Why We Chose The AKU Rock DFS GTX Shoes: Versatile, innovative, great build quality.
Tackling graded scrambles, easier-grade climbs and via ferrata routes in the mountains demands precise footwork. And in turn, that means you’re also going to want close-fitting and precise footwear. The classic solution is a technical approach shoe. Designed to provide a fairly stiff yet sensitive platform, approach shoes are well suited to steeper ground and tricky terrain, whilst also being forgiving enough for all-day wear.
Unfortunately, most come with one key compromise: the better they climb, the more uncomfortable they are for general hiking. That’s because you generally need a tight fit for better feel on rock – but conversely, this usually doesn’t make for great walking comfort.
AKU’s innovative approach to solving this problem is their ‘dual fit system’, or DFS. (So, nothing to do with sofas and soft furnishings, in case you’re a UK reader and are getting a little confused). It’s a sort of double lacing system that, according to the brand, “allows you to adjust the comfort and precision of the fit in the different phases of use: a traditional lace for maximum comfort while walking and a fast lacing to increase sensitivity in the climbing phase”.
Who Are The AKU Rock DFS GTX Shoes For?
These approach shoes would be perfect for easier grade climbs with long walk-ins, or big mountain days involving lots of mixed terrain – say, a long ridge route with tricky scrambling sections thrown in. Something like the Snowdon Horseshoe, perhaps, or even Aonach Eagach. Or if you’re venturing outside the UK, they’d be just as well suited to classic via ferrata adventures in the Dolomites or the Alps.
Materials and Construction
The durable uppers are constructed from a mix of 1.6mm suede leather and AKU’s highly breathable Air 8000 fabric. This is overlaid with a wraparound rubber rand for added protection from rock rash. At the heel, a synthetic exoskeleton cage provides stability, support and even more toughness. They’re also lined with a Gore-Tex extended comfort membrane for reliable waterproof performance.
Underfoot, the sole unit is a Vibram Approcciosa outsole design made from a Megagrip high performance compound. This is designed to provide maximum grip, with a specific climbing-orientated lug pattern.
Stiffness comes from an EVA lasting board, a light PU midsole and a custom fit footbed. The lasting board and sole unit use AKU’s ELICA Natural Stride System technology, which is designed to enhance bio-dynamic performance by mimicking the natural gait pattern. It’s a common feature in much of AKU’s more technical hiking and approach footwear, and we’re big fans of the tech.
It’s worth noting that the Rock DFS also comes in a higher mid-cut version as well as a women’s specific version that has been designed to suit the female plantar anatomy.
As already noted, the headline feature of these shoes is that unusual DFS system. The main lacing extends from the toe to the base of the ankle to ensure a precise and secure fit, with triple eyelets at the top so you can adjust the tension as preferred. Then a secondary elasticated lower lacing section runs from the toe to midway up the foot. This pulls in tight with a single pull via a quick-adjust drawcord, ensuring that the front section of the shoe really hugs the foot. It’s ideal for getting a close and sensitive feel when edging on rock or jamming into small pockets. This is helped by the Vibram outsole, which has a front climbing zone for better contact and friction grip on polished, slabby rock.
The only disadvantages of the DFS are that all the lacing does create a slightly fussy look, and inevitably it adds some weight too. However, these are minor drawbacks given the added versatility it brings.
One other feature worthy of mention is the tongue. This has the same supple and supportive ‘sock-like’ fit as many of AKU’s boots, like the Tengu range for example. It creates a neat and snug upper without any of the creases or folds that can sometimes cause rubbing and hotspots. The result is a very comfortable approach shoe – one of the most comfortable we’ve tested, in fact, particularly given their technical ability.
Thanks to its adaptable lacing system and customisable fit, the Rock DFS is supremely well suited for longer mountain routes that involve mixed terrain and multiple gradients. If you’re looking for mountain footwear that can cover lots of different bases, it’s well worth a closer look. In fact, we reckon this is probably the most versatile approach shoe on the market right now.