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Dirty Runner: La Sportiva Helios Trail Shoe Review

La Sportiva HeliosI must confess that I have never run in La Sportiva shoes before this pair of Helios arrived at my door. Although the Vertical K interested me, I read that the toe-box was quite narrow. Since I have always enjoyed shoes with large toe-boxes, I just never gave them a chance. When the Helios was released it looked much more like my kind of shoe because it has more cushioning and a 4-5mm heel/forefoot differential.

La Sportiva describes the Helios as: A “MINIMALIST, HIGHLY BREATHABLE, FAST DRAINING NEUTRAL TRAIL SHOE PERFECT FOR ALL LEVELS OF TRAIL RUNNING AND LIGHT ROAD USE”. Well, that sounds pretty good! That’s just the type of trail shoe that I like!


I received the shoes just as I started ramping up my training for the Massanutten Mountain 100 (Disclosure: these shoes were provided free of charge for review puroses by the kind folks at La Sportiva). The first pair they sent was in my usual size, 10.5 and I could hardly even get my feet into them. I checked with my buddy Ryan, who had recently bought a pair as well. He had the same experience and both of us sized up a full size. I like my shoes a bit on the large side, to accommodate swelling from a long day of running, so most people will only need to size up 1/2 a size.

I find the fit to be nice and snug over the forefoot, which is excellent at preventing my foot from sliding forward on long descents. Although the toe box feels snug, it doesn’t feel too narrow and I have never had any blisters running in them.

The mesh material used is light and airy with welded overlays to provide a snug fit.  They drain extremely well.

The sole has a nice level of cushioning.  Not minimal by any means, but not burly.  The level of flexibility is very good for a shoe with this thick of a sole.

The tread consists of sticky rubber around channels of exposed EVA foam.  As you would expect from La Sportiva, the “FriXion” rubber is incredibly grippy. Some of the best I’ve ever experienced over wet New England rocks. La Sportiva is world renowned for their climbing shoes and they know a thing or two about awesome grip.

Orange happens to be my favorite color, so I love how these shoes look, for whatever that’s worth.

The gusseted tongue does an excellent job of keeping dirt and grit out of the shoe and keeping it in place mile after mile.  This is a “set it and forget it” shoe.  No fiddling mid-run with these puppies.

La Sportiva lists the weight as 8.1oz.  Presumably, that would be for a size 9. My size 11.5’s weigh 9.5, which I think is very competitive.  They certainly feel light while running in them.

The heel cup is a bit stiffer than I normally prefer, and at first I didn’t have any problem with it. I did notice that the more I ran in them the more I noticed that it applied a bit too much pressure to my heel spur.  I believe that I just have sensitive heels and don’t really think it will be an issue for most people.

Rock protection in toe bumper area is fine. I have kicked many rocks in them and don’t find them to be lacking in this area.

I had actually planned on wearing these shoes for MMT, which is known for its brutal rocks. But, the week before the race, while running on local quarry trails, I stepped on a sharp rock in the exposed area and got quite a bruise on my forefoot. The thought of trying to complete 103 miles over rocky trail with bruised feet was enough to make me second guess using them for a race. That was a real bummer considering that I liked them enough to purchase a second pair so I could rotate them during the race.

I still wear the Helios quite often and they’re a valuable part of my current arsenal of trail shoes. I currently have about 250 miles on them. I have thrown everything imaginable at them and they’re holding up really well. The sole shows normal wear and there are no tears or rips.

250 miles and still going strong.

The La Sportiva Helios fit nicely in what I call the “Middleamal” category – low drop with solid cushioning (Running Warehouse lists them at 20mm heel, 15mm forefoot stack height). These are also the trail shoes that my wife Amy bought for hiking and she loves them. They have a MSRP of $120.

The La Sportiva Helios can be purchased at Running Warehouse, Amazon, or Zappos. Now through 4/19/2013 you can buy them at Amazon for 20% off if you use the coupon SHOE4DAD at checkout.

Nate Sanel is an ultrarunner and author of the Dirty Runner column on Runblogger. You can find more of Nate’s writing on his personal blog, Biker Nate, or follow him on Twitter.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. I’m curious to know a bit more about sizing on this shoe. I, too, typically wear a 10.5 in U.S. sizing. What European size did you initially receive?

  2. Hi Jake,
    I too typically wear a 10.5 and as I stated in the review 10.5 was way to small in this shoe. I went with a full size up and the 11.5’s fit really well. I do like a lot of toebox room, so you might get away with a 11.

  3. NeutrinoMan says:

    Mine are just about worn out and I’m depressed La Sportiva discontinued these shoes. The newer models of Helios are a step down in features and quality.

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