It’s no secret I have a thing for approach shoes. I’m lucky that I get to demo so many models each year. Occasionally a pair really stick out to me as a well designed high performing standout. The Italian made AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes are this season’s stand out and I’m excited to finally share my experiences and thoughts on this shoe and brand!
Let’s start with how I tested:
Test period: Early May – Late August
Use: Day hiking in the White Mountains, approx. 50 miles and 16,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. Summited Mount Washington, Cardigan, Jackson, and Mount Chocorua wearing these.
The DFS Rock collection uses a ground breaking Dual Fit System (“DFS”) to give you both maximum comfort during your approach and high performance fit while climbing and scrambling. The Rock DFS has two separate lace zones that utilize lightweight webbing that wraps around and under your foot which enables you to customize your shoe for the fit you want. The Rock DFS midsole incorporates a lightweight EVA foam for cushioning and a polyurethane heel for durability and support. The midsole is then wrapped with sticky climbing rubber to protect your shoe and to provide extra grip. Together with a Vibram Approcciosa sole with Megagrip, the resulting Rock DFS offers a high-performance approach shoe for all day comfort.
DUAL FIT SYSTEM
AKU’s DFS collection of approach shoes allows for optimum enjoyment and maximum confidence over the most demanding terrain. Whether you’re on flat trails or going vertical, AKU DFS shoes will take you there in comfort.
The VIBRAM Approach sole is designed to make quick work of trails while giving also giving you the confidence to edge and smear on your climb.
AKU ELICA TECHNOLOGY
ELICA Technology ensures an anatomical fit to provide better stability and weight distribution across your boot sole to reduce pressure points and encourage better hiking form.
- Upper: 1.6mm Suede Leather, Air 8000 & Microfiber
- Lasting board (stiffness): Soft Flex
- Footbed: Ortholite Hybrid
- Midsole: Dual Density EVA & PU
- Outsole: VIBRAM® Approach
- Upper protection: Rubber Rand
- Weight Per Shoe: 380 Grams
It is hard for me to pick the attribute I liked the most out of these shoes so I’ll randomly start with…
Out of the box these fit my feet perfectly. AKU suggests to order a half size smaller than your “normal AKU boot size” for a “performance fit”. I’ve never worn an AKU boot before so this suggestion wouldn’t help me. I went with my normal US 8.5, EUR 42 that works well for me for LaSportiva boots and shoes and the fit was perfect. The toe box had plently of room while still maintaining a slim profile, and the heel cup was shaped perfect for my feet with zero slippage while ascending granite slabs. The footbed and midsoles offer great cushioning over our rocky and root ridden trails. The soft flex lasting board also kept my feet from feeling sore after many above tree line miles.
The two separate “lace zones” definitely helps these shoes standout in the category. There is a typical toe to top of ankle style lacing system then a shorter quick lace system on top of the lower part of the foot. The idea is you can have them laced comfortably for a long approach and then crank the quick pull system tight for more technical scrambling. While it might sound gimmicky at first in reality this system works great! I wore them comfortably laced up the famous Huntington Ravine Trail (often referred to as the most dangerous hiking trail in the White Mountains) then tightened the secondary lacing system for the 1000 foot semi-technical scramble out of the ravine. The snug more precise fit was comforting both on these section and while technical rock climbing YDS 5.5 face climbing across the road at Square Ledge.
AKU uses a Vibram Approcciosa sole with Megagrip and with a “soft flex” lasting board I found the traction of these to be excellent. I tested them on wet rock slabs and steep muddy trails around Ripley Falls. The performance in this category is excellent.
The thickness of the outsole combined with the full circumference rubber toe rand gives me confidence in the overall durability of these. It is sometimes difficult to talk about durability after just a few months of use but close inspection of these inspires confidence in all levels of construction. They truly look and feel “Italian” made and I would predict these easily lasting over 1k miles.
Liking a product a company makes is already a bonus for me, but when that company is authentic and socially responsible that’s icing on my cake! If you’d like to learn a little more about AKU’s history and philosophies check out this five minute YouTube video:
This is the first AKU shoe I have ever demo’d and I’m highly impressed with the brand after this experience. I’ll definitely be trying one of their mountaineering boots, hopefully this winter. If you are shopping for a new pair of approach shoes or a great below the ankle day hiker this is an Italian made model that performs as advertised and doesn’t break the bank. I plan on summiting many more of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers in these (between finding time to test other brands/models). I highly recommend trying a pair of these.
Purchase: You can purchase these directly from AKU. The men’s models come in both the regular version and a Goretex model, as well as a Mid version for those who desire more ankle support. The women’s model is currently only available in the Goretex version.
The author purchased these for purpose of review. Affiliate links above help support the content created on Northeast Alpine Start. Thank you.