La Sportiva Bushido II Trail Runner Review

La Sportiva Bushido II Trail Runner Review
The La Sportiva Bushido II is a lightly cushioned mesh trail runner that provides excellent traction and stability. It is designed for hiking and trail running in rugged terrain with numerous design elements designed to protect your feet including excellent toe protection, a rock plate, and a very stiff midsole that won’t collapse underfoot if you have to carry a heavy pack. A burly outsole and grippy lugs provide excellent traction while a very low stack height provides a very stable shoe with great sensitivity and trail feel.  Fitwise, the Bushido runs narrow with a low-volume interior that will not fit people requiring a wide-width shoe. But if you are looking for a trail runner that provides a glove-like fit and wears like a second skin, the Bushido II can’t be beat.

Specs at a Glance

  • Trail Running Shoe Type: Rugged Trail
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop (mm): 6
  • Heel Stack Height (mm): 19
  • Forefoot Stack Height (mm): 13
  • Closure: Lace
  • Rock Plate: Yes
  • Weight (Pair): 1 lb. 4.5 oz / 596g
  • Wide Sizes Available: No
  • Sizing: European half sizes,  38 – 47.5

Traction

The Bushido feels like a climbing shoe when it comes to traction, a testament to the company’s climbing and mountaineering chops. The sole is soft and sticky making it great for scrambling up, down, and across rock slabs and boulder fields in addition to wet rock, gravel, dirt, grass, and even tree roots.

The soles are soft and grippy, with perimeter nodes that provide extra traction on uneven surfaces.
The soles are soft and grippy, with perimeter nodes that provide extra traction on uneven surfaces.

While the lugs aren’t super long, they are soft and sticky with beefy perimeter nodes, that provide extra points of contact on uneven and broken surfaces. In fact, the grip provided by the Bushido soles is even better than the traction provided by La Sportiva’s iconic Ultra Raptor II trail runner, which is really saying something if you’ve ever used that shoe.

Stability

The Bushido II also excels when it comes to stability, because of its low stack height and extremely stiff chassis. With a heel and forefoot stack height of 19 mm and 13 mm, your feet are a lot lower to the ground than in many other popular trail runners. To put this in perspective, the stack height of the Bushido is nearly half that of the Salomon Speedcross 6 and 25% less than even the Altra Lone Peak 6, providing better stability and trail feel.

The Bushido II is a very low profile shoe with an low stack height
The Bushido II is a very low profile shoe with a low stack height

The Bushido is also a remarkably stiff shoe, with a reinforced heel and rigid midsole that is highly responsive to directional changes without the sluggish response you get in shoes with a softer sole. This coupled with a glove-like fit, makes the Bushido feel like a second skin.

While that close fit is one of the Bushido’s greatest attributes, it can also be a curse if you prefer a shoe that has a much wider toe box or has more vertical space. The fit is decidedly narrow and snug and while sizing up a half or full European size can help, you’ll experience an immediate loss of responsiveness in the forefoot if the toe box is too long.

The Bushido II has a beefy toe kick that is rigid in the middle and extends along the sides of the toe box.
The Bushido II has a beefy toe kick that is rigid in the middle and extends along the sides of the toe box.

Protection

As a hiker and backpacker, one of the first things I look at on a trail runner is the amount of toe protection at the front of the shoe and along the sides of the toe box. The Bushido II scores a 10/10 when it comes to toe protection in a trail runner, another common trait across the La Sportiva trail runner product line. It’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back to La Sportiva trail runners for hiking and backpacking, time and again.

Shoes with beefy toe kicks protect toenails from nail trauma (which a lot of hikers experience) while bumpers along the sides of the toe box provide protection from side impacts. The Bushidos have a wraparound toe kick that is rock hard in the middle but softens along the sides so the toes and forefoot can flex freely.

The mesh uppers are well protected from abrasion, extending the life of the the mesh.
The mesh uppers are well protected from abrasion, extending the life of the mesh while still enabling ventilation and drainage.

But that toe protection is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Bushido II which has reinforced impact and abrasion resistance zones that cover the mesh uppers from heel to toe. While these cover up a considerable amount of the mesh “real-estate” on the shoe and impact ventilation, they also significantly improve the durability of the mesh uppers. It is always a tradeoff: the porous mesh on a trail runner is great for ventilation and drainage, but it is often the first point of failure in a trail runner, well before the soles wear down.

La Sportiva Bushido II Trail Runners

Foot Protection
Traction
Stability
Sensitivity
Comfort
Weight
Durabiility

Panther Like Trail Feel

The La Sportiva Bushido II is a lightly cushioned mesh trail runner that provides excellent traction and stability. It is designed for hiking and trail running in rugged terrain with numerous design elements designed to protect your feet including excellent toe protection, a rock plate, and a very stiff midsole that won't collapse underfoot if you have to carry a heavy pack.

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Drainage

One of the key reasons that hikers prefer trail runners is that you can obtain them without a waterproof/breathable liner and they drain and dry quickly (See Why Do Some Hikers Prefer Trail Runners). Speaking for myself, I like to splash through streams without taking off my trail runners rather than carrying stream crossing shoes or braving crossings in bare feet.

Mesh holes along the side, just above the midsole, augment drainage.
Mesh holes along the side, just above the midsole, augment drainage.

While much of the mesh covering the Bushido II’s is covered with protective layers, they still drain satisfactorily after submersion, with footbed level drainage ports designed for this purpose. I’ve had better draining trail runners, like the Saucony Peregrine and the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor, but the upper mesh on those shoes does not stand up to the abrasion of hiking on mountain trails as well.

When it comes to stream crossings, the Bushido II does not let sand or grit through the mesh, which is a big deal because it will quickly wear holes in your socks if it gets in your shoes. La Sportiva has switched to a finer-grained mesh in its version 2 models, including the Ultra Raptor II that we reviewed earlier this summer. This is a big improvement.

The mesh weave is fine enough to prevent sand from entering the shoe during stream crossings.
The mesh weave is fine enough to prevent sand from entering the shoe during stream crossings.

Cushioning

The Bushido II is lightly cushioned, primarily in the heel and in the midsole. La Sportiva rates the Bushido as a 35A, which denotes a very firm and rigid cushion, designed more for protection and support than comfort like a Hoka One One Mafete Speed 4 or the other bedroom slippers they sell (just kidding). This actually makes the Bushido II a good pick if you carry a heavy backpack or a larger individual in need of extra support.

The forefoot is also firm with an EVA rock plate that protects your forefoot and metatarsals from hard impacts and sharp rocks. Rock plates are specific to trail running shoes. They are hard plastic or carbon fiber inserts situated between the midsole and outsole that are usually placed in the front of a trail runner but can run its entire length, as in the La Sportiva Jackal trail runner. 

The tongue is well padded so you can really crank down on the laces.
The tongue is well padded so you can really crank down on the laces.

Finally, the upper half of the tongue is well padded so you can tighten the laces without feeling pressure on top of the foot. But overall, the Bushido is only lightly cushioned and more focused on protecting your feet than pampering them.

Recommendation

The La Sportiva Bushido II is a close-fitting and low-profile technical trail runner designed for running and hiking on mountainous terrain. It’s a very stable and supportive shoe that can handle heavy loads and rocky trails with ease but is built for durability over ventilation or cushioning. If you are looking for an excellent scrambling shoe with otherwordly traction and foot protection, I recommend giving the Bushido IIs a try. They do run narrow and have a low volume toe box which may be a turn-off for some, but that is offset by a panther-like trail feel that must be experienced to be fully appreciated.

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15 comments

  1. I’m on my fourth pair of the Bushido II shoes and love everything about them… except the lack of padding in the sole. After 15+ miles the soles of my feet just start to ache and make each step uncomfortable by the end of a long day. Can anyone suggest a similar shoe that has just a little bit more midfoot cushion in it?

    • Have you looked into using a different insole? The thin, wimpy ortholite foam insoles that La Sportiva ships in their shoes may be the culprit or you might need a little more arch support. Something like a thin Superfeet Carbon might fit as a replacement.

      • I just switched to a superfeet hiker insole. It helped, but now my feet start aching at 15-ish miles instead of 10-12. Maybe I just need to suck it up and backpack more to toughen up my feet.

  2. How do feel these compare to the La Sportiva Wildcats?

    • Like gloves for your feet. The Wildcat is more of a normal shoe, very similar to the Ultra Raptor, with much more cushioning, internal volume, and exposed mesh. The Bushidos are more akin to tiger paws than shoes.

  3. What shoe sounds as good as this but with a wide toe box? I don’t need a wide shoe but have a bunion that needs to be accommodated.

  4. just started using a new pair and was very disappointed with the grip. Did rocky branch up to isolation last Saturday and was slipping on the wet rocks. Sunday did the wildcats and again, lots of slipping on the wet rocks. Felt like they changed the rubber compound since my 2020 Bushido IIs were ok, these were the same model a year later and shouldn’t have had any changes. Nothing compares to the Altra MT King 1.5s I had before Alta changed them up. Wish I had bought a few extra pairs before they changed them.

  5. Great review. I agree with all of your observations, except I had to size up from my usual 43/43.5 all the way up to a 45 to make them fit right. Once I dialed that in, I’ve been a huge fan of these shoes and use them on all of my “scrambling” hikes (pretty much all of my hikes). However, if I were just doing long miles on a well-worn, limited-obstacle trail, I might opt for something else with a little more cushion. I can confirm that these have wonderful grip and stability, and dry quite quickly.

  6. Did you end up with the same size in the Bushido II as you did in the Ultra Raptor II? Now that I’ve finally figured out my correct size in the Raptors, I’d like to avoid another revolving door of try-on pairs for the Bushidos.

  7. I’m about to purchase my third pair. Review is completely accurate and I would add/emphasize trying on, even a couple pairs of the same size. With that glove like fit even small differences count. Also, the shoes warm up and feel less stiff after a bit.

  8. For many years, I’ve really admired La Sportiva’s build quality, but until recently I couldn’t find a model that fit me. Instead, I’ve been mostly hiking in Salomon X Ultra 3s and 4s (lows and mids). I’ve also dabbled in light weight trail runners from Altra and Topo Athletics.

    Over the years, I’ve tried on many pairs of Wildcats, Bushidos, and most recently, Jackals – going up +.5, +1.0, and +1.5 in length — all in futile attempt to get the correct width for my admittedly wonky toes.

    So, while I wanted to love the Bushidos, I recently purchased Ultra Raptors Lows in Goretex (not my preference) because they come in wide. Wow, finally wide – these shoes really fit — and just .5 larger than my normal size. I had to get over my disdain for Goretex, but I’m really impressed with the quality and feel of these shoes.

    Like others, I just wish La Sportiva would make Bushidos and other shoes in a true wide (and without GTX).

  9. Sportiva makes some great shoes, really like my Akyra, they fit like a glove and are very grippy. Tried the Bushidos but I felt the sole was too thin, felt every rock. My girlfriend on the other hand swears by them. Your a correct they do use some wimpy insoles so I have to switch them out with a pair of Oboz..

    • After trying both the Ultra Raptor and the Bushido 2 I also settled in on Akrya. The Akyra is like a happy medium between the two for me. You get the cushioning and beefier protection of the Ultra Raptor but the more aggressive tread of the Bushido. I had achy feet in the minimalistic Bushido and wasn’t pleased with the quick wear of the Ultra Raptors soles.

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