AKU, situated in Montebelluna, the traditional heart of Italy's boot manufacturing industry, is a family-run business with over 30 years experience in the design and production of high quality trekking and outdoor footwear. The craftsmen they employ, the finest materials they utilise and the expert design team ensure that the boots that leave their factory are of the highest quality and are decidedly fit for purpose.
Below are three highlights from AKU. For an overview of their 2014 trekking and mountaineering collection, take a look at this video. If you're not familiar with AKU, head to one of their UK stockists and feel the difference.
Those of you in the know will recall the AKU Spider GTX. A supremely technical boot, equally at home on the North Face of the Eiger or the long walk in to some of Scotland's most remote peaks.
The Montagnard GTX is the Spider's replacement, and at first glance appears just as good, if not better, and certainly more versatile.
Whilst primarily designed for classic mountaineering on glaciers and icefalls, the Montagnard GTX will also cope with Scotland's deep wet snow, or Tryfan in its winter coat. It is ideal for working in cold environments, thanks to the waterproof and insulating GORE-TEX® Duratherm membrane. All day comfort is provided by the IMS3 sole made of PU in diverse densities, which distributes an ideal cushioning effect on all types of terrain. And when you're having fun on the rock face, the flex zones on the upper give you the freedom of movement that you might not find in other mountaineering boots.
There's bags of protection too, thanks to the super-tough and durable 3mm Perwanger suede used on the upper, the bombproof rubber rand and the exoskeleton construction, which also provides stability. The integrated and elasticated gaiter will prevent ice, grit and debris entering the boot when you're climbing.
The TPU heel cap and the rubber cap define the crampon-compatible equipment of these boots, which is durable and reliable for adventures in the mountains.
SUPERALP NBK GTX
This brand new backpacking boot from AKU is absolutely gorgeous, both to look at and to wear. Virtually all the components were sourced from Italian suppliers and the boots themselves were designed and hand crafted by AKU in their Montebelluna factory in northern Italy. They just ooze quality.
The key to the comfort and stability of AKU boots is their IMS system. Normally the midsole (the boots backbone) is made from a flat stiff board or plate, but IMS uses a 3D anatomically shaped midsole that cradles the foot in a natural position reducing internal movement and encouraging a naturally relaxed foot. What this means is that your feet feel less tired as they are not constantly working to provide support, the IMS is doing all that.
The sole unit of the Superalp has been constructed using the new Exoskeleton construction which provides protection and stability without compromising the weight of the boot. The Exoskeleton is made up of a softer material to absorb impact shock and a more rigid material to provide stability, lateral retention and the perfect torsional rigidity. A Vibram self-cleaning outer sole supplies plenty of grip on a mixed terrain and has a reinforced toe area for secure grip on rock, if you fancy a bit of scrambling.
The Nubuck leather is the best quality 2.6mm leather. These leather uppers are then backed by a 3D Gore-Tex lining for complete waterproofing and breathability. Stretch zones have been built into the ankle area to allow full movement without compromising support. A full rubber rand finishes off the uppers to provide abrasion resistance.
An even lacing tension is guaranteed by the use of roller eyelets that allow a smooth lace pull from the toe to the ankle, and you can separate the upper and lower lacing tension with a 45 degree lace lock.
The key to the Transalpina's comfort and support is the ingenious IMS 3 system (described in more detail above). The outsole is exclusive to AKU and is a lightweight deep lugged Vibram unit combining durability with traction and stability. Cushioning and support is provided by the internal PU and EVA midsole which then extends up and around the heel to provide additional support and pronation control. The IMS 3D midsole provides a natural rolling flex to the boot without it being too soft or too stiff. The internal shape of the boot is dictated by the last, a solid form that the boot is built around. AKU use an anatomical last which gives room around the metatarsal heads (toe joints) and control and support in the heel area minimising slippage and friction.
The uppers are a mixture of leather and synthetic materials to provide durability and breathability. The synthetic material is made from Air 8000, developed exclusively by AKU, an incredibly breathable material that breathes 11 times better than traditionally made fabric boots. Fully Gore-Tex lined for complete waterproofness.
All together the Transalpina is a supremely comfortable and high performance trekking boot suitable for walking in varied terrain and for longer treks in the hills and mountains.