With the low-cut Acrux FL, Arc’teryx offers a burly but comfortable approach shoe as suited to casual wear around town as on the approach or trail.
Materials and Construction
These shoes are built to last. The PU-coated nylon upper wears very hard; even scrapes and scratches fail to materialize. The Vibram Megagrip soles are grippy but harder—and seem more durable—than the sticky climbing-shoe rubber used in many approach shoes. I haven’t hesitated to wear these around town, and the soles show almost no wear for it. The sole pattern is designed for climbing, with a flatter area under the toe and around the edges of the forefoot for increased edging and smearing friction. Circular tread underfoot back to the heel front grips rock and doubles as traction in dirt or mud. Arc’teryx apparently incorporated substantial design into the heel; all I know is that the shoe walks smoothly and I find landings stable but comfortable.
The sock liner is soft and attached to the shoe at the midsole, but moves freely underneath the upper. See below for mention of a removable-liner waterproof model. The stock laces are strong and stay tied. The construction is precise and solid, as so many of us have come to expect from Arc’teryx. The stable interface between sole, midsole, liner and upper gives confidence in use on all surfaces.
Comfort and Style
Out of the box, the Acrux FL fit my foot well. The only modification I had to make was some creative lacing near the toe to better accommodate my wide foot at a pressure spot. This in an important point to note: the nylon laminate materials used in the Acrux FL’s upper are thick, strong, and unlikely to stretch or “break in” to any useful extent. Yes, as the shoes get used the bend points will better match one’s foot, but my impression is that this is a shoe that must be comfortable for you out of the box for it to be wearable. The good news is that, acknowledging this, Arc’teryx incorporated a padded liner that goes a long way toward fitting varying foot shapes to the unyielding shell. The breathable outer mesh, combined with the mesh inner sock liner, allows for good perspiration management and all-day comfort. The stock Ortholite footbed is comfortable and shock absorbing; I don’t feel any need to swap it for an after-market model.
I’ve received plenty of interest in these shoes. The styling is modern (and not just a little bit technical) but tasteful and not over the top. Certainly, the “Bright Flame” liner obviates their use in more formal situations, but for everyday casual use the touches of color peeking out of the “Graphite” upper strike a nice balance.
To GTX or not to GTX
Arc’teryx offers two versions of the Acrux FL, a Gore-Tex-lined waterproof GTX version and a non-waterproof model, reviewed here. Certainly, both have their place. I chose the non-waterproof FL to replace a daily-wear shoe that had worn out and to serve as a quick-drying hiking and approach shoe. In my experience, low-cut waterproof shoes have limited utility; the chances of water entering at the ankle, either from splashes, immersion or simply running down one’s leg, mean that the foot gets wet when you want it dry, then takes considerable time to dry out again after use. The non-waterproof Acrux FL allows water to enter—and exit—with greater ease. And in my case, sweat is almost always a greater problem for my feet than puddles and rain, so I appreciate how comfortable my feet stay in these shoes. But that is not to say that the non-Gore-Tex Acrux FL is a sieve; Arc’teryx chose hydrophobic materials, such as the burly laminate used in the upper and the all-synthetic liner, which tend to repel water. When I recently was caught in a downpour my feet stayed dry, with the small amount of water that made it through the upper quickly vaporized by my body heat and easily vented due to the Acrux’s excellent breathability. So, for my use, the non-waterproof version made the most sense. Arc’teryx now offers the Acrux² GTX, which incorporates a removable Gore-Tex inner liner for faster drying. For cold, wet environments, where the Gore-Tex version would be more suitable, I would prefer a higher-topped hiking or mountaineering boot.
Value for Money
It should come as no surprise that Arc’teryx has produced a beautiful shoe—at a premium price. I was fortunate enough to get a “lightly used” but apparently unworn pair at deep discount. If not for this, I don’t know that I’d have purchased a pair. The Acrux FL is undeniably well constructed and should last for some time, making its price more reasonable over time. But you can buy two to almost three pairs of other-brand approach shoes for the list price of the Acrux FL. Is it worth it? That depends on the anticipated use and how much money is an object. I am very pleased to have found a pair within my budget. Incidentally, Max at Lesser Places suggests the Acrux FL might be ideally suited for the even more specialized use of canyoneering, where its low absorbency, quick drying, durable construction and reliable grip set it apart from the pack. For the approach, for hiking or just around town, you will get a great shoe, but you will pay for it.