the element most holding the shoe back in my view.  The “Morpho Dynamic” wave-like design doesn’t hold up in practice in my view for a general use, light-weight trail shoe, although, if you follow Anton Krupicka, he seems to feel they work great scrambling on rock.  The shoe is super flexible and the troughs of the wave shapes create really thin areas that, inexplicably, also have no outsole material?!?  The SR is supposed to have a rockplate on top of the midsole, but I had a real struggle feeling like it added much protection to the shoe.

No heel counter on the 2.0 (on right) is the biggest upper differentiation.

No heel counter on the 2.0 (on right) is the biggest upper differentiation.

Outsole

Like most La Sportiva shoes the outsole compound and stickiness is fantastic while still being durable.  Unlike most La Sportiva shoes, which usually feature full outsole coverage, the wave design, including gratuitous cutouts, are not a great choice for what amounts to a technical mountain racing shoe.  Not only does it not protect the foot super well, the midsole and rubber is prone to getting destroyed by rocks and sharp objects.  This design needs to go in my view.  Not that it can’t work ever, it is just that the shoe would be so much more versatile if it had more rubber coverage and a more standard, non-wave oriented design.  In fact it would be a really fun mountain racing shoe if that was the case!

Helios SR on left, 2.0 on right. Of note, SR has durable rubber on heel and sticky on forefoot where 2.0 has durable all over. Also, take a look at that puncture hole from a piece of gravel in the midsole on the 2.0...one of many reasons that I don't prefer large cutouts.

Helios SR on left, 2.0 on right. Of note, SR has durable rubber on heel and sticky on forefoot where 2.0 has durable all over. Also, take a look at that puncture hole from a piece of gravel in the midsole on the 2.0…one of many reasons that I don’t prefer large cutouts.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things I really appreciate about La Sportiva’s design approach and how they go about making mountain specific product.  They typically take their time creating shoes that are purpose built for certain applications and then after they are released, they rarely get updated and if so, it typically takes a few years at least, which is something I actually like in the now common, 6-12 months and it’s gone product cycle.  La Sportiva makes a quality product and keeps it around for a while; I’m not sure why this concept isn’t followed more in the market since I think it says something about your product (that it is inferior, or wasn’t good enough) if you are already replacing it in a year or less.

La Sportiva’s approach is great when a product really hits the mark in its category.  The Mutant in particular is a example of this.  It’s a unique and quality shoe that performs well and as intended. There is no major reason to update a shoe like this unless you have new and significantly better materials or design ideas.  For the Helios, on the other hand, it’s time has come.  While it does have some good things going for it, the Morpho Dynamic outsole design with way too much exposed midsole needs to go and has passed it’s useful lifespan as a technology.  I’d suggest La Sportiva revive the Skylite (iRunfar review of the Skylite from 2009; oh the days when 12.1 oz was “fairly lightweight”) and use a similar midsole height as the Helios but with the Skylite’s full rubber outsole or something similar with lower lug height designed for drier trails and racing but with La Sportiva’s mountain running design ethos.  As it is, the Helios SR and 2.0 are fun quasi-minimalist shoes with sticky rubber that work great on smoother trails and short little scrambles, other than that, for me they’ve sat on the shelf.

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science
About David Henry

David Henry is a 31 year old husband and father of 3 young children. He has completed over 23 ultra marathon events as well as many other shorter races. Some of the notable races he has completed include The Pike’s Peak Marathon, Speedgoat 50k, The Rut 50k, Gorge Waterfalls 100k and Bighorn 100. He has raced in diverse environments ranging from Alaska in winter to the Arizona desert. David appreciates well-crafted running shoes and running on any surface and distance. If interested you can follow my running on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/davidjonhenry

Comments

  1. Kaspar Pflugshaupt says:

    Hi David,

    I agree with your findings. I like the Helios 2 very much, but the outsole is sadly under-built for me running on serious rocks. I actually ran one mountain race with them, and I swore I’d never try that again. Too much pain in my feet from sharp stones hitting between the “waves”! Even on forest paths around Zurich (very civilized country), I have to watch my feet.

    So, these days, I enjoy them as everyday shoes. They’re light, flexible, airy, and fairly well cushioned as long as I’m not running. I also like their colorway (got the blue/orange combination).

    Maybe it’s about weight? I’m slightly below 80kg. Possibly, someone at less than 70kg compresses the midsole less than me and has less trouble?

    Hoping La Sportiva find a way to offer a replacement with the same flexibility and more protection!

    Cheers
    Kaspar

    • David Henry says:

      Thanks for the comment. Agreed on all points. Being a lighter runner probably helps, but still not the best design ;).

      Cheers,

      David

  2. This review is really a good example of different strokes for different folks. My take on the Helios (I’ve worn both version 1 and the SR) is exactly opposite. I think it’s the best shoe I’ve ever worn for technical mountain stuff, and I try out lots of shoes. I live in the Northeast where we have lots and lots of rocks of all types, and I’ve never had an issue with protection aside from the very rare stinger. I’ve used them up to 50 miles in about the most rugged trail races in the land, and I’m not doing minimalist tiptoeing around either. I find the traction to be unbeatable precisely because of the morphodynamic sole’s ability to bend around objects. The only quibbles I have with the Helios line is that sizing is wonky (you have to size way up), the toe bumper could be a little more robust (I’ve lost two toenails through the years kicking rocks–albeit rather hard), and the SR runs a little hot. That said, I’ll keep wearing them until LS stops making them, which I hope is never.

    • David Henry says:

      Thanks for the comment. I figured some people must like them or else Sportiva woudln’t keep making them! I’m surprised you find them so protective though. I’ve run in hundreds of shoes over the last 3-4 years and these are in the lowest 5% on the protection scale (particularly the 2.0). They could do a soft foam and rubber and it would still bend around objects just and yet still not go the morpho dynamic route nor have so many cutouts in the outsole. That’s my main issue with them. Anyway, glad they work for you as is and thanks for reading!

      David

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