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Astral Loyak Review

These kayaking shoes are top notch for their flexibility and traction, all at a bargain of a price.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $85 List | $79.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  High traction, flexible, snug fit, great drainage
Cons:  Not warm, not durable
Manufacturer:   Astral
By Dan Scott ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 9
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Traction - 25% 9
  • Warmth - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9
  • Durability - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The Astral Loyak water shoes are purpose-built for whitewater boating. Their low cut, stretchy tongue, low weight, and neutral footbed makes them feel like a natural extension of your feet. They stick better than most shoes we reviewed in slick environments and work well for both spending hours on the water and roaming around on land. While they aren't the most durable option, making them less than ideal for canyoneering or adventures that require lots of walking, they are an excellent water shoe for a very reasonable price, earning them our Best Buy Award.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Astral Loyak
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $79.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$93.71 at Amazon$148.50 at Amazon$54.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$44.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros High traction, flexible, snug fit, great drainageExtremely versatile, adjustable, excellent balance of support and flexibilityIncredibly sticky rubber, protective, warm, comfortable, durableComfortable, warm, great traction on wet rockGood traction, very sensitive, sock-like feel, fun to swim in
Cons Not warm, not durableNot the stickiest rubber, not the most durableHeavy and stiff, no drainage, expensiveLittle support on rough terrain, no drainageSlip off feet slighty when walking, uncomfortable in rough terrain
Bottom Line These kayaking shoes are top notch for their flexibility and traction, all at a bargain of a price.These shoes are a jack-of-all trades that we feel confident using in practically any sport involving water.These shoes are the burliest, stickiest water shoes we've tested.These water shoes check all the boxes for what we are looking for in a shoe to wear for long days on the river.The Kickers are great for kayaking or swimming, but not protective or secure enough for much else.
Rating Categories Astral Loyak Astral TR1 Junction Adidas Terrex Hydro_Lace NRS Paddle Wetshoe NRS Kicker Remix
Comfort (25%)
10
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9
10
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9
10
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8
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7
10
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5
Traction (25%)
10
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9
10
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7
10
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10
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9
10
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9
Warmth (15%)
10
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7
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9
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9
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9
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8
Versatility (15%)
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6
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9
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5
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3
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3
Sensitivity (10%)
10
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9
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7
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5
10
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9
10
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9
Durability (10%)
10
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3
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6
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6
Specs Astral Loyak Astral TR1 Junction Adidas Terrex... NRS Paddle Wetshoe NRS Kicker Remix
Measured Weight (per pair, in lbs) 1.1 lbs 1.6 lbs 3.2 lbs 1.9 lbs 1.8 lbs
Size Tested (US Men's) 13 13 13 12 12
Drainage Features Front/back/side holes, top mesh Front/side holes, top mesh None None None
Removeable Insole Yes Yes Yes No Insole No Insole
Available Widths Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular
Footwear Closure Lace Lace Lace Zipper Pull-on/elastic synch
Upper Materials Hydrophobic canvas and Airmesh Hydrophobic canvas with TPU Neoprene and synthetic textile 3 mm neoprene Neoprene
Midsole EVA EVA adiPRENE None None
Outsole Siped G15 G15 Stealth Rubber Rubber
Relative Fit Wide toebox, medium volume midfoot and heel Wide toebox, high volume midfoot and heel Medium toebox, high volume midfoot and heel Wide toebox, and stretches to accomodate a wide variety of foot shapes Wide toebox, and stretches to accomodate a wide variety of foot shapes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Loyak is a minimalist, low-cut kayaking shoe. They feature a thin sole, thin upper, and a tongue design that snugs them comfortably against the midfoot. Their siped rubber soles stick well on slick, wet rock. That traction, combined with the thin soles' excellent proprioception gives them a great feel in and out of the water.

Performance Comparison


At home on and off the water  the Loyaks blend style  comfort  and high performance.
At home on and off the water, the Loyaks blend style, comfort, and high performance.

Comfort


The Loyak has a small but stretchy opening at the ankle and no real tongue. Instead, a sock-like cuff wraps around your foot as you slip it into the shoe. The footbed is foam but has a bumpy top that somehow lets your foot slip into the shoe easily. Once weighted, it keeps your foot in place.


The interior is mostly mesh and feels fine on bare feet with minimal stitching. With a thin sole and minimal heel-toe drop, you notice the undulations of the ground surface as you walk. For long walks over river cobbles, we found that our feet had to work more than in more traditional, stiffer shoes.

Over river cobbles  the Loyaks (right) are more supportive than booties  but still make your feet work to maintain balance.
Over river cobbles, the Loyaks (right) are more supportive than booties, but still make your feet work to maintain balance.

The Loyak favors a more flexible ride in exchange for foot protection. We had no problem portaging over big boulders or wading through shallows, but we had to be more aware of where we placed our feet to avoid injury, at least compared to burlier shoes.

The thin and flexible sole doesn't protect your feet much  but provides excellent proprioception.
The thin and flexible sole doesn't protect your feet much, but provides excellent proprioception.

The upper materials and drainage ports on the front, back, and sides of the shoes make them excellent for transitioning in and out of water. With a snug fit, they let out water quickly and manage moisture well. After a day of boating, we liked that these were comfortable to wear barefoot right after getting off the water - a great quality in a shoe for hanging around camp on a raft trip.

Traction


The Loyak's were among the stickiest water shoes we tested. They feature a siped G15 rubber outsole that is more than capable of carrying a boat across slick, wet rocks or walking over cobbles in murky shallows.


The relatively flat, non-aggressive lugs reminded us of approach shoes, which favor surface area over deep lugs that can maintain traction on soft surfaces. Like approach shoes, the Loyak sticks well to wet rocks and logs, but suffer slightly in muddy conditions.

The Loyaks were meant for these conditions - they stick great to slick  wet rocks and keep you upright as you walk along the river.
The Loyaks were meant for these conditions - they stick great to slick, wet rocks and keep you upright as you walk along the river.

On soft surfaces, we noticed no significant loss of traction on firm dirt or duff, but started slipping more than we'd like on mud. The widely spaced lugs do clear easily, though, once they reach water, so it's easy to get the dirt off and restore traction on hard surfaces.

The widely spaced  flat lugs do great on hard surfaces but trade off some traction on mud.
The widely spaced, flat lugs do great on hard surfaces but trade off some traction on mud.

Warmth


The Loyak is made mostly of mesh and hydrophobic canvas, with lots of drainage and minimal insulation. They rely on being adjustable to allow for adding insulation in the form of thick socks. While the lack of a tongue inhibits adjustability slightly, we didn't find that we had problems stuffing our feet in these shoes even with thick socks.


The removable foam insole is relatively thick compared to many shoes and opens the shoe up quite a bit if you want maximum space for insulation. Our lead tester stuffed his feet in these shoes wearing thick wool socks under his drysuit socks in addition to a thin polyester sock over his drysuit sock, maintaining warmth on a frigid Fall morning paddle. The wide toebox characteristic of Astral shoes helps keep toes from feeling squished when packing in lots of insulation.

The Loyak is a low-profile  kayaking-focused shoe. It is adjustable to allow for lots of insulation on cold days.
The Loyak is a low-profile, kayaking-focused shoe. It is adjustable to allow for lots of insulation on cold days.

Versatility


The Loyak is marketed as a casual shoe that has serious whitewater chops. We totally agree with that. They are considerably more stylish and comfortable on land than booties, and perform nearly as well in whitewater (provided you can insulate well enough on cold days).


During testing, we wore the Loyak hiking, walking along steep mountain streams, boating, and around town. We would definitely not recommend for them for canyoneering, but they'd do in a pinch as long as you took care not to tear them apart.

Hiking  boating  or even heading off to work  the Loyaks fit in and perform nicely.
Hiking, boating, or even heading off to work, the Loyaks fit in and perform nicely.

Weighing in at just over a pound for a size 13 and packing down nearly dead flat, these shoes are easy to take with you. We'd absolutely not hesitate to take them traveling as a primary boating shoe or even as a backup that also works great on hikes and around town. They also slip on easily, making them a stellar camp shoe.

Sensitivity


The thin, neutral soles of the Loyak's are nearly as sensitive as some of the neoprene booties we tested. They provide excellent proprioception, which enables good balance and awareness of the terrain. The super low profile of these shoes also made them excellent for swimming and wading, as they have low drag in the water and allow feet to flex easily.


The flexible sole and siping allows you to glom a lot of rubber on rock and logs when walking, which is nice for getting more traction on such surfaces.

The thin  flexible soles wrap easily around uneven surfaces.
The thin, flexible soles wrap easily around uneven surfaces.

These shoes are remarkably light and flexible. They feel similar to minimalist, barefoot-styled running shoes, especially with their relatively flat lugs. The bumpy insole makes feeling the ground a little strange in bare feet, as the bumps almost dig into your feet. However, we got used to this pretty quickly during testing and appreciated that our feet didn't slide around inside these shoes.

[insert obligatory statement about minimalism and bare feet] Seriously  though  these are some very flexible and lightweight shoes.
[insert obligatory statement about minimalism and bare feet] Seriously, though, these are some very flexible and lightweight shoes.

Durability


While we loved wearing these, they are by no means a burly, durable shoe. Early on in testing, our lead tester snagged a toe on an exposed root that easily punctured the mesh on the top of the shoe. While this was somewhat of a fluke, it highlights that mesh is not at all resistant to abrasion or puncture.


That said, the Loyak is very well constructed, with stitched and glued soles, clean lines, and noticeably high-quality craft. The rubber outsole wraps around the entire shoe, providing somewhat of a bumper to guard against punctures or abrasion.

While they don't provide much foot protection  the Loyak's rubber outsole is raised up around the shoe  keeping them from abrading too much in situations like this.
While they don't provide much foot protection, the Loyak's rubber outsole is raised up around the shoe, keeping them from abrading too much in situations like this.

While these probably wouldn't last more than a day or two canyoneering in super abrasive slots, they just aren't designed for ultra-abrasive environments. In a kayak, packraft, or raft, they will hold up fine. With excellent drainage, they are resistant to moisture damage, and the snug fit does well at keeping out sand and debris that can abrade a shoe from the inside.

Value


We awarded the Loyak our Best Buy Award because it not only performs superbly in whitewater, but also works well for wet hikes and hanging around town. While booties can be slightly warmer and stickier, they don't have the on-land performance and foot protection (at least the bottom of the feet) of the Loyak. For considerably less than the highest performing water shoes, you can get a well-made, comfortable, and high-traction shoe for boating or just hanging around wet places.

Conclusion


The Astral Loyak blew us away with how much performance we could squeeze out of such a tiny shoe. With super grippy outsoles, a comfortable interior, and a snug fit, they keep feet happy on land, in a boat, and even outside a boat (accidentally or not). They offer good versatility and performance in a minimalist package for a very reasonable price, handily earning our Best Buy Award.

Our lead tester enjoyed having these shoes along for a survey of the Teanaway River.
Our lead tester enjoyed having these shoes along for a survey of the Teanaway River.


Dan Scott