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Astral Loyak - Women's Review

The Loyak remains the quintessential kayaking shoe with incredible flexibility and traction
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $90 List | $89.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Top-notch traction, flexible, snug fit
Cons:  Lack in durability, not warm
Manufacturer:   Astral
By Monica Nigon ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 14, 2020
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 6
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Traction - 25% 9
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Warmth - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 5
  • Sensitivity - 10% 8

Our Verdict

With incredible traction and sensitivity, the women's Astral Loyak is the go-to for kayakers. For a lightweight, low profile option, the Loyak is the more versatile step-up from a neoprene bootie. With a stretchy tongue, Flexi-grip outsole, and soft neutral footbed, it scored high on comfort. The combo of comfort and traction functions well on short, slippery hikes when out of the boat, too. We also like the looks of them and don't feel the need to swap footwear before moving from the water banks to the bar. The main drawbacks lie in durability and warmth — they aren't burly and layering inside them was difficult for cold-water days. Despite these limits, this shoe performs at a high level otherwise, winning our Top Pick Award for being our top option for kayaking.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The classic low-cut kayaking shoe, the Loyak blends remarkable traction and flexibility due to a minimalist design. They feature a stretchy tongue that is stitched all the way around the heel and thin canvas uppers. Their siped rubber soles were superior in traction on wet, slippery rocks, and rafts.

Performance Comparison


The Loyaks show incredible traction and flexibility  and transition well from the water to dry land.
The Loyaks show incredible traction and flexibility, and transition well from the water to dry land.

Comfort


The Loyak's soft footbed, thin uppers, and sticky sole make them feel like an extension of your foot. The tongue is integrated into the uppers, keeping the whole shoe snug around your ankle.


Its relatively thin footbed does make for a bit of an issue navigating sharp, poky hikes. While this gives it incredible sensitivity on slick rocks, it requires you to walk with care. Stiffer outsoles on other models kept our feet happier when walking across such surfaces. They were most comfortable with sockless feet; adding warm layers felt a bit cramped and were challenging to put on with the unique construction of the tongue.

While we walked gingerly on pointy rocks, they held up on short scouts and side hikes. We found them a bit too minimalist for more extensive walking, lacking any arch support.

The shoes feel like an extension of your foot. But their thin outsoles make them less than ideal for navigating sharp  poky terrain.
The shoes feel like an extension of your foot. But their thin outsoles make them less than ideal for navigating sharp, poky terrain.

Traction


The Loyak is one of the stickiest shoes we tested. Coupled with its sensitivity, we strode confidently onto wet rocks and logs. We navigated a wet gear boat with ease and confidence in our footing.


The outsole is an incredible sticky siped rubber. The lugs are shallow, so while we loved navigating shallow river beds and slippery scouts, they struggled to dig in to loose sediment, including sandy and muddy surfaces.

The low-profile Loyak had the best traction of the products we tested  making it easy to scramble around a gear boat with confidence.
The low-profile Loyak had the best traction of the products we tested, making it easy to scramble around a gear boat with confidence.

Versatility


While the Loyaks transition well from the river to camp, they weren't comfortable over long periods of walking and standing.


They're almost as sensitive and flexible as neoprene booties, but you'd be more apt to wear these around town or to work. Given their ability to pack down to a small size and their low weight, they're a good pick for traveling or extended trips where space is scarce.

The Loyaks were great on the river  their sensitivity allowing us to navigate murky waters blindly. They're also stylish enough to wear around town. However  their minimalist design makes them unideal for long hikes or scouts.
The Loyaks were great on the river, their sensitivity allowing us to navigate murky waters blindly. They're also stylish enough to wear around town. However, their minimalist design makes them unideal for long hikes or scouts.

Warmth


While it took a lot of red-faced pulling to get a neoprene-sock clad foot into the shoe, once it was in the Loyak remained comfortable with layering. This is thanks to the wide toe-box and stretchiness of the mesh. The insole is removable, allowing more room for those truly chilly days. Without adding layers, this model gets chilly quickly due to its thin upper.


The mesh and hydrophobic canvas uppers do make for an efficiently draining shoe.

The Loyaks allowed for adding wool socks and a drysuit on a cold winter boating mission  but it was tight. They did drain efficiently to avoid pruny feet and discomfort.
The Loyaks allowed for adding wool socks and a drysuit on a cold winter boating mission, but it was tight. They did drain efficiently to avoid pruny feet and discomfort.

Durability


Due to its minimalist design, the Loyak was not quite as durable as other products we tested. While its stitching and overall quality are sound, we noticed fraying in the canvas and mesh after testing them for a few months on the water. Our testers are aware that Astral has somewhat of a reputation for lack of durability, and this was beginning to show.


The Loyaks aren't meant to be a burly shoe, though. What they lack in durability they make up for in sensitivity and minimalism. The design and durability of this shoe make it clear that it's not made for high-abrasion activities, like canyoneering.

We noticed some fraying on the canvas after a month of hard use. Yet what the Astrals lack in durability  they make up for in sensitivity.
We noticed some fraying on the canvas after a month of hard use. Yet what the Astrals lack in durability, they make up for in sensitivity.

Sensitivity


The sensitivity afforded by the thin soles of the Loyak was rivaled only by the neoprene booties we tested. It felt as if your whole foot was making contact with surfaces, allowing for great balance and confidence navigating shallow creekbeds and slippery rocks.


These were some of the only shoes we tested that we feel confident would not come off in a whitewater swim. Given their flexibility, they curved around logs and rocks easily for better balance.

These shoes are akin to a neoprene bootie when it comes to sensitivity and flexibility. This allows them to pack down small as well.
These shoes are akin to a neoprene bootie when it comes to sensitivity and flexibility. This allows them to pack down small as well.

Value


Above the average performance of products we tested, the Astral Loyak seems right on target regarding their price. They are reliable on the water and look good in street clothes. Their water-to-street versatility makes them a great value. Coupled with Astral's stellar warranty, the Loyaks are a great kayaking shoe for those looking for the step between a more inexpensive neoprene bootie and burlier river shoe. And we applaud Astral's successful attempt to make an athletic and aesthetic shoe.

Conclusion


With its remarkable traction and comfort, the women's Astral Loyak is the go-to for the minimalist kayaker. They fit snugly with bare feet and warm layers, its canvas and mesh construction draining water efficiently. It offers sensitivity and flexibility on par with a neoprene bootie, but are stylish-looking enough to be worn around town and to work. For a high-performing low-profile shoe, you'll want the Astral Loyak.

These shoes are a great choice if you're looking for great traction and sensitivity. While they're not as durable as other products we tested  they're meant to be minimalist and low-profile  an ideal kayaking shoe.
These shoes are a great choice if you're looking for great traction and sensitivity. While they're not as durable as other products we tested, they're meant to be minimalist and low-profile, an ideal kayaking shoe.


Monica Nigon