Field Tested: The Astral Rassler Kayak Shoe

The Astral Rassler was abused, but was it beaten? C&K's Ben Warf gives the answer

Last December Canoe & Kayak contributor Ben Warf gave his first impression of the Astral Rassler. Here’s what Warf had to say about the Rassler after five months of testing including harsh time on the Grand Canyon.

astral rassler
Photo: Curtis England

Astral Designs Rassler
MSRP: $119.95 (astraldesigns.com)

I have been using the Astral Rassler for several months now and I am liking them more and more with every use. After the first initial impressions review I wrote, my boating trips were limited with low water or brutally cold conditions, but I knew I was about to get a grand opportunity to go kayaking and put the Rassler shoes through their paces.

I was fortunate enough to be invited on a self-support kayaking trip down the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River launching in January. The Rasslers were one of the first things to go on my packing list. They have proven to be a very reliable and comfortable shoe, and I was excited to be able to pack one pair of shoes for the entire trip. The adjustability of the Astral Rassler is one of the features I liked the most while on the Colorado. Loosen the straps a little and they fit great with drysuit booties and thick wool socks. Even for long periods of time jammed into a fully loaded boat they were never a problem and my feet never fell asleep. Once off the river I was able to remove all my gear and throw the Rasslers right back on and synch the laces down to fit just like any other hiking shoe. The Rasslers performed performed perfectly for hiking and canyoneering all over the place around our camps. The Five Ten rubber on the soles is unrivaled in my opinion, and I'm glad Astral went that route for the Rasslers. From crumbly sandstone to the smooth polished Vishnu Shist the Rasslers stuck to everything like glue. This is huge in expedition kayaking where one wrong slip could cause you to trade the trip of a lifetime for a helicopter ride out. The ankle support of the Rasslers also instills a lot of confidence when walking around on loose and broken talus slopes commonly found around western rivers.

After my initial review I stopped by Astral to pick up a new PFD and I was able to pick the employees’ brains about the Rasslers. One of my initial complaints was that the grab loop on the heel of the shoe was too small to get your finger through. The person I spoke with said they were making an adjustment to this so I'm happy to hear that. The very stiff heel cup that initially caused some minor discomfort loosened up as they broke in and now is fine. Expect to have a break-in period when you get a pair, but after that they fit great. Lastly, the only remaining drawback to the Rasslers is the glue adhering the shock absorbing sole to the Five Ten rubber tread. My Rasslers have started to separate, and I know of several other users that have had the same complaint. I know Astral has had this feedback from some of their gear testers as well so I would expect the next revision of the Rasslers to see an improvement in this area. The rest of the shoe has been bombproof and hardly shows any signs of wear.

Overall
I'm still sticking with the Rasslers and I would like to congratulate Astral on a job well done.

astral rassler
Photo: Curtis England