With incredible traction and sensitivity, the women's Astral Loyak is the go-to water shoe for kayakers. For a lightweight, low-profile option, the Loyak is the more versatile step-up from a neoprene bootie. It scored high on comfort with a stretchy tongue, Flexi-grip outsole, and soft neutral footbed. The combo of comfort and traction functions well on short, slippery hikes when out of the boat, too. We also like their looks and don't feel the need to swap footwear before moving from the water banks to the bar. The main drawbacks are in durability and warmth — they aren't burly, and layering inside them was tricky for cold-water days. Despite these limits, this shoe performs at a high level otherwise and is our top option for kayaking.Editor's Note: We updated this review on February 23, 2022, to provide new sections to help you find the right shoe for your needs.
Astral Loyak - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Top-notch traction, flexible, snug fit
Cons: Lack in durability, not warm
Compare to Similar Products
Astral Loyak - Women's
|Price||$63.71 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
$43.94 at Amazon
$129.95 at REI
|$37.46 at Backcountry||$45 List|
|Pros||Top-notch traction, flexible, snug fit||Exceptional comfort, great traction on wet surfaces, sensitive underfoot, drains well||Versatile, light-weight, comfortable with a barefoot design, great for hiking on soft surfaces, good drainage||Durable, good traction on hard surfaces, fits well in a kayak||Very sensitive, good traction, secure for swimming|
|Cons||Lack in durability, not warm||Sizing seems to run small, shows slight signs of wear||Not warm without layers, not as durable as other models||Lack arch support and cushion, hard to wear with extra layers, lack versatility||Not versatile, lack in support and protection for rough terrain|
|Bottom Line||This model remains the quintessential kayaking shoe with incredible flexibility and traction||These shoes are comfortable and function-focused, sacrificing nothing for traction and versatility||A low-cut water shoe with a barefoot design, this model is versatile, showing great performance in and out of the water||A great low-volume bootie useful for a wide range of water-sports and at an affordable price||Great little booties that excellent in sensitivity and flexibility but lack in versatility and support|
|Rating Categories||Astral Loyak - Women's||Chaco Torrent Pro -...||Xero Aqua X Sport -...||NRS Kicker Remix -...||Sea to Summit Ultra...|
|Specs||Astral Loyak - Women's||Chaco Torrent Pro -...||Xero Aqua X Sport -...||NRS Kicker Remix -...||Sea to Summit Ultra...|
|Measured Weight (in lbs per pair, size US Women 8)||0.87 lbs||1.08 lbs||0.72 lbs||1.65 lbs||0.56 lbs|
|Drainage Features||Outsole is draining||Quick drying drainage||Mesh on upper, toe guard drainage holes||None||None|
|Footwear Closure||Laces||Elastic quick laces||Laces||Drawcord with barrel lock adjustment||Velcro strap|
|Upper Materials||Hydrophobic Canvas||Knitted polyester upper||Synthetic mesh, polyurethane||3 mm neoprene||3mm neoprene|
|Removeable Insole?||Removable insole||No removable insole||Removeable insole||No removable insole||No removable insole|
|Midsole||7mm thick, 45C closed cell EVA foam||Women's-specific LUVSEAT EVR midsole||Non-absorbent tongue||Rubber||Rubber|
|Outsole||Flexi-grip, G15 (Astral tech)||Non-marking ChacoGrip Plus rubber compound, self draining Flexi-grip||FeelTrue rubber, 3.5mm dual chevron lugs||Rubber||Rubber|
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 around the heel and has thin canvas uppers. Their siped rubber soles were superior in traction on wet, slippery rocks and rafts.
The Loyak's soft footbed, thin uppers, and sticky soles 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 arch support.
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 into loose sediment, including sandy and muddy surfaces.
While the Loyaks transitioned 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.
While it took a lot of red-faced pulling to get a neoprene sock-clad foot into the shoe, the Loyak remained comfortable with layering once on. This ability 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.
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.
The sensitivity afforded by the thin soles of the Loyak was rivaled only by the neoprene booties we tested. It felt like 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 felt confident would not come off in a whitewater swim. They curved around logs and rocks easily for better balance, given their flexibility.
Should You Buy the Astral Loyak?
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 is stylish-looking enough to be worn around town and to work. For a high-performing low-profile shoe, you'll want the Astral Loyak. 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 a burlier river shoe. And we applaud Astral's successful attempt to make an athletic and aesthetic shoe.
What Other Water Shoes Should You Consider?
If you aren't an avid kayaker but still love water-time activities of multiple types, you might find your niche in a different, less expensive shoe. The NRS Kicker Remix - Women's is a simple neoprene bootie with a wallet-loving price tag and a useful design that can meet most needs with good traction and warmth. While not as high-scoring as the Loayk, the bootie could meet your needs well with a lower price if you don't need a substantial shoe. If you need something with a little more warmth, traction, and durability, and the cost is less of a concern, the Chaco Torrent Pro - Women's is one of our top scorers and is sure to please no matter what the activity on the water or nearby.
— Monica Nigon
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