What do you want in a shoe? Quality construction, clever design, good looks, functionality, durability, value and ideally an ethical and environmentally sensitive approach to manufacture. All these features are evident in abundance with the new Aku Bellamont Plus shoe.
However, surely you also choose a shoe for a specific job? Your rock climbing shoes won’t be great for use on snow and ice just as your crag approach shoes won’t excel for running (although Aku does make the Mio GTX, a great performing multi activity shoe which we reviewed recently).
So, for someone who lives almost all the time in approach shoes or boots of various types, when asked to review some I was intrigued by how much use I’d actually get from a shoe described as an ‘urban adventure or spare time shoe’. I try and spend as little time as physically possible in anything you could describe as an urban environment and on first opening the box they struck me as far too ‘posh’ for the things I do. Great looking – but posh!
My footwear cupboard is pretty one sided. I have one pair of black shoes that get used for weddings and formal events (they will be the ones I’ll wear at Buckingham Palace if HRH ever decides I deserve an OBE for services to mountaineering!) and every other pair I own is for some sort of outdoor activity – in order of formality the Bellamont’s are a notch down from those black shoes and a step up from everything else. I realised I could either start having more urban adventures or see how I could get them to fit into my lifestyle…….
Every pair of Aku footwear I’ve used (and it’s a growing list) has been beautifully crafted – I have this romantic image of a well seasoned shoemaker lovingly forming and stitching every shoe in their leathery aromaed (is that a word?) workshop. I know this is unrealistic, but their shoes really do seem to be built with an eye for detail and a loving touch. In this, the Bellamont Plus is no different. A simple but elegant styling combines with nice detail touches to create a great looking shoe. It will be love at first sight for you too.
Beyond that, the materials are worth outlining. The leather used in the upper is a high quality 2mm Nubuck with a full grain leather lining. The midsole is double density recycled eva with a nylon lasting plate to add stiffness combined with a softer eva layer and a coco/latex footbed. The outsole is a Vibram Predator 2 unit and there are rubber scuff guards on the toe and heel.
There is clearly a lot of devil in the detail here and, alongside choosing materials that will perform well, Aku are committed to creating as low an environmental impact as possible. All the materials used in the Bellamont follow this goal. The leather has undergone chrome free tanning and retanning and the outsole and midsole utilise rubber recycled from rubber processing. Even the laces are made from 100% cotton. I also really like to hear, in a world where transporting materials for long distances is common, that Aku have sourced 99% of the materials used from within Europe.
Aku provide a couple of pairs of laces in the box in contrasting colours so you can pick and choose the styling (it is even possible to have a different colour on each shoe if you are feeling radical!). There is a subtle Aku label stitched on the side of each shoe and a pull on tab on the shoe back. That’s it really. Great quality environmentally responsible materials and subtle but elegant styling.
And so, we are at the nitty gritty of any review. As mentioned at the start my slight concern was how much use a country mouse like me would get from the Bellamont Plus? I can see that, for lots of people, they would be perfect. If you work in an environment where the dress code is ‘smart casual they would be great, or if you spend a lot of time in urban areas and want a shoe that is stylish but durable then I guarantee you’ll love them. But would they work for people like me?
Of course, I needn’t have worried at all. These shoes have hardly been off my feet for day to day wear and have coped in a surprisingly wide range of situations and conditions. On a recent trip to Manchester they had everything thrown at them – over two busy days we did a lot of pavement bashing and it rained pretty much constantly. My feet were comfortable and dry throughout (I haven’t yet treated the uppers at all and yet they seem extremely water repellent). Infact, I would describe the comfort level as luxurious – they are comfortable straight out the box and I had no problem wearing them all day. Their appearance also meant I could wear them about town all day and they were plenty smart enough to wear for a restaurant visit in the evening.
Beyond that, I have worn them for general day to day use and they are always my first choice if the activities allow. Where I have largely drawn the line, although I am sure they would cope with pretty rough conditions, is for off the beaten track use. In the interests of being able to comment for this review I forced myself to wear them for a few wet weather walks including a blast along Stanage Edge. The toe and heel reinforcements help protect from bumps and scrapes and the Vibram sole has a well featured pattern that coped extremely well with muddy, slippy or rocky terrain, but I did struggle to force myself to use such nice shoes for this kind of activity. I think they are going to need to stay as my urban adventure footwear.
These are great shoes and I love them to bits. They don’t do anything a standard approach shoe doesn’t do, but they are extremely stylish and suit situations where you want something a bit ‘posher’. They have great looks and I’ve had a lot of compliments about them – even my accountant had some nice words on a recent visit! My doubts of finding enough times to use them was completely unfounded and pretty much every day they are in use for some portion of the day.
At the price (£160) I would say they are at the pricier end of what I’d pay, but for that you get environmentally responsible materials and construction that should last a long time. As far as I’m concerned the Bellamont Plus is another major hit from Aku and I applaud them for seeking out and pushing the boundaries of sustainable footwear manufacture. I’m also sticking with my image that, somewhere in an Italian footwear factory nestled in the mountains, there is that bespectacled cobbler with an arched back and gnarled fingers crouched over their workbench who lovingly laboured over every stitch of my Bellamonts.
Posted by Paul