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February 15, 2010

La Sportiva Fireblade Review; La Sportiva Coupon Code Sale

La Sportiva has steadily become one of my favorite companies, as much for their contributions to the ultrarunning community as for their high-performance footwear. I’ve been happy with three different models I’ve tested - see reviews of the Wildcat here, Crosslite here, or Wildcat GTX here on FeedTheHabit.com – with the Crosslite being my “If you had a 50-mile race coming up and only one pair of shoes, what would you pick?” model of choice.

So when Wilderness Running Company wanted to do a promotional sale with La Sportiva footwear, it didn’t take much convincing for me to play along – especially since there was a concurrent opportunity to review a prominent La Sportiva model I hadn’t yet tested. Information on the coupon code sale is at the end of the post, and a review of the La Sportiva Fireblade follows below.

Truthfully, a lot of my homework for this review was already done by Stacy at WRC, who posted this excellent comparison (complete with groovy pop culture reference point - he's good people) between the Fireblade and La Sportiva’s more popular Wildcat model in terms of build and performance. The Fireblade’s construction is such that it gives a firmer overall feel and promotes a slightly different running style than the Wildcat, with an outsole that is a bit more versatile for the everyday trail runner – all of which will be explained shortly. As usual, we’ll start from the top …

The Fireblade’s upper is pretty standard La Sportiva design: AirMesh material that keeps dust out but provides good ventilation, synthetic leather overlays, and a scree guard on top that also helps anchor the foot to the midsole of the shoe. There’s a rubber cap in front for toe protection, which I’ve personally tested (unwillingly) a few times – it works quite well. Another item of note is that one color option for this model is a very bright orange and black … in case you’re worried about getting shot by hunters, I guess.

Where the Fireblade distinguishes itself from the other models is the midsole, which features a triple-density EVA in comparison to single-density EVA in the Wildcat and most other trainers. Thickness is 26mm in the heel, and 16mm in the forefoot; the “delta” (height difference) of 10mm makes it relatively flatter than most trail shoes on the market as well (12mm delta is typical, although La Sportiva’s Crosslite also has a delta of 10).

These two structural differences – firmer and flatter – are what gives the Fireblade a unique feel, and influences the way you run in them. Although the high-density EVA is exceedingly durable – theoretically, it should last three times as long as single-density EVA before wearing out – it’s not super-cushiony to begin with. Instead, you feel a solid platform underneath you on all kinds of terrain. This diminished cushioning, combined with a relatively flat delta, have another fringe benefit: it discourages heavy heel strike in favor of a more forward impact area. In other words, if you happen to be a minimalist or barefoot runner and want to maintain a midfoot strike when wearing traditional trainers, the Fireblades accommodate this very nicely. (Hooray!)

The underside of the Fireblade features La Sportiva’s FriXion AT/Racing outsole, which is noticeably less knobby than either the Wildcat or Crosslite. The lugs are somewhat shallow, giving you strong traction on hard surfaces like sandstone or granite, and pretty decent grip on other types of terrain. I found them to be a bit slippery on a recent wilderness run that turned into a long bushwhacking session on steep slopes (separate post coming soon), but for your standard-fare fire roads and single track, they are more than adequate.

Shallow lugs also allow the shoe to function as something of a hybrid that you could use for a 3 or 4-mile run to the trailhead before heading into the dirt. In that regard, they could meet a similar need as Salomon’s XT Wings, but in a style that’s slightly lighter and noticeably lower to the ground, and quite a bit more affordable. Overall weight of the Fireblade is 366g (12.9 oz), which is on the heavy side compared to La Sportiva’s 350g Wildcat and 336g Crosslite – so while this is officially categorized as a racing shoe, it would be equally useful as a durable high mileage trainer for everyday use.

I can’t say that the Fireblade is my new #1 shoe – the lighter weight and more aggressive tread of the Crosslite still win me over – but that’s the nice thing about the promotion currently offered by Wilderness Running Company. From now through the end of February, they’re offering a $20 discount on ANY La Sportiva shoe in their inventory. Try the Fireblade for yourself, or grab a good deal on the Wildcat or Crosslite or any other model. Since your purchase price will still be over $50, it qualifies for free shipping, so you save a few bucks there as well.

But here’s where things get tricky, so pay attention: the coupon code for this one is different than my regular one. This time, type in lasportiva to apply the $20 discount at checkout, and enjoy getting to know your La Sportivas.

(Of course, if you like, you can do more shopping and use my R&R10 code for a 10% discount on a separate order. Just a suggestion.)

*Product provided by Wilderness Running Company
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at


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