Recommended Price: £180
AKU may be an unfamiliar brand name to UK walkers, but the Italian company has 30 years experience making boots. Although based in Treviso, Aku also have a second production base in Romania where these Alterra GTX boots are manufactured.
AKU Alterra GTX boots are full-height boots that actually sit somewhere between the lightness and flexibility of trail shoes and the support of heavier boots. Much of the uppers are made from suede, with a stretchy synthetic material used for the ankle cuff and the tongue. This stretchiness means no tongue gusset is needed and it really seems to help these boots mould to the foot – I found the Alterras to be supremely comfortable from the get-go, and the stretchiness meant that I had no problem even with my wide feet. That said, I’d never buy boots online – this is one purchase where you really can’t ignore the need to try a pair on.
The quality of construction seems very high – the metal eyelets swivel to allow easy lacing, and the heel cups don’t display the tendency to bend inwards with wear and dig into my foot, which I have found to plague some of the cheaper brands with this style of boot. The midsole is moderately flexible PU and I’ve found it offers plenty of support for typical Scottish hill-use, outside of the snowy season, whilst the sole is traditional Vibram and I’ve found they offer good traction even on steep wet grass.
The boots have a waterproof goretex lining which makes them fairly warm; opinions are varied on this – personally I think linings are worth having on highly flexible boots like these to give them a chance to really keep your feet dry, whilst I prefer my trail shoes to be unlined as the water gets in anyway, and the lack of lining then allows for quick drying. These have kept the bogs out so far, but long experience tells me that goretex linings will fail and start to leak well before the rest of the boot wears out. Overall, though, these have quickly become my favourite footwear for hill-bashing this year.
Pros: supremely comfortable and very well made, lightweight yet will keep feet dry at first
Cons: waterproof goretex linings don’t usually last and make boots warm and slow to dry