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Get a Grip on Gnarly Trails: AKU Rocket Mid Hiking Boot Review

Italian footwear company AKU released a new hiking boot called the Rocket that's comfortable out of the box, and supposedly offers 25% more traction.

AKU ROCKET MID DFS GTX Hiking Boots(Photo/Will Brendza)
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Sanitas Mountain was dry as a bone, and the trail was loose in spots as I jogged down. I knew the route well, though, and was consciously slowing myself on the sections where I’d slipped and eaten it before. After passing over the first one without losing traction, though, I hit the second with a little more confidence, and the third with even more. My speed grew as I descended and my footing held the whole way down.

I hadn’t been sure about AKU’s claim that its Rocket Mid DFS GTX hiking boots offered 25% more traction. I still wasn’t sure I could put that number to it. But I could feel that these boots were grippy — at least, more than the pair of boots I’d been wearing before these.

On top of that, my feet felt light, cool, and snugly secured inside the Rockets. I’d never worn a pair of AKUs before, but the Italian bootmaker was impressing me out of the gate with these Rocket Mid DFS GTX hiking boots. It normally takes me a few days (or even weeks) to warm up to a new pair of boots. But these ones were endearing themselves to me quickly — pretty much right out of the box.

In short: The Rocket Mid DFS GTX from AKU ($220) is a solid pair of hiking boots from a brand that’s getting off the ground in the U.S. hiking market. But, AKU has been making hiking boots for mountaineers for over 40 years. And it shows in the attention to detail that the brand put into its Rocket Mid DFS GTX boots. These boots are fast, dynamic, and reliable on the trail. They employ a dual-fit system that hugs your foot securely inside the boot. And, as mentioned, they have great traction when you encounter loose trails or slippery rocks.

AKU Rocket Mid DFS GTX


  • Lining Waterproof GORE-TEX performance comfort
  • Sole VIBRAM Rocket Traction lug with MegaGrip compound
  • Footbed Partially recycled Ortholite hybrid insole
  • Lasting board (stiffness) 2.0mm polypropylene & die-cut EVA for flexibility and comfort
  • Midsole Double-density polyurethane
  • Upper Microfiber and 3D laminated upper
  • Weight 420 g (per shoe)


  • Light and breathable
  • Very grippy traction
  • Super-secure dual fit system


  • Main laces feel flimsy
  • Wear and tear starts to show quickly

Who Is AKU?

A lot of U.S. shoppers might be unfamiliar with AKU, but it’s a well-established brand in Europe and has been for over half a century.

Based in Montebelluna, Italy (the epicenter of Italian outdoor boot-making), the brand has a reputation for high-quality footwear around hunting circles. The brand’s footwear is hand-crafted and sold in 23 countries, and it has boots and shoes for hiking, hunting, rock and ice climbing, everyday travel — and even combat.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

AKU Rocket Mid DFS GTX Hiking Boot Review


The upper on the Rocket Mid DFS has a crossed ribbed structure that’s protected by a 3D-printed laminated layer on top. It’s got a durable and very weather-resistant feel, almost like there’s a shell wrapped over the top of the boot. But, it isn’t stiff and flexes comfortably with your stride.

Of course, the “GTX” in the name means this boot is made with GORE-TEX. The midsole is a double-density polyurethane and EVA foam. The polyurethane adds stability and durability, while the foam offers enough cushion for a comfortable stride. And Ortholite hybrid insoles, made from partially recycled materials, offer footbed support on a 2mm polypropylene lasting board.

But the real star of the Rocket’s construction is in its sole.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

The Rocket Sole: 25% More Traction?

AKU’s marketing leans heavily on the Rocket’s specially designed sole, claiming it “improves traction and grip by up to 25%,” thanks to a patented mold-making process it uses. But, 25% more than what?

According to AKU, 25% more grip than traditional lugs of any kind. It says its Vibram “Traction Lugs” are designed with specific “steps” and “nubs” that act as micro sidewalls, increasing the surface area of the already sticky Mega Grip rubber. And 25% more surface area equates to 25% more grip.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

That sounds good. But I had my doubts about the claim at first. I’ve worn a lot of great hiking boots with great traction in my day. And I’ve worn a lot of boots that have had sub-par traction, too. So, I’d be able to tell pretty quickly where these boots stood on that spectrum.

That’s especially true if the Rocket legitimately offered 25% more traction on all surfaces than other boots — it would be noticeable.

AKU Rocket Hiking Boots in the Field

I used these hiking boots as my primary outdoor footwear for several months this summer. I stomped around the Moab Desert in them, backpacked in northern Montana with them, hiked in southern Colorado with them, and even wore them up to a glacier without crampons for some July skiing.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

What I Liked

To be frank, I liked a lot about these boots. They look good, and right out of the box, they were comfortable to wear. I didn’t experience any hotspots or pinching during the break-in phase and managed to avoid getting any blisters.

That’s abnormal for my wide and weirdly shaped feet — and it’s always notable when it comes to a new pair of hiking boots.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

I also liked the dual-fit system that AKU’s laces employ. The main lace is thin and secures the ankle support well, while a cinch cord over the top of the foot pulls the upper together — almost like a BOA or Quicklace system.

I had to be careful not to cinch this down too tightly, or I’d lose circulation in my feet. But, when tightened properly, the system definitely helped the boots fit my feet better — which I felt improved my hiking form. However, it’s not without its drawbacks (more on that below).

(Photo/Will Brendza)

The weight of these boots lands pretty squarely in the middle of most modern mid-height hiking footwear. At 450 g per boot (1 pound, 14 ounces total), they feel nice and spry on the feet. The breathability of the Rocket Mid DFS GTX Hiking Boots seemed to be on par with the most breathable hiking boots I’ve tried in the last 12 months, the Vasque Breeze.

But, the shining star of the Rocket boots was indeed the traction. I wore two different (similarly used) boots for a short hike one day just to compare the Rockets against another shoe and I can tell you I felt a real difference — not a placebo.

I don’t know if it was a 25% difference, but it was noticeable. Even on snow, when I hiked up to a glacier without my crampons, I could tell the Rockets gripped well.

(Photo/Will Brendza)

What I Didn’t Like

My biggest gripe with these boots was one I noticed pretty much right away: the laces. Both the main lace as well as the dual-fit cinch system are made from the same small-diameter cord. It’s about half the size of the standard round laces for hiking boots. They feel like they’d easily snap after hard, extended use.

And, if I cinch the main lace too tightly around the ankle, I can feel it cutting my circulation.

The only other drawback with these boots that I sense might be an issue is durability in the long run. I have put some hard miles on my Rockets, but I’ve only been wearing them for about 4 months. And already, I’m seeing some signs of early wear and tear on them — particularly along the instep, the rubber is really taking a beating. And in another spot, I see some delamination is beginning.

Of course, maybe that’s just how these boots break in. Maybe the Rockets will continue to serve me without issue for another two or three seasons. But so far, the signs seem to indicate otherwise.

AKU Rocket Mid DFS GTX Hiking Boots: The Final Word

(Photo/Will Brendza)

For the casual hiker or backpacker looking for a lightweight, comfortable, and snug-fitting hiking boot, the AKU Rocket Mid DFS GTX boots are a great option. They stand up with competitor brands like Merrell, Salomon, Keen, and La Sportiva. I was impressed by their comfort straight out of the box, and their breathability kept my feet from overheating.

Far and away, though, my favorite feature of these Italian hiking boots was the tread. The unique “steps” and “nubs” that AKU designed to act as sidewalls for every lug make a difference when it comes to grip and traction. A 25% difference? That’s hard to say with certainty. But that’s what the brand claims.

If you haven’t tried AKU footwear (like I hadn’t), the Rockets are a good intro. They come in men’s and women’s and in a low-cut shoe version. Check out the AKU website for the full lineup and to check out some of the brand’s other footwear.

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