First, a little backstory. Several years ago, I bought a packraft and the necessary accoutrements. For shoes, I chose the Astral brewers, because I thought they would best suit my packrafting needs and protect the bootie feet of my dry suit. Flash forward a little bit to when my wife and I packed up our Corolla and hit the road for a while. I wanted to take my wading gear, but space was clearly at a premium. The Astrals would take up a much smaller footprint than my clunky wading boots. Fortunately I bought them oversized, so they just happened to fit over my Simms neoprene bootie on my waders. Thus the Astrals went out west. What I discovered was that not only were they lightweight and packable, but also super comfortable for both walking and wading. Plus the rubber was pretty grippy; with the exception of late summer moss or rounded quartz, pleasingly so. After our road trip, I found that I continued to use them with my waders, grabbing them instead my wading boots. Wet wading is a different story. I like my 5.10 Canyoneering shoes way to much for that use. They offer much more support for my feet plus they are far more durable. But after a year of hard use, I am surprised that the Brewers made it this long. It should be noted that the Brewer, as I understand it, was designed as a whitewater boating shoe. Think kayaking, rafting and canoeing, with portages and bankside rambling. I clearly have used the shoe beyond its intended purpose.
The first thing to go was the stitching around the toe. The abrasion from underwater rocks frayed the exposed stitching pretty quickly, but that was an easy fix, and for future reference, completely preventable. I seared the frayed thread with a lighter and applied a healthy coat of Aquaseal around the toe and over the stitching. If I had done that from the outset, the wear would not have been an issue.
Later on, the seam along the edge of the shoe started to go. That was remedied with some dental floss.
Then I kind of stopped paying attention. I just kept grabbing them, fishing in them, letting them dry and on and on. This past week marked the beginning of the end for my wet wading, and I donned my waders for the first time in a couple of months. After my fishing session, I was removing my Brewers and saw that the year was beginning to catch up with them. Aside from general abrasion, wear and tear, I noticed a large hole in the front inside seam of the shoe.
Though I can stick my finger through this hole, its nothing a little floss and Aquaseal can't fix.
While the sole has held up incredibly well, it is beginning to peel away from the shoe in several places.
A few dabs of Gorilla Glue, and these should hold up a while longer.
One year later, fishing on average two to three days per week, these shoes are beat up but still usable. With a little glue, dental floss and Aquaseal, I don't see why these shoes won't make it a full two years. If it seems like this post is some kind of knock against Astral, it's not. I will readily acknowledge that I grossly abused these shoes far beyond their intended use. As a matter of fact I will most likely buy another pair when these give up the ghost. They are comfortable, pleasant to walk in and if you fish from a boat, they are framed raft/driftboat friendly (no cleats). They are really lightweight. If a backpacking trip occurred during a period of the year when waders were required, they would be perfect for that application. Unfortunately these are a bit of a consumable item when compared to a pair of wading boots, something that may or may not be of significance to you. I would like to see Astral develop a line of dedicated wading shoes, with beefed up areas especially around the toe, while remaining lightweight.
Is there a takeaway from all of this? Well, everyone's experience is different, but I will venture to offer these conclusions based on my experience. I would say that with low to moderate usage, these shoes should last in the 2-4 year range, and with repair work maybe a little more. For heavy usage, it looks like they will last about a year without major surgery. With some repair work, I hope to get another year out of them.
I hope this was helpful, especially if you have been thinking about these shoes. Durability issues aside, for backcountry/backpack fishing, when hiking in with waders and boots rather than wearing them in, these so far, in my opinion are the shoes to beat. For me, I'll keep beating the hell of out 'em on a regular basis.
Thanks for reading.