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Monday, 19 October 2015

Astral Rassler water shoe - review by Matic Tercelj (EN)



Shoe: Astral Rassler Water Shoe

Size Reviewed: 10

Style: Creeking

Normal shoe size: 9.5

Days Tested: 195


Test Locations: upper Idrijca, Bela (Slo), Kaituna, Toaroha, Kokatahi, Styx, 2-days Whitcombe, Arahura, Crooked,Nevis Bluff, Kawerau, Hollyford.... (NZ)


For any full on paddling trip quality footwear is essential. Besides quality boat, paddle, split paddle, sprayskirt, life jacket, knife and a helmet. Yes, I used to paddle bare footed a lot (in some boats it's hard to squeeze shoes) but if I learned sth from experience that's a solid watersports shoe can make your life much easier in pristine natural environment.

Last November I started a mission in Nz / starting on Kaituna and then going down south to paddle steep creeks in the native bush of New Zealand's West coast as well as big water rivers eg. Kawerau. Instead of old shoes I decided to prepare myself well for NZ creeking adventure. Since kayaking on the other side of the world includes a lot of long and steep walk-ins, slippery portages... I brought along a pair of Astral Rasslers. The Rassler is a shoe that tries to compete with water shoes' golden standard, the 5.10 Water Canyoneer. How successfully?

NZ was the perfect place to test out the Rassler on all counts. Most runs require a  steep hike to the put in, slippery portages. Deep sucking mud (everyone who paddled upper Crooked knows what I'm talking about), thick native bush vegetation, steep slopes with exposure (Waitaha - Morgan's gorge portage, Toaroha - T canyon walk in,descending slip), and slick moss-covered all-sorts of rocks are part of the daily challenge in Aotearoa.

Sole's traction

The Rassler is really similar to the 5.10 Water Tennie, the two shoes use the same AquaStealth Rubber and tread pattern. In short, their traction is outstanding. (now, the new G.ss highest friction rubber. Razor-Siped, non-marking. 6mm thickness. Is even better than the original one)



However, needless to say  I still slipped while wearing the Rassler. When it comes to  muddy or mossy conditions probably no shoe will hang on. It's important to note the Rassler performed as well as the 5.10 (or even slightly better) in all conditions.
The release of the Rassler followed the production of Astrals popular model, the Brewer. Having a higher top and more supportive ankle area, the Rassler is a definitely more appropriate shoe for the serious creek boaters than the Brewer. The high top and improved lacing pattern makes the Rassler less likely to fall off during a swim or let in debris while hiking.
There are still times when I slipped while wearing the Rassler. There are just some muddy or mossy conditions where no shoe will hang on. Over all, however, the Rassler performed as well as the 5.10 (or even slightly better) in all conditions.
The Rassler breaks a lot of conventions in water shoe design. Although it incorporates some lightweight fabrics on the tongue and near the laces, much of the shoe is made of a thicker material that is reinforced with more rubber than an ordinary shoe. Instead of relying on thin mesh for drainage, the Rassler boasts drain holes on both sides of the shoe and one underneath the heel pocket. On one hand it comes in handy to get rid of water fast.
On the other hand sand, little stones and gravel enter the shoe easy as. Meaning you will need to stop and empty the shoe if it gets too annoying.

The Rassler remains low profile enough to fit into a kayak, unlike the bulky 5.10 SAR. In a size 10, the Rasslers fit easily into my creek boat (Tuna) despite having a thicker and stiffer sole than the Water Tennie. (someone with size 46 might not have the same luck:)).



Design

What's more, the Rassler looks damn good, with bright green laces and modern design. Yes, you can easily go for a walk around the city without anyone knowing you're wearing top shit kayaking shoe.

Some might argue the heel loop is too small to use it effectively. Maybe true but since I was wearing shoes always with either neoprene socks / neo socks plus drysuit (shown on the PIC #1) I usually used both hands to put the shoe on anyways.



Sizing

The Rassler numbers are small. An irrefutable fact. So consider buying a half size or even a full size larger pair than you normally would. I typically wear a size 9 shoe with neoprene socks. With the Rassler, I am comfortable wearing thin socks in a size 10. 



Comfort and Fit

Even though there's no removable insole, I had no pain/blisters after long walks in rough terrain. Longest walk I made wearing those shoes and carrying a fully loaded kayak was more than 23 km long - walking to upper upper Arahura across Styx saddle, 2-days mission. The shoe's comfortable as.

I have sort of wide foot and even though I often feel uncomfortable regarding shoe width that wasn't the case.


Robustness

After more than 300h (cca 1000km) of walking, running, climbing on rocks in the middle of river beds while scouting and of course kayaking, my pair of Rassler is still holding on. The sole is durable and doesn't worn out too fast. Sealing is quality one and extra protective rubber all around the shoe on exposed parts does it's job more than great. Materials are more durable than looking at first sight.
The only weak point I discovered is the very front part of the sole which's slowly starting to peel off. At the time being a drop of rubber glue sold the issue temporarily.




Conclusion

I reckon Rassler is the best water shoe on the market at the moment. Light, however robust, durable and reliable. If you need a solid water shoe for hardest boating that's your call. As well if you just wanna look cool when kayaking (or drinking beer afterwards) and have an excess of 125. It's not a cheap shoe but quality had, has and will have a price.

Have safe lines and stay tuned. Next review is going to be about Level Six's drysuit Endeavour.


Test by Matic Tercelj

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