La Sportiva Vertical K, $115
Weight – M: 7.0 oz.; W: (unisex shoe; women’s weight approximately 5.9 oz.)
Fit: The Vertical K fits super-snug throughout, to the point that some runners preferred a shoe a half-size larger than what they normally wear. That snugness does add to the agility, but it can also put your toes in harm’s way on technical trails strewn with rocks and other debris.
Feel: These definitely feel like racing flats for the trails. They’re super-light and have the narrow, low-volume fit and low-to-the-ground feel of a road racer. The snug heel and midfoot area and the sticky rubber outsole contribute to the shoe’s outstanding handling on all types of trails, as does a relatively flat heel-toe drop (4mm). These bad boys definitely make you want to run fast.
Ride: Fast and free sum up the ride of this shoe. It has an ample amount of soft foam cushioning, but not so much that it inhibits the feel for the trail. It doesn’t have much structure at all, so any stability has to come from a runner’s strength, agility and balance. One of the only downfalls of this shoe is that it doesn’t have a rockplate built into the midsole, which means, on more technical trails with jagged rocks, you can feel every sharp rock under foot.
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