Aku - Libra GTX

The new Aku Libra, equally at home in a city setting as they are in the hills. (© Thomas Aitkin)
Star Rating: **** (5 Stars) 

Recommended Retail Price: £145, available from Alpine Trek (Women's)

Aku are a relatively unknown shoe company in the UK but it does not mean that they don't have an extensive and high quality pedigree of shoe making. They've been going for the last 30 years and make a great collection of mountain boots and shoes from their workshop in Montebella at the foot of the Dolomites.

With regards to the Libra's, Aku state that: 'Lightweight and breathable shoe for easy hiking, travel and leisure time in contact with the nature. The natural shape of the forefoot combined with a reduced heel drop and extremely flexibility deliver a natural stride feeling. The outsole is made with the brand new AKU Tenuta Grip, a special rubber compound that deliver stability and adherence on rugged terrain.'

This would suggest that they recommend this shoe as being a casual crossover shoe between city and the outdoors. We personally feel that they're selling themselves a little short with that. Over the last 6 months, we've put the shoes to the test in a variety of terrains and it's quickly become our go-to shoe for hiking, approach walking and everyday city use. It sits at a nice and light 640g per pair which is actually lighter than our previous favourite pair of approach shoes, the Scarpa Crux. Combined with a ease of use and a comfortable and flexible footbed, it's easy to see why they've become our favourites.

Great for those times when a little bit of waterproofing is a godsend. (© Joe Trottet)
The fit is pretty friendly to a wide forefoot (this reviewer's curse). The shoes feature a reasonably innovative elasticated closure system which removes the need for laces, although laces are provided in the box should you prefer them. The closure system makes it easy to get a good fit in the shoe and we've not found them to suffer from heel lift which means that they kept us blister free.

Performance wise, the shoes fared well in the wet (they're Gore-Tex after all) as well as the heat which is usually an oxymoron. For hot weather, however, we would still recommend opting for the non-Gore-Tex model and it is inevitable to get sweaty feet in a Gore-Tex shoe. As previously stated, we've been using these shoes as an approach shoe too and have found them to generally grip well on rock, even when wet. The comfort of the shoes means that they performed well on all day walks but if stiff shoes are more of your thing then you may not feel the same way.

In summary, a great shoe which possibly sells itself a little short in its suggested uses. It is comfortable, easy to use and its sleek simple design will let you happily parade them around town without attracting weird looks. The grey colouring scheme could be deemed a little 'boring' and it would be nice to see some different colour available. They're also not particularly cheap at £145 per pair for the Gore-Tex model but when compared to say, the Scarpa Oxygen, which are a similar kind of shoe at £165 this can be justified.

As a final note, and maybe a shout out to AKU, these shoes are actually reasonably difficult to get in the UK with very few shops stocking AKU shoes. This makes it awkward if you're wanting to try on a pair before buying.

Things we like:

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to put on and take off
  • Simple design
Things we don't like:
  • Bit 'boring' looking
  • Difficult to get in the UK
  • Quite expensive

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