Astral ‘PFD’ Sandal Review: Our New Favorite Shoes for River Trekking
Astral founder and former raft guide Phillip Curry calls his latest shoes (and first sandals!) a project that took years to prepare. We’ve put these river shoes to the test for packrafting, SUPing, portaging and more.
Over 30 years ago, Phillip Curry of Astral worked as a raft guide on Section IV of the Chattooga River. And since then, Curry has thought about how to design a sandal that could withstand heavy use on and in the water.
Then he came across a pair of Japanese-made sandals that looked like a PFD.
“These look like something we would do attaching our PFD (personal flotation device) to a Loyak bottom to create a high performance sandal,” Curry noted.
This is how the seed was planted for Astral’s latest products: the PFD and the Webber sandals.
Both sandals have a shoe-like fit with adjustable straps, buckles and straps, Zero Drop Level footbed, roomy toe box, Astral’s exclusive low-hardness sticky rubber, rubber soles Closed cell EVA foam midsole with antimicrobial treatment and 100% recycled uppers. .
In short: These sandals were a highly anticipated release from this brand. So, like many other paddlers, probably, I was excited to try them out. These sandals do exactly what they were designed to do and more: awesome protection, two styles to choose from, plenty of adjustability, grip, and more. They are comfortable in the water, on a SUP or kayak, and on land.
Astral VFI Sandals Review
- Materials: G.ss rubber outsole, EVA midsole, 100% post-consumer recycled polyester webbing and webbing, recycled polyester and mesh upper padding, Bluesign approved PFD grade buckles
- Sizes available: 6-11 (women), 8-14 (men)
- Weight verified: 7.9 oz./222 g per shoe (size 8)
- Materials: G.ss rubber outsole, EVA midsole, 100% post-consumer recycled polyester webbing and straps, Bluesign approved PFD grade buckles
- Sizes available: 6-11 (women), 8-14 (men)
- Weight verified: 7.6 oz. / 215 g per shoe (size 8)
PFD versus Webber sandals
The biggest difference between the two sandals (besides the weight) is the upper design and adjustability. The PFD sandal features recycled polyester and mesh Thwart padding (think like thwarts on a raft or canoe) for onboard comfort and protection.
More coverage also means protection from the sun (no more sunburn on the tops of your feet!) and sharp objects like branches and rocks when carrying or, think about it, when in the water .
There is also a small tab on the front lip of the upper for putting on and taking off these sandals.
All around, this sandal offers more protection if you rely on it as a guide, instructor, or everyday wearer. The Webber has plenty of versatility for adventure, but has more of a lifestyle design than its aptly named PFD counterpart.
Adjustability and Fit
The other difference between the PFD and the Webber sandals is the strap clip that detaches at the back of the heel for easy removal over the PFD. This rear strap closes inside the foot (smart) and has two adjustment options.
As Astral only offers sandals in whole sizes, this is a great feature for those who want to ensure a good fit.
If you’re looking for a general water shoe with a more traditional sandal design (think Birkenstocks), the Webber sandals have two top buckles that adjust the same way for fit.
I wore the pair I tested (the Webbers in white) in dirt, gravel, sand, water, and parking lot environments, and materials like fine sand didn’t jam at all in loops.
On both pairs, the buckles are strong, and they fit and work great.
What’s impressive is that Astral took their time to perfect the design and fit, and it paid off. Both pairs of sandals are very capable and weigh less than a pound per pair.
Compared to my favorite river shoes – a pair of Z2 Chacos that weigh 10.7 ounces each (over 1.3 pounds per pair) – the Astrals feel noticeably light. Which is even better in my mind when you’re packing for a raft or SUP trip and every ounce counts.
For context, I’m between shoe sizes. I chose to round up to a larger size and snug and adjust to get the right fit. Even as a narrow-footed person, it worked well. The sandals stay in place whether I’m paddling through the water, portaging with a paddle board, or walking along a rocky shore.
The Astral PFD Sandals retail for $125 and the Webber Sandals retails for $110, and both are available for men and women. The sandals are available in seven color options across the board, whole sizes only.
Check the price of PFD sandals at AstralCheck the price of Webber sandals at Astral