Hiking and Backpacking Shoes
Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX
$185, 1 lb. 11 oz. (US men’s 9)
Sizes: men’s 7-13, women’s 5-10
The trend toward lighter footwear for hiking and backpacking has generally improved the offerings available—but has also produced a lot of shoes that, frankly, lack the support and cushion for rugged dayhiking or lightweight backpacking. Curious to discover whether the new Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX could hold up to hard use, I wore them on a six-day, 74-mile backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon—which included the very rugged Escalante Route—on which I carried upwards of 40 pounds (a substantial portion of it water). And guess what? Despite falling within the weight class of trail-running shoes, these shoes delivered the performance of a boot at least a half-pound heavier.
Don’t mistake the trail-runner weight and pedigree of the Aerios FL Mid for an indicator of flimsy footwear. A compressed EVA midsole and an integrated TPU shank in the midfoot provide a really nice balance between having nearly as much forefoot flex as a running shoe and the lateral rigidity, support, and cushion of a burlier hiking shoe, plus protection underfoot against rocks and roots. Molded foam around the cuff rises just high enough to protect the ankle bones.
The medium-volume fit features plenty of toe space, plus a midfoot and firm, supportive heel cup that prevent any forward slipping when going downhill, eliminating the friction that can breed blisters. Even though we carried heavy packs for 43 hard miles in just the first three days of our Grand Canyon trek—in temps that pushed into the nineties—my feet remained in pristine condition at the end of the trip. That speaks volumes about the fit of these shoes, given the heat, mileage, and my pack weight.
I wouldn’t normally take waterproof-breathable shoes on a dry, hot trip like in the Grand Canyon, but I was eager to test their stability, support, and comfort for backpacking with a moderately heavy load in rugged terrain, so this trip was perfect for them in that respect. Breathability was actually pretty good for a waterproof shoe, thanks to the Cordura mesh uppers: My feet did not get steamy until temperatures rose into the 70s under a hot desert sun. And the Gore-Tex membrane kept water out when I stood for minutes in shallow creeks to test the shoes.
The Aerios FL Mid are light enough for dayhiking andtough enough for any trail: In the Grand Canyon, I wore the Aerios on a pair of dayhikes from our camp for two nights at Tanner Beach on the Colorado River, one a six-miler, the other an 18-mile, rugged out-and-back hike on the Beamer Trail. I also wore these shoes on local dayhikes in the Boise Foothills, on which they felt as comfortable as sneakers.
Durability seems respectable for such a lightweight shoe, mostly due to TPU overlays and a toe cap protecting high-wear areas of the uppers. But the exposed, soft midsole foam showed wear and tear along the lateral sides of both shoes; those spots could potentially wear more quickly than the outsole, which is often the part of a shoe that ages the fastest. But the Vibram Megagrip outsole on the Aerios FL Mid is similar or the same as what you’d see on many similar hiking shoes: It has decent grip on rock and shallow, widely spaced, multi-directional lugs that bit well in loose dirt. The shoes gave me confidence when we scrambled up the very steep and loose talus and scree in Papago Canyon on the Escalante Route.
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The Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX delivers unusually strong support and cushion for a shoe in its weight class, making it ideal for lightweight or ultralight backpacking or dayhiking in any terrain.
The low-cut version is the Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX ($170), also in men’s and women’s sizes.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase the men’s Arc’teryx Aerios FL Mid GTX at moosejaw.com, or the women’s at moosejaw.com, or the men’s or women’s at backcountry.com, arcteryx.com, or rei.com, or the men’s or women’s Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, arcteryx.com, or rei.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.