Aku SL Sintesi Mid GTX
$250, 2 lbs. 14 oz. (men’s Euro 42.5/US 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-13
When I need a sturdier boot for carrying a heavy backpack, I prefer one that incorporates some climbing-oriented features that improve traction, fit, and durability. I wore the SL Sintesi Mid GTX on a five-day, roughly 44-mile family backpacking trip in Washington’s Glacier Peak Wilderness, starting out with more than 50 pounds in my pack (including family food and gear), and found it does all of that, providing excellent support while feeling like a lighter, more nimble boot.
A superior boot begins and ends with superior fit, and the Sintesi clears that bar, cradling the heel to prevent any slipping that can lead to blisters, supporting the midfoot and arch, and leaving wiggle room for toes without allowing my foot to slide forward and hammer my toes on descents. The close lacing, extending nearly to the toes (like shoes and boots designed for climbing), helped dial in a more precise fit that gives this burly boot a more nimble feel. The relatively stiff, triple-density EVA midsole delivers enough support and cushion for hauling 50 pounds in rugged terrain, while the slightly narrow platform and smooth, sticky portion of the outsole beneath the toes let me scramble off-trail on steep slabs. While weighing nearly three pounds, the boots didn’t feel heavy and clunky when I dayhiked one evening from our camp west of Suiattle Pass about 6.4 miles round-trip to Image Lake.
The suede uppers conform to the shape of my feet, and a protective rubber rand stretches all the way around the forefoot and wraps the heel. The above-the-ankle height and ample padding in the collar and tongue offer plenty of protection from bashing into rocks. A Gore-Tex membrane kept moisture out when I walked through shallow creeks and kicked steps in wet snow crossing Spider Gap. Deep, well-spaced outsole lugs gripped well in mud and snow and on rocky trails. Lastly, construction is superb, and the Sintesi comes with a footbed that gives a little more support than standard footbeds found in most boots. The fit is best for medium-volume feet.
NOTE: I’ve been testing 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 reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.