My kit was pretty much all set out ready for our upcoming trip to Nepal. There on the edge were sitting a pair of Aku Viaz, my most trusted and third set of the same. A boot which I feel was almost moulded around my feet they fit so well. In an email chat with Simon from Ardblair Sports (the distributor of AKU in the UK) I mentioned my choice of footwear and he instantly recommended I substitute my trusted Viaz for a set of Alterras. He knows the Himalaya as well as the products so I agreed to take him up on the offer of trialling a pair. The more scrambling / Via Ferrata oriented Viaz were removed from the pile, and a few days later the Alterras were added. So how did my feet get on?
The Alterras arrived and at first glance they looked bulky, but maybe that's just compared to the more streamlined Viaz. I pulled them out of the box, and they were anything but. Weighing in at just 670g they are only 10g heavier than the Viaz, happy days. With all my previous Aku boots, barring the Sintesi, I've enjoyed out of the box comfort to the point where I've put the boots on first time and gone out in the full confidence I wouldn't have any issues. I of course wasn't however going to take that risk with the Alterra in the Himalaya so I broke them in on a day walk up Scafell Pike from Wasdale. It was safe to say they felt great from the word go, and there are a few features that I felt made all the difference both on that walk and on our 160km trek around Manaslu.
The upper of the boot is made without a gusset and the tongue is an elastic material. This essentially means your foot is hugged by the top of the boot with nothing getting in the way, creating a very comfortable fit. The collar of the boot is also elastic. Although soft I felt it was providing enough support for my ankles throughout the trek, even at the end of the long days multiple days in when my ankles were no doubt getting tired.
The lacing system utilises a pulley system for the bottom three eyelets. This helps to ensure a good secure fit every time you put your boots on, no matter how lazily you do them up. If I was to improve on this I would add in a locking eyelet where Aku have used a material eyelet, simply to compliment and compound this secure fit. This is however negated if you put a couple of wraps in the lace before heading up to the next two sets of eyelets.
What did blow me away whilst I was trekking in the Himalaya was the day to day comfort that these boots gave on the mixed trails, something that Aku claim on their website this boot is specifically designed for. The level of support under foot from hard terrain was perfect, as was the level of flex. The Aku website also informs me that the Alterra uses the Elica 'Natural Stride System' which I can only feel would have benefited me over such a long trek, even if at the time I was unaware of the technology I was walking on.
The sole is provided by Vibram, and is specifically the Vibram Octopus. The rubber compound complimented by the tread design was absolutely flawless. Throughout the trek I was testing the boots out on all sorts of terrains, from mud to blank slabs and they never lost grip once. Having absolute confidence in your boots keeping you upright is key, and I had it in spades whilst I had these on my feet.
Whilst out in Nepal I was lucky enough to not put the Gore-Tex lining of the boot to any real test. I have previously been impressed with the performance of my Aku's in wet weather, which was refreshing after spending so much money on other brands that simply seemed to fail far earlier than anticipated. It didn't take long once back in the UK to find a day of horrendous weather to test out the waterproofness (22nd November when Cumbria was flooding to be exact) and I can confirm they did indeed keep my feet dry. If you keep the suede upper clean and treated, along with keeping your toenails trim I'm sure they'll remain so for a long time.
Overall, I am very impressed with the Alterra Gtx. They served me incredibly well on the trek and I would go as far as saying they are the perfect choice for anyone heading off to do any Alpine or Himalayan trekking. Aku have produced yet another well designed and manufactured boot that may even be keeping my trusted Viaz at home a little more throughout 2018.
For anyone seeking a UK distributor of Aku boots we can highly recommend Keswick Boot Company. Their knowledge, service and range is brilliant, and it's right on the doorstep to dozens of great hills to get them broken in!
This review was written by: Matt Le Voi
Matt has been working in the Outdoor Industry for over 8 years and has worked on and off in outdoor
retail for roughly the same length of time. This combination of both being on the 'sharp end' using and abusing kit and also working in-store means Matt has a great knowledge on what should be expected of kit and how it compares to other options on the market. Matt, as the Managing Director of Lakeland Mountain Guides, is proudly an affiliate with Cotswold Outdoor, The Keswick Boot Co, EDZ Performance Layering, a Ruffwear Brand Ambassador and supported by Aquapac.