Our Aku Rock DFS GTX shoe review details a new multi-purpose approach shoe from this prestigious Italian manufacturer. Please do read on to find out more about these high quality and high performance shoes.
I’ve racked up reviews of a significant number of Aku footwear models and have absolutely nothing but positives to say. The design and build quality offered by this long established Italian brand never disappoints. Aku products fit my feet really well and incorporate some truly innovative design features. I also value the companies prestigious past as a family manufacturer with a strong environmental ethos.
My tests have included a variety of pairs of their mountaineering and trekking boots. One gap, however, has been approach shoes. Some time ago I did review their Tengu GTX Low shoes but that’s about it. This is surprising as, as I’m sure is the same for many people, approach shoes are my most used footwear. I use them for everything from everyday use to many days climbing and scrambling. It is a genre of footwear that effortlessly crosses between many activities.
Many years ago Aku introduced their iconic Rock approach shoe and now we are introduced to the new Rock DFS GTX model. I was pleased to receive a pair to test and here is my review.
Aku describe the Rock as a technical approach and light climbing shoe. Ideal they say, for Via Ferrata and excursions on mountain paths. I haven’t had access to Via Ferrata opportunities in them yet, but they’ve spent plenty of time on several Peak District National Park crags.
The shoes have some very innovative features and it makes sense to start my Aku Rock DFS GTX Shoe Review describing these. The uppers are constructed in a special fabric called Air 8000 which was 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 the 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. Lastly, they have added a broad protective rubber rand. The sole unit is a Vibram Approcciosa sole with Megagrip high performance compound. This is designed to provide maximum grip with a specific design for climbing.
Sole stiffness is managed by an 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.
Dual Fit Lacing
The last stand out feature is something I’ve never come across before. Aku have incorporated a Dual Fit lacing system. This allows you to adjust the comfort and precision of the fit for different phases of use. There is a traditional lace for maximum comfort while walking and a fast lace system to increase sensitivity when climbing.
The Rock DFS GTX is available in a Goretex and non Goretex version. The model tested had the waterproof Goretex sock incorporated. There is also a women’s version available specifically designed for the specific female plantar anatomy. The shoes declared weight is 940 grams for a pair.
The first thing to say about the Aku Rock DFS GTX Shoe is they are a really good looking pair of shoes. The variant I received is a subtle black and grey model colour with detailing in the traditional Aku orange. They look great.
The next observation is that these are a very substantial shoe. They look built for the hard yards and have easily stood up to everything thrown at them so far. Although they are classed as an approach shoe they are certainly also suitable for some trekking activities. I would see them as a great option for an overseas trekking adventure as long as you are happy with the limited ankle support.
I say that they will cope with rugged terrain because of their solid build, but also because of their advanced features. The Goretex liner sock adds waterproofness and the Vibram Approcciosa sole has a rugged enough tread pattern to cope with varied terrain. The sole features the very grippy Megagrip high performance compound. This has proved extremely grippy when scrambling around on rock. To aid this use, the sole has defined edges perfect for edging on smaller holds
This rock performance is backed up by the solid upper construction. There is a durable and protective heel and toe box and rand. Aku’s are always built solid and the Rock DFS is no exception. They are a very capable shoe that will last well.
The other features that set these apart from a standard approach shoe are very significant. Aku have added their supportive 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 is combined with the innovative 2 way lacing system I mentioned earlier. Firstly, the lacing extends well to the toe and up to the ankle allowing very precise but secure fastening. I find that lacing into the toe box is especially important for shoes designed for climbing. It grips the front of the foot securely and allows a fine tuned fit. So, with the 2 way lacing system there is, simply put, two sets of laces. One covers the area from the toe to mid way up the foot. The other crosses this from the toe and up to the ankle.
EVA Lasting Board
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 lasting board and sole unit 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 Rock DFS Gtx Low is no exception. I have what I would class as a medium to 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.
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 Rock’s will stand up to considerable hard use and cope with everything from abrasion over rock to travel over loose scree and shale.
My Aku Rock DFS GTX shoe review finds a great performance oriented approach shoe. There is Aku’s design flair and build quality. There is also every feature you could need for everything from climbing approaches to scrambling terrain. These shoes will also suit users focussed on trekking. Oh, and they look great too. I really rate these shoes and congratulate Aku on another great addition to their range. For an approach shoe, the Rock DFS GTX is a fairly heavy investment at an RRP of £160, but you are certainly getting a lot of shoe for your money. The non GTX version is the same apart from the Goretex liner. These retail for £149.99. Finally, Aku also make a mid version. The video below shows the main features of the Rock DFS GTX shoes. The Rock DFS is available from online retailer Trekkit here.