The Rocket is a very capable fast-hiking shoe that’s surprisingly light given its technical aesthetics. Its lacing system means you can tighten things up for scrambling terrain and its excellent Vibram outsole gives you confidence on a variety of trail types. Its comfortable and protective, with a GORE-TEX lining for keeping the drink out.
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AKU Rocket DFS GTX: first impressions
When it comes to tackling mountainous terrain, it seems that every conceivable niche has been covered. Waterproof trail runners? Tick. Approach shoes you can hike in? Tick. Boots rigid and protective enough for the Arctic? Tick. Some are better catered for than others and entrants into such niches have to work harder and harder to rise above the noise and stand out.
Into the fast-hiking niche we welcome AKU’s Rocket DFS GTX. Boasting ironclad traction, lightweight materials, waterproofing courtesy of GORE-TEX and a clever dual lacing system, it aims to launch above the rest and into the stratosphere – or perhaps more accurately to a mountain summit near you.
They certainly look the part, with the “Hey! I’m a premium pair of mountain-ready shoes!” kind of aesthetic we’ve come to expect from AKU. In fact, they look heavier than they are, their technical boot-like appearance belying the fact they weight less than many light hiking shoes. Once on, they’re comfortable and nimble on the trails.
The Rockets make use of AKU’s Dual Fit System (the DFS in the name). This is an extra set of laces, reminiscent of Salomon’s Quicklace System, that can be used to tighten things up around the midfoot for increased precision on technical terrain. This technology was first seen in AKU’s Rock DFS GTX approach shoes and its inclusion here means that the Rockets are fairly handy on a scramble or three.
AKU’s footwear makes use of Vibram rubber outsoles and the Rockets are no different, employing Vibram Megagrip technology to ensure traction on a variety of terrain types, whether its bone dry underfoot or dripping wet. The Rockets also use deep ‘Traction Lugs’ that boast micro-lug shaped elements to increase the amount of rubber in contact with the ground at any one time. Anyone who paid attention during physics lessons in school will appreciate that this means more friction and, thus, enhanced grip.
List price: $189.95 (US) / £169 (UK)
Materials: fiber fabric + microfiber upper, GORE-TEX lining, double density PU midsole and Vibram Megagrip outsole with Vibram Rocket Traction Lugs
Weight (per shoe): 370g / 13 oz
Colors: Black-Orange, Turquoise-Black, Red-Anthracite, Yellow-Anthracite
Best for: speed hiking and low-grade scrambles come rain or shine
The Rockets make use of AKU’s certified Elica technology, which integrates the last, insole, midsole and tread to improve comfort, absorb shocks from the terrain and make you more efficient on the trails.
There’s 3D printed abrasion protection, which is particularly apparent on the back of the shoe. There’s also reinforcements in the toe too, making it possible to be aggressive on rocky terrain.
As is the norm with hiking shoes these days, there’s a loop on the ankle for attachment to a harness or similar. The tongue features a loop too, which makes slipping them on and off much easier.
On the trails
I tested the Rockets in two of England’s premier national parks, taking them for energetic walks in the beautiful Peak District and heading up into the fells in the spectacular Lake District.
For the easier ambles, it felt a little odd to be slipping into such technical-looking hikers but the Rockets are lighter than they look and I was soon bounding happily along. I found them to be comfortable throughout and traction was solid on both muddy trails and bare rock.
In the mountains, they really came into their own, protecting my feet from debris and the wet Cumbrian weather. Once again, grip was solid throughout and I never felt weighed down.
It was nice being able to tighten things up around the midfoot using the DFS system, giving me extra precision when it came to rocky ground. As with AKU’s Rock, the Rocket’s approach shoe cousin, they have flat rubber zones at the front and back of the outsole for that climbing-shoe style grip during scrambling moves. However, it’s not as pronounced as it is in the Rock or on other similar approach shoes. So, if you’re on the hunt for dedicated scrambling footwear for taking on the higher grades or moderate climbs, look elsewhere.
That said, low grade scrambles are no problem at all for the Rockets. For a pair of well designed, waterproof fast hiking shoes that give you a good degree of protection, these are a great choice.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com