Review: Water Shoes by Astral Designs

From the limestone creeks of Central Texas to the sandy bayous of the Pineywoods, fly fishermen in the Lone Star State have plenty of unique waterways to explore. The various fishing scenarios found on local streams and rivers call for dependable footwear that stand up to the rigors of wet-wading scenarios. A lightweight boot for wet-wading is essential for anglers who want to explore the many creeks that Texas has to offer. Luckily, Astral Designs has developed several tried-and-true options for Texas creek stompers.

wading shoes
L to R Brewer 2.0, Rassler 2.0, TR1 Merge-2
Photo by Robert H. McConnell

First things first, I understand the allure of wanting to wear sandals while wading through beautiful Texas waterways, but our local streams in Southeastern Texas are harsh environments for unprotected toes. Our waterways contain lots of sticks and logs, and the streamside banks contain a plethora of plants and critters that sting, bite, or both. Additionally, the streambeds in the eastern part of the state are composed of fine sand which will cause chaffing on the bottoms and sides of your feet. A day of creek fishing could be cut short if sand is allowed to work itself under your feet or under the sandal straps. Frankly, wearing sandals while creek fishing in Southeastern Texas isn’t a good idea. Luckily, Astral Designs builds closed-sole shoes that are still lightweight and liberating.

Astral Designs isn’t a fishing apparel company. Instead, they began by building PFD’s for paddlers and whitewater enthusiasts. Shortly after their inception, Astral began manufacturing high performance footwear for whitewater paddlers. Astral continues to branch out and has started building all manner of footwear including sandals and hiking boots, but it is their purpose-built whitewater shoes which translates nicely into serious wet-wading footwear for blue-lining fly fishermen.

Brewer 2.0-2
These Brewer 2.0 wading shoes are made for walking!!
Photo by Robert H. McConnell

Fly anglers who hike into secluded creeks have similar requirements of their footwear as whitewater paddlers. Boots need to be comfortable, lightweight, and durable. Several of Astral’s water shoes fit this mold.

The Rassler 2.0 is a fantastic lightweight boot that has high ankle support. This boot was designed with drain ports in the soles at the toes and heels. This feature allows water to escape from the shoe quickly which keeps your feet nimble, even when wet-wading for hours. The Rassler 2.0 is equipped with extra fabric and cushioning around the ankle which really helps anglers feel secure when slipping and sliding down the steep and muddy banks of local creeks.

Astral makes another high-top wading shoe that is a bit stouter than the Rassler 2.0. The TR1 Merge was originally designed for expedition kayakers that often hike into remote streams for whitewater rapids that are seldom run. The TR1 Merge is great for anglers that still want a lightweight wading boot, but need a little more support and protection for the feet and ankles.

Astral’s Brewer 2.0 is a low-cut, sneaker-style shoe that is a bit more casual than the previously mentioned boots. Like the other shoes, this one is also equipped with drain ports. This shoe doesn’t offer the ankle support that some anglers might find comforting for long days of creek exploration. With that being said, I’ve still trekked all day in my Brewers and did so without discomfort. The Brewer 2.0 is a great shoe for anglers that spend a lot of time paddling. The low-profile makes it breathable and comfortable, even while inside a canoe under the hot sun. The Brewer is especially nice if you anticipate needing to make a couple of portages. As an added bonus, The Brewer 2.0 dries exceptionally fast, which is nice if you plan on heading to the local brewery after a day on the water.

For added protection against abrasive sand, consider coupling Astrals with a pair of wading socks or neoprene booties. Neoprene socks or booties work well as an added layer of protecting against chaffing. I’ve tested several manufacturers of neoprene socks, and some don’t hold up to the sandy streambeds of East Texas, but the Slinx neoprene sock (3-millimeter thick) have withstood the test. A pair of Slinx should last about a year, depending on how much they get used.

By outfitting yourself with this gear, you’ll be comfortable and prepared to go deep into the hidden streams of Texas. Be sure to protect your feet so you can explore local waterways for many miles to come.

Robert McConnell

Robert McConnell

Robert H. McConnell was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. It was in the shadow of the Allegheny Mountains where he developed an affinity for fishing and the outdoors. At college, Robert pursued a degree in geology, which was one of the only classes that offered frequent field trips to the great outdoors. After graduating, Robert began a career in the oil and gas industry, which brought him to the wilds of northern Pennsylvania. He began fly fishing in earnest after discovering the joys of hiking into remote freestone streams in pursuit of native brook trout. Spring and summer weekends were spent exploring the vast network of streams and rivers along the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania. In 2014, Robert and his wife, Ellen, moved from their home in rural Pennsylvania to the bustling city of Houston, Texas, the “Energy Capital of the World,” where they reside today. Robert continues his passion for fly fishing, but instead of chasing native brook trout, he now pursues the multitude of warmwater fish species that live in the surrounding waterways of Houston, Texas. Robert especially enjoys exploring the more remote waterways, including those found in the Pineywoods of East Texas. "Fly Fishing Houston & Southeastern Texas" will be in fly shops and wherever fine books are sold on February 7, 2023.

2 thoughts to “Review: Water Shoes by Astral Designs”

  1. I’m about to order a pair. We found a spot in a local creek, chock full of fossils. We spend hours wading and turning over rocks. My leather hiking boots are not doing well in this environment.

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