Once again, the ISPO Munich was on.
Finally, I went there not just a random blogger who sorta-kinda works with brands willing to set him up with product samples, but as someone turning into a pro blogger looking for serious cooperations.
When Mammut was looking to provide some people in the German-speaking area with a high Klout score (yep, they had still been using that) with a pair of their shoes to test, back in the spring of 2015, I’m pretty sure they were looking for some immediate support for their PR.
Shoes are at least as exciting for the runner as they are for the stereotypical shoe-obsessed woman – if they are exciting.
Icebug’s Acceleritas5 are.
Lift them up, however, and you’ll notice what makes them special at once:
They are extremely lightweight, but their sole has lugs like hardly any other.
Step in, and it becomes clear that they do not only feel lightweight, they are also made to be like racing flats.
Flexible and minimalist, the Acceleritas5 fit like a glove (to the point where they do not even have an insole) and work very much like a “barefoot running” shoe.
So, yes, for both better and worse, you will feel every rock and stone and root on the track you take.
Taking these shoes for the first part of the Traunsee mountain marathon, thus, was quite a gamble.
There are very many sharp stones there, the “run” is often more of a climb – except when it isn’t – and this was hard on my feet.
At the same time, the feel for the ground was tremendously good, and that combined with the low weight of the shoes also provided benefits, making me more mindful and nimble, and thus faster.
Fast is also the key word.
With the “tractor tread” lugs on the sole, all made in Icebug’s highly durable and grippy RB9X rubber, the racing flat profile/cut of the Acceleritas5 isn’t the only thing that accelerates, there is also the “safe grip, free mind” of the sole profile and material.
Sure, I stumbled a bit on the loose gravel we have, had to be careful to try not to hit any sharp stones too directly and powerfully, but I felt and indeed was safe and fast. And it was fun.
It’s definitely not the fun of rolling roughshod over anything on your path, the way “maximalist” shoes allow you to.
For working on speed and agility, conscious of technique, however, these are easily the most special and promising shoes I’ve yet had the fun to use.
For tracks and trails, off the roads, not necessarily going the longer distances but dancing nimbly through forest, across meadows and over mountains, the Acceleritas5 are shoes to try.
I have used them a lot this year, have to thank Icebug very much for having provided me with them to try and review, and can’t wait to speed along in the Alps in them again.
In fact, out to present the Ambit3 Peak’s new route altitude profile and GPS comparison tracks between Ambit3 Peak and Spartan Ultra, even though there was some snow already, I still used the Acceleritas5…
When the weather turns yet “worse”, I might finally get a chance to finish trying out and then reviewing the Acceleritas’ BuGrip-spikes-enabled brethren, the Anima3…
Kein Mist! – For a German speaker, the name “Mist” is a bit unfortunate; it doesn’t make us think of light fog, it just translates as “junk.”
Icebug’s Mist are as far from junk as you can get…
I had noticed those shoes already at the ISPO last winter.
They are so lightly built, with a mesh upper that could almost rival a negligee when you see it lit-up like at such a fair, they are noticeable.
They also looked rather less interesting, with that mesh and the comparatively thick sole (for a pair of Icebugs, not compared to the Nike LunarEpic of my recent review) making them look odd on top and ordinary below.
Was I wrong.
When I started talking (with their PR person) about Icebugs I should perhaps test this summer (full disclosure: they provided me with them), we finally decided on the Mist and the Acceleritas5, and I have hardly ever been happier…
Not only did those shoes end up being the ones I brought with me to China this summer, where their road running-appropriate sole and sheer upper was excellent for everything from walks to Beijing’s Buddhist Temples to running and strolls in Hunan, on the beaches of Haikou, and in Hong Kong.
These were also the shoes I decided to take for the second half of the mountain marathon (Bergmarathon) around the Traunsee lake this year, with its mixture of gnarly trails and simple roads.
The Icebug Mist was even the pair of shoes, which I forgot to mention in the video, which I decided to use on the Hochkönigman marathon trail run, when they were still rather new and untested for me – and they worked out excellently.
A little bit like with the Icebug Zeal before, the only “issue,” e.g. on steep alpine meadow descents through wet grass, was that braking was not a good idea. Letting it run, though, the grip was amazing, and so was the comfort.
Best of all, the downside of feet getting dirtier than in more-closed shoes is quite the plus when they also dry out faster:
You lose the fear of simply jumping through the next puddles and sloshing through trails that are turning into muddy creeks.
It won’t matter, anyways: Your foot soles will be protectively cushioned just the right amount (even for road running sections), and your feet will be dry and warm enough again fast enough – and you’ll get back home to your shower faster, safer, and with more fun than if you’d tried to remain dry.
Too bad the summer’s definitely gone now, but I’ll get another season out of those shoes.
And until then, it’s getting time to switch to spikes – and maybe this winter turns out “bad” enough I can finally, honestly review the. Anima3 with BUGrip spikes.
I started that last winter, but it just didn’t have enough snow and ice. What a complaint :-p
The attention economy, of blogs and (other) social media, of fast fashion and tech, thrives ever more on speed.
Suunto having announced their new Spartan (Ultra and Sport) collection, thus, has everyone wanting to know everything about it already.
This, even though the devices are only coming on the market in August, will need weeks of testing to really get to an informed opinion, given all their focus on training progress over time – and then the Spartan Ultra is due to get major features, including for the same training progress display(s), only in September.
The OutDoor Friedrichshafen only just took place again, and it is one big celebration of novelty that drives attention that drives the market, with the spring/summer 2017 season already in company and trade sights.
Bloggers and (other) social media influencers, of course, are both driven by and driving these trends yet further.
Or so, forcing us all into ever-faster news cycles, it all felt while I was caught up in my own ardent desire to put the new Suunto Spartan Ultra through its paces, if only I could get it before I leave for China.
That is only one side of modern geeky and consumer life, however.
Taking a step back to remember that all those new things are there not just to drive sales, but also to help make life a bit more interesting and the outdoors more enjoyable, however, there were great talks to be had.
All the more so as the Friedrichshafen Fair had come around to seeing value in bloggers and worked with the (German) Outdoor Bloggers Network this year, actively bringing them – us – into the fold.
(Funnily, I still have the problem that my being based in Austria makes most companies’ PR people say that I’ll have to work with the Austrian PR teams – but since I blog and vlog in English, I tend to be of no interest to the PR people who are there to serve the Austrian, German-speaking, market…)
With talks not just with other bloggers but also with sales and PR people of outdoors companies, not just about the new things but also about their experiences and interests, it all got even more enjoyable. Even the new things…
Suunto wasn’t really present at the fair, but there were some company representatives to be found, so I managed to wrangle a Spartan Ultra (still only a sales sample) from one of them and finally get it on my wrist.
To me, compared with the Kailash, the fit is great and the display indeed looks promising. Let’s see how it holds up in actual use, whenever I can get to looking at that…
Arc’teryx continues to be near-impossible to work with for a small (and not only outdoors) blogger like me, but also to produce innovative and interesting gear, with an attention to detail and function that is very alluring.
Next up in that, an expansion of their footwear into mountain trail running with the Norvan VT shoe, and the return of a Bora backpack with a new “Rotoglide” hipbelt system that promises great things:
Those will be available in men’s and women’s and in standard or Gore-Tex, by the way.
Oh: Their updated everyday/commuter collection is not to be underestimated. Stretch jeans with stylish looks, but also reflector patches that can be folded out or tucked away and a cut and material made for bike commutes, a women’s blazer that closes without a zipper, yet enough to protect against wind and water, and opens to look like a modern take on a standard blazer. – Looks like some of the ideas and approaches of the Veilance line are starting to influence the everyday wear…
Salomon will of course expand and update its collection of shoes yet further, e.g. adding an XA Enduro trail running shoe that is like a summer version of the XA Alpine (to be) introduced for winter. It, too, will feature an integrated gaiter, just in a lower and lighter form made for the summer.
For trail runners, Montane’s VIA series running packs will add a 15 liter model; they still continue with their major models (which I find commendable) but are set to bring out another version of their Minimus jacket in stretch Pertex Shield. Fully waterproof, yet stretchy; I would like to see how well that works and fits…
With OR, the major news came in the form of a new jacket with electrospun yarn that is said to be more breathable, yet still waterproof, and with waterproof mid-volume backpacks. Not the worst idea, if rather specialized.
Here, too, I am most happy to see that it’s not all just about new things.
The Helium II jackets were still being celebrated (rightly so, I’d say), and attention was put on the Active Ice products some of which I have been using since last year and should finally review.
Strange only, especially in this context, that the Europe team of OR didn’t seem to know anything about a Polartec Delta shirt that is due to come out, which was mentioned in a press release about this new “cooling platform” from Polartec…
Then again, I asked about that material at the Polartec booth, and they knew about it but also didn’t have it with them.
Not exactly what I typically focus on, given the “anti-travel” writing I sometimes publish, but what interested me most about Fjällräven’s news is that they will be bringing their Fjällräven Classic events to the USA and Hong Kong next.
Hong Kong is exhausting, but just about the most amazing place for hiking and trail running experiences that I know. (And in fact, the last few days of the upcoming trip to China will be spent in Hong Kong.)
After the introduction of Black Yak’s first European winter collection, now Europe also got a look at their first summer offering – and of course, they will continue in style and with what looks to be insanely good quality.
I’ll admit, I am also fascinated simply because this is one of the first forays of an Asian company onto the ‘Western’ market, which is very interesting in terms of marketing and access. That said, the looks and details are quite convincing, and I hope to put some of their products through their paces starting later this year.
Even TNF is going maximal when it comes to running shoes, and I’m still not convinced by that. Still, more choices here aren’t a bad thing.
Main game in town: We got a sneak preview of the upcoming The North Face Summit Series collection. Nothing we would have been permitted to show, but let’s just say: They really want to relaunch the Summit Series as the top-end, as it was originally intended. And lots of concern are going into not letting this collection be watered down into too many items worn more by hip-hop stars than alpinists this time around.
I could easily go on like this for a while yet, but I’m on the jump to the airport for 3 weeks in China. So, let me just wish you a nice summer, leave you with the few more impressions from the OutDoor Friedrichshafen 2016 above, and promise there’s more to come ;)
In the midst of the technical performance menswear revolution, niche as it is, quality counts and is often seen as coming down to production country, but it all seems American. Canadian, at best.
With O1O6 (born as onoo), however, we find a menswear startup that is European, rooted in its Southern German-Alpine background, stylish and modern, and close to timeless in look.
Watch my review here, or read on below it to delve into the details…
For one, their standout first-collection piece, the Sendling jacket, is made from loden, a wool fabric that would fit the current interest in natural fibers with great performance very well, if only it weren’t used in traditional costumes so much.
Green or grey loden, deer antler buttons, that’s the men’s costume to accompany women wearing a dirndl. Good for the Oktoberfest, but not exactly a modern style to wear to anything but such a festival. Or maybe a hunt.
Not so with the Sendling.
It’s still grey loden, but a very comfortable one, and one treated with a teflon coating adding further to its natural ability to shed rain and snow. Inside, a layer of insulation has been added for cold temps.
The cut is thoroughly modern in all the best ways:
Most of those – and more! – details are all made for the intended use of the jacket, as a piece that you can wear on your bike while riding into work or to the next coffee shop or traditional Kaffeehaus, then get right down to business or your individual pursuits and still look dressed like a creative professional.
In their advertising material (see their website), it’s all very much the hipster look and style, but no beard is required to rock that jacket. No fixie bike, either.
The bit of insulation added to the inside keeps pretty warm while not getting stuffy as long as the temperatures are low enough (summer jacket this ain’t).
I have worn my Sendling from February to May, from Munich to Zurich to Rome, and it’s held up come rain or shine.
In Zurich, in downpours, I just added a woolen cap and was fine; only Rome got a bit warm for it.
(One downside: It should not be washed, only dry cleaned. I went ahead and hand-washed the inside at the armpits, where washing became highly advisable, with mild wool detergent, anyways, then hung it up to dry outside. Worked out very well. Otherwise, for all but if you get it too sweaty, loden just needs to be hung out in fog – or in your steamy post-shower bathroom.)
Even then, the leather strap inside, meant to keep the jacket from flapping around in the wind when you’re on your bike, comes in handy for having the jacket open, but not totally, in warm-enough temperatures that you don’t want to have it zipped and/or buttoned up.
So, in total, as you can also see in the video review, you can wear this jacket completely open, open-but-unflappable using the leather strap (which can also be removed if so desired… or maybe if you need a tool for a spanking), closing the buttons, zipping it up halfways for the suit jacket-collar look, or zipping it up all the way and putting up the collar for real cold-weather use.
I do hope O1O6 will remain and go on – who else makes performance-oriented menswear that is designed in Germany and sewn in Italy, of European materials? – and they sure sounded like they already had ideas for further improvements and maybe new things.
Their initial collection already includes a bomber jacket, the Westend, and the Lehel short coat…
Let’s see what’s next; it’s sure to be style with substance, “intelligent urban clothing” to keep and feel at home in.
At €599 for the Sendling, it’s not cheap – until you look at what a nice suit jacket from a well-known brand would cost, all without necessarily making you look as good while protecting you that well.
Suunto has, for a while already, been right in that area of the sports and outdoors technology market where actual usefulness and luxurious aspiration collide.
Use a device like a t6, Quest or Ambit (to reach back into Suunto history a bit) well, and your training will glean better results – but of course, by wearing a Vector or Core or any of the aforementioned models, you also show that you’re an outdoors person, not one for a Rolex. (Although, those have quite some outdoors/explorer pedigree as well…)
With the Kailash, which I had previewed somewhat suspiciously as soon as I had received it from Suunto for reviewing, this sense and symbolizing of adventurousness has become the raison d’être of the watch.
Here, with the introduction also of the 7R concept and the beginning of the “World Collection” (to which the earlier-released Suunto Essential line was added when its models with ceramic bezels came out), Suunto is truly in that lifestyle market where expensive devices with premium materials and with features of, perhaps questionable, usefulness in daily life reside.
I still haven’t gone quite as far and traveled quite as much as I think the Suunto Kailash should be taken, but the watch itself provides feedback on that which has turned me around on it.
It is and remains something that looks very much like a tool/toy for a business traveler who wants to feel adventurous by virtue of all the places he’s visited.
If it weren’t for the high price (or maybe even more because of it, if you want to show your success?), this would make it the perfect device for the digital nomads who make constant travel and work on the road their aim, self-advertisement, and lifestyle.
Having had a Kailash for a few months now, however, I find how it looks and what it does more and more interesting.
So, enough of people and attitudes I find rather strange, and on to what the Kailash does and I have been finding fun and useful:
The main feature of the Suunto Kailash, supported by its GPS, is its ability to provide a record of its user’s ‘adventures’.
Chief among them are travel statistics:
These are all stored on the watch and visible on displays reached by pushing the 7R button.
The data also get synced to the 7R iOS app where they reside along the “adventure timeline”, a timeline- and map-based view of where you’ve been and when (see below).
What is counted as visited is related to step counts (which are also counted to calculate your “average daily steps” taken during a year): You have to have taken at least 1000 steps in a place for it to be counted as visited.
It must have been quite a discussion how to implement this; 1000 steps is still not many, but who knows if a business traveler taking taxis would necessarily always walk much more? Yet, any fewer would not make sense or any country you fly over or every airport stopover would then be counted for sure.
(And travel days? Like distance traveled, only trips leading farther than 75 km away from the home location are counted. While any distances longer than that count for the total of distance traveled, it must have been a full 24-hour day for it to count as a travel day as well.)
Of course, something must tell the Kailash where you are or it could never know where you have been.
That something is, not very surprisingly, a GPS chip.
The way that the Suunto Kailash uses its GPS is a rather special one, though. Consequently, thinking of the Kailash as a GPS watch is not the way to go…
The lifestyle (rather than outdoors) connection of the Kailash is easily visible right on the first 7R screen.
Here, just as soon as you’ve pushed the (sapphire-glass) 7R button, the Suunto Kailash shows either how far away from the next city in its database you are (or were when it last had a GPS fix) or how long you’ve been in such a city.
So, on tour, there’s at least a bit of a pointer to where you are and pass(ed) by, as we already saw in the photo above, where it shows the stop-over of the train at Firenze S.M. railway station, i.e. Florence, and as you can see in my video taken while I went to Rome for the Rome Marathon:
Again, that data is also being transferred to and shown in the 7R iOS app, where one can scroll through the timeline to get an impression of the when and where of one’s travels.
A GPS fix is taken, or at least attempted, every 10 minutes; of course, the usual caveats surrounding GPS location fixes apply.
For example, they work best when the device is in an open location with a clear view of the sky.
Not exactly the conditions to be expected during each and every fix a Kailash tries, so fewer locations will actually end up being recorded… Some types of train and airplane also appear to be built in such a way that GPS signals are blocked.
The GPS on the Kailash is, or can be, used as a pointer towards home, or a home away from home, as well.
Home is an important matter, not just as something to make oneself familiar in (need I remind you of the tagline of the site you’re reading? ;) ), but also for the use of the Suunto Kailash.
Travel days are logged in this device only when it can be assumed that they really were travel, and just as 1000 steps are required in a place to count it as having been visited, so a distance greater than 75 km from home must be surpassed, for at least a full 24 hours, for a day to count as a travel day.
(The total distance traveled, meanwhile, only requires getting out of one’s comfort, uhm home, zone of a 75 km radius.)
On the second main screen, the place a user has marked as home (using the watch or the app) is really being pointed to; this screen displays the distance from ‘home’ and the direction it lies.
The way the Kailash is originally set up, this screen points to the actual (Mount) Kailash. Nice touch that.
However, the display here can also, and quickly, be set up to point to a home away from home: Set foot outside your hotel in a new city, go to that screen, push the 7R button, and the GPS goes looking for its location.
Once the GPS fix has been acquired, this location can be stored as a POI (the one POI, in fact, which the Kailash can store in addition to the location defined as home).
When a place has been set like this, the second screen has two views, one towards home and one that helps get back to the POI:
Route tracking this isn’t, but if you’ve ever been in a new city and wondered which way your hotel was again, you should know how this could come in handy.
(This second display can also show the compass, which is rendered as just a compass “needle”, if the Kailash is set up to show that.)
Talking of finding one’s way: Should you find yourself in a hotel room in a blackout, or perhaps one that is nicely darkened and doesn’t easily let you find the light switch, you only have to hold the lower button longer for the Kailash to switch from ordinary backlight to the extra-bright ‘flashlight’ mode.
This function is shared between the Kailash and the Traverse, with that button switching the views of a display when pushed once, activating the backlight when held for around 2 seconds, and turning on the flashlight mode when held even longer.
Since an update at the end of 2015, a power mode has also been added to the GPS functions.
Activating this by long-pressing the 7R button sets the Kailash to record a GPS location every second for the first 15 minutes and then every minute (for a maximum of 8 hours or until stopped if battery level falls below 10%, if no GPS signal was received for 30 minutes, or when the user pushes the 7R button again).
It’s still not quite the route record one gets from an Ambit, but it could be used to e.g. make a record of a marathon’s route that is relatively exact, to “replay” in the 7R app.
(I thought about using the Kailash like that for recording the Rome Marathon, but then still went the more sensible route of using my Ambit3 for that instead.)
All the location data recorded by the Kailash also ends up in the app that accompanies it (on iOS only), which is organized all around the idea of an adventure timeline, continuing the look-feel of the watch (more on which in a sec).
The app mainly shows a map and the timeline at the bottom, automatically starting at the current time and location (though sometimes, when a new sync is ongoing, it seems to go into the future instead of stating that when and where you are now, “Your adventure starts here. What lies ahead”).
You can scroll back from there and see where you’ve been, with the map automatically zooming out/in if you’ve traveled farther during that time or stayed in one place for longer.
For longer durations, you can swipe up on the left side of the app to get to the “days” rather than “hours” display, where you can again scroll left/right through the timeline and see where you’ve been over longer times.
Swipe up again and you get into the summary view, which lists how many countries and cities you’ve been to, how many kilometers (or miles) you’ve traveled on how many travel days, and how far from home has been your farthest distance from it.
This latter is basically the same information also given in the 7R logbook on the watch, except that a map is added in the background (which seems to show only the most recent places you’ve been or the ones where you’ve been the longest, unfortunately, not all of them, and is also rather difficult to tap to zoom in – trying to pinch to zoom in/out often ends up just changing the display to the “days” one).
Watch it all in action here:
Your average daily steps are on the watch only, not in the app.
Also, there seems to be no way of seeing exactly which countries/cities you have been to. The map doesn’t show all of them in the summary view, and no list is available.
So, I guess you’re still back to (virtually or actually) putting pins in a map (or sharing the zoomed-in views of the “days” or “hours” display – unless you only care about the numbers, which is what seems to be the case for many a world-traveling adventurer, anyways…
Adventure, the way it is interpreted in the Suunto Kailash, is a rather urban pursuit ranging through space and along time, with the Suunto Kailash as the record keeper.
The notion of a timeline forms the red thread through all that, not just in the app but even on the watch:
Like the hands of a clock on an ordinary watch, so the “timeline” in the midst of the Kailash’s display moves forward with time.
When a notification is received, the time when it was received is marked on that timeline and this marker moves left as its time moves to the past.
Set an alarm, and it is set on the timeline, from where that scrolls back to the current time. As the alarm time approaches, the alarm marker becomes visible again until it becomes the present time and goes off, then moves into the past.
Go into a different time zone, and the watch automatically adjusts for the time zone you are in, then also scrolls from home time to local time (or reverse), as required.
Set up and look at a “world time”, i.e. the time in another city, and the same scrolling between your current time and that time applies.
The Adventure Timeline™ behaviors are all playful things for the watch to do, but also consistent with its concept and somehow delightful a touch.
Add in the functionalities you get, of ‘adventure’ data and a little helpful GPS use, combined with the premium materials and looks, and you have a fascinating lifestyle product for the person who is into traveling – and not in a position where they have to skimp money…
One thing I have found it necessary to be aware of is the battery life.
In ordinary use, the Kailash runs relatively long on a single charge; I’ve typically got something like 5 days out of one charge – but when it needs to be recharged, you better have the cable and a USB plug/charger ready, or you might end up with a watch that only shows a blank screen as the last 10% of charge drop rather quickly.
The cable, coming with its own roll-up box, is nicely enough made (if a bit chunky in look); all of it fitting together into the Kailash transport tin is even nicer – and if you don’t want to bring any of these things, you can actually use an Ambit charging cable all the same.
While on that point: The watch band starts looking slightly worn rather quickly, but it’s far from problematic; the titanium bezel seems nearly indestructible even when it comes to its coloring. I’ve regularly, carelessly, struck the watch bezel against a wall and there’s only the slightest of discoloration/color loss at the very edge of the bezel.
The Kailash is still not a sports watch for training or even just an outdoors watch to take on hikes (and get the usual sports-watch statistics); don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because it uses GPS.
It is, however, a good-looking piece for a digital watch.
If you travel enough, preferably in a business suit and internationally, and yet don’t want the normal watch everyone has, but rather a timepiece with special looks and special use, there you are…
Not only have I had a Kailash for a while longer now, I have finally been traveling by air to, and around, China with it. So, there is quite a bit more in the statistics.
Thanks to a new firmware update, released August 2016, there is also something new to point to, feature-wise: Since that update, the Suunto Kailash can not only display the number of cities and countries its wearer has visited, but it can also show the lists of those cities and countries:
Now, I find it even more interesting a travel tool/toy – for the well-heeled, still, given its price and feature set. The newly released Suunto Spartan Ultra has a comparative price, though…
The Suunto Kailash is available only directly from Suunto or in select stores.
Easily a year after Arc’teryx entered the footwear market with the release of the Acrux approach shoes and Bora hiking boots, I finally feel comfortable giving a real review of the Acrux² FL approach shoe – and they have already changed their line-up quite a bit:
The Bora and Bora2 Mid GTX hiking boots are now also available in more-classical leather versions (in men’s and women’s);
the way-more-extreme Acrux AR mountaineering boot has been added (here available, online only, from REI via affiliate link as well, if you want to support me);
the Acrux line still features the Acrux FL and Acrux² FL (with non-removable or removable liners, respectively) and has been expanded with a more light-weight Acrux SL (“Super Light”) version;
and an Arakys approach/belay shoe has also been added.
I have had my Acrux² FL with removable Gore-Tex liners for something over a year now, since their release; though to be exact, they are not the same shoes I showed in my preview:
The impression of a strange fit was due to them having been a bit too large; when I sized down slightly, things worked out better.
In fact, they worked out very well…
There are quite a few comments that the shoes run small, and they are certainly not wide in the toe box, but one also needs to know that the “Adaptive Fit” (especially in the version with removable liners) seems made to wrap around the foot rather tightly.
Where other shoes should offer a finger’s width in front of the toes, here the fit works best when the liner booty is almost snug with the foot, including the toes – think of it as something more like a sock, and if you have any chance at all, play around with them for a while to see where the sweet spot of sizing lies for you.
(When it comes to the shoes with a non-removable liner, I’d be more careful to get them a bit larger, but still only somewhere in between the size of elegant shoes and the “go up one number” often recommended for running shoes.)
So, I exchanged the Acrux shoes I got at first for a better-fitting size, and that version I’ve now had for a year, if not longer:
For a shoe that looks so plasticky, the Acrux had two surprises in stow:
One, less good but alright, was that the shoes felt like some breaking-in was required. They felt usable from the beginning but became rather more comfortable over time.
On the first longer hike with them, carrying my 40l backpack, for example, the edge of the one shoe’s liner rubbed my Achilles tendon open a bit. Later, this never happened again.
Secondly, they got scratched against rocks quite a bit, but there are very few if any traces of wear on the upper. I wore the Acrux² FL not just for hikes in the mountains but also as everyday wear, the sole got reduced a bit, but they still look pretty much as they did from the beginning, overall.
The Vibram MegaGrip sole is interesting, by the way.
It works very well on the terrain it is meant for, i.e. rocks, and it has been relatively abrasion resistant.
Wear does show, though, and the grip on the polished stone floors of our subway stations is like the grip of standard Salomon soles on ice: hardly any. (There’s a reason I love Icebug shoes for special conditions, but that’s a different story.)
The liner did develop a stink, and when it comes to that, I’m happy I have the version where I can replace the liners. And I should finally do so; even two washings in the machine and treatments with a shoe spray didn’t change much when it comes to the smell they developed.
(Maybe one should just put them in the washing machine a bit sooner, together with other Gore-Tex or similar sports stuff…)
The liners are not cheap, but still a lot less than a new pair of (such) shoes. So, +1 for long-term use.
Light downside: I thought about getting the non-Gore-Tex liners for the summer, but those are still only available (if at all) in red while the Gore-Tex liner is in blue and the piece of fabric that Arcteryx had to add underneath the lacing of the GTX Acrux² FL (to keep stones out) is the same blue.
So, unless I wanted to go for black shoes with a red-and-blue inner (visible under the laces and around the ankle), I guess I’ll need to stick with the Gore-Tex liner or get another pair of shoes.
[Edit: I just re-checked and found that actually, the liners are now (almost) all offered only in the newer “moraine” grey color. A bit of a mix-and-match of colors again, but making for a better combination than blue-and-red in black would have been.]
Of course, as so often, one pays for “The Bird” and the attention to detail that goes into their products. The Acrux² FL were and remain pretty expensive at around 270 dollars/250 Euro – but they’ve held up well and in more conditions than they were made for.
The newer SL shoes don’t have removable liners and are less tough – but also lighter – and are much more in line with standard prices for shoes, coming in at 150 Euro (USD 170 at REI, at the time of writing). In Europe, anyways, where all such gear is pretty expensive, that’s somewhat okay.
After a year with the Acrux² FL, I’m tempted to try those for my everyday wear, as well… and they’d even come in colors that would get noticeable but not too clownish. (The latest Acrux² FL is available in the “Big Surf” black-blue I have or with a “Genepi” neon yellow upper…)
If you’re in the US, you can get most models – except the Acrux² FL I reviewed here, as it happens – from REI and support me with the (affiliate-link) purchase:
Same (including the Acrux2 FL) with Backcountry.com:
Thank you and see you on the trails!