If you’ve not already listened to it, can I recommend that you listen to Bob’s interview with Judy Armstrong and her epic walk around the Alps. If you want some details of Judy’s trek you can get them from her web site.
I have to take my hat off to her, she’s a tough cookie. To walk on after some of the injuries she suffered takes a lot of guts, as does getting through some life or death situations like having to spend a night out after finding the door of a refuge frozen shut. I wonder how I would have reacted in those circumstances.
I also have to thank Judy for pointing me in the direction of the best pair of boots that I’ve ever worn: the Aku Icaros. She mentioned these before she started out. At the time I had been road testing a pair of Montrail Stratos XCR boots. They were fabulously comfortable and very breathable, with the Gore-Tex membrane on the outer material of the boot. These were the first pair of membrane boots that I’ve ever felt comfortable in. They were no more sweaty than a pair of light leather boots.
Unfortunately the plastic sole chassis of the boot cracked, making an irritating squeaking sound. While not fatal, I returned the boots to Rock + Run, who very kindly refunded my money (bearing in mind this was three months after I bought them). Apparently this was a well recognised design fault and I wasn’t the first to suffer this fate. I see that Montrail have introduced an updated version called the Cirrus and it looks as though they have addressed the issue.
I bought the Icaros mail order (naughty boy!), although I did check that the sole shape fitted my foot, by printing a life size version of the sole and checking my foot against it. Anyway, it was a bit of a punt, but I needed a pair of lightweight boots for Scotland in May. When they arrived, the fit was almost perfect (phew!). For reference, if you can wear Zamberlan or Montrail shoes/boots, the odds are that Aku will fit you (assuming they use consistent lasts).
In terms of breathability, these boots are a revelation. It’s all down to their Air 8000 technology. The membrane is attached only at a limited number of points rather than glued. Unfortunately their web site doesn’t explain it very well but the breathability is definitely better than I’ve experienced in other boots, even the Montrails. Judy mentions that her feet and socks suffered minimal dampness even in summer temperatures and I can believe her.
I can’t say it was particularly hot in Scotland, but it was wet. The boots kept me dry even though the outers were soaked. I even use them for dog walking now as they are so comfortable. I have suffered minimal sweating in them. My only two criticisms are that the insoles are useless; I replaced them with Superfeet. Also the top three sets of cleats for the laces are a bit sharp. Akus are difficult to get hold of, but they are really worth it.