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A Great Do-Everything Trail Runner: La Sportiva Prodigio / Levante ($155)


No matter where you live, you're probably within an hour of a great place to go trail running. While we all may enjoy easy escapes from pavement, the kinds of trails that exist in your region will certainly vary greatly compared to others. The best way to figure out which trail running shoes you should buy should be based mostly on the type of terrain you run on most often. But just about every region (including Boulder, Colorado, where I live) has trails that have a variety of surfaces, so ultimately your buying decision comes down to selecting a pair of shoes that works for most types of terrain.


One of the shoes I’ve been running a lot in this spring is the La Sportiva Prodigio, a new all-mountain runner that somewhat breaks the mold for a brand typically known for hard-core technical mountain running shoes. Built on an energetic new midsole foam, it’s what I would consider the first true all-terrain running shoe from La Sportiva. What also makes this shoe notable is that the women’s version – known as the Levante – was designed with significant input from La Sportiva pro Silke Koester and other women trail runners.


What’s New: The Prodigio is a brand new shoe from La Sportiva built on its new, XFlow midsole foam (a supercritical, nitrogen-infused EVA foam) that provides responsive cushioning like a road running shoe on a stable secure base that’s ideal for running on a wide variety of surfaces. It also has a high-tenacity engineered knit upper and a dual-compound sticky rubber FriXion XT 2.0 outsole that provides great traction on rocks, roots and other trail obstacles while still being flexible and resilient to run over hard-packed trails and bike paths.


FIT/FEEL/RIDE: The La Sportiva Prodigio runs a bit small like most La Sportiva trail shoes, so going through a try-on session is crucial to getting the right size. La Sportiva shoes are designed on a Euro sizing scale, which tends to run shorter for comparable U.S. sizes. For example, I’m typically a 10.5 in everything and usually that’s about 43.5-44.0 in Euro sizing, but in La Sportivas I’m typically in the 11.0-11.5 range, which is somewhere around 45.5 in Euro sizing. Once I got the right size, I found the Prodigio has a medium-narrow interior volume and a roomy toe box that was connected in a compact, comfortable fit secured by a gusseted tongue and a soft, engineered mesh upper. The interior felt soft and sleek, but not overly plush with moderate ankle collar padding and a mid-range sockliner underfoot.


What makes the Prodigio compelling is the energetic ride. While I initially knew the lively sensation in my stride was because of the responsive, medium-thick XFlow foam midsole, I quickly realized it was a combination of the foam and how the shoe was put together. The dual-compound rubber outsole is both firm and flexible, while the accommodating upper is both stretchy and secure. It has a wide enough footprint to have some inherent stability, but it’s still agile enough for nimble running on technical terrain. That allowed me to run with confidence on smooth dirt trails, moderate, semi-technical routes and extremely rocky routes around Boulder. 


Why It’s Great: It’s great because there’s nothing the Prodigio can’t tackle. While I’d consider it a do-everything all-around trail shoe, its range is a lot wider than most shoes in that class. That range is made possible because the Prodigio offers soft, responsive cushioning, reliable traction and exceptional proprioceptive feel for the trail. Its sweet spot is variable terrain with a mix of dirt, rocks, gravel and other moderately technical features, but it also runs well on smooth dirt terrain without any debris and can also handle rocky ridgelines with aplomb. OK, it’s not the absolute best shoe for running on smooth dirt trails (because it’s heavier than some more agile road-to-trail shoes) or rugged mountain trails (because it’s not as protective as it could be), but it’s very capable on both ends of the spectrum.


Specifications

Weights: 8.6 oz. (women’s 8); 9.5 oz. (men’s 9) Heel-Toe Offset: 6mm (34mm at the heel, 28mm at the forefoot)


Why You’ll Love It: It’s the best of both worlds. The Prodigio is almost as comfortable and responsive as a pair of road running shoes, but it’s as durable and grippy as any pair of trail running shoes you’ve worn in the past few years. Even if you live in a place like Boulder – which has a wide range of trails – the Prodigio could be the only trail shoe in your quiver. (I’d always recommend having more than one shoe available, but this one is exceptionally versatile and adept at running every route nearby.)


Plus: The women’s version, the La Sportiva Levante, is a shoe built on a women’s specific last and has a unique stretch lacing system and dynamic upper to optimally meet the unique specifications of women’s feet (typically narrower in the heel, higher under the arch and wider in the forefoot) and gait patterns.


Minus: If you only run mild dirt trails, the Prodigo might be “too much shoe” for your needs. But if you mostly run gnarly mountain trails, you might think the Prodigio isn’t burly or protective enough. However, if you run every kind of trail surface imaginable, you’ll find the Prodigio to be more than sufficient on just about any type of trail.

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