I’m always excited at the prospect of new boots. Lighter, stiffer, warmer, drier? Yes please!
Arc’teryx announced their anticipated Acrux AR GTX boot. It is their take on a technical alpine boot and uses a lot of the technology and construction methods found in the Acrux shoe line. The Acrux AR is, technically, a double-boot as the liner is removable, however its volume is closer to that of a gaitered single boot.
Other than a carbon-fibre frame, insulation is quoted as “removable Gore-Tex liners” and a 4mm PE inner-shell. If you’ve seen the Acrux2 or Bora2 from Arcteryx then you already have an idea of what the liner is like. The press release mentions that the “removable liners provide insulation options for different conditions” but there was no mention of this at OR, so I’m looking into it. Having different weight / insulation liners would make this the most versatile winter boot available.
There are two layers of Gore-Tex, one in the liner and one in the shell, in addition to a waterproof gaiter, “Laminated Watertight” construction and a WaterTight zipper. Sounds like these will be quite a fortress against wet conditions (as befits a West Coast-based brand!).
The OR sample was a final pre-production prototype version in size 9 (half size down from what I wear in Arcteryx) but I did get a chance to try it out, albeit with an ultra-light liner-weight sock. In one word: exceptional. As with the Acrux shoes, the inner liner cossets your foot. It’s soft, form-fitting, comfortable; almost like your favourite pair of slippers. Over the instep lacing and a velcro strap at the ankle make for a very positive fit and I couldn’t create any ankle lift whatsoever. Width wise, they felt similar to the current Scarpa Phantom Guides. The sole feels just a bit stiffer than the Phantom Guides, too — these’ll be fantastic!
MSRP will be $750, availability February 2016.
The lacing goes to just below the ankle, with a velcro strap across the lower shin.
The laminated construction looks to be incredibly tough.
The outer sole is an Arc’teryx design made by Vibram and looks to perform in all conditions.
The other major boot announcement came from Scarpa. We got a glimpse of the new Phantom range in the winter show’s new product handbook (oops there!), though they weren’t officially announced until now. The whole Phantom range has been redesigned to be lighter and warmer. Word from Scarpa is that they let Ueli Steck do as he pleased and we’re essentially getting what he designed for himself to climb in.
The Phantom Tech is a huge change from the current Phantom Guide, and feels lighter and warmer with an even better fit and a much improved zipper. Scarpa claims 15% lower weight, and I believe it. There’s now a carbon fibre insole, a 3D mesh/aluminum layer and adding to the warmth is Primaloft Micropile insulation. These immediately felt warmer on my feet than the Guide.
The most obvious change to the outer is the wrap-around zipper, called Flexseal, which aims to eliminate any stress points. Opened up, the zipper lies in a straight, flat line, so there are no bends or stress points. The inner-side of the outer gaiter is made from Super Fabric, which is some kind of cordura/fibreglass/kevlar fabric that’s incredibly tough and extremely abrasion resistant (I’ve tried it on a different boot, hard to put a scratch into this stuff!)
Another big weight-saving change is a dual-layer sole, clearly visible as black and orange on the underside.
Fit is improved by what appears to be the SockFit system that is used in the Rebel series of boots. It’s fantastic, if a touch narrower than the Guide. Keep in mind these are pre-production samples, but they also feel slightly more flexible than the Guides (again, in keeping with how the Rebel series of boots fit and function). I like it, but it might not suit everyone.
MSRP for the Tech goes up to $749; the 6000 will be $849 and the 8000 will set you back $1099. Because these were slated for January announcement, Scarpa did mention they could be available as early as November / December 2015.
The whole inner section of the boot is made with Super Fabric. Expect to have to kick hard to put a crampon through this gaiter.
They really do appear slightly narrower and lower-volume than the Guides, don’t they?
Other than the boots, the next most exciting shoes (due to their innovative construction) are the Arc’teryx Arakys approach shoe and the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Continental X-King (or something to that effect, Adidas Outdoor has names even more tongue-twisting than Arc’teryx!).
First up, the Adidas shoe. The company has partnered with tire-manufacturer Continental to — almost literally — fuse one of Continental’s mountain bike tires, the X-King, with an Adidas upper. This creates a uniform sole-to-upper construction, and without any seams it is extremely flexible and pliant. The shoe actually gets its shape and stiffness from a fused midsole/insole unit that is completely removable. They fit and feel great but what excites me most is the possibility of using this type of construction for other types of footwear: can you imagine an alpine boot whose flex you can adjust by swapping out the midsole/insole unit? That would be cool!
Alongside the Acrux AR boot, Arc’teryx announced the Arakys lightweight approach shoe. Based on how amazingly comfortable it is, we think it should be called the approach “slipper.” The softshell upper is soft and flexible, to the point of being fully collapsible, ideal for stuffing into a pack on multi-pitch climbs. A leather footbed is designed for bare-foot use, and the heel section is designed to collapse for easy on-off around the crag. MSRP is $125 and they’ll be available in February.
La Sportiva and Scarpa also had new approach shoes on display, sticking to more traditional designs than the radically constructed as the Adidas and Arc’teryx offerings.
The complete lineup includes the TX4, the top two shoes, with a leather upper and more durable outsole; the TX3, the two shoes in the middle, with a synthetic upper and mid-burliness outsole; and the TX2 as shown above.
The Scarpa Gecko is designed to be the ultimate climbing approach shoe, maximizing climbing ability while still being capable of longer walks.
The Gecko’s sole is optimized for climbing performance, with strategically placed lugs for approach traction.
Though this was the summer show, the tech alpine boots kinda stole it for me. But, there are a few amazing new rock shoes coming for those of you less winter-inclined.
I remember a time when entry-level shoes felt like entry-level shoes. Not so with the Origin, Scarpa’s lowest-priced shoe (MSRP $89), which feels just as well constructed as their higher-end offerings.
The Scarpa Drago is their softest shoe to date, and designed for ultimate performance.
Yup, there’s pretty much no midsole in these!
A massively thick 9mm sole ensures the shoes can stand up to daily abuse in the rental fleet.
Handy touches like a size-tag on the back and metal snaps to keep pairs together show Lowa’s attention to detail.
La Sportiva just keeps adding great-looking shoes to their lineup. This is the Skwama, a high-performance slipper that looks like the evolution of the Solution.
The S-Heel construction (that hard rubber bit you can see on the heel) is designed to maximize heel-hooking performance.
The sole of the Skwama.
These look like they’ll be a great combination of comfort to performance.
Finally, the Finale is a new all-around lace-up with an unlined leather upper for all-day comfort.
XS Edge rubber and a comfortable sole profile should endear these to trad and crack climbers.