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Photo credit: Steve Diederich.

La Sportiva Helios SR running shoes review

29-Mar-16

Last updated: 20-Aug-18

By Steve Diederich

The wires have been buzzing ever since the Helios hit the ground last year and, being the curious folk we are, we had to get our feet into a pair to see if the hype matched the reality.

Specifications

  • Weight: 240gms
  • Drop Heel 16mm / Toe 14mm / Drop 2mm
  • Sizes 36-47.5
  • Upper HyDrain Mesh / Wicking EVA Airmesh / Poly Grid / TPU lacing hrness
  • Sole: Frixion XT/VA Wave

First impressions

Picking the shoes out of the box, I thought “uh-oh these are going to be light”. For me, lightweight = pain, in some form. Typically it means under-supported, and under-cushioned. Whilst I like the feeling of trail running in minimalist type shoes – the sad reality is that my running style is more Hippo than Gazelle and I would choose comfort and capable over uber-technical. Don’t get me wrong, I love the purposeful features of my Inov-8 Race Ultras, but if I am heading out of the door in the morning, I will slide my feet into my trusty Salomon Speed Cross every time.

And here is the “however” once on, the SR’s don’t feel like a one trick pony, these shoes have been really well put together in terms of design and production. Really nice touches like softer, elasticated laces, a sock-like inner that lightly hugs your foot and a tongue that is positively plush. Now, La Sportiva should know a thing or two about mountain running coming from the Dolomites in Italy and this type of terrain is where I think the Helios are really going to shine. The rockplate underfoot feels bulletproof, whist still providing great feel and feedback. This would normally be associated with a stiff shoe with contingent restricted movement, however they articulate really well allowing the shoe to stay in contact with uneven terrain.


The shoes do feel comfortable when on, really comfortable. The heel support is good and I got no heel lift with the shoes laced and felt no restriction. The midsole felt slightly under-supported for my taste (I didn’t do any really long distances to properly validate that) and the toe box is adequately protected given the weight of the shoe. There are two surprises. Firstly, there is the nice surprise, the cushioning. There simply doesn’t look like there is much, however both the heel and the toe area are really well protected whilst giving lots of damping comfort. The technical sheet says that there is a 2mm drop on this shoe. It didn’t feel like that, it could have been 4-6 mm which suits my mid-foot strike. The second surprise is that the toe box is shallow, too shallow for me anyway. After eight miles on my first outing I felt my big toe rubbing against the top of the toe box. This was to be repeated on subsequent runs. This could of course just be my wonky feet but I would recommend trying a pair on so that you can work this out for yourself. I normally don’t mind a narrower toe box, but in this case it was the lack of depth of the toe box that was problematic.


Then there is the sole itself – it is a waveform sole – which must help contribute to the lightweight. On muddy slopes, and there are lots of them on my local trails, the mud cleared completely from the grip, these definitely are not purposed mud shoes. However, they offer more grip than you would think given the absence of an aggressive tread pattern. When you get onto stony / rocky terrain, this is where the the sole really shines. The “SR” stands for “Sky Running”. On a rocky course these shoes should be very confidence inspiring, they also look like they would wear well (although soles made of cheese would wear better than my beloved Salomons). I should state that I tested the shoes thorough mud, hard packed stony trails and rock strewn climbs.



One other great thing about these shoes is that they drain well given the construction of their uppers. The loose weave of the material allows you to run in and out of puddles without feeling like you have a paddling pool attached to your feet. I would have no hesitation in using these on a rainforest run or a winter run in the UK.

Summary

I completely understand why there is a buzz about these shoes. With the exception of the toe box issue I had, they are a really competent and well-made shoe that whist designed for mountain running are more than capable of carrying you in comfort over multiple terrains whilst technically performing at a high level.

RRP £100 - Internet price from £70.

So the scores:

Score  
Design 8/10
Features 8/10
Performance 9/10
Value 9/10
Total 8.5/10

 

Other shoes you may want to consider:

inov-8 TerraClaw 250 £ 120
Salomon Speedcross 3 £ 100
Salomon Speedcross Vario Hill £ 95
The North Face Ultra Cardiac £ 100
Altra Superior 2.0 £ 95

Have you used the La Sportiva Helios SR? Don’t agree with this review? What’s your opinion? Add your own comment to this review and share your experience and passion for running with others.

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“these shoes have been really well put together in terms of design and production”

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