If there’s one type of footwear I love, it’s hiking boots. There’s something I find very comforting about wearing a pair of boots, even if I am not on a trail. When I came to Korea in 2009, I had one pair of boots I purchased from a discount store in Arizona for something like $15. It wasn’t a name brand or even that high of quality; however, it did the trick. I traversed several trails and never had a problem. That is until recently, when the soles started peeling away. Seeing as the hiking season is about to really kick into high gear and I needed some new everyday footwear, I ventured into Seoul with Jo to pick up a new pair of boots.

AKU LA STRIA GTX - QiRanger - Korea - Boots

Now being a man who stands 194cm, it goes without saying that my feet are a little larger than many in Korea. Depending on the make of the shoe, this means I wear between a 280mm and 300mm shoe. This presents a bit of a problem for me, since many local stores carry sizes up to about 270mm and on occasion 280mm. It is virtually impossible for me to buy a pair of shoes in Dongtan. No one carries a size large enough for me. Therefore, we headed to Gangnam to go shopping.

After several attempts to find a pair I liked, I found the above. I had never heard or seen of AKU before, so I dialed up my iPhone and did a little research. Here’s what the company’s website says:

AKU, an Italian company, founded by Galliano Bordin, which has grown from a small workshop into an industry, has more than thirty years’ experience in the design and production of high quality trekking and outdoor footwear.

The AKU collection ranges from mountaineering boots to active free time footwear and behind each model lies a genuine love for manufacturing, built on the age-old prestigious tradition of Italian workmanship. Research into new technologies, together with the design and production of the AKU trekking and outdoor footwear collection top models, take place at the production plant in Montebelluna, Italy in the province of Treviso, famous for its sports footwear.

The second production facility is in Cluji Napoca, in Romania, where part of the AKU models are manufactured. Ongoing investments in materials research, technological designs, and production craftsmanship have made AKU the undisputed leader in comfort and fit for all applications of outdoor footwear.

The model I purchased for 335,000원 ($295) was the LA STRIA GTX. Not only was this the most expensive pair of shoes I had ever purchased, but also the first boots I’ve owned with Gore-Tex. As soon as I slipped them on in the store, I knew I had found my new boots. The comfort was amazing and its cushioned soles perfect. I really have never had a better pair of boots. That’s saying something, too. Many do not realize this, but in 2004 I suffered from a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis. Once I recovered I made two promises to myself: 1) never skimp on shoe quality; 2) once my feet start to ache in a pair of shoes… get them replaced (the shoes, not the feet).

I wasn’t too thrilled about the price tag, but knowing that things are more expensive in Korea and these are imports, I ponied up the dough. Since that day, I’ve been wearing the boots every chance I get.

Wet weather has pretty much come to a close until the summer monsoons, so I really haven’t had much of a chance to test out the weatherproofing nature of Gore-Tex. I am also pleased to report that after being on my feet for 16 hours, there have been no signs of fatigue. That’s quite a surprise, since my previous boots weren’t able to achieve that.

Overall, I am very satisfied with these boots. If you’re in the market for new hiking books, give these a look-see.