Arc’teryx Acrux FL
$200, 1 lb. 14 oz. (men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-14, women’s 5-12
Is it possible for a shoe to be everything you need in backcountry footwear—and if so, what’s that worth? Those are the questions raised by Arc’teryx’s new Acrux2 FL GTX Approach Shoe and Acrux FL—both very “Arc’teryx” in their shoot-for-the-moon design and price. In pursuit of answers to those questions, I took both out on hikes intended to put the claims about these shoes to the test: ultralight backpacking the very rugged Royal Arch Loop in the Grand Canyon in the Acrux2 FL GTX, and dayhiking 17 miles through New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Range, and Zion’s steep and scrambly Angels Landing, in the Acrux FL.
Anytime Arc’teryx introduces a new product category to its line, it attracts attention, and the company’s first-time foray into shoes and boots is no different. (My “Preview of This Year’s Best New Gear” has been one of the most-read posts at my blog since it went up on Feb. 1, in part because the new Arc’teryx footwear models have ranked among the most popular gear in that article in search engines.) The series includes five low-cut, Acrux shoe models, three for men and two for women, and three mid-cut Bora boot models, two for men and one for women.
I wore the Acrux2 FL GTX Approach Shoe on a three-day, 34-mile backpacking trip in May on the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop, which has a lot of rough terrain and miles of essentially off-trail hiking and scrambling. I carried up to 20 to 25 pounds, including seven liters of water at times. The shoes are supportive for that amount of weight, leaving my feet feeling good after very hard, nine-hour days. The EVA midsole delivers good cushioning and support, and Arc’teryx says the “Y” groove in the heel allows the midsole and outsole to flex independently, enhancing cushioning in rough terrain.
The Gore-Tex membrane, built into the Acrux2’s removable, inner booty, kept water out when I deliberately stood in creeks and standing water as a test, and breathed pretty well: My feet stayed dry in moderate temps but did get a bit hot on the sun-blasted, 3,000-foot uphill slog on the South Bass Trail on our final day on the Royal Arch Loop; but my feet certainly would have been even hotter in almost any midweight, mid-cut boot with a waterproof-breathable membrane. Arc’teryx making the shoe in black obviously doesn’t help keep feet cooler, either.
The removable booty in the Acrux2 (also available in the men’s Bora2 Mid GTX boots, but not the Acrux FL or the other models) is washable and interchangeable and the liner doubles as a camp or hut booty. I wore the liners only in camp in the Grand Canyon, and their bottoms are firm and grippy enough that I could actually walk around easily without slipping or damaging the liners. An insulated liner for cold temperatures is sold separately.
I wore the non-waterproof Acrux FL on a 17-mile dayhike over the four summits of the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire, with about 6,800 feet of cumulative elevation gain and loss, on a June day with temps in the 50s and 60s and some wind and warm sun; and on a fast-paced, afternoon hike up Angels Landing in Zion National Park on a mild afternoon in November. The shoes felt light and comfortable striding quickly, and confidently nimble and sticky on the steep, exposed scrambling on Angels Landing and the constant walking on uneven rocks in the Presidential Range. With a very nice, close fit for my medium-volume feet—true of both of these shoe models—I experienced no heel slipping or toe jamming, not even on the steep switchbacks descending off Angels Landing. There’s also adequate toe space.
With no membrane or tongue and the highly breathable, mesh booty and uppers, the Acrux FL breathes well enough that my socks got hardly damp over the course of that 17-mile day in the Northern Presidentials, which took over 15 hours (including rest breaks).
The shoes are built on the same platform. The tongue-less design, intended to reduce pressure points as well as heat and moisture build-up on top of the foot, employs a seamless, one-piece, thermo-laminated upper made from hydrophobic, PU-coated nylon and a stretch-mesh liner (only the Acrux2’s liner is removable). The intent is to improve breathability, drying time, and durability and allow the shoe to conform to the shape of your foot. The snug-fitting booty also keeps out virtually all trail debris like small stones. Enhanced durability seems assured partly by enclosing the EVA midsole within the upper, so that it’s not exposed to abrasion, and by a molded rubber toe and heel.
The approach-style Vibram outsole, the same in both shoes, features a sticky, Megagrip compound, round lugs under the forefoot, and an aggressive, angled lug pattern under the heel for braking in dirt or loose scree. A rounded heel improves surface contact for traction. The outsoles gripped well when I walked down or up steep sandstone, limestone, and granite slabs, and gave me confidence descending exposed ledges and crappy gullies, including one 20-foot cliff we had to hike down and backtrack up on the Royal Arch Loop, using narrow foot ledges, while carrying full backpacks.
The shoes certainly have design and performance qualities not found in many footwear, especially for people (and I hear from them occasionally) seeking a very specific kind of footwear: a cross between the support, durability, and water protection of a midweight boot and the breathability and nimble feel of a low-cut, lightweight shoe.
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To my second question posed at the outset of this review—whether those attributes are worth the lofty price—I’d assess that in two ways: durability and performance.
As with most outdoor footwear, wear and tear on the midsole and outsole are likely to dictate the lifespan of the Arc’teryx shoes; and while these shoes may last longer than many models that are half the price, it’s hard to imagine them lasting twice as long with normal use. However, if you’re really hard on footwear—hiking very rugged terrain and/or in really wet conditions—you could blow out the uppers on less-expensive low-cuts much faster than you’ll trash the uppers on the Acrux2 or Acrux FL.
Then there’s performance—a more subjective measure that’s hard to place a value on. But if you’re hard on footwear, or don’t easily find shoes that fit you well, or are looking for a rare hybrid that pretty successfully achieves a marriage of the best qualities of midweight boots and low-cut shoes, then you may decide it’s worth dishing out for either the non-waterproof, more breathable Acrux FL, or the Gore-Tex version with the removable booty, the Acrux2 FL.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to buy the men’s Acrux FL2 GTX at moosejaw.com or rei.com; the women’s Acrux FL GTX at moosejaw.com or rei.com; the men’s Acrux FL shoes at moosejaw.com, or the women’s Acrux FL shoes at moosejaw.com.
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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 categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.