Gear

First Look: La Sportiva VK Shoe

Speedy, stylish and supremely comfortable, the VK may be the Maserati of trail-racing shoes

La Sportiva VK Shoe
6.9 ounces
Price: $135

Without a doubt the coolest looking shoes I’ve worn, the La Sportiva VK is a svelte performance model stripped of excess in pursuit of speed, efficiency and, let’s be honest, style. Pulling the shoes out of the box for the first time, I was struck by the shoes’ light weight. Once they were on my feet, I just wanted to go run up something fast.

The VK is built on a narrow last intended to fit closely and eliminate the inefficiencies that result from the extra space built into most everyday trainers. I have a narrower foot, and would describe the fit as “almost tight.” Those with wider forefeet might find the toebox prohibitively narrow, but the fit is consistent with many of the marathon flats currently available.

In keeping with the old, discontinued Vertical K, the VK’s upper is slipper-like, seamless and stretches to conform to the foot. Consequently, it wraps the midfoot and holds the heel securely. The lacing system is a unique thin cord more similar to the webbing on a daypack than to a traditional shoelace. Anchored by dual eyelets on either side of the forefoot, the lace crosses once over the top of the foot and wraps behind the heel. It’s worth noting that while the lacing system doesn’t cinch down the upper as dramatically as a conventional lacing system, the fit and security of the VK’s seamless upper eliminates reliance on the lacing system to dial in that fit and security.

The midsole is thin and flexible, but also firm. Pushing hard off the forefoot while running steep ascents, I felt that I could trust the shoe’s energy return. On the descents, the VK was responsive while dancing through technical sections and offered just enough protection to let it rip on steep, if short, descents. In this sense, it serves its purpose well: it is nimble and responsive on fast runs over a relatively short distance. I’d be hesitant to go much over 15 miles with it. The midsole simply doesn’t offer the type of protection I’d prefer for longer-distance runs. Moreover, lacking a rock plate, the runner should be cognizant of foot placement, and take care to avoid the type of sharp rock and terrain features that can generate foot pangs.

The outsole is grippy, but certainly not overbuilt. The dual direction, staggered, “v” shaped lugs offer a stable hold pushing off the forefoot, and a secure grip when the heel is engaged during steep descents. The outsole functioned fine on smooth rock and packed dirt, but was, predictably, not as reliable as a shoe with a sticky-rubber outsole. Because the outsole is not over-built, I actually found that the VK felt comfortable on roads, both running at a faster clip during light workouts and while running from my doorstep to the trailhead. 

Lastly, as noted above, the VK just looks cool. The clean black, form-fitting upper, accented by bold yellow “La Sportiva” lettering and lace system is visually appealing and quintessentially “Sportiva.” It brings some attitude and a modest Euro flair to a shorter-distance trail racing shoe, complimenting the model’s engineering to deliver a package which unmistakably communicates the shoe’s intended purpose: to run up and down fast.

Casey Weaver fell in love with the aesthetic and the cathartic self-awareness drawn from the process of long-distance running. He typically runs 80-to-100-mile weeks in the mountains of Colorado.