Sometimes it’s nice just to have a stylish pair of shoes—to walk in, hike in, go to the gym in, go out to eat in, but not necessarily to do technical approaches or low-fifth-class scrambling in. This was the conclusion I reached as I tested the new Aku Rapida GTX, a soft, foot-hugging, and subtly fashionable pair of walking/hiking shoes from the Italian shoemaker. Because while these shoes are comfort and support supreme, they are not approach shoes per se, and it’s best not to view them as such or task them with gnarly-crag-base or technical duty. This is all to say, it’s OK even for diehard climbers to just own a comfy, good-looking pair of shoes that’s not the über-techy gnar.
The Rapida GTX has a very supple suede upper and a muted, beige or grey color scheme; they come in men’s sizes 8–13 and women’s 5–11. Certainly the first thing I noticed with this flexible upper and “Comfort Fix X-Soft” footbed was just how, well, mellow the shoes felt on my feet—there was no pinching or hot spots, as you might encounter with a stiffer hiker or a more technical approach shoe. I simply slipped them on and went for a long walk on day one, and the Rapida GTX have maintained an easy, almost-slipper-like on/off thanks to the low-cut heel and traditional lace-and-tongue closure system. No big bells and whistles with fit and closure here, but that’s what makes the shoes so great—fewer techy flourishes to hassle with, fewer gizmos to snag on twigs and rocks in off-trail terrain, or to break, get caked with mud, and so on. The Rapida GTX look and wear like a solid pair of old-school skate shoes, but with hiking prowess.
And the Rapida GTX have indeed been very supportive hikers, with an EVA midsole and thermoplastic urethane (TPU) shanks—the lasting board—for torsional stability. I’ve taken them on long walks on the neighborhood gravel trails; rock, mud, and dirt pounding on long approaches into the Flatirons; and kicking about town and in the office. Throughout, I’ve appreciated the Rapida GTX’s springiness and lateral stability, and have yet to roll an ankle; they also have a surprising amount of feedback for shoes with such a thick midsole. Perhaps it’s because the midsole is thickest at the heel then tapers as it moves forward along the shoe. It’s a design that very much favors a heel-strike style of walking that at first took some adjustment but that has, with experience, come to feel like it’s saving wear-and-tear on my ankles and knees. It also means you have good sensitivity in the toe as needed.
The shoes are relatively light (1.6 pounds total for a pair of men’s size 10: 370 grams per shoe), which is nice. Meanwhile, the sole is a triangle-lugged Vibram Cruise compound with a thumbnail-sized toecap and gradual upturn from the arch forward to the toebox. Again, these are not climbing/approach shoes, but I did find them to be plenty solid on third- and fourth-class scrambling. And the lugged Cruise sole made them very grippy on sloshy, muddy trails and wet pavement. However, the lack of a climbing zone or sticky rubber did mean some rolling on edges and slabs, as I encountered on the slanting, highly polished sandstone ramp at the Black Hole area in Morrison, and on one gnarly, gravel-covered “belay ledge” in Clear Creek Canyon. Which is all to say, if the staging area at your crag du jour is a semi-fifth-class proposition in and of itself, I would leave the Rapida GTX at home. But if you’re, say, strolling through the woods at Font or the Red or Maple Canyon and don’t need much tech action once at the base of the climb, then these are money approach shoes.
And, as mentioned above, they just look good on your feet—and we don’t always have to look like climbers, right?