Outdoor Retailer Sneak Peek: Astral Buoyancy Launches Water Shoes

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In 2002, Philip Curry, the designer behind Patagonia's now-discontinued Lotus line of lifejackets, decided to get back into the PFD business. He founded Astral Buoyancy to create the highest-quality product possible with cutting-edge design and the least environmental impact. Curry reintroduced kapok as natural fiber floatation into PFDs, recycled foam scrap from synthetic PFDs into dog beds and other products, and asked hard questions about his supply chain that drove design.

Now, Curry and team are branching into a new category—water shoes—with the same eye to quality and impact. Astral's Brewer, pictured above, is the first shoe in it's line.

“When we were thinking about the Brewer, our number one design priority was weight reduction to decrease our use of carbon and plastic,” said Curry. “Our shoe weighs half of a similarly functioning Keen, Teva, or Chaco. We accomplish this through wise material choice, major reduction of adhesive, and minimalist construction. We have another product using a clean, upcycled tire tread outsole … unlike most recycled rubber soles, ours does not use heat or chemicals to fabricate, just labor, so it's a super-clean upcycle story.”

At the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, Astral will show the Brewer, which was released last week, and introduce three new minimalist styles.

The Rassler is a mid-cut boot with support and protection for walking deep into the woods with or without a kayak. It has a Stealth rubber sole and Cordura upper (available spring 2013, $120). The Porter is a coastal inspired shoe with a non-marking outsole and Cordura upper (available spring 2013, $85).  And the Baker is a slip-on built to last. Its outsole is made from scrap tires that are clean upcycled (available spring 2013, $70).

The Brewer, designed for kayakers, uses Astral’s zero-drop midsole with a wide toe box for balance and stability on wobbly rocks. Lightweight Cordura nylon and airmesh in the minimalist upper provide excellent abrasion resistance—and they dry fast. A Five Ten Stealth Rubber outsole gives grip on river rocks. But it’s a shoe you can also walk around town in. Available now, $100;

Want the dog bed? The Astropad is made from scrap foam from the PFD and Backpack manufacturing industry. A baffled inner pad of shredded foam is protected by a removable, washable exterior shell made from Cordura Nylon and Cotton Canvas. Stylish design and eco story aside, it’s the only dog bed made with soft, closed-cell, non-moisture or odor absorbent UL-approved foam—and it floats. Available now, $115;

—Berne Broudy

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