Since 2002, Astral Designs has been committed to designing the best PFDs for men, women, children, and dogs with an emphasis on sustainability. Eight years later, Astral Designs whitewater footwear arrived and quickly disrupted the shoe industry by offering paddle-friendly shoes that can be worn in water and have the necessary traction to climb slippery rocks.
Go to any take-out, put-in, or eddy and you’re bound to see rafters, kayakers, and stand up paddleboarders all rocking Astral shoes and PFDs.
But which whitewater shoe is the best for kayaking? And which is the best for female hikers?
Because the CKS Online Team is a group of rafters, kayakers, and stand up paddleboarders, we asked them which Astral shoes they use while adventuring on the water.
Jake Castle: Raft + River SUP
I like the beefed-up sole on the Brewer for stepping in and out of rafts on rocky shores, and I don’t feel like I’m wearing a bootie because of the lower cut. My Brewer’s often double as a hiking shoe when I venture into side canyons on a lot of rivers I run.
Jake leads his friends down Brown’s Canyon in Colorado.
The Hiyak is the best men’s SUP shoe. The sole is thin and gives you a more natural grip to the board, kind of like how a climbing shoe contours to your foot for rock climbing. The high cut means that you’ll retain this shoe easily if you swim, which happens frequently on SUP. This water shoe stays on your feet if you’re standing in silty mud, are ankle-deep in snow, or wearing them over your drysuit socks. It is also a bit easier to swim in these thin-soled river shoes than then thicker-soled shoes, like the Brewer I mentioned earlier. The Hiyaks perform more like a surf bootie than a street shoe.
Jake enjoys the sun on a SUP in Split Mountain Canyon, Colorado in his Astral Hiyak shoes.
JR Jennings: Kayak
I love wearing my Rassler 2.0 water shoe for kayaking. The high cut on keep this whitewater shoe through anything – including a Class IV swim in Fish Creek Falls. The burly build of the Rassler also makes it great for portages or rescue scenarios while on the river.JR Jennings, CKS Online Warehouse and Customer Service Manager
Inside this Dagger Kayak are JR’s Astral Rasslers. We promise.
Paul Clark: SUP + SUP Tour
Peter Hall: SUP Surf
I love my Astral Brewers 2.0 and have been wearing them for years. The footwear design on this Astral product provides great feel for SUP surfing. It is important for me to feel the texture of what is under your feet, while still offering pading. The sole on the Brewer has little slices in the rubber that give a ton of grip. It is a great river shoe for deepwater soloing and SUP.Peter Hall, CKS Online Owner and CEO
Late season paddling for Peter means boardshorts, kneepads, and Astral Brewers.
Jack Nelson: SUP + Everyday
For whitewater SUP, I wear the Hiyaks because of ankle protection and the ability to feel what’s under my feet. The low profile sole allows me to feel and grip the board better than the thicker sole models.
When I’m casually paddling on the lake or at the beach during the summer, I like to wear the Filipe men’s flip flops for maximum comfort and to also get my toes tan.Jack Nelson, CKS Online SUP Expert
Jack drops in on a stand up paddleboard wearing his Astral Hiyaks.
Nadia Almuti: Downriver SUP + Hike
My favorite for downriver SUP is the Rassler 2.0. I love the ankle support and added protection on this shoe. The soles are also grippy and allow you to run around on slick rocks without worrying about wiping out or falling in. They also drain and dry very quickly.Nadia Almuti, CKS Online Paddle Expert
Nadia SUP surfs in her Astral Loyaks.
Astral’s Loyak is a low volume water shoe that gives you grip and foot protection – without sacrificing being able to feel your board. This is important when SUP surfing. The Loyaks are the closest thing to being barefoot and perform like a water tennis shoe. That being said, these whitewater shoes a very comfortable and great on and off the river.
The TR1 Merge is a great soft high top hiking boot for women. If I want added ankle support for a 14er, I can lace them up tightly or if I’m just hiking a local trail I can leave them a little loose. They’re super comfortable and I’ve never gotten blisters on them. The times I’ve hiked in the rain or gotten them wet on a creek crossing I found that they dried really quickly. The TR1 Merge have a rugged and sticky sole.
For my casual wear, I usually rock Astral Porter shoes designed for women. You really can’t go wrong with this shoe – they’re like outdoor slippers. Personally, I love how these water shoes look when paired with leggings or a dress.
Kameron Moore: Kayak
I love wearing my Loyaks when playboating because of its ultra-thin everything! These kayak shoes fit well into the tightness of a playboat. It’s also a great “small shoe” to pack for travel, hikes, and casual romps around camp.Kameron Moore, CKS Online Shipping Manager and Customer Service
Astral Loyaks are great for Kameron’s side-hikes on the river.
I also enjoy having Brewers on my feet when I am in my creekboat or on a multi-night expedition. The thicker sole for better rock protection, also they dry super fast for fungus-free feet! I did get them a size bigger than I normally do so that I can fit comfortably in them with a neo-sock and my dry-suit sock. I usually wear a thin wool sock inside the dry-suit to help prevent oils from my feet coming in contact with the dry-suit material directly. Since I paddle out west, sand/silt is usually mixed in with river water and since Astral shoe drys incredibly fast (leaving the sand to stay and rub), I wear the neo-sock to maintain the longevity of the dry-suit.
Kameron always brings along Astral Brewers on a multi-day trips.