Arc’teryx is now making footwear! And I am excited to throw my pair of Acrux FL GTX out there to see how they work for our climbing season in the US.
When we first received the shoes from Campers Corner, I was kind of skeptical about how they would fit me comfortably. Yes, my feet were snug in the shoes but there was a pressure point on that little bump on the inside of my forefoot (especially the right foot which is slightly bigger than the other). Oh well let’s give this a go!
The first time I brought them on a serious hike was on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, a 7.2 mile (11.6 km) round-trip with an elevation gain of 2,700 ft (823 m) to the top of the Yosemite Falls. The weather forecast expected thunderstorms and heavy rains in the early afternoon so I thought I’d better move quickly. That would work since it was part of my cardio training for our trip to The Hulk in the High Sierra few weeks later.
The hike begins with a series of polished stone steps laid down during the 1800s (!), transits into endless switchbacks, brings you into the woods, then onto a rocky plateau before arriving on the summit. Halfway up the hike, I had been blessed with pretty blue skies and plenty of sunshine, despite some hounding storms not too faraway.
Two-third up, heavy and dark clouds were already brewing and flashes of lightning in the background of the Falls. I knew I wouldn’t have much time and didn’t want to spend too much time up so close to where the storms were approaching either. After spending a few quiet moments enjoying the breathtaking view on the summit, I took some photos and promptly headed for the descent.
Just as I expected, little drops of rain which gradually turned into bigger droplets started to fall. Soon enough, it was hailing (in the middle of a hot summer!) and rain started pounding down in the Valley. I already got my other favorite, the Alpha SL Hybrid outershell jacket on (click here for gear review) so I was pretty dry but still wanted to get down fast before the terrain gets really slippery. Finally when I touched down on the Valley floor, I realized my feet were dry and that’s pretty cool, considering I’m all wet bottoms down. So here are some of my personal takes on these shoes!
Hands down, the Acrux FL GTX was awesome! I felt some dampness where my socks were exposed so probably if my socks were shorter, that wouldn’t be a problem. The shoes did some wonders especially on my descent. I was running down the trail which I seldom do to prevent sore knees. Man did the shoes grip well on those polished stone steps (which are usually sandy and are really slippery even on dry conditions), the Vibram Mega Grip rubber on the soles is definitely doing its job.
Probably the shoes need some breaking in (I brought them on shorter hikes before this), the pressure point on my foot was no longer there. And where my knees would get sore sometimes on longer hikes (despite having a light pack) and ankles roll at times on rocky terrains, the shoes were stiff and held my feet together, giving them more support and stability.
(i) Midsoles give great support
I must say I’m starting to like these shoes after the hike up Yosemite Falls. I wasn’t used to the stiff midsoles initially. Most of my previous approach shoes had softer midsoles so when I stepped on rocks, the midsoles would bend slightly to take the contour of the rocks. When I did the same on the GTX, the midsoles were so stiff they hardly flexed on the rocks. There were a few times when I cringed my feet in the shoes to get ready to take the shape of the rocks (which wasn’t necessary) and I lost balance. Then did I realize all I had to do was to relax and let the midsoles rest on the rocks and I could balance them without much trouble! Awesome! That saved some strength, especially on rocky and uneven terrains and provided great support especially when I was hiking with a heavy pack (as I realized when I wore the shoes to The Hulk). I am still getting used to the stiff midsoles and I think they will work out well in the long run.
(ii) Tongue-less inner liner keeps dirt out
The Stretch GORE-TEX liner keeps the feet dry and snug in the shoes. Personally, I think the beauty of the liner lies on its tongue-less design which ensures there’s no room for dust, sand nor dirt in the shoes (I usually have to take out my regular approach shoes a few times to get sand and twigs out). The liners are integrated into my shoes and are non-removable. Those worn by Qx are removable and I kind of appreciate having them removable when we were at our basecamp at The Hulk. Other than climbing shoes, the Acrux FL GTX were our only other footwear (to cut weight!). I was jealous when Qx could simply just pulled out the liners, put them on and walked around basecamp, all done when I was still in the midst of wearing the other side of my shoes. Removable liners makes cleaning more effective and shoes dry faster as well. They weigh slightly more than the non-removable ones though.
I always tie a two-loop shoe lace knot and reinforces it with another round but for my regular approach shoes, I still find the knots loosen up and undone especially during long hikes. I did the same knots on these shoes and the laces have never come off. Nothing is mentioned about the construction of the laces but they work great for me!
Both sides of the shoes are constructed with stretchable nylon mesh. Keeping the feet dry without compromising breathability of the shoes (and the feet ;))
For me, their weight! The Acrux FL GTX is both heavy and light – heavy for approach shoes and light for waterproof hiking shoes. Well, I had them on my harness and wore them down on The Hulk and although they are slightly heavier (about 200g) than my previous approach shoes, I really appreciate the comfort and support they gave on the steep and sandy descent after a day of climbing.
I guess the price will be something that is difficult for many people to compromise since after all, a regular pair of approach shoes would cost about less than S$200. But if you looking are for a good pair of shoes that transcend prolong rocky, wet or even cold conditions and you have some budget, the Acrux FL GTX is totally worth its value and more importantly, like other Arc’teryx products, they are going to last you a long time.
The Acrux FL GTX Approach Shoes are available in men and women’s versions. Check them out at Arc’teryx Singapore store!