Arc’Teryx Alpha2 FL Shoes
MSRP: TBD, Coming out spring/summer 2015
Arc'teryx, which never does anything half-assed, is now making shoes and all signs point to the same kind of manufacturing and design quality we’ve come to expect from the company. We recently got a first look at these kicks during an unveiling last month in Chamonix, France, and left wanting a pair, stat (they officially hit stores for Spring/Summer 2015).
There will be eight models total when they roll out—various versions of an approach shoe and hiking boot—but the premier offering is the low-cut approach Alpha2 FL. Most notably, the shoe works like a ski boot, with a shell and swappable Gore-Tex liners. It comes with a low-cut spring/summer liner that's more breathable, but people can also buy a high-cut winter liner that offers insulation. In addition to increased versatility, Arc'teryx says the liners offer better waterproofing since they eliminate a tongue, where water can leak in. The liners are also washable and have a thin rubber sole so you can use them as hut booties.
For years, Arc'teryx has relied on lamination to build their jackets, packs, and harnesses and they've also used the technique to build the entire shell of all their shoes. Lamination uses heat and pressure instead of thread to bond various layers together, and the company says it's a superior way to build things. No stitching means no seams to wear out and the process offers a weight savings. All the materials used in the shell are also hydrophobic, which means they won’t soak up water.
Some other standout features on the shoes are the three-dimensional molded toe and heal caps. Other companies that make approach and hiking boots stretch flat pieces of rubber over the shoe to form toe and heal caps, but Arc'teryx went with the molded caps because they conform to the shoe more precisely and won’t wear out as quickly because they’re under less strain.
During the preview in France we never actually got to wear the shoes because they were just prototypes. One concern raised was whether the Gore-Tex liner will move around or bunch up in the shoe and cause blisters. Arc’teryx says this won't be a problem because the liners are stretchy like a sock and will conform to the foot with no extra material. Price was also a talking point because, like all Arc’teryx products, the shoes are spendy. The Alpha2 FL will sell for $270 with the low-cut spring/summer liner included. You can buy the winter liner separately for $95. That’s a ton of money, but like their jackets, Arc’teyrx says buyers will get their money’s worth over time.
For the ski crowd, the shoes should be a solid year-round option. When it's snowing you can swap in the winter liners, which promise to keep your feet warm and dry while you're digging out your car or partying in the parking lot. And when the snow starts to melt, swap the summer liners back in and use these shoes on your approach to the cornfields up high.