I’ve had these AKU Fastalpina GTX shoes for knocking on 9 months now, and they’re ruined. They leak like a sieve. The sole is starting to peel off. They smell pretty shocking (even the dog has walked off). The grip has worn away, and they’re less waterproof than a tissue. But I feel fairly confident in saying that they may be my favourite shoes from GearWeAre in the last 4 years.
Now, the usual caveats apply, of course: shoes are subjective, and one man’s comfort is another man’s crippling… so take every shoe review you read with a pinch of salt.
But, that aside, from the word Go the Fastalpina has just sort of fitted. Never rubbing or making hot spots, and seeming to support in all the right places, they have been my go-to shoe for absolutely everything. They’ve performed without question over rocky, slippery, muddy, rubbly ground and not batted an eyelid at being made to stomp through everything from cowshit to hill streams. They’ve just been the shoes you don’t notice, and that’s a massive compliment.
The sole of the Fastalpina is a custom Vibram affair, which has performed really well until a couple of weeks ago, as there’s very little tread left on the forefoot. More than adequately grippy on wet grass and mud, the tread pattern did well at shedding mud and dirt. The above picture was taken immediately after a 10-mile walk through dust, fields and sticky mud.
And they’re a good-looking shoe too… or at least, they were:
Not too shouty, and not too sporty. I think they sit a little over in the “look like trainers” side of things, but don’t let that belie their off-road prowess – these are great trekking shoes.
Out of the box, the GoreTex membrane does a good job of keeping your feet dry when you jump through streams and pound through long-grass. Mine has long since given up the ghost, and they actually hold water in them now, but that doesn’t fuss me because it was my fault. I’ve never treated them with care or kept my toenails trimmed to perfection, or re-proofed the uppers. I can live with damp feet in a trade off for the comfort.
They’re not mountaineering shoes, but they certainly have enough of a wide-base and support to cope with most rutted paths and man-sized gravel bits. They bend and flex a little more than an approach shoe, and a little less than a trainer, so there’s a nice balance of support and all-day comfort. They’re actually also a pleasure to slip in to after a day in boots.
The lacing system works an absolute treat. It’s never slipped and can be adjusted to fit easily. I have to say that I’ve never really spent much time adjusting, and they’ve had two settings – tight and lounging. Most often lately, I’m afraid, lounging, regardless of what I’ve been doing, and thus I’ve chewed up the achilles heel part and they’re on their way to finally becoming uncomfy at the heel. I never learn.
You may not have heard of AKU, but they’re a pretty big brand and they’re just starting to make good in-roads in the UK with a nice little distributor called Ardblair. And because you’ve never heard of them, you might run for the hills when you see the price tag, which is £140.
But wait. This is a full GoreTex shoe, and that adds a hefty wodge to any price-tag, thanks to Gore’s epic licensing fees. And, even with that cheque-book bruising price, for the amount I’ve worn them (and will continue to wear them) I reckon it represents pennies per adventure, and to me that’s an absolute bargain.
If I was in need of purchasing some new every-day, every-adventure shoes, I’d buy these. If I actually paid for them, I might be inclined to take a bit better care of them too!