Aku Tengu Low Gtx Shoes Review
I have now racked up reviews of quite a number of Aku footwear models and, if you have had chance to read any, you will know that I have loved them all. Aku products fit my feet really well, they incorporate some truly innovative design features, the quality of construction is superb and they look great. I have also talked before about the companies long and prestigious past as an Italian family footwear manufacturer with a strong environmental ethos.
Aku have become, over the last 5 or so years, the brand I’ve used more than any other. Not too long ago I tested the Tengu GTX boots and, although I would love you to read my review for yourself (you can find it here), I can offer the very short version which is that they are brilliant. Aku recently sent me a variation called the Tengu Low GTX shoes to test and here are my thoughts.....
The Tengu boot range has some very innovative features as I was interested to see how many of those things Aku had incorporated into the shoe variant. The answer, when I had chance to compare, was almost all!
The Tengu Low’s uppers are constructed in a special fabric called Air 8000 created exclusively by Aku. This is a material whose breathability level increases over a 24 hour period by up to 11 times when compared to a conventional fabric. This is ideal for an approach shoe where the breathability will help to keep feet cool but that breathability also helps to keep feet warm.
Alongside the Air 8000, Aku have reinforced key areas around the toe box, lacing area and parts of the ankle with durable suede and added a broad protective rand made from Libra Smart PU. It is a comprehensive and durable package.
The sole is a solid and well treaded Vibram Curcoma unit and stiffness is managed by a nylon and die cut EVA lasting board, a light PU midsole and a custom fit footbed. The lasting board and sole unit features the exclusive ELICA Natural Stride System technology which is designed to enhance bio-dynamic performance.
The last stand out feature is a brilliant addition. I have now used several Aku models that incorporate an elasticated Goretex sock and I was delighted to find Aku have also used it on the Tengu Low’s. This sock is elasticated across the tongue and holds your foot snugly and securely without bulk or creasing of the material. You then tie the laces over the top and it all together offers a really comfortable and low bulk package.
The first thing to say about the Tengu Low is that I think these are a really good looking pair of shoes. The variant I received is a striking turquoise and orange colour (Aku also make them in a black and orange colour). They both look great but I am quite a fan of bright colours so these were very welcome.
The next observation is that this is a very substantial shoe. I suppose technically they could be classed as an approach shoe but they are actually a very solid unit that are actually as much suitable for trekking and scrambling activities. You would want to decide if you need the additional ankle support of a boot, but if not then these will easily cope with any challenging terrain. Having said all that, at only 435 grams they are also impressively light weight.
I say that they will cope with any rugged terrain because of their solid build but also because of their advanced features. The Goretex liner sock adds waterproofness and the Vibram Curcoma sole unit has a very rugged tread pattern akin to a pair of boots. This is backed up by the solid upper construction, a solid and protective heel and toe box and the protective rand. They are a very capable shoe and, although I’m very impressed by the weight, it is clear Aku hasn’t put this ahead of function.
The other features that set these apart from a standard approach shoe are very significant. Aku have added the same elasticated tongue system that I absolutely loved on the Tengu and it is great to see it on these too. This system effectively creates a elasticated sock that grips your foot snugly and comfortably but also means the whole upper foot lacing system is very streamlined and neat with no creases or folds. I really rate this system. This gets combined with a lacing system that extends well to the toe and up to the ankle allowing very precise but secure fastening and the fit can easily be fine tuned to individual requirements.
The other stand out feature is how supportive the sole stiffening is. A nylon and die cut EVA lasting board combines with a light PU midsole and custom fit footbed to offer an extremely supportive shoe that will cope with long distances and when carrying a reasonably heavy load. The shoe also features the ELICA Natural Stride System technology which is designed to enhance bio-dynamic performance. Aku have based their shoe footwear range around this system as they believe it to offer the best possible performance. It is worth understanding what this is all about so please do take a few minutes to watch the video below.
It isn’t unusual nowadays for footwear to offer straight out of the box comfort and the Tengu Low GTX is no exception. I have what I would class as a medium/wide width foot and the fit is perfect for me. I also ordered my normal shoe size and this proved to be spot on so I would say these fit true to size. I say out of the box comfort and my first day in them was an off the beaten track hillwalking day and they stayed comfortable all through and kept my feet warm and dry throughout. I had to adjust the lacing a few times to maintain a snug and supportive fit, but now I have that dialled they are just right.
Since then I have used them for rocky approaches and scrambled up to grade 3 routes in then. The combination of supportive and snug fit combined with medium stiffness in the last make these a very competent multi-purpose choice.
The deep lugs of the Curcoma sole offer as good a grip as one could wish for on everything from loose scree to wet grass. I would say the sole grip on wet rock doesn’t stack up as well as something like the Stealth rubber of my trusty 5.10’s, but overall there is a lot of terrain where they easily out perform others - so it is always going to be a trade off.
I have ended up doing most of my testing of the Tengu Low’s in one of the driest U.K. summers for many years, but I did trog across some boggy ground for a while and, although I appreciate that is a pretty limited test, there has been no problem with waterproofness so far and I wouldn’t expect this to be an issue further down the line either.
The solid construction and materials have shrugged off all wear and tear so far and, although I am not classing this as a long term review, I have every confidence the Tengu Low GTX will stand up to considerable hard use and will cope with everything from abrasion over rock to travel over loose scree and shale.
The Tengu Low GTX has exceeded my expectations. I hoped for a chopped down Tengu boot and to a large extent this is the case, but they also have their own character and will suit situations that the boot version won’t. But, please make no mistake, for such a light pair of shoes these are something very competent, very good looking and very special. I really do like them a lot. For a shoe, the Tengu Low GTX is a fairly heavy investment at around £160, but you are certainly getting a lot of shoe for your money.
Posted by Paul