Many of the minimal trail running shoes on the market look so minimal that I worry about stability. Sure, it’s helpful to look for a small heel to toe drop, but what if you’re looking for protection underfoot? That’s exactly what you get with the La Sportiva Vertical K shoes.
Because I’ve turned my ankle before and I run on uneven dirt trails with plenty of roots and rocks, I tend towards stability shoes. That’s where this shoe was useful. It’s got the clean lines and minimal weight (6.9 ounces), but the semi-beefy midsole is enough to let you rest easy about stability.
The midsole, referred to as “MorphoDynamic,” is cushy enough to absorb weight, but it’s flexible enough to keep you light on your feet on the trails. The outsole, which runs along the midsole waves, has more grip than your average trail runner, providing traction on difficult terrain.
The design, a one-piece wrap with few seams, fits well and allows you to run without socks, if that’s your preference. The black color is neutral enough, but written across nearly every inch of the show is a yellow and silver “La Sportiva.” It’s a little flashy for me, but it doesn’t interfere with the shoe’s performance.
I’ve worn the shoes around my home-turf trails: California’s Coastal Trail and some forest trails in the Coastal Mountains. They’re among my favorites, especially because they smash relatively flat for packing.
The Vertical K shoes are unisex, and that usually worries me, because it means there isn’t a specific women’s model based on a women’s last. In this case, it wasn’t a problem for me; the shoe fit without a problem (I did get a half size smaller, though). However, it is a challenge finding small enough sizes online, because the shoe is often sold as a men’s version—with larger sizes only. The 2013 shoe will have both men’s and women’s sizing.