The new Scarpa Mescalito blends the comfort, support and protection of a mountain boot with the sensitivity and weight of an approach shoe.
Arc'teryx's new Arakys is an ultra-light approach shoe that boasts some innovative features. They look both smart and unusual: so how do they perform? In a nutshell, while they are not suited to actually climbing in they are an excellent, lightweight approach shoe that's really well suited to warmer summer conditions.
Despite being thin, the uppers are made from thermolaminated ripstop fabric. After several months of use I've found them very hardwearing on rough terrain and all types of rock. The material is very breathable, and they can be worn all day comfortably without your feet overheating. Although not fully waterproof, they are quick-drying due to the the thin material.
The Arakys have a quality feel, made with what Arc'teryx calls the 'Adaptive Fit Lite.' This refers to a stretchy one-piece construction that allows a perfect fit whatever your foot shape. On me they felt instantly comfortable and secure, requiring no "break in period" at all. Comfort and fit is definitely where these shoes excel.
One novel feature of the Arakys is the hook-and-webbing fastening system. It is designed to eliminate faff and can be done up one-handed on belays. I really like this feature; the memory buckle allows the shoes to be slipped on quickly and easily and creates a snug fit around your foot.
Inside, the leather footbed is super comfortable, even when worn barefoot. Outside, the Vibram rubber sole makes these shoes sticky and extremely grippy on technical terrain. The rubber seems quite thin though and I wouldn't recommend walking any great distance in these shoes. A two-hour long approach on flat ground left me with fairly achy feet! The tread is also quite shallow, meaning they are not ideal for tackling wet grass or muddy terrain - the sort of ground common on UK crag approaches. The Arakys are really best seen as summer approach shoes, ideal for short periods of technical terrain - and used as such they function excellently.
The shoes fitted perfectly in my usual street shoe size. I usually take a wide fit, but with the fully adjustable straps it's likely they would be equally comfortable on a narrower, lower volume foot too.
Another unique selling point of the Arakys is the collapsible heel. This actually functions surprisingly well, collapsing to a clog and reforming easily. Initially slightly sceptical of this feature, I found myself wearing them as clogs a lot while at the base of the crag. It's great being able to step down the backs of the heels without worrying about ruining them - it's a definite plus for camping trips too!
However, one thing which doesn't work so well is that the heel pull loop is attached slightly too far down the heel. This means that the top of the heel always gets folded over uncomfortably when you pull the shoes on.
The Arakys are great for tricky scrambly crag approaches and rough rocky terrain. Their snug fit and sticky rubber means they feel very secure. They perform excellently when scrambling, boulder-hopping or on via ferrata. However, although they're billed as being capable of 'easy bouldering problems or quick routes on the gym wall', I've found that the sole isn't really rigid enough for this. I tested them repeatedly for climbing and bouldering, both indoors and out, and while the shoe has good edges and it's certainly good and sticky, I don't find it supportive enough for secure climbing on smaller foot placements. I would not choose to do more than scrambling or very easy climbing in them.
My favourite feature of the Arakys is that they are incredibly lightweight, at only 460g for the pair in UK size 5.5. As such they are one of the best shoes you can chose for multi-pitching. I barely notice their weight when clipped on my harness and, due to their nifty transformation into clogs, they are very easy to slip on and off at belays too. I took them up the Comici on a recent trip to the Dolomites, and a 22 pitch route on the Tofana di Rozes. Mega light!
The Arakys are an extremely comfortable shoe with a secure fit that should suit most foot shapes. The easy fastening and collapsible heel are handy features, and their sticky rubber makes them an excellent choice for short technical approaches, and even the very easy end of climbing and scrambling. However due to their flexibility there are limits to their performance on steeper ground.
While they're not ideal for wet weather or long muddy UK mountain crag approaches, I would definitely choose them as my summer approach shoes. In addition, being super-lightweight, they are a superb option for a pair of shoes that you're going to end up carrying on long multipitch routes.
The versatile Arakys is a unique approach shoe designed for scrambling into crag and bouldering terrain, with a grippy sole that can even play on easy bouldering problems or quick routes on the gym wall.
The Arakys has a distinctive one hand closure and memory buckle feature that allows for fast, easy removal and efficient shifts from climb to belay. A collapsible heel turns the shoe into a comfortable belay slipper. The leather footbed is barefoot friendly, and the air permeable laminated upper is comfortable in summer conditions.
For more info see: arcteryx.com