Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
For hiking excursions that weren't very long, we often chose the Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX. It is lightweight, waterproof, and comfortable. While not supportive enough for longer hikes for quick and lightweight missions, this shoe was a tester favorite, becoming our top pick for being Light and Fast on your feet.
It is hard to over-emphasize the importance of comfort in your hiking shoe. It is a challenge to appreciate the journey when you can only think about the pain in your feet. We found the Aerios FL to be comfortable right out of the box, though there was an odd popping sound in the right shoe for the first ten miles. Fortunately, this went away as the fabric softened up. It may be related to the fact that the shoe runs long, almost a half size longer than most of the other size seven shoes we tested, so the fit was not perfect. Make sure to keep this in mind if you are between sizes.
The Aerios has a thin Ortholite insole, which is very common for this type of shoe. The arch support is moderate, so an after-market insole would be a great option if you like additional support. The midsole is a compressed EVA and isn't as cushioned as regular EVA, though it still feels quite responsive. We could move quickly on the trail with significant flexion in the forefoot.
The laces are incredibly long. While we could get a good fit, dealing with the extra lacing was a bit annoying.
We found the Aerios to be stiff and supportive underfoot. Surprisingly so, given the lightweight nature of the shoe. The upper is synthetic and reinforced where the shoe meets the sole, adding some additional support. However, this shoe emphasizes minimalism over support, and it feels closer to a trail running shoe than a burly hiker.
While we were pleased with the protection and support underfoot for our short excursions into the mountains, this model is by no means the most supportive shoe that we tested. We would not recommend this shoe if support is your primary concern or if you are looking for shoes to support you on multi-day hikes.
We tend to look for deep and varied lugs when looking for maximum traction. Deep lugs perform the best on loose, unconsolidated material (such as scree or gravel), while we expect sticky rubber will perform better on slabs and wet surfaces. The Aerios FL utilizes Vibram Megagrip for the outsole, which feels quite soft and proved to be satisfyingly sticky in most conditions.
As is common with stickier rubber, it doesn't always stay sticky in cold weather. We noticed that the Aerios felt harder underfoot with less successful traction when the weather was below freezing. Fortunately, most of our hiking took place in above freezing temperatures, and we didn't notice any issues with performance on wet, cold rocks in the rain.
The Aerios FL is one of the lightest models amongst top-ranked women's hiking shoes, and of those lightweight options, it offers the highest level of comfort and protection. Indeed, every detail of this shoe seems purposefully designed to keep the shoe as light as possible without sacrificing performance. As we know, weight isn't everything when it comes to hiking, but a lighter shoe makes you lighter on your feet, can reduce fatigue, and can undoubtedly make you feel faster.
While this would not be our choice for multi-day hiking, as it doesn't offer enough support or protection for short and fast excursions, dog hikes, and day hikes in moderate conditions, it proved to be a tester favorite.
The Aerios FL performed flawlessly in our ten-minute bucket test, as well as on rainy hikes. It has a Gore-Tex membrane and sheds water completely, with no noticeable absorption in the upper material.
At only 3 1/4", the ankle height will allow for water to splash in quite easily if you are hiking through puddles, however. Fortunately, the tongue gusset is at the same height, so you can count on being protected from the water up to that height. If your plans involve hiking in very wet places, you may want a shoe (or boot) with more height, but for shallow puddles and rain, this shoe kept our feet dry.
Typically, synthetic hiking shoes are less durable than those that utilize leather in the upper. That being said, the Aerios, while being made entirely of synthetic materials, has proven to be quite durable in rugged conditions. We hiked on lava rocks and trails strewn with craggy basalt boulders and pokey bitterbrush, and there was no visible snagging or abrasion on the uppers. The upper is reinforced, and we did not observe any delamination during our testing period. The rubber toe cap shows some scraping, which is expected and appears to be only cosmetic.
This shoe uses very minimal stitching, as the upper is primarily welded. There is single stitching at the bottom of the tongue, and while we are usually wary of single stitching, this appears to be reinforcing a weld for extra durability.
The soles Vibram Megagrip rubber allow for impressive traction, but the material is relatively soft. Additionally, the lugs are somewhat shallow, and we would anticipate that they will wear down much faster than shoes that utilize deeper lugs and more rugged outsole material. Our tests were exclusively on trails, logs, and boulders, and the outsoles are holding up quite well. However, if you plan to wear these in urban environments, we would anticipate that concrete and asphalt may wear the material much faster.
Should You Buy the Aerios FL?
The Aerios FL is a super lightweight and performance-oriented hiking shoe. It performed well in all of our tests and proved quite comfortable from the start, especially for day hikes. However, it is not the most supportive or protective shoe and, therefore, not recommended for multi-day hiking trips or super rugged terrain. Arc'teryx is a luxury outdoor brand, and the Aerios FL is undoubtedly not cheap. However, it is not the most expensive shoe we tested, and it has many stand-out features. The entire shoe is welded, making for a very clean and minimalist look, and it is very lightweight while offering a good amount of traction and support. If having a lightweight shoe is your top priority, this is the highest performing lightweight shoe that we tested, which makes it a good value in our eyes.
What Other Hiking Shoes Should You Consider?
If finding the ultimate lightweight shoe is not the order of the day for you, the La Sportiva Spire GTX offers better traction, comfort, and support. If lightweight but still better performing is your wish to split the difference, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Gore-Tex - Women's could be a good pick. This lightweight option provides better comfort, support, and traction than the Aerios, making it a good choice to split the difference between keeping it light and keeping it on the trail.
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