AKU La Stria Lite GTX hiking boots review
The outdoor recreation market is flush with hiking boot brands, all claiming to have something the others don’t. But with AKU, an Italian company that is just now becoming available in the United States, they really do have something I’ve not seen before in their new La Stria Lite GTX hiking boots. AKU calls it a, “new concept trekking boot which delivers exceptional comfort” that is, “ideal for intense, energetic hiking and medium length fast-paced treks with light loads on your back.” But what I found, is that this new concept is boots that look like burly backpacking stompers, but are actually light-and-fast hikers full of stability, support and comfort.
For some real-world testing, I wore the AKU La Stria Lite GTX boots on multiple adventures here in Utah – from short hikes in Mill Creek Canyon, to longer peak-bagging jaunts in the Tushar Mountains. The first thing I noticed upon lacing up these AKU boots is the quality. You always hear about Italian-made boots as being top-of-the line, and these boots prove it. The stitching, attention to detail, and nice fit without any break-in time got me excited to put them to the dirt and rocks.
Yet I still couldn’t get over how they look (like backpacking boots) compared to what they really are – light hikers. All it took was one hike, traveling over easy trails, for me to “get it” so to speak. These high-topped boots gave my feet and ankles all the stability of a bigger boot, but without the bulk and weight. I practically ran up to the Salt Lake City overlook on the Desolation Trail as the boots allowed me to easily stride over rocks and roots alike. At the top, I practically felt like I was in the Alps where AKU boots are born.
Jazzed about my new kicks, I rambled off the beaten path and literally went where there are no paths – on a climb to the summit of Delano Peak, the tallest mountain in the Tushar Range at 12,173 feet. Okay, the hike isn’t hard or long, but it is full of uneven terrain above tree line, and I was really able to get a feel for the AKU’s stability. On loose rocks, traction was top notch, and side-hilling was traversed with ease thanks to those high ankles. However, I did get some slippage in the fore foot, which caused hot spots under my big toe after a long, steeper descent. This is likely caused by a somewhat wide front of the shoe, which allows for plenty of wiggle room, but failed somewhat to keep toes in place when the going got tough.
Despite that, comfort is where the La Stria Lite GTX is at. In fact, after a long hike, the first thing I ever want to do upon returning to camp is take my boots off and slip into some flip flops. But guess what? I never took my AKUs off all day after that Delano Peak hike, because I never felt the need. I found these boots to really be that comfortable.
Now for the geeky tech stuff that makes the AKU boots tick. First, the comfort seems to come from what the company calls SMF, or Slow Memory Foam. It resides in the boot’s upper and molds to the shape of the foott and ankles when you wear the boots. The SMF is located in the footbed, tongue and ankle area. Furthermore the cushioning comes courtesy of IMS, or Internal Midsole System. AKU moved the midsole inside the boot, with a lasting board that is pre-shaped to match the anatomical shape of the foot. Finally the boot’s Air Infinity System makes the boots super breathable and works along with a GORE-TEX waterproof layer. A Vibram sole rounds out the features and allows for grippy fun times when things get slippery.
So if you’re looking for quality and comfort while shopping for some new day hikers, I’d recommend giving the AKU La Stria Lite GTX a go. They’re born and made in the Alps, and will make you want to yodel. However, with quality, comes a price, and you will pay a premium for these boots, which will certainly be a turnoff for some people.
Happy AKU La Stria Lite GTX
- Very comfortable
- High quality craftsmanship and materials
- Light weight for a boot of this type
Sad AKU La Stria Lite GTX
- Narrow feet may find them too roomy
To discover more about AKU, check them out online.