The Acrux SL takes home our Top Pick for Climbing Performance Award for its unique, stretchy fit and excellent climbing ability. Somehow blending weight and durability better than we've ever seen, we recommend this shoe wholeheartedly to just about any climber.
Presenting the durable, excellent edge of the Acrux SL.
Whether you're scrambling low fifth-class terrain or hopping from boulder to boulder across an alpine talus field, you need your approach shoes to stick. For this category, we looked to edging, smearing, and crack climbing to get a picture of the shoe's overall climbing performance. In all realms, the Acrux exceeded our expectations, earning the highest score of any shoe that we tested.
We first took this shoe to Tuolumne's Cathedral Peak, where we could test it out on all types of terrain. We were blown away by its edge and found us feeling nearly as comfortable as we would have with an actual climbing shoe. The stiff sole made for exceptional edging security on both big diorite knobs and tiny granite edges.
The snug fit of the Acrux aided in our smearing confidence. Its low profile made for great crack climbing, as we were able to fit into hand cracks much more easily than with some wider profile shoes like the La Sportiva Boulder X. We even wore this shoe on El Capitan and were thrilled to have a shoe that could climb well but was also stiff enough for all-day comfort in aid ladders.
The low profile of the Acrux SL makes for awesome climbing performance.
Though closely related to support, this category looks specifically at materials, lacing, and sole stiffness to get an overall feel for each shoe's hiking comfort. The Acrux wasn't nearly as plush and comfy as some shoes in this review, but its snug fit, highly adjustable lacing system, and stiff sole made up for it, rounding out to an average score of 5/10.
The Acrux utilizes a flexible one-piece upper that fits more like a sock than a shoe. The tongueless design is snug but stretchy, adding to both its climbing and hiking comfort. The seamless design has no room for pressure points, and we found it to be a great hiking shoe despite its exceptionally lightweight. In addition to its breathability, we were impressed with this shoe on long approaches. It did, however, take some time to break in.
Hiking around Bishop is a cinch with the lightweight Acrux.
The lacing system stretches far down the foot, allowing for a lot of versatility. This shoe can easily be tightened up for delicate approaches or loosened for more casual jaunts.
The only thing that we took away points for with the Acrux was the lack of cushioning. Compared to the plush tongue of the Adidas Terrex Solo or the Five Ten Guide Tennie, we'd be more hesitant to hike deep into the backcountry in this shoe.
In addition to hiking comfort, we also looked to how well a shoe protected its user from all the elements we encounter in the mountains. From snow to loose rock, we want to feel balanced and secure in our approach shoes. We found the Acrux to be surprisingly supportive for how like they are, though they didn't top the charts.
One of the major things we found lacking in this shoe was arch support. For long days on our feet, the Acrux wouldn't be our first pick. That being said, the burly outer lamination provided great protection while hopping through talus and scree and trudging through snowfields in the alpine.
We found the stiff sole to provide great stability on uneven terrain while hiking down the loose gully to the Owens River Gorge and were generally excited about how much abuse this light shoe could take.
We had no problem traveling on loose terrain with the Acrux SL.
As far as weight goes, we usually assume that lighter is better, though we often see this come at the cost of other important factors. Whereas other shoes in this review saw a lighter weight compromise their durability scores, the Acrux was an exception. At just 9.6 ounces, this is one of the lightest shoes in this review.
The majority of shoes that we tested fall in the 11-ounce range, including the 10.7-ounce, award-winning La Sportiva TX3. When racking up for a multi-pitch climb, having a shoe to easily clip to your harness is crucial. The Acrux is mind-blowingly light without sacrificing comfort or climbing ability. It is small, compact, and easy to bring along on any adventure. And while the Evolv Cruzer Psyche is even lighter, at a stunning 6.8 ounces, the Acrux outperforms it in every other metric. The only shoe we might recommend over the Acrux is the Editors' Choice Award-winning La Sportiva TX2. At 8.4 ounces per shoe, it is lighter, more supportive, and nearly as precise for technical climbing.
We here at OutdoorGearLab are used to putting our gear through the ringer, and approach shoes are no exception. We scrutinized the materials, outsole, and small details of each product to get an idea of how well it would withstand our abuse. We found the laminated exterior of the Acrux to be very durable, earning it a high 7/10.
The Acrux has a laminated outer material unique to any shoe we've ever tested. This plastic-like material protects the foot while still allowing for breathability, and after a lap up Yosemite's El Capitan, the shoe looked brand new. Without any delicate mesh or stitching (like on the Adidas Terrex Solo), the Acrux looked unphased by our granite obsession. We fully expect to hold on to this shoe for many seasons to come.
Light, comfortable, and durable, hiking is a breeze in this shoe. We may not recommend it for massive approaches or alpine days (for that, we'd recommend the TX3), but we think that it is an excellent companion for nearly any multi-pitch mission. Its superior climbing performance makes it the obvious choice for scrambling and low fifth-class climbing.
We're most at home in the same place as the Acrux: far above the Yosemite Valley floor.
At $170, the Acrux is the most expensive shoe in this review. And while we'd love to find it on sale, we do believe that the price is nearly justified. With an excellent score in durability, we expect to have this shoe for many years, helping us think of the big purchase as a long-term investment. Our Best Buy Award winners, the Boulder X and Cruzer Psyche have their own niches, but you won't find the unparalleled climbing ability of the Acrux in either.
After experiencing the amazing edging and snug fit of the Acrux, we had no choice but to award it our Top Pick for Climbing Performance. We found it to be comfortable and durable without compromising weight. It struck a balance between all five scoring metrics unlike any other shoe in this review, and we believe Arc'teryx has once again nailed it by creating a foolproof all-around approach shoe.
Two very different shapes! Top: Arc'teryx Acrux SL; Bottom: Adidas Terrex Solo