If I could only have one pair of boots in my outdoors wardrobe, they’d be crampon-compatible and stiff enough to hold an edge in the snow, yet flexible enough to allow comfortable walking below the snowline . Sadly, such products are few and far between. However, occasionally a manufacturer pulls up its socks and delivers just what I am after
AKU is about to release the Utah Micro GTX, a B1 category boot that could be just what I am looking for. The AKU brand first appeared in 1990, and they are very firmly established in the mountain boot manufacturing Mecca of Montebelluna in Italy, where the family firm has been involved in footwear design for over 50 years. The Utah Micro GTX is their first B1 crampon-compatible boot, so it is a big step forward. There has always been a gap in their range for a B1 boot, but AKU’s reputation for top-quality 3-season boots and B2 mountaineering boots is well-proven.
I took the Utah Micro GTX straight from the box across the scant icy coverings of the Lakes. These are typically the sort of conditions where a B1 boot excels. Amid the rocky terrain and floodwater it made light work of the ascent, and gave great grip on the mixed, slushy rubble and frosted steps. But the boots really came into their own as the water turned to ice, the ground became frozen and patches of snow appeared. Kicking a step in the frozen snow patches provided a firm platform to step up from. The edges of the boot happily got a grip without skidding away, and the uppers were content to take the knocks and scrapes of a day in mixed winter weather.
The boot is based around the sensible notion of simplicity and functionality. The upper is made from one piece of leather with a unique tongue design that reduces stitching while enhancing fit. A large rubber rand extends around the whole boot, protecting it from the hammering of a typical day of mixed terrain. Underfoot you get a stiff Vibram unit that is able to hold an edge while kicking steps without buckling in defeat, yet it’s also very comfortable below the snow.
I particularly liked the spacious toe box of this boot and the lacing that extends to the toe for a precise fit.
If I was to be critical I would have to say that I‘d prefer a slightly deeper lug pattern in the sole, to remain grippy after some wear and to be able to have a little more bite in snowy conditions.
However, for many all year-round walkers the AKU Utah Micro ticks all the boxes. This is a boot that demands consideration alongside the proven best in its category, and we can only wait with frosted breath for what AKU will do next, as the Utah Micro provides a solid basis on which to build its winter range.
Upper: 2.6mm Nubuck leather, rubber rand
Sole: Vibram Foura EVA
Crampon compatibility: B1/C1
Weight: 1996g (pair, size 11)
Made in: Italy
Verdict: A dependable year-round boot for use with crampons or while scrambling over rocky mountain terrain.