When I hear about the hyped-up technology behind any piece of new gear,my eyes always glaze over. In my mind, the inherent worth of any gear comes down to three questions:
Do I need it?
Would I buy it?
And how is it an improvement or superior to what’s already out there?
On all this criteria, the new Arc’teryx Arakys approach shoe scores surprisingly high marks. I’ve been testing these futuristic shoes for the past three months, and I’ve been happy to discover how much I actually like them. They’re functional, durable, comfortable, lightweight, and supportive—everything you could want in an approach shoe.
At first glance, the shoe seems like it’s going to be flimsy, but in fact it’s quite torsionally stiff, which is the most important and impressive achievement for this shoe, which only weighs 270 grams / 9.5 ounces. You can pounce across sharp talus blocks without feeling the erratics poking through to your foot. The stiffness also allows you to do some moderate rock climbing, and actually edge as if you’re wearing a climbing shoe. I was able to climb up to 5.9 quite comfortably in the Arakys.
The Arakys has a really durable laminated outer construction that also breathes quite well. While approaching a new crag in the Red River Gorge, I accidentally stepped into a pit of mud. Lame! I washed my shoes off in a nearby creek—or “crick.” as they say there—and kept on walking. A couple of hours later, I was pleased to find that the shoes had dried completely. In fact they had dried out before even my Merino wool socks! This is likely due to the fact the outer material is some kind of durable ripstop nylon. These aren’t waterproof shoes, but I wouldn’t worry about getting them wet due to the fact that they dry out so quickly.
What makes these shoes really suitable to cragging and bouldering applications is the fact that the heel collapses down, turning the Arakys into a sort of ersatz clog or slipper. It’s nice to be able to just slip out of your climbing shoes and into your Arakys without any lacing or fuddling around. Further, a leather footbed allows you to wear the shoes barefoot in between pitches—though I wouldn’t recommend hiking barefoot. While cragging, I mostly wore them in this heel-collapsed mode.
The other thing that’s really great about these shoes is that they flatten down, which them pretty low-profile in a multi-pitch climbing pack. These shoes certainly have a purpose beyond just cragging and bouldering!
Tightening the shoes down on your foot is a matter of slipping a buckle through a loop, and cinching down on the webbing. I had one small gripe with this feature: I sometimes found myself lacking the dexterity to easily pinch the webbing with my fingers and tighten the shoes when the end of the webbing abutted the buckle itself. A slightly larger, easier-to-grab pull tab would help us neanderthals lacking fine motor skills.
The Arakys seemed to fit my medium-wide foot so perfectly that I also rarely found myself needing to tighten the shoes down. This was, in general, a nice feature … except for the times when I’d start hiking or running at a quicker pace, and the buckle would come undone and flop around my foot. If you’re moving quickly, you need to have the shoes cinched down.
I also wish that the rear heel pull tabs were beefier, or easier to finger, or perhaps even that there was two of them (a la climbing shoes). When you want to slip your foot into the shoe quickly, it’d be nice to have a pull tab that doesn’t require the additional step of working to separate the two sides of the loop from each other in order to slip a finger in.
I find this closure system far preferable to laces or even velcro. It’s a lot better than what’s out there, but not always perfect either.
As far as the aesthetic, the Arakys scream “Arc’teryx”—for better and worse. Some people love the super clean and futuristic look. I like it … in the mountains. But when I’m cruising around town, you’ll more likely find me in some Nike Air Hurraches.
That’s OK, because when it comes to singing in the mountains, flying across trails, and kicking the shit out of approaches to climbs, and I’ll be really hyped up to continue rocking the Arakys.