two pairs of astral river PFD sandals with blue webbing and black buckles on a sandy beach
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

Astral ‘PFD’ Sandal Review: Our New Favorite Footwear for River Treks

Astral’s founder and former raft guide Phillip Curry calls its latest footwear (and first sandals!) a project that’s been years in the making. We put these river shoes to the test packrafting, SUPing, portaging, and more.

Over 30 years ago, Astral’s Phillip Curry worked as a raft guide on Section IV of the Chattooga River. And since then, Curry has thought about how he would design a sandal that could stand up to heavy use on and in the water.

Then, he stumbled upon a pair of sandals made in Japan that looked like a PFD.

“These look like something we’d make by strapping our PFD (personal flotation device) to a Loyak bottom to create a high-performance sandal,” Curry noted.

And so the seed was planted for Astral’s latest products: the PFD and Webber Sandals.

Both sandals have a shoe-like fit with webbing, buckles, and adjustable straps, a zero-drop Level footbed, roomy toebox, Astral’s proprietary low-durometer sticky rubber, closed-cell EVA foam midsoles with antimicrobial treatment, and 100% recycled uppers.

In short: These sandals were a highly anticipated release from this brand. So I — like many other paddlers, probably — was stoked to try them. These sandals do exactly what they were designed to do, and then some: awesome protection, two styles to choose from, lots of adjustability, grip, and more. They are comfortable in the water, on a SUP or kayak, and on shore.

Astral PFD Sandals Review

astral PFD
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

Specs

PFD Sandal:

  • Materials: G.ss rubber outsole, EVA midsole, 100% post-consumer recycled polyester webbing and canvas straps, recycled polyester and mesh upper pad, Bluesign-approved PFD-grade buckles
  • Available sizes: 6-11 (women’s), 8-14 (men’s)
  • Verified weight: 7.9 oz./222 g per shoe (size 8)

Webber Sandal:

  • Materials: G.ss rubber outsole, EVA midsole, 100% post-consumer recycled polyester webbing and canvas straps, Bluesign-approved PFD-grade buckles
  • Available sizes: 6-11 (women’s), 8-14 (men’s)
  • Verified weight: 7.6 oz. / 215 g per shoe (size 8)

PFD vs. Webber Sandals

two pairs of astral PFD and webber sandals side by side on a beach
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

The biggest difference in the two sandals (besides weight) is the design on the upper and the adjustability. The PFD sandal has a recycled polyester and mesh Thwart pad (think like thwarts on a raft or canoe) for both comfort and protection when aboard.

More coverage also means protection from the sun (no more sunburns to the top of your feet!) and sharp objects like branches and rocks when portaging, or, come to think of it, when in the water.

There’s also a small pull tab on the front lip of the upper for pulling these sandals on and off.

All around, this sandal offers more protection if you’ll be relying on it in a guide, instructor, or everyday-use capacity. The Webber has plenty of versatility for adventure, but has more of a lifestyle design than its aptly named PFD counterpart.

Adjustability and Fit

astral sandal adjust
A view of the back webbing and top buckles, while adjusting the PFD Sandal fit; (photo/Mary Murphy)

The other difference between the PFD and Webber sandals is the webbing clip that detaches at the back of the heel for easy removal on the PFD. This back webbing strap closes on the interior of the foot (smart) and has two options for adjusting fit.

As Astral only offers the sandals in whole sizes, this is an awesome feature for those who want to ensure a proper fit.

If you are 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’ve worn the pair I’ve been testing (the Webbers in white) in dirt, gravel, sand, water, and parking lot environments, and material like fine sand hasn’t at all gotten stuck in the buckles.

On both pairs, the buckles are solid, and they fit and work great.

Conclusion

What’s impressive is that Astral took its time to perfect design and fit, and it paid off. Both pairs of sandals are plenty capable, and they weigh under a pound per pair.

Compared to my go-to 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 are packing for a raft or SUP trip and every ounce counts.

For context, I am between sizes in shoes. I opted to round up to a bigger size and cinch and adjust down to get the right fit. Even as someone with narrow feet, this worked well. The sandals stay put whether I am paddling in the water, portaging with a paddleboard, or walking along a rocky shore.

The Astral PFD Sandals retail for $125 and the Webber Sandals retail for $110, and both are available for men and women. The sandals come in seven color options across the board, whole sizes only.

Check PFD Sandal Price at AstralCheck Webber Sandal Price at Astral

Author Mary in long sleeves and red PFD paddle boarding across flat water lake in British Columbia
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Mary Murphy
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Mary is the Managing Editor of GearJunkie and is based in GearJunkie's Denver, Colo. office. She has a degree in English and journalism, and has a background in both newspaper and magazine writing. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.