A great looking, lightweight, retro style boot that performed well in test.
This season we’re highlighting some brands that have heritage items still in their range. So we’re picking items that have been in the range (or re-introduced) for twenty years or more to see why they are so popular and why the company still offer them. We will also be offering a company feature to give a little history behind the product, and of course the all important review to test how the products perform in the mountains or crags.
Now, we’ve featured a couple of AKU items of the last couple of seasons. The company are based in Montebelluna, Itlay and have factories there and in Romania. Montebelluna is a very famous area for boot and shoe manufacturing in a country that is famed for shoe manufacturing. In fact, Montebelluna is where many of the top fashion brands in the world go to get shoes and boots made. So you can expect top quality materials and handcrafted footwear. The company specialises in mountain footwear and offers a wide variety of styles from heritage and mountain inspired to technical mountaineering and trekking boots and shoes. I’ve tested a few and bought some, my favourites are my Badia Plus boots that I wear all winter for urban adventures. Many of the boots are constructed in the Romania factory, the factory was chosen on the recommendation of Gore for ethics and welfare and of course being in the EU quality control can be strictly maintained; I have always been impressed with the quality of AKU boots and I would consider them at the very top end of outdoor footwear brands.
The AKU Slope GTX is a great looking, retro styled hiking boot that is jam packed full of features to make it a great all-round hiking boot that’s been in the AKU range for over 30 years (so plenty of heritage there). The style of the Slope GTX is classic 80’s: a lightweight mixture of tough fabric and Nubuck leather. This mixture of materials was a revelation at the time and shaved serious weight off the traditional all leather mountain boot. The addition of Gore-Tex was the main driver behind this lightweight innovation as it meant the boot would be waterproof. Some of the original boots at this time were Vasque, Danner and High-Tec. All brands from the USA, the Italians (who were the main mountain boot makers in Europe) were very quick to follow. You’re going to see a lot more of hiking boots this autumn as they are becoming very much on trend throughout the high street. That said I prefer my styling a little more high end and understated, so a more traditional heritage style is what I’m after and the AKU Sope GTX delivers on that.
The AKU Slope GTX is a little more sturdy than a typical lightweight boot, that’s no bad thing however as they proved great on a recent technical day on Snowdon. The combination of the stiffness and high friction Vibram sole was perfect for a traverse of Crib Goch, the boot gave me the confidence to complete the full traverse including all the more technical sections that most people avoid if they can. Once we had escaped the crowds of the summit I descended the mountain via Gyrn Las and Clogwyn Mawr (a lovely quiet and technical way up or down the mountain), this proved a little greasy on the technical sections but the Slope GTX held themselves up well, the toughened toe box being particularly useful when legs are tired and toes get stubbed. The sizing has been spot on – my trainer size is UK 8 and the boots tested were a size UK 8. I wore a lightweight sock with them which gave plenty of room for expansion and toe movement. There is room for a slightly thicker sock when the temperatures take a plunge, but I usually run hot so I don’t think I’ll need to do that.
I’ve been using the Olive colour which has worked really well with jeans and chinos which for me has been a perfect look for those autumnal woodland hikes and moorland journeys that I love so much at this time of year. There is a great range of colours to suit your outdoor wardrobe whether it’s a heritage or technical look you prefer there will be a colour for you. Also, if you feel a more technical trekking boot is appropriate for your mountain adventures then there plenty to choose from in the AKU range; the Slope GTX however will be perfectly suited to most mountain and outdoor activities in non -technical mountain environments. As I said, think long woodland adventures, Lake District Fell Walking and Moorland rambles; you’d feel more secure with a climbing toe profile for technical mountain scrambles and winter walks that need crampons.
The Slope GTX are a great, all round boot that are comfortable for all day wear on a variety of terrains and if you are looking for a great heritage style boot that you can at least get in the UK at a reasonable price then you won’t go far wrong. The combination of tough fabric, Nubuck leather and Gore-Tex on the uppers will keep most water at bay and the padded ankle means no chafing on those warmer ascents. The Vibram sole has great grip on all but the wettest of boulders and the cleats shed mud quickly and the dual density EVA midsole provides firm and positive cushioning against rocky ground.
All in all, the AKU Slope GTX is a well made, all round boot that will perform in all mountain conditions except steep snow. I really found them great to wear for a variety of conditions and uses from long walks in the woods to technical mountain days. I wouldn’t be confident to wear them for grade 3 scrambles but for most technical ground they would be fine. They were super comfortable out of the box and they have got better as time has gone on. For days out as a Mountain Leader they have worked great. They have also been good for urban adventure hiking and general wet weather walks a round town. A real all round outdoor boot that comes in a good price. Do remember that all AKU boots are made in Europe where QA can be checked and there may be a small mark up for that but they price well against other branded boots that are made in SE Asia so the quality is very high.
They come in a varied colour range to suit most tastes and they are readily available form AKU direct or specialist retailers. Sizes UK 3 -13 (a massive range of sizes!!) and several colour options.
SRP £174.95 and available direct from AKU and specialist retailers.
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!
I bought AKU Alterra Lite recently, and on the label it says they are manufactured in Vietnam. I,m not complaining, the shoes are very well made, but it seems that they have facility outside EU.
Hi Rade. AKU state that 85% of production takes place in Italy and Romania so by implication there must be some outside these facilities. We’ve not come across any non Italian models but it is quite a common practice for Italian companies to manufacture some of their entry level products in Asia. Glad you like them all the same.