Monday, June 23, 2014

Gear Closet: AKU Superalp GTX Boots

For 30 years, AKU has been making great boots for hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering. Their legacy began in the Italian Alps, where the company had its humble roots in a small workshop, that eventually blossomed into a company that would deliver fantastic footwear for all kinds of outdoor pursuits. Today, that legacy only continues to grow. as AKU keeps putting out great boots that are comfortable, versatile, and innovative. Something I was reminded of recently while putting their Superalp GTX boot to the test.

Listed under the category of a backpacking boot, the Superalp has just about everything you could ask for in your outdoor footwear. For instances, AKU has managed to tick two important boxes by incorporating both a rugged Vibram sole, and a GoreTex liner to keep your feet warm and dry. Those two elements are practically industry standards at this point, but when paired with AKU's other proprietary components, they help to make the Superalp one of the best boots I have ever tested.

If you're familiar with AKU boots, you probably already know about their exoskeleton design. The company uses a special technique when building their boots that incorporates a lightweight frame right into the shoe. This frame adds stability and support in all the important places, but doesn't add undue bulk or weight to the boot. This simple, but important element, helps to set AKU boots apart from the competition, and it is a direct influence from their decades of designing mountaineering boots. The exoskeleton truly does help to protect the foot, providing a shield from rocks, roots, and other impediments on the trail, without sacrificing overall comfort. Because of the way that AKU works the exoskeleton into the boot, it doesn't interfere with the ability of the shoe's upper section to ventilate and wick moisture, which is one of the problems with footwear that have a more encompassing frame. Over the years, AKU has managed to perfect their exoskeleton to the point that has little impact on the overall weight of the boot as well. The Superalp for instance, tips the scale at a just 23 ounces (652 grams), which is an impressive weight for a boot of this caliber.


As mentioned, the Superalp provides excellent breathability out on the trail, helping to regulate the warmth and comfort of your feet. This is due in part to improvements on the part of GoreTex on their liners, which have continued to evolve over the years, but also because of the special fabrics that AKU uses to create the boot's upper. As a result, you can wear these boots on warm days and have your feet not get overly sweaty, and on cold days, and have them continue to stay warm and dry. For a boot designed for intense activities on rough, mountainous terrain, it is remarkable how well they perform in this regard.

Comfort is, of course, of primary concern, and the Suerpalp doesn't disappoint in that category either. This is a category that is subjective of course, but I found these boots to fit exceptionally well, and provide plenty of support and cushion for long days on the trail. The exoskeleton frame, and sturdy sole, ensured that at the end of the day, my feet were as fresh and strong as they were when they started. That isn't something I can say about a lot of shoes. The Vibram sole provides excellent traction on a variety of surfaces too, performing equally well on rock, mud, and dry trail. They even provided surprisingly good traction on slick rocks, or when crossing streams.

I could go on and on about how impressive these boots are. For instance, I haven't even touched on the high ankle support they provide, nor how protective they are in the toe box. While a bit stiff out of the box, their break-in period is negligible, and their excellent lacing system allows you to dial in just the right fit for your feet, and the hiking socks you're wearing. Hell, they even look fantastic, which is not something you can say about a lot of boots on the market today. In short, this is a fantastic pair of boots that backpackers are going to love, although I highly recommend them for hiking, trekking, and even light mountaineering as well. These are a versatile pair of boots that will see you safely through a wide variety of adventures.

The Superalp GTX carries a price tag of $339.99, which is a bit higher than some boots that you'll find from the competition. That said, you'll be hard pressed to find a boot that has so much thought put into the design, or technology woven in with the expressed purpose of making your days on the trail much better. Besides, this is a boot of such high quality that you're going to own them for years to come. In fact, the Superalp oozes quality from every component, which makes recommending them that much easier. This is the kind of boot that will provide you with a decade, or more, of excellent performance.

If you're in the market for a new boot, it's tough to beat the AKU Superalp. It really is a fantastic shoe in every way.

3 comments:

Cris Hazzard said...

Interested to get your take on the Asolo Fugitive GTX > http://theoutsidelife.com/reviews/shoes-boots-and-clothing/asolo-fugitive-gtx-review/. When I was looking I passed on the AKU because it was a little pricey. Is is worth the extra few bucks?

Kraig Becker said...

I'm a big fan of Asolo boots as well. I have a pair that have served me very well over the years, on trips all over the globe.

That said, I feel like the AKU boots are a bit more sturdy, and the exoskeleton does help in keeping your feed comfortable on long hikes. You especially notice it at the end of the day, when your legs and feet are less tired and beat-up from the trail. I agree that they are on the pricey side, but this is an investment that will stick with you for a long time.

As I mentioned in the article however, picking a pair of boots is a bit subjective. They can all feel a bit different on everyone's feet. I'm fortunate enough to already love my Asolo boots, but I can have the AKU's in my closet too.

Cris Hazzard said...

Good to know, thanks for the response. I am going to do some desert off-trail hiking next month in Nevada. I think these could be good choice to protect my feet from rocks, cactus, rattlesnakes (!), etc. Going to try a pair on. Thanks again for the review!