By combining the benefits of a dedicated rock-climbing shoe with the grip, durability and support of a walking boot, AKU has produced the Cresta. This unique design offers an extremely lightweight alternative to conventional boots with many of the performance attributes of a dedicated climbing design, which should make the Cresta ideal for via ferrata and pure scrambling.
The AKU Cresta GTX’s upper is leather with only small areas of synthetic material in the tongue, making this a very durable design. There is a rubber rand too that extends around the whole boot, further adding to its durability. The upper is softer and more flexible than other boots tested here, even though it has a waterproof Gore-Tex lining. The rear of the ankle cuff also has a neoprene cuff to prevent grit from entering the boot too easily. This is a useful addition as the ankle cuff is about 2cm shorter than more conventional boot designs here so it won’t keep grit out so easily as others. The lacing extends much further towards the toe than other designs, which allows a much closer fit in this area. Underfoot you get a Vibram sole unit but there’s no smooth climbing zone under the toe. Also there is less cushioning underfoot compared to others. However the ride height is lower so you have a much closer feel for the ground beneath your feet, which is important when scrambling.
On the hill
The AKU Cresta GTX is very different to other boots in this test. It is lightweight and provides far more ‘feel’ for the rock underfoot than any comparable boot. This makes it very comfortable on softer ground in particular. However as soon as you move onto rockier ground the benefits are less clear-cut. Walking on flat rocky ground is quite hard on the foot as there is much less cushioning, so I certainly would not want to descend a long path comprising of rock steps while wearing these. But once you get onto the scramble these are superb as that lack of cushioning and better feel for the rock make scrambling up pretty hard terrain much easier. The flex is a little softer than some other boots, which makes it easier to maintain a natural gait. But on the rock you cannot hold an edge quite as effortlessly as you can with a stiffer boot. However the greater flex, combined with the lower ankle cuff, does allow for a more natural climbing style, where foot jams and some other holds are actually easier as you are not forced to use edges and have restricted ankle movement. I have narrow feet and I enjoyed the narrow profile of this boot too, but wider-footed people may not like it so much of course.
Upper Suede / Air8000 with Gore-Tex lining
Sole Vibram Nepal
Crampon compatibility B1
Weight 1535g (pair, size 11)
Made in Romania
Stores in the UK 20
Stockist details tel. (01250) 873863; www.ardblairsports.com
The AKU Cresta GTX has an excellent ‘feel’ for scrambling, via ferrata; very light; good ankle flex. However it does not offer the comfort of other boots once the scramble or via ferrata route is completed and a long descent is required down scree or rocky paths. It’s superb for scrambling and via ferrata, but others have many advantages during the approach and descent.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine June 2010