Alex Roddie reviews an excellent all-round three-season backpacking boot.
When it comes to walking boots, I’d describe myself as extremely fussy. I prefer to hike in trail shoes as much as I can, and have a long and painful history of boots causing blisters, overheating, and other problems on long-distance walks. It’s rare for me to find a boot I genuinely love, so when I tell you that I love AKU’s Superalp GTX, bear that context in mind. I’m not easy to please.
The Superalp GTX has a simple, classic design. The uppers are made from waterproof suede leather that looks good and has proven highly durable (despite plenty of exposed stitching). It has a thick, aggressive Vibram outsole with a high rubber rand and a double-density PU midsole for support. AKU specify the weight at 700g per boot; the real-world weight on my scale (size 45, with a bit of mud for good measure) is roughly 850g. Lacing is precise and lacing hardware is both durable and simple.
So far, so ordinary. What’s so special about the Superalp GTX? It’s all about comfort and fit.
I’ve used these boots for several hundred miles of walking, from the muddy Lincolnshire Wolds to tough backpacking routes in the Scottish Highlands. Initially I was sceptical that they’d be a good fit – they don’t seem particularly wide in the forefoot, and I have wide feet. However, after a few miles of breaking them in, I found them extremely comfortable, especially when wearing thicker socks. Partly that’s thanks to the excellent lacing system, which allows you to control fit to an unusually precise degree. But, ultimately, they’re just boots that fit well.
The sole unit is a good one for general hillwalking on rough terrain, with widely spaced lugs that help prevent slips, even on muddy ground. It’s a great sole for scrambling thanks to the crisp edges and high rand. I’ve found the boots grippy on wet rock, too, and the rand helps to protect the uppers from wear. Speaking of wear, I’m quite tough on my gear but there is less wear on the soles than I would expect after this amount of use. I’m notorious for trashing boots in no time at all but these still look almost new.
The boots are as waterproof as you’d imagine from Gore-Tex-lined footwear, which is to say that they’ll keep the water out when looked after, but will also keep some of the perspiration in, especially in warmer conditions (in my experience there is no such thing as a boot that is both totally waterproof and totally breathable, which is fine if you have realistic expectations). They perform better in cooler weather.
The midsole has some longitudinal flex but a good amount of torsional rigidity – this feels comfortable but also supportive on steep ground.
Overall, these boots are hard to fault. It’s a simple, classic, unpretentious design that just does its job with very few drawbacks. Construction quality is high and these boots have proven durable. If they fit you – and this is always the most important thing – then the AKU Superalp GTX is a good choice for three-season hillwalking and backpacking. The price is a little high but the quality fits the price tag in this reviewer’s opinion.