Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
Aku Mio Surround GTX
$200, 1 lb. 14 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: US men’s 7-13
The pivotal question you might ask yourself before buying trail footwear is: How much do I need? You’re probably thinking along the lines of how much support you need in a shoe or boot. But that question could also refer to the delicate balance between how much protection you need from wetness on the outside getting inside, versus breathability so moisture on the inside gets released. The new Gore-Tex Surround technology alters that equation, and Aku’s Mio Surround GTX leaps feet first into this debate as a lightweight, low-cut shoe that could serve the needs of a wide range of dayhikers and backpackers.
I wore them on dayhikes of up to nine miles in southeastern Utah’s Grand Gulch Plateau and Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument, plus numerous trail runs on the packed-dirt footpaths of the Boise Foothills and the rocky, leaf-strewn trails of central Massachusetts. The Mio breathed well enough that my feet were nearly dry even at the end of very sweaty trail runs. That’s due to Gore-Tex Surround technology, which features side vents in the shoe’s midsole to release moisture and heat, and a “spacer” layer between the outsole and the shoe’s inner lining, allowing airflow under your foot. Gore says Surround increases breathability by 30 percent over their standard waterproof-breathable membrane. As for waterproofing: I stood in a shallow creek and the shoes didn’t leak.
But a nice interior is worth little without a reliable chassis, and on that front I found the Mio’s thick midsole of molded EVA provides enough shock absorption for hiking rocky trails carrying up to 20 or 25 pounds on your back, or for trail running. And the shallow, multi-directional lugs of the Vibram Megagrip outsole bite well into dirt and scree and do a respectable job of sticking to rock slabs. Micro-suede overlays guard the mesh uppers that help maximize breathability. The uppers are also shielded by Liba Smart PU at the toe and heel—areas receiving hard abuse—which Gore-Tex says is 40 percent lighter than rubber, with more abrasion resistance. The medium-volume fit provides a little extra space in the forefeet and toe box.
So why get the low-cut Mio with Gore-Tex Surround? In many ways, it’s ideal for dayhikers who want waterproof footwear just in case, but need optimal breathability more often—because their feet will more likely sweat than get rained on or slog through miles of puddles and mud. The Mio isn’t designed for extremely wet conditions like constantly muddy trails, heavy rain, or summer snow. But it is light enough for trail running and supportive enough for ultralight backpacking.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my Gear Reviews at The Big Outside.
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