Various Aku boot models have passed through the doors of Peak Mountaineering HQ over the years, but hardly any have been destined for my feet! Paul has reviewed Aku mountaineering boots, approach shoes and trekking boots and I’ve looked on enviously every time. Finally, it was time to get my own back! The brand’s new model Trekker Pro GTX WS model was due into the market and I was asked to review some. Yippee!
Having said all that, I was also rather nervous. I have notoriously awkward shaped feet and there are many types of footwear brands I really struggle to get along with. This was certainly going to be a test of the legendary AKU fit……
I think the reason I’ve been rather envious of the various Aku models Paul has tried was because, as he opened each box that arrived, they all look so good. Aku is a specialist Italian boot manufacturer and they certainly have an Italian flair for styling. Fortunately, the Trekker Pro GTX WS I received were no exception.
The pair that arrived were a black and velvet colour which means, in actual terms, predominantly black with subtle flashes of violet across the heel cup and on the tongue label. They are, I would describe, subtle and stylish and I’m not the only one that thinks so – in use they have received various nice compliments from friends and clients.
The upper is made from a combination of suede, Air 8000 (I’ll explain this more later) and welded PU film. This combines with additional rubber protection on the toe box and a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort liner. The boots lace up via metal eyelets, a locking ankle buckle and a couple of upper hook fasteners.
The lasting board is a 6-4 mm nylon and medium stiffness EVA Microporosa which combines with a light PU midsole and Vibram Curcuma outsole. A custom fit soft insole completes the package.
The Trekker Pro GTX WS retails for £195 and weigh 525 grams.
As mentioned, I have problem feet! Several boot models I have tried in the past have rubbed my feet at the sides or heels. I now have a few pairs of hardly used boots sat in my gear cupboard and I generally dread trying to find new boots. This is made worse for review boots where you generally have to specify a size and hope for the best.
Fortunately, the Aku’s have actually been spot on from the first try on. I ordered true to my normal size and the boots feel snug, but with enough space at the toe and heel. Of course, fit is a very personal thing and everyone should get boots fitted carefully by a professional boot fitter, but I certainly got lucky!
As a general purpose trekking boot they are reasonably stiff and so are well suited to rough terrain where a supportive boot is needed. So far they have joined me for hillwalking adventures in Snowdonia, general walking and a scrambling ascent of Triglav in Slovenia, many days walking in the Peak District and some time in Scotland. They have also been used for scrambling on up to grade 3 terrain in Snowdonia. They have excelled at it all.
The Vibram sole is a heavily featured unit that provides grip on terrain ranging from muddy and loose descents to rock hopping. Notably, on the grade 3 scrambles I mentioned I really noticed the exceptional grip on Snowdonia Rhyolite (better on dry rock of course!) and, although they don’t feature a climbing zone on the sole, they do have the edge and stiffness to perform extremely well.
Having said all that, they also walk well. The sole unit has enough flex for long distance walks and the underfoot support to cope when users are carrying heavy loads. Aku market the Trekker Pro GTX WS’s as a boot designed for ‘demanding treks on varied terrain’ and that nails it for me – they are a multi purpose boot that will be just as happy on local trails, long distance paths or easier grade mountaineering ground.
Although I do think they might be stiff enough, Aku haven’t added a rear welt to allow the use of clip in crampons. However, I wasn’t deterred and used a strap on crampon with no problem in some spring snow days in Scotland. They felt plenty stiff enough although I should say that I have a fairly small foot and so the boots inevitably have a fairly stiff sole. I can’t say how they would be in a significantly bigger size.
Aku have an additional ace in their sleeve. Many of their footwear models feature the ‘Elica Natural Stride System’ technology which is designed to enhance bio-dynamic performance. I must admit that I had to research this and the Aku website revealed that this is a clever integrated system. The principle is that by integrating the insole board, midsole and outsole allows the footwear to faithfully follow the anatomical shape of the sole of the foot and adapts to normal heel and forefoot inclination to reduce impact and strain. Phew! That’s quite a mouthful – but it does seem to really offer all that.
The other thing that my time on the snows of Scotland showed me was how waterproof the boots are. The dominant upper fabric is Aku’s Air 8000 material which is a durable material that looks and feels, for those that know it, quite like Cordura. This has so far stood up to everything that has been thrown at them and also proved to be very waterproof. Added to this is the Goretex liner which adds an additional level of weatherproofing. A great combo.
The other materials offer additional durability and they do it well. There is a combination of suede reinforcements around the sides, heel and toe and this is further backed up by a durable PU toe box. Then, welded PU film adds additional support to the Air 8000 material and is used to reinforce the lacing eyelets and across the forefoot and ankle.
The upper has sufficient padding to offer comfort and yet isn’t too thickly padded. This is particularly noticed around the heel cup. Personally, this suits my feet well and yet I would say it is something you need to consider for your own needs.
The lacing system is well thought out. A flat leather loop starts off the system and this means it lays flat and doesn’t risk getting hooked onto things and is especially relevant when scrambling or moving over rocky ground. This also allows Aku to extend the lacing close to the front of the boot.
After this, three metal eyelet loops are easy to tighten and adjust and then a locking hook at top of the foot allows easy micro adjustment of the fit. This hook also connects to a strip of suede that then loops around the back of the heel and serves to pull the foot back into the heel cup when the laces are tightened. It works really well. Lastly, the upper ankle is secured with 2 final lace hooks. Again, these work really well and have proved efficient and durable.
And so, I think I have shown what a comprehensive and well designed package the Trekker Pro GTX WS boots are. They look great, perform superbly on varied terrain and in a range of conditions and are durable enough to last for many years of mountain adventures. Some of the boots I have used in the past are great performers, and yet I will stand up and say these are actually my favourite ever pair of boots. I certainly hope they aren’t the last pair of Aku boots that I get the chance to use.
Reviewed and posted by Cal