A surprisingly versatile approach shoe with some excellent climbing specific features.
“Arakkis – Dune – Desert Planet” F. Herbet. OK the spelling is different but the first time I laid eyes on the Arakys Approach Shoe I thought of footwear for hot dry conditions and in many ways this has been borne out during the review period. However experience has shown that they are far more versatile than first expected.
Much like Arcteryx’s first foray into the footwear arena the with the Acrux FL2 GTX the Arakys makes use of their fabric welding technology and expertise. However unlike the FL2 the Arakys seems to be have been designed very much with climbing specific features and usage in mind. Firstly the shoe is considerably lighter, I had no hesitation clipping them to my harness or popping them into the seconds pack on long rock routes, their flexible lightweight construction allows them to fold virtually flat and take up minimal space. The upper consists of a woven nylon material lined with a comfort wicking ‘mesh’ that has proven incredibly durable so far. Externally this is reinforced with synthetic panels and a rubber toe bumper. The heel that has an external leather patch as well as the essential (for climbers) clip loop. The heel itself can fold flat and allows the shoe to be used as a ‘slip-on’ clog style.
These elements all combine with the cushioned leather footbed and a lack of stitched seams to create a shoe that is eminently comfortable to wear barefoot, another big plus for climbers. The sole unit is a sticky rubber Vibram® Megagrip unit and has proved both sticky and durable. It has a moderately grippy heel and then a series of shallow rubber studs that decrease in depth toward the toe culminating in a smooth ‘climbing zone’ at the toe itself. In dry rocky conditions the grip was excellent and even in loose scree and glacial till it worked surprisingly well. However this is not a sole unit designed for wet mud or grass and you would be well advised to avoid wearing them in such conditions. The final item of note is the fastening system which resembles some rock boot systems from the 90s using a tape strap that zig zags across the shoe to fasten with a neat but durable metal buckle hooked into a slot on the outside of the shoe. At first glance it looks a little ‘faffy’ and I still feel it’s pretty difficult to beat laces for general all round use – perhaps augmented by some type of rapid lace system. The Arakys system does however let you adjust and un-cinch the shoe rapidly which is very useful when bouldering or sport climbing when you are probably swapping to and from tight rock boots. To be honest I rarely unhooked the strap but simply slackened and cinched it as needed – another couple of centimetres on the length would have been welcome to make it easier to grasp but that may be a result of my wide ‘Hobbit’ feet 😉
The Arcteryx Arakys In Use
During the review period the Arakys has been used in the UK, Fontainebleau, Provençe and the Chamonix Alps in temperatures ranging from 4 or 5C to in excess of 35C. Throughout the Arakys proved a dependable and comfortable approach shoe and in some circumstances quite exceptional. Unlike the Acrux FL2 there was no break in period, the Arakys felt agile and comfortable straight out the box. They are fairly minimalist in terms of underfoot cushioning and very flexible lending great feel for the trail or rock and this is one of the areas that they excel, I’d say they are they best climbing approach shoe I’ve worn. The edging is a little compromised unless you crank up the straps but sensitivity/smearing is outstanding.
However if you’re looking for lots of protection and support then they may not be the shoe for you. I was happy on steep approaches in the Aiguille Rouge as well as 20km walks in Provençe but I’m used to running in minimalist trainers, your millage may (quite literally!) vary.
The uppers are pretty breathable but do struggle once temperatures climb into the 30s, they shrug off light rain or damp grass and dry quickly but they are not a shoe for a wet day out. Weight wise my size 43s were around 277grams each – on a par with most running shoes. They fold very flat thanks to the collapsable heel easily stowing in the seconds pack for multi pitch adventures or clipping unobtrusively to your harness. Fit wise these are again a pretty standard ‘D’ width but with a bit more room than than the Acrux FL2 or so it seemed, it may just be the lighter more adaptable construction, even so with my wider E-EE feet I had to remove the cushioned insoles to increase volume when things hotted up.
The only slight issue I had was with the strap fastening on overgrown paths and rough vegetated approaches where heather etc. can catch the straps and unhook them. This could remedied by reversing the buckles so that the ‘hooks’ face the opposite way – brushing past vegetation would force the hook into the loop rather than out of it. I need to unpick the end tab on the tape to try this as it is stitched and too bulky to force through the buckle. I’ll update when I’ve tried it.
Overall the Arakys is a great dry weather approach shoe that will cope with most terrain apart from wet mud and slick grass. They work well as an approach/scrambling shoe if you like the minimalist feel and as a general ‘knocking about’ camp, the crag or town shoe. They look quite funky so I’d go for a bright colour if you have the choice!
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!