AKU Rock DFS GTX Shoes | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Trail and Scramble Shoes

AKU Rock DFS GTX Shoes | Review

Equipped with AKU’s unique ‘dual fit’ system, the Rock laces up like a standard trail shoe for a more relaxed, comfortable fit. But when you hit steeper ground, you can dial it in for added climbing precision. Is this the ultimate ‘quiver of one’ approach shoe?

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.

Photos: Mike Drummond

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.

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“The Dual Fit System these employ is no gimmick; it makes these shoes absolutely excellent for hikes that feature a variety of different terrain.

“A hike around the base of Ben Nevis provided a good example of what they are capable of. To start with, we had a long steady climb from Fort William, along fire roads to start with and then up a path for several miles until reaching the CIC Hut. For that stretch I had the fit nice and relaxed as I didn’t need precision, just comfort.

“Once we reached the hut we started to do a bit of scrambling and that’s when I cinched in the toggle to quickly bring the lacing in around the end of the shoe. Instantly I had a nice precise and supportive feel around the toes, ready to take on some rocky sections that require a bit of edging.

“As this is a kind-of walking shoe/approach shoe hybrid, there’s a medium stiffness to the sole. It still has a fair bit of flex at the toe though. And the rubber compound brings a lovely bit of grip – I found it to be reliable on dry rock, pretty decent on some wet rock and well-suited to earthy and rocky trails too.

“I had these in a UK size 10, my usual size, and they fitted well.”

AKU Rock DFS GTX Shoes

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2022/23
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