New AKU Pilgrim issue boots - Italy factory visit and product test.

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#1
Apologies for the unimaginative title. I really couldn’t think of anything more catchy.

Following on from my previous factory visits to Gore and HAIX, (see here: https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/threads/lenders-on-your-pro-boots-mate-a-visit-to-gore.220437 ) a few months back I received a short and to the point message from Graham at Gore.

“AKU just awarded contract to supply British Army with Pilgrims, wanna go and see the factory and do a test?”

“Absolutely ******* yes” I replied.

There was a bit of messing around with dates, I had some holidays planned and they were trying to coincide my visit with a few British journalists who’s diaries were also hard to pin down, but eventually flights were booked and everything was in place. I was excited, I love Italy and I’m a big fan of the AKU brand having reviewed a pair of the original High Leg Pilgrims some years ago.

So on Wednesday evening I set the alarm for 3am, got my head down for a bit then headed off bright and early to the airport for a 0730 flight to Venice to check out these bad boys.

https://www.arrse.co.uk/community/threads/press-release-pilgrim-gtx-fg-combat-high-liability.273308

63B4480D-1BD6-485A-84DF-1E83A79A01B7.png
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#3
Copied in on the emails for the trip was another guy who was also flying out from Manchester. I google stalked him and discovered that he was a journalist for a group that owns a few publications including Raider Magazine and Airsoft International. I checked in online and was able to book the seat next to him on the flight.

As we boarded the plane I introduced myself and we made some small talk on the flight. Turns out this was his first press trip abroad and first boot review so he had no idea what to expect. Jason is actually a really sound bloke, ex Royal Engineers, no nonsense Yorkshireman. We had a lot in common; similar aged kids, both into motorsport etc. Etc.

It also turned out that this is just a part time gig for him, he has a real job and like me, couldn’t believe his luck when he was offered the chance to fly to Italy and check out some cool new gear.

We arrived on time in Venice and were met by a driver with a blacked out E class.

Nice.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#4
I’d forgotten what the roads in Italy were like. We exchanged worried glances as the driver tanked it along the motorway well in excess of 90mph while casually talking on his phone and darting in and out of the traffic.

After a fairly terrifying half an hour we arrived unharmed at AKU’s main factory (they have a few dotted around Europe) and HQ in Montebelluna.

Last time I’d been to a boot factory it was in Bavaria. With typical German efficiency, there had been a welcoming committee, a printed schedule that was to be exactly adhered to and a laborious signing in process.

This time round it was a much more relaxed and Italian affair. We were warmly greeted by two of the bosses, Vittorio and Giulio and shown into a conference room surrounded by all of AKU’s current and future product lines. Before we’d really had a chance to take it all in, we were whisked away to a Bistro round the corner and were treated to a fantastic lunch with Prosecco.

This particular region of Italy is were Prosecco comes from, I’d spotted a massive industrial plant of some description opposite the factory and this turned out to be a huge Prosecco factory. The lady petrol that we get in this country is essentially the dregs of what is produced in Venetto. The Prosecco here was better than anything I’ve had in the UK.

We chatted over lunch and got to know Vittorio and Giulio.
 
Last edited:

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#5
Big **** off Lady Petrol factory and vineyard.

B296D664-E2AB-445D-B460-5DB21B35B168.jpeg
C42CEF10-1D71-4E2B-ACE6-63B6CBA69B02.jpeg
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#6
Back at the factory Giulio took us for an informal tour, taking us through the production process from start to finish.

We saw leather parts being marked up for cutting by computer and rows of girls using sewing machines to stitch the parts together. I’ve been to high end boot factories before but it always surprises me how manpower intensive the whole process is. There is a huge amount of handwork that goes into the process, it’s definitely not a big conveyor belt where you feed leather and rubber in one end and get boots out the other.

Giulio showed us the lasting process where the boot is essentially stretched and moulded around a plastic foot, afterwards the sole is added and the whole boot is cured in an oven. A man steams the material to make it stretchy and carefully puts it all together to make sure everything lines up perfectly.

This is craftsmanship in every sense of the word and Giulio explains that it’s getting harder and harder to find the next generation of boot makers.

We are shown a different process where boots have the soles attached using an expanding polymer. This is for lighter weight and more athletic boots, as well as trainers and walking shoes. The result is a more comfortable and lighter boot, but it’s not as long lasting and provides less stability than the lasted boots.

Horses for courses. AKU make boots across the entire range, from serious cold weather mountain boots capable of scaling Everest, right down to ultra comfortable lightweight trainers.

I notice that the soles on these boots are branded with the Michelin logo. Giulio explains that they are a partner in the development process and the tread is based on a successful Michelin mountain bike tyre.

Finally we are shown the quality control area of the factory. Common to all footwear factories that incorporate Gore Tex into their products, there is a Gore patented centrifuge for testing the watertight integrity of the boots. The boots are filled with water and subjected to very high G forces. If any water escapes, the boots are not waterproof and have failed the test.

Another test involves filling the inner gore membrane or “booty” with air and submerging it in water to see if any bubbles come out.

This particular test is carried out on 100% of the bootys that AKU make. Every single pair of Gore Tex AKU boots has had the inner Gore Tex membrane tested for water tightness in this way. Giulio explains that the bulk of cost in production is after the booty has been fitted, so it makes sense to test the booty before it goes in the boot. Failed booties are obviously less of an issue than an entire failed boot.
 
Last edited:
#7
My Pilgrims have worn through badly at the toe crease bit and I don't think they're waterproof anymore. Shame as they're a great comfy light boot - spoke to some guys from another team and they've had the same issue on numerous pairs.

Hopefully sorted on this new iteration.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#8
My Pilgrims have worn through badly at the toe crease bit and I don't think they're waterproof anymore. Shame as they're a great comfy light boot - spoke to some guys from another team and they've had the same issue on numerous pairs.

Hopefully sorted on this new iteration.
Got some phots and details of the age / mileage of the boot?

The guys at AKU will be reading this thread so any feedback would be very much appreciated.
 
#9
Size 14 here if you get your hooks on any freebies.

Will top you up with pizza and ale in return. To be collected on site in JNB.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#12
Gore Tex “booty” being inflated and submerged to check for air bubbles.

Failed booty shown with bubbles coming out.

Worth re-iterating that every single Gore Tex membrane goes through this test.

Notice the taped seams on the membrane. This is a special process that I was shown when I visited the Gore factory in Bavaria. Obviously you cant just sew the material together because it will not be watertight.

BB50BE2A-4C33-4E14-A97D-644ED3A2047E.jpeg
3751A931-2F04-4D40-89A3-73454FFE796F.jpeg
0D463BCB-83BB-4C81-8607-E0E3440DC4E0.jpeg
588FBBA8-A361-4C2B-9FB1-E66AEDAB76D4.jpeg
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#14
AKU have always been about comfort. There is no point having boots that perform well but aren’t comfortable. AKU were the first company to really take breathability seriously with their Air 8000 system (more on that in a bit), in 1985 they were also the first company that Gore chose to help develop a Gore Tex boot.

We are shown a specially shaped footbed which has been developed with years of fine tuning. The bed is designed to aid the natural roll of your foot when you walk.

Most people place the outside of their heel down first, then roll the foot diagonally until the weight is on the inside of the ball of your foot. The AKU footbed is designed to aid this, which creates a comfier boot and reduces fatigue over long distance. Essentially it feels like you are always walking very slightly downhill.

These beds here are glued into the bottom of the boots behind (notice the white Gore Tex booty), the outer material of the boot is then stretched around the whole lot.

2E2C8EAC-02C1-4DB5-8A10-6679CC5A45DA.jpeg
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#16
Photos below show the material being stretched around the footbed using heat and a terrifying looking machine that reminds me of Predator’s mouth.

Boots wait on racks ready for this process to be completed by hand.

BA4FCD4D-2D50-465A-B933-41489A2E82AE.jpeg
4AAE8C0D-B50B-47F1-96CA-FEC517F0CC0A.jpeg
878EA4F2-3835-4D53-824A-13B9F8B606C8.jpeg
64C5F480-4D1D-4CC8-88B0-21A3ABFECB68.jpeg
7CA9FD85-8EAD-46CD-A157-6ACE2E39A44D.jpeg
 
#18
Very interesting so far. Any info on the sizing? I’m an 8 wide and often find so called ‘wide’ fit not wide enough (the 8 wide Altbergs bring a good example). Will the new Pilgrims be suitable?
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#19
As we’re walking around I notice a few boxes of very well worn old boots. I enquire as to what the crack is with these and Giulio explains that AKU can obviously repair and re-sole any of their boots.

These have certainly seen better days, but are testament to the fact that someone loves these boots and would rather have them repaired than buy a new pair.

88DD87B4-C1D6-4982-B731-ACAC193FDC98.jpeg
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#20
Very interesting so far. Any info on the sizing? I’m an 8 wide and often find so called ‘wide’ fit not wide enough (the 8 wide Altbergs bring a good example). Will the new Pilgrims be suitable?
I’m not 100% sure what the deal is with wide / narrow fit boots and I’m afraid to say it’s one of the questions I should’ve asked but completely forgot about.

As mentioned above the guys at AKU will read this thread and hopefully get back to me with any specific questions.
 

New Posts

Latest Threads

Top