By Dave Westlake
Arcteryx have been making innovative outdoor gear since the early 1990s and now they are one of the biggest names in the business, with a reputation for premium quality and cutting edge design. With modest beginnings, they started production with a range of high spec harnesses, but quickly expanded their offering to include outerwear and packs. Many of the early designs featured the kind of laminated construction and form fitting silhouettes that are commonplace across the industry now.
Like all the big players, Arcteryx have continued to expand. They branched into the footwear domain a few years ago, and now produce a range of footwear for trail running, hiking and mountaineering. I’ve been putting a pair of their flagship approach shoes through their paces over the last few months: the Acrux SL leather. I’ve used them on approaches to various UK crags, on longer hikes on Dartmoor and for walking, cycling and cruising around on a moped in China! I also used the Acrux for a bit of easy scrambling and a couple of easy routes. Here’s a rundown of their key features.
The first thing you notice when you get the Acrux on your feet is how comfortable and form fitting they are. They felt good straight out of the box, and over the first few outings they softened further and felt super comfortable. The leather upper has a big hand in this, and rather than stretching per se I found that it just softened to the shape of my feet. One reason the shoe fitted like a glove was the innovative liner system. Known as the ‘Adaptive Fit Lite liner’, this is one of the stand-out features of the Acrux range and it sets it apart from the more typical tongue design found on other models. The liner offers what Arcteryx describe as “zonal stretch” and it gives a sock like comfort that holds your foot in position ensuring a secure fit.
The reliable fit gave me the confidence to use the Acrux for a wide variety of activities, and when scrambling and climbing they performed especially well. The Vibram Megagrip sole unit gives the shoe great traction on pretty much everything, and the tread pattern lends itself to rock hopping. The front end is similar to the Five Ten Guide Tennie, in that it is fairly low profile and features a smooth front section that works similarly to a climbing shoe. The tread at the rear end is more heavy duty and moulded into a grooved Y shape to give better traction. I noticed the benefit of this on steep descents, where the heels lock into the ground and help slow you down.
The shoe strikes a fairly minimalist profile, and it feels light and more like a trainer than many of the burlier approach shoes on the market. For me this was a definite advantage, but it might feel strange to anyone switching down to an approach shoe from a walking boot. I would happily take the Acrux on longer hikes, but I can imagine those of us who intend to tackle more sustained rugged terrain yearning for more support in the ankle. Nonetheless, for its intended use as an all-round approach shoe, the performance of the Acrux is impressive.
Being a climbing oriented shoe, the tabs at the heel and forefoot mean you can clip them to your harness securely, and the heel tab makes getting them on easier – especially if you go for a snug performance fit for scrambling. The leather upper is durable and looks smart enough to wear around town. As we all know, leather is an excellent breathable and water resistant fabric that can be treated and lasts well.
The Acrux is a highly versatile shoe that quickly became my ‘go to’ footwear choice for a variety of outdoor adventures. The shoe is light and supremely comfortable, and it looks great. Small details like the sole design and the heel tabs make the Acrux a great option for multi pitch climbs where you might need to scramble up a scree slope to the base of the cliff, then clip your shoes to your harness for walking off the top later in the day. All things considered, the Acrux is a great all round approach shoe that earns its place in the Arcteryx collection.