OR Summer 2015: Footwear

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.

Arcteryx-Acrux-AR-GTX-boot_06The Arakys Approach Shoe (more below) and the Acrux AR GTX boot, in now typical Arcteryx modern-industrial look.

Arcteryx-Acrux-AR-GTX-boot_01The removable liner feels like your favourite pair of slippers.

Arcteryx-Acrux-AR-GTX-boot_02
The outer boot shown without the liner inside.

Arcteryx-Acrux-AR-GTX-boot_03The lacing goes to just below the ankle, with a velcro strap across the lower shin.

Arcteryx-Acrux-AR-GTX-boot_04
The laminated construction looks to be incredibly tough.

Arcteryx-Acrux-AR-GTX-boot_05
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.

Scarpa-Phantom-Tech_01The Phantom Tech seems slimmer than the Guide but we won’t know until I can compare two same-size boots side-by-side.

Scarpa-Phantom-Tech_02The whole inner section of the boot is made with Super Fabric. Expect to have to kick hard to put a crampon through this gaiter.

Scarpa-Phantom-Tech_03
They really do appear slightly narrower and lower-volume than the Guides, don’t they?

Scarpa-Phantom-Tech_04The inner SockFit gaiter, though it isn’t mentioned in the press release, certainly fits like every other SockFit boot I’ve tried.

Scarpa-Phantom-Tech_05The dual-density sole. Black is tougher so it doesn’t wear out, while the orange is less durable but much lighter. We’ll see how this plays out in the real-world.

Scarpa-Phantom-6000_01The Phantom 6000 is still a fairly bulky boot. I neglected to take photos of the lacing system and inner bootie as everything inside appears the same as on the current 6000’s.

Scarpa-Phantom-6000_02Again, a lot of Super Fabric on the inside half of the boot.

Scarpa-Phantom-6000_03The same dual-density sole design as the Tech.

Scarpa-Phantom-8000_01The Phantom 8000 is a BIG boot.

Scarpa-Phantom-8000_02Designed for high-altitude use, the 8000’s sole is not suited for extended rough-terrain travel but rather use on snow or with crampons. Note the limited black-rubber climbing zone at the toe.

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!

Adidas-Terrex-Continental_01Adidas shoes just plain fit. Add to that the traction of a Continental tire/sole and you’ve got an awesome trail shoe.

Adidas-Terrex-Continental_02The laminated construction eliminates any seams on the shoes.

Adidas-Terrex-Continental_04The combined midsole/insole unit is unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Adidas-Terrex-Continental_03The Continental rubber outsole uses the X-King mountain bike tire tread pattern. 

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.

Arcteryx-Aarakys-Shoe_01The breathable softshell upper feels almost non-existent when you’re wearing the Arakys.

Arcteryx-Aarakys-Shoe_02The leather footbed is designed for barefoot use.

Arcteryx-Aarakys-Shoe_03The outsole is designed for walking, and light climbing.

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.

La-Sportiva-TX-shoes_01The La Sportiva TX2 is the lightest-weight shoe in the new TX lineup.

La-Sportiva-TX-shoes_02The minimalist sole looks like it will climb well, but I wouldn’t want to step into any mud…

La-Sportiva-TX-shoes_03The TX2’s party trick is a collapsible upper and built-in elastics (you can see them along the heel in the first photo) that snap around the opposite shoe for multi-pitch haulability,

La-Sportiva-TX-shoes_04The 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.

Scarpa-Gecko_01The Scarpa Gecko is designed to be the ultimate climbing approach shoe, maximizing climbing ability while still being capable of longer walks.

Scarpa-Gecko_02The Gecko’s sole is optimized for climbing performance, with strategically placed lugs for approach traction.

Scarpa-Iguana_01The Iguana is Scarpa’s new lightweight approach shoe, with a collapsible upper (bet you didn’t see that one coming!) and a sole designed more for approaches than technical climbing.

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.

Scarpa-Vapor-Lace_01The return of the Scarpa Vapor lace-up. Built on the same last as the Vapor V, but with a stiffer midsole.

Scarpa-Vapor-Lace_02
Scarpa-Vapor-Lace_03The Vapor gets 3.5mm XS Edge rubber, and a 1mm Flexan midsole.

Scarpa-Origin_01I 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.

Scarpa-Drago_01The Scarpa Drago is their softest shoe to date, and designed for ultimate performance.

Scarpa-Drago_02
Scarpa-Drago_03Yup, there’s pretty much no midsole in these!

Lowa-Falco-Rental_01The Lowa Falco Rental not only has a fantastic pricepoint – $99 – but it’s also the only gym shoe to come with a 12-month wear warranty (for gyms only).

Lowa-Falco-Rental_02A massively thick 9mm sole ensures the shoes can stand up to daily abuse in the rental fleet.

Lowa-Falco-Rental_03Handy touches like a size-tag on the back and metal snaps to keep pairs together show Lowa’s attention to detail.

La-Sportiva-Skwama_01La 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.

La-Sportiva-Skwama_02The S-Heel construction (that hard rubber bit you can see on the heel) is designed to maximize heel-hooking performance.

La-Sportiva-Skwama_03The sole of the Skwama.

La-Sportiva-Otaki_01The Otaki is the evolution of the Katana. A slipper-like construction with two velcro straps keeps your foot in place.

La-Sportiva-Otaki_02The Otaki also gets the new S-Heel construction.

La-Sportiva-Otaki_03These look like they’ll be a great combination of comfort to performance.

La-Sportiva-Finale_01Finally, the Finale is a new all-around lace-up with an unlined leather upper for all-day comfort.

La-Sportiva-Finale_02XS Edge rubber and a comfortable sole profile should endear these to trad and crack climbers.

Check out our other OR reports: Hardware, Packs and Clothing & Randoms

12 thoughts on “OR Summer 2015: Footwear

  1. Maarten says:

    Nice report Raf! What’s the word on re-soling any of these boots (Acrux & Phantom Tech)?. Do Scarpa/Arc offer a re-sole service if they are not readily re-soleable by local cobbler? I have a few boots where the soles have worn out long before the boot!

    Very excited about the new fit on the Scarpa Phantom Tech, the Rebel Pro GTX fits AMAZING!! If the Tech is anything close, this will be the boot for the next decade!

    • Raf says:

      You know, never thought to ask about resoling — I seem to wear the sole and the upper equally so it never entered my mind. I’ll check, though.

      I love the Rebel Pro, too, and the Phantom Tech’s fit is very similar. I’ll need to try a direct size/sock comparison to be sure, but it feels like it’s got that better-walking but still solidly-climbing flex that I love about the Mont Blanc Pro and the Rebel series.

    • Raf says:

      We honestly didn’t have time to stop in there. I do have a pic of the new shoes somewhere but am awaiting the press kit to get some info. Same for Evolv… it’s a big show and we only had two days!

  2. Steve Kovalenko says:

    It is pathetic that no one cobbler in Calgary has taken any real initiative to jump into the mountain boot re-sole market. Alpine Shoe Repair should have his official warranty and repair service status for La Sportiva and Scarpa revoked if he does not want to do boots. I feel terrible about wearing out my boots and chucking them away after 2-3 years. Try Dave Page Cobbler if you are locally in the Seattle or Vancouver area. Shipping him boots now with the Canadian Peso back to its normal level is an expensive proposition. Someone else in Vancouver might also do boots.

    • Raf says:

      Good points about resoling. I’ll ask Scarpa and La Sportiva what their policy is. But yes, sad that what used to be a common service is now so hard to find.

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  5. Salvatore Virginia says:

    The fully hydrophobic upper offers extreme quick drying and maximized breathability thanks to the woven PU coated nylon yarn large insert area, which allows for air exchange while increasing durability. Moving into footwear was a natural progression for Arc teryx.

    • Raf says:

      Awesome, someone that knows WAY more about textiles and fabrics than I ever want to — thank you so much for the comment!

  6. Cody says:

    Got a pair of the Adidas XKings. Great construction but ZERO arch support, I have lightweight Reef flip flops that feel more supportive. The midsole/ sock liner doesn’t really allow you to throw in a aftermarket insole since the extra height REALLY throws off the heel fit. I guess I need to find an adhesive arch wedge or something. Also the combination of the shape of the outsole and last have such minimal sculpting in the arch area that the upper isn’t helping there at all either.

    I really wanted to like them as I love the Ravens and other Adidas stuff, but Adidas REALLY blew it on the underfoot shaping.

    • Raf says:

      Interesting, thanks for the feedback! I’ll see if I can get a hold of the X-Kings to see how they feel on my feet.

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