I bolted up in my sleeping bag at the sound of our alarm and turned on my headlamp to illuminate the pitch-black tent. 3:30 a.m. Adrenaline compensated for my exhaustion as we gathered our gear for the day’s hike: North Maroon Peak, a 14,014-foot mountain in central Colorado, about ten miles southwest of Aspen. North Maroon—one of the Centennial State’s two iconic Maroon Bells—would be no cakewalk, from what I’d been told. Unforgivably steep, the 9-mile round-trip trail is strewn with rotten, crumbly rock and rises 4,500 feet. Towards the summit, there’d be sections of scrambling in no-fall zones, death defying drop-offs, and a few bouldering moves. Fortunately, I tend to stay calm and focused when faced with exposure. The real apprehension I had was for my shoes.
I pulled on the Arc’teryx Acrux FL GTX Approach shoes. It’s a gamble to wear brand new footwear on such a big hiking day. But with water crossings, a wide talus field, steep slopes, grass-and-dirt ledges, big elevation gain and bouldering moves up cliff clefts, the trail would be a worthy testing ground for performance and durability. Earlier that night, my boyfriend Pat and I backpacked 2 miles through a torrential downpour into White River National Forest, from Maroon Lake Trailhead to Crater Lake. Bearing a heavy pack, I was surprised that the streamlined, lightweight design of the Acrux provided such solid support under my feet. I was even more surprised that after stepping into countless, unavoidable 4-inch deep puddles the Acrux weren’t altered by the moisture and my feet remained dry. There’s nothing worse than a summit day with soaking wet shoes.
The Canada-based apparel manufacturer, Arc’teryx Equipment, launched its first-ever footwear line in February 2015. These shoes don’t follow the conventional process of footwear manufacturing. Arc’teryx introduced a totally new concept of creation called Adaptive Fit Technology: an inner shoe and an outer shoe that are made separately. The two pieces are paired and used together, still, but the inner liner is completely removable, similar to a snowboard boot. (There’s also the option to choose pairs with non-removable liners.) Like a bootie for watersports, the inner liner is stretchy—made with a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort Stretch membrane—and tongue-free, which further increases waterproofness. Having an inner-shoe that’s independent of the shell increases wash-ability (goodbye smelly hiking shoes!) and dry-ability. Plus, the liner can be worn solo as a camp shoe. The outer shell is made from a seamless one-piece upper that’s laminated using four layers of technical, hydrophobic materials. For breathability, there’s an insert area in the side of the shoe, made from woven PU-coated nylon yarn.
What stood out to me most about the Acrux was that they were immediately comfortable when I first put them on, and at the end of the hiking trip my feet did not feel sore or tired. I have long, narrow feet with high arches and the Acrux provided excellent support. The shoes also had great grip while crossing talus, scree and steep dirt. Megagrip, a fairly new compound that’s included in the Vibram outsole, provided solid traction. Furthermore, my feet never got wet, even with river crossings.
How could the Acrux be improved? While the design allows for some airflow, I think that the breathability could be enhanced. I wear merino wool socks—which aid temperature regulation and sweat absorption—but for 10-hour days on the trail dampness unavoidably accumulates. Another obstacle I encountered was blistering on my heels, but the occurrence was inconsistent. I didn’t experience blisters on the first hike. Then, I wore the Acrux throughout the season on other arduous trails, like Pyramid Peak, and did get blisters. I’ve worn my hiking socks with other hiking footwear, so that’s most likely not the culprit. End-all, I think that the hot spots can be prevented, by tightening up my laces throughout the day. Overall, I still would choose and highly recommend the Acrux Approach for superior support, waterproofness, comfort and grip. And as for the fourteeners in the Maroon Bells Group? I’d do them again.
Here’s the current lineup:
Women’s – Acrux FL GTX Approach Shoe, $220
Women’s – Acrux FL Approach Shoe, $190
Women’s – Bora2 Mid GTX Hiking Boot, $320 (*removable/interchangeable liner; choices include a second mid-cut liner and a third more-insulated mid-cut liner, which are suitable for winter conditions, snow or cold temperatures)
Women’s – Bora Mid GTX Hiking Boot, $270
For her partner:
Men’s – Acrux2 FL GTX Approach Shoe, $270 (removable/interchangeable liner)
Men’s – Acrux FL GTX Approach Shoe, $220
Men’s – Acrux FL Approach, $190
Men’s – Bora2 Mid GTX Hiking Boot, $320 (removable/interchangeable liner)
Men’s – Bora Mid GTX Hiking Boot, $270