La Sportiva announced their MorphoDynamic midsole technology in November 2011. Since that time, a handful of shoes have come out using this midsole design. The latest of that bunch is the Helios — which I’ve had for several months now. The ride is truly unique with stellar comfort in the right trail conditions.

La Sportiva helios Helios Features:

  • MorphoDynamic midsole cusioning system
  • Gusseted tongue
  • Hydrain Nylon® mesh allows quick drainage
  • 4mm drop
  • Weight: 8.1 oz (stated)
  • MSRP: $120

Sherpa Imja Jacket and La Sportiva Helios Shoes

My Experience

La Sportiva has developed several hit trail running shoes of late and the Helios represents one of their latest advances in mountain running — MorphoDynamic midsole. Morpho what? MorphoDynamic is La Sportiva’s latest midsole technology that’s built to provide improved trail cushioning and traciton by morphing the midsole around obstacles.

With MorphoDynamic, you get an extremely-comfortable shoe. Honestly, on flatland, the Helios is one of the most comfy pair of shoes I’ve worn. They fit so nice and worked so well as casual kicks, I didn’t want to get them dirty too quickly. Alas, the dirt beckoned and the Helios was relegated to trail duty — where they should be, right?

La Sportiva Helios Trail Running Shoes

The mesh uppers breathe super-well and have been excellent over the past month of Sahara-like temperatures. My feet sweat up a storm and the uppers had no problem keeping up with my feet’s sweat production. The welded outer skeleton provides ample foot support where needed and kept my foot in a great position in all terrain.

The style and function of the lacing system in my mind is of the utmost importance with any trail runner. The narrow-gauge laces thread through metal eyelets for a smooth, consistent pull. If you like a lacing system that moves with your feet and adapts with every step, these are some of the best since the metal eyelets allow for dynamic lace movements with each step. I found this to be comfortable most of the time — except when I wanted to pinpoint pressure at a certain spot. The only way to isolate lacing pressure is to get tricky with the laces, which I may just have to do.

My typical trail running terrain consists of dry, loose and rocky. I’m not talking rounded river rocks, these are sharp and craggy granite chunks that challenge even the most protective shoes. Under those conditions, I felt like the Helios showed their limitations as the midsole simply couldn’t cushion and protect against intrusion.

La Sportiva Helios Outsole

MorphoDynamic, in a way, cushions the terrain from the runner instead of cushioning the runner from the terrain. Each step, the EVA foam pretty much elvelops every obstacle in its path. To accomplish this, the outsole is minimalistic with about 40% of the outsole being exposed foam. The remaining outsole treads are very low-profile and offer acceptable but not best-in-class traction under the wet and dry conditions encountered.

When conditions were wet and rainy, the Helios effectively drained water and kept things comfortable. The uppers provide little in the way of water repellency, so keep that in mind if you do lots of running in wet conditions.

Durability has been good so far with the exception of the inside cuff where the stride of my opposite foot has hit a few times, tearing a bit of a hole just aft of the uppermost eyelets.

For reference, I’m 5’11” and 170 lbs. My typical trail running pace is about 9:00/mi over varied terrain. My strike is mid/forefoot.

The Good:

  • Very comfortable on smooth surfaces
  • Breathability is superb
  • Lightweight design without being too minimalist
  • Gussetted tongue keeps scree out
  • Cool styling for casual wear
  • Minimal drop places your feet close to the ground for extra stability

The Bad:

  • Not much underfoot trail protection
  • Can’t pinpoint your lacing pressure due to metal eyelets
  • Runs very small… size up one full size
  • Narrow width offers little wiggle room in the toebox

The Bottom Line

For smooth singletrack trails or mixed pavement/dirt use, the Helios is a superb choice with great breathability and lightweight comfort. When the trails get technical, rocky and loose, they start to struggle keeping up.

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About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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