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We Chatted With La Sportiva’s Shoe Designer About the New Prodigio Trail Runner

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You probably fell in love with running because of its simplicity. You harness a tenet of basic human locomotion — pushing off the ground to generate forward motion. In most cases, it makes your day better and puts a smile on your face.

La Sportiva’s R&D Team Product Leader, Nicola Dalla Costa, has a pretty rad job — figuring out how to optimize that very basic tenet of human locomotion to make your running experience as comfortable, efficient, and enjoyable as possible.

Dalla Costa and his team are the brains behind La Sportiva’s sleek new Prodigio trail running shoe, which harnesses La Sportiva’s brand-new XFlow midsole technology to both cushion and stabilize your foot, giving you the ability to run farther and faster with less fatigue, all in a low-profile package.

Dalla Costa grew up in the mountains of Italy, mountain biking, climbing, and skiing in his youth before falling in love with ultra running 12 years ago. “From that point all my personal studies and research, all my professional life, has been focused around this passion,” he said.

That has taken him all across the world, working with brands like Mizuno and Shimano in Japan, Under Armour and Quiksilver in the U.S., and a handful of European outdoor brands, designing products from shoes to helmets and goggles, and more. 

Today, he leads product design and innovation at La Sportiva for the Mountain Running category. “New perspectives, new technologies, new ways to think and design performance products, that’s my added value. As a user who’s passionate about running, I try to figure out what are tomorrow’s needs and how the brand I work for can meet them,” Dalla Costa said.

Learn More About the Prodigio

Designing the Ultimate Mountain Running Shoe

La Sportiva has a long history leading the mountain sports footwear industry for things like climbing, hiking, skiing, and running. Dalla Costa and his team designed the new Prodigio shoe to be the best-balanced choice for long-distance mountain running combining cushioning, reactivity, and sensitivity without being an over-the-top maximalist.

In other words, it’s sleek and looks relatively minimalist. Weighing under 300 g, it packs many features to maximize performance and comfort in 50-100-mile races. Combining new technologies like nitrogen-infused foam (XFlow) and light and super-breathable upper materials proved challenging for the team. But Dalla Costa feels like they succeeded in the face of adversity.

“We are excited with the final result and how our initial design brief has been realized,” he reinforced. 

When he first started thinking about Prodigio, Dalla Costa was not just thinking about high-level ultra runners. “I was engaged to find a way to provide to our market a new product that adapts to different people, different biomechanics, different weights,” he said. 

The Prodigio can adapt to a wide range of runners. Elite runners that top podiums will appreciate the light, smooth, reactive ride. And mid-pack runners will find a stable, reliable companion with a great running flow experience.

“Flow was the key word of this project,” explained Dalla Costa. “We achieved it with an innovative last shape, the geometry of the sole, plus progressive heel and forefoot rockers. The new XFlow foam provides more cushioning, energy return, and decreases weight, compared to a standard CM EVA foam.”

New Materials to Solve Old Problems

Diving a little deeper, Dalla Costa shares that it all began with over 20 months of testing. “We set a proper test protocol in our La Sportiva R&D lab, combining chemical, physical, biomechanical tests,” he said. “We did a screening of different raw materials, mixed the expansion technologies, and did stress tests in and out of the lab.”

That involved plenty of on-trail testing, including at actual races like the UTMB circuit, Black Canyon Ultras 100K, and more. That feedback was crucial to fine-tuning the final material blend and the shape of the shoe.

Underfoot, the new XFlow midsole features a special blend of nitrogen-infused supercritical EVA foam. This makes the material lighter, more resilient, and more elastic compared to other CM EVA blends on the market.

Some runners will appreciate the reactivity and smoothness, others the cushioning and stability. With a 34mm heel stack and 6mm drop, the Prodigio doesn’t look as bulky compared to the market’s more maximalist shoes.

Prodigio comes with a very precise lock-in fit at the heel and midfoot, for controlling movement and increasing stability on uneven and technical terrain. Up front, the shoe has a wider toebox for added comfort on long runs.

The thermoformed toecap and cushioned tongue both add some protection. And designers balanced the FriXion Red XT 2.0 rubber on the outsole to provide all-important grip under the forefoot and durability under the high-wear heel zone.

A Prodigy for Everyone

The designers made the Prodigio to last, despite its lighter weight. “We could have made a lighter outsole, saving grams, sure,” he explained of his design decisions. “But probably we would have shrunk the target user to exclude those who appreciate protection and durability.”

And it’s not just for elite runners, but also for those who are just starting out and looking to level up their game. “For those who have a slower place or don’t have efficient biomechanics yet, they will appreciate how much the Prodigio will support them preserving energy,” he continued. 

Heel strikers will find that the shoe absorbs and guides their stride smoothly to the toe off. For fast runners, the Prodigio will let them push harder and have a dynamic, efficient stride. 

“Its resilience and behavior of adapting not only to the ground, but to the user as well,” he said, “it is a game changer!”

Shop the La Sportiva Prodigio

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