La Sportiva Vertical K Review Facts
La Sportiva, known as a mountaineering brand, ventures into minimalist runner territory with their introduction of the Vertical K.This shoe is for the trail runner looking for a lightweight boost to charge vertical hills, while also seeking protection to tread technical terrain. With the innovation of MorphoDynamic EVA and FleXion XF technologies featured in the La Sportiva Vertical K, runners can enjoy a 7.2 oz. shoe apt to cover long distance races and grip wet or dry rocky surfaces.
The Vertical K features FriXion XF, La Sportiva’s rubber technology designed for mountain climbing
. The very sticky black rubber covers the ridges of the EVA midsole layer in a single-track, increasing surface area and improving traction for exposed rock and vertical inclines. This grip allows for speed running up a mountain and helps on snow and ice. Horseshoe-shaped lugs overlay the outsole for more traction. Note that the absence of a rock plate
will leave your feet more vulnerable to especially sharp rocks on technical trails and can cause cracks in the rubber.
The 2-layer MorphoDynamic injection molded Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) foam midsole is lightweight and flexible
. Its unique scalloped design, with a wave of grooves and ridges, saves weight and promotes cushioning and protection, especially in comparison to the typical minimalist model. It has good torsional flex and overall heel-to-toe flex that lets your foot adapt to the feel of the surface beneath your feet and gives you a wide range of motion when charging up and down the hills over uneven rocks. Read also about vegan sport shoes.
The upper features a one-piece AirMesh that creates a unique alternative to a traditional tongue. A 4-way stretch nylon gaiter covers the mesh and together they wrap over the top of the foot, creating an ergonomic, near-seamless fold, rather than a centered tongue sewn into the vamp. It does a nice job of keeping out dirt. Thin laces are hidden underneath, heightening the sock-like, minimalist vibe of the shoe. You should still be able to wear actual socks
. Plus, varying your sock thickness gives you more control over the fit. Some runners struggle to adjust the laces under the gaiter. This could be a deal breaker, as part of the minimalist appeal
is being able to slip into a shoe with an upper that molds to your foot and feels natural for the range of motion and flexibility. The AirMesh is breathable and there is a mesh lining added in the back half and tongue so your feet won’t stick during a long run.
Ultra-lightweight, at roughly 7 oz., the Vertical K is designed for the minimalist looking for that weightlessness to maximize speed, distance and comfort. It’s a radical change from traditional running and anyone will feel the pickup during a race. Test the shoe first to alter your form and work up the muscles in your feet. These are only offered in European sizing, which means there are only one shoe and weight option for both men and women.
A full nylon covering the upper is designed to keep your feet ventilated and able to breathe when clocking up miles and maneuvering technical terrain. Air will circulate through the AirMesh gaiter at the top of your foot and keep your toes comfortable and cool. The mesh won’t prevent your feet from getting wet, but it will allow them to dry and prevent your feet from sticking.
Your feet slip into the Vertical K like they do into socks. The full nylon upper molds to reduce pressure points. The soft EVA lower drop provides a decent amount of cushioning
from hard rocks. The sticky FriXion XF rubber gives a satisfying grip when on the trails. There is plenty of bend throughout the upper and ease for air to seep through the breathable mesh to cool your feet and keep them dry when on the move. A polyurethane leather toe cap keeps your toes protected and comfortable inside a roomy toe box.
With an innovative shoe designed to match many target points all-in-one, singular features might jar for runners. The laces can be difficult to adjust under the gaiter. The exclusion of a rock plate can allow sharp rocks to breach the EVA grooves and ridges. Heel strikers must change their form or be prone to injury. Runners agree that the Vertical K runs small — size up.
Style preferences could go one of two ways with a black shoe covered in yellow accented gray La Sportiva logos repeated lengthwise across the full upper. You might find the obvious branding attractive or offensive. Not that style affects performance, but it’s a factor. You know it. The yellow jacket coloring will stand out
speeding down natural trails and attract attention from other runners. Yellow detail colors the lateral EVA midsole and FriXion-free grooves visible when you’re up on your toes running vertically or pressing off the rock. The toe bumper is shiny black and the EVA heel has a jagged silver-gray outline of a mountain crag. At a glance, the ergonomic one-piece AirMesh cover and hidden lace design definitively add a visual minimalist effect
The Vertical K is made to support runners looking to scale vertical trails and long distance runs
or races through technical terrain. And if that sounds like you, over time, as a relatively minimalist shoe, you can expect some wear and tear. The upper can stretch and the tread can crack. It’s down to runner’s preference whether a lightweight shoe built for speed, breathability, and flexibility is worth having to repurchase due to shorter long-term durability.
An EVA 4 mm drop is made to provide extra protection while keeping the shoe as light as possible. FleXion rubber prevents runners from losing their grip on wet or dry rocky surfaces and full AirMesh around the upper gives runners protection against debris and rocks. The absence of a rock plate does leave runners feeling sharp rocks cut into their feet, which is something to be mindful of on technical trails.
The Vertical K’s lightweight, ergonomic design delivers more feedback from the ground to the runner and will give the minimalist the ‘feel’ or awareness of the ground underneath their forefront strikes as they move on light feet through the hills. The EVA midsole serves only to cushion the landing. A flexible upper gives runners full range of motion and ability to respond to a trail’s steep and hard angles and to get up on their toes for vertical rises. Good technique will be rewarded.
The nylon mesh used in the upper keeps feet snug, reducing pressure points and the need for a tongue. The Vertical K is designed to give runners plenty of support for covering long distances and to continue giving throughout a race. They will absorb enough shock and be a joy to run in, but they do not prevent pronation. Flatfooted runners might need more support to steady feet from rolling inward.
These shoes are made for technical terrain. You could run with them on the pavement, but it would be a waste of the precious sticky FleXion rubber on the outsole. The FleXion and lugs on the ridges overlaying the EVA midsole will be most appreciated on rock and slippery trail surfaces. The lightweight and breathability will push you through longer trails and races, over varied angles and/or sharp inclines.
The La Sportiva Vertical K has been discontinued and is only available for purchase from distributers. This means prices vary. That said, for a lightweight shoe that is open to weaker durability, runners will have to weigh their priorities. Bonus: Prices have gone down from their original $115 starting point and are now being sold from anywhere between $65 and $80 on Amazon.
The EVA wave pattern technology is designed to give runners the traction they need to cover wet or dry rocky surfaces. The Vertical K should withstand speed running up a snowy or icy mountain. Of course, if you’re clumsy you could slip. The FleXion rubber provides additional grip so you can stick to the trail with every step you take.
The Vertical K’s soft midsole, the absence of rock plate and full near-seamless nylon provide complete flexibility. These are perfect for zooming up and down a steep slope. You can really flex on your toes on the trail surface. You also won’t have your heel getting in the way with a 4-foot striker. These shoes let you enjoy unencumbered, full range use of motion. This is a noticeable perk if looking for a lightweight, minimalist shoe.
You can take your finger and fold the Vertical K over from heel-to-toe. But don’t let that candid bendability fool you. The thoughtfully designed EVA midsole and FleXion rubber outsole provide extra stability and are a draw among minimalist runners. If you’re curious about trying a minimalist shoe, the Vertical K is a good place to start. For more stability, the heel has some structure built into the cup and provides extra security, without losing minimalist lightweight comfort.
These give you a low drop, but don't leave you barefoot. The offset is 4 mm from heel to toe, with a heal stack height of 15 mm and toe of 11 mm. They are higher than a zero-drop shoe but lower than a standard 12 mm drop traditional one by far. This makes them a good introduction to minimalist style running.
The small drop is ideal for racing and increased agility. Runners will need to move their running style from heel striker to forefoot striker. This takes conscious effort but pays off. You’ll build up the muscles in your foot, ankle, quads, and core as a result.
• Sticky grip
• MorphoDynamic EVA and FleXion FX technologies
• Good for vertical trails
• Good for long distances
• Close fit
• Low drop
The bottom line is that La Sportiva designed a shoe that lures both traditional and minimalist runners. Lightweight and flexible, the Vertical K is a joy to slip on and feel your feet strike against the ground. MorphoDynamic EVA and FleXion XF rubber prove useful technologies for runners looking for extra support and stability. This shoe looks bold on your feet. There are drawbacks for some runners in durability, comfort and stability. La Sportiva provides an intriguing option that speaks to your sense of adventure and gets you selecting this pair to find out for yourself what these shoes can do.