How to pick your shoes? There’s no longer just road and trail, but gravel/rock vs mud/snow, waterproof vs breathable, zero drop vs big heels, rock plate vs ground feel, the list goes on. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all these options, but rest assured they’re all pretty good and you’ll be fine as long as you choose something that’s comfy for YOUR feet. The reason I like the La Sportiva Mutant is its versatility – I could rock up to any new race wearing these and know that I’d get through whatever variety of surfaces and terrain the race director happens to throw at us – from a quick lap around Mystic at 4 Peaks to a full day slog at Hounslow ultra. There may be specialised situations where I’d wear something else (e.g. short and fast – racing flat like the Helios SR, long and hard ground – more cush like the Akasha) but for adaptability and confidence on a range of surfaces I’d go for the Mutants.
Big chunky soft rubber lugs bite into the turf – particularly helpful on mud/snow or for punching through leaf litter on a fresh single track descent. The rubber is soft enough to stick to smooth/wet surfaces like rock too. With a decent slice of mid-sole cushioning, they feel comfy on the hard fire trails and pointy rocks too. The Mutant has a 10mm heel drop – which is bigger than I’d wear every day, but on steep climbs and long races I find a bit of a heel gives some extra support to my achilles and reduces the chance of any pain flaring up. Weight wise, they’re around 310g (size 42) which falls between a racing flat and the beefier hiking shoe hybrids – it’s a trade-off between protection and weight. The fit is reasonably generous for some forefoot swelling late in ultras, but the ankle is cut a bit higher than normal. This allows you to tighten the shoe around the ankle for security on violent descents, as well as helping to keep the mud/snow/pebbles out of your shoes. This also means it’s a good option to avoid ankle socks (and skin rubbing) by showing off your longer socks like the Mund Ultra Raid (which Buffalo/Hounslow runners will be familiar with from their race packs!).
If I was heading away for a week of random trail running and only taking one pair of shoes, they would be the La Sportiva Mutant.
Review by Tom Brazier