High-Top ‘Water Shoes’ Put To Test

It was late summer but the local creek was still running high. A channel of dark water swept ahead, rapids and eddies churning in the shadow of a ravine.

I laced up my shoes and jumped in for a swim. At just a few feet deep but moving fast the “creek bombing” session required some unique gear.

The Rassler shoes would do the trick. Made by Astral, a company in Asheville, N.C., the high-tops have reinforced Cordura fabric uppers and sticky-rubber soles.

Designed for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and other water activities, the shoes are made of non-absorbing materials. They have ports to let water drain after a foot is submerged.

In the water, as I swam with the current of the creek, the Rasslers did their job of protecting my feet. They were a bit clunky for kicking but fine as I floated and doggie-paddled with friends downstream.

Sharp stones were muted when I walked in shallow areas. The shoes have a thick but flexible midsole, and the uppers protect above the ankles.

The outsole rubber, a proprietary concoction rock climbers will know, is made by the shoe brand Five Ten. It is tacky to the touch and gives traction on stone wet or dry.

Astral uses a simple dot-grid pattern for tread on the sole. I rarely slipped in my test, including when sloshing through knee-deep water in the creek and on land when hiking a rocky trail at the end of the swim.

Despite the technical features Astral made the Rasslers to look like everyday street shoes. Regular shoelaces and dark colors allow you to wear them anywhere.

The subdued look combined with the do-all nature of the Rassler set them apart. They can work for a variety of water sports, and the company reveals that people hike, bike, and canyoneer in the crossover footwear.

But inside many kayak hulls the shoes will be a tight fit. They were for me with my size 12.5 feet.

The shoes can be uncomfortable hiking longer distances, especially without socks on — the footbed is made of rubber and there are exposed seams and stitching inside. The ankle cuff has a thin, abrupt edge on top.

The Rasslers cost $120 msrp, but they are available online at retailers like Backcountry.com for a margin less. Lace up a pair if you need multipurpose water shoes for kayaking, fishing, SUP — or maybe an impromptu “creek bombing” session of your own.