Canoe & Kayak contributor Ben Warf gives a first impression of the Astral Rassler. Stay tuned to CanoeKayak.com for an update on the Rassler in the coming months.
Astral Designs Rassler
MSRP: $119.95 (astraldesigns.com)
I have been wearing the new Astral Designs Rassler shoes for about a month now. The Rasslers put the "shoe" back in water-shoe as they were great for everyday use, not just water sports. In the boat the Rasslers felt about as good as any other shoe that I have worn, and after this trip, the Rasslers became my daily stompers around campus. The thing I liked the most about the Rasslers is the lightweight construction and the level of comfort. Astral does not spec the weight on their website but I weighed them and found them to be approximately 1.34 pounds for the pair. That's light for a kayak shoe this tough.
The rains finally came here in the southeast right before Thanksgiving with a rainy, snowy, wintery mix. With the addition of a little bad luck, this would prove to be great testing conditions for my Rasslers. The day before Thanksgiving my buddies and I rallied out of class straight to the wintery wonderland of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Early in our run my paddle broke, which led let to several hand rolls against a wall and a reluctant "out-of-boat experience."
This was one place I really needed some good shoes, as all the rocks were covered in several inches of snow. I was able to swim my boat to the back of an eddy and scramble up on the rocks without incident. Then I did the usual process of draining the boat, putting my break-down paddle together, retrieving the broken paddle and re-entering the water. I never once doubted the Rasslers’ grip and stability as I scrambled up and down rocks and got back into my boat. I'm really glad Astral chose to incorporate the 5.10 rubber sole into the Rasslers. The 5.10 rubber is hard to beat.
Sizing in the Rassler is something to be aware of. Colorado Kayak Supply recommends bumping your order up one full size if you plan to wear socks or a drysuit. In my case, I have a size 10.5 foot and I typically size my river shoes at 11 or 11.5. I received a 12 in the Rassler and they fit perfectly with a pair of wool socks and my integrated drysuit booties. They also fit great when I'm wearing none of this, as the lacing provides a lot of room for adjustment.
Two more notes for the Rassler. First, the upper section of the shoe around the ankle drops in the back to meet the rigid heel cup. This puts a pressure point on the Achilles tendon, which wore off a little after the shoes were broken in. Only time and some good hike-in runs will tell if this will be a continued issue, though, and it could be a potential friction and blister point. Second, the heel loop used to pull your heel into the rigid heel cup is standard carabineer size according to the Astral website. My problem with this is my fingers are standard finger size and they do not fit in this loop. The loop is also too small to really pinch, so overall the heel loop is fairly useless unless you use a carabineer to put your shoes on. This is an easy fix and I hope Astral makes this adjustment in future production.
I really like these shoes. The bomber construction seems like it will last forever and the comfort is top notch. My initial impression: Well done, Astral.