This is post number three of a multi-part series. For part one, see Eco-Product of the Year Nominee and part two, in-flight product of the Year. We will be blogging about all of the nominees individually and then post all of the winners in The Gear of the Year for 2013.
Eco-Travel Gear of the Year ~ Tropical travel shoe
Today we cover a very important topic, footwear. Underrated by inexperienced travelers, but the seasoned explorer knows if their feet are uncomfortable, or worse, the entire adventure suffers. Allow me to drill down a bit, as the footwear in our case is tropical travel related, perhaps even tropical eco-travel related, if I can be more specific. It’s a tenuous classification as it can cover everything from flip-flops to hiking boots. Leading tours in Bali over the years has afforded us innumerable rewards. One small remuneration is an understanding of which shoe performs best in the hot and sometimes wet tropics.
The perfect Bali shoe
Last year’s Gear of the Year featured what I called the perfect Bali shoe. The Adidas Jaw Paw, or ninja shoes as I call them, (you can read my review here) is still a great shoe and well suited for travel in Indonesia but I think we were able to top it this year.
The Astral Brewer Water Shoe is a new direction for the paddle-sports company and they pretty much nailed it on this maiden voyage. For a shoe to be included in our Gear of the Year blogs it has to do several things well. Many surfaces the traveler encounters in Indonesia tend to be slippery, so a good shoe must have good traction. The shoe must also be lightweight and handle water well. Lastly, comfort is crucial. One other element for us in Bali (and much of Asia) is the ability to take the shoes on and off easily as we are frequently removing our shoes to enter homes, temples, and other establishments.
The Brewer handles all of these well. What sold me was the super sticky outsole. The gecko-like grip is impressive and affords confidence walking on even the most slick of river rocks. At just 214 grams, The Brewer is certainly lightweight and it was designed to handle and drain water and debris efficiently. It is truly an excellent water shoe.
Eco-Travel and eco-friendly materials
One of our top criteria at Floating Leaf is eco-consciousness and we are happy to report that The Brewer makes significant strides in this direction (unclear if the pun is intended or not). Due to the shoe being lightweight it uses much less material and thus a reduced carbon footprint (pun definitely not intended… or humorous). The manufacturing process includes eco-friendly materials and a major reduction in adhesives and chemicals.
It is not as effective in slipping on and off with ease, but that’s not what it was designed for. However, the heel is designed to collapse so the shoe becomes more like a clog for quick on and offs. Other added benefits include the cool and recycled packaging and the extra pair of laces (one white, one black with the black Brewers).
There seems to be little downside to these water shoes. There are two aspects, however, that were a concern for me. The inside of the upper is not smooth and the stitching and various textures of the materials can be felt on the top of the foot. This could present an issue when worn for extended treks day after day, but I have not had any discomfort as of yet. The other set back was despite the shoe having an excellent drainage system and lightweight materials, my feet got hot and sweaty in the shoe. Obviously this is not a problem for kayaking and other water sports but for everyday use, it can be problematic. I will say that despite the sweating, the shoe does not seem to harbor odors.
If you know me, you will know that one aspect of little concern to me is fashion. But, even I can tell that these are some fresh kicks. They are truly at home sludging through a muddy trek or,
dare I say, at the club a sophisticated evening out.
- State of the art traction
- Excellent water drainage
- Hip style
- Very comfortable mid-sole
- Sweaty feet
- Possible irritation from seams in uppers
- Marking sole
Overall, the shoe is a complete winner and comes highly recommended. Perhaps the new perfect Bali shoe.
Brewers, in four color options, can be purchased directly through the Astral site for $99.95.
For past travel gear reviews please check our essential travel packing list and here is a great list of gear for photographers.
Full disclosure: Astral sent me their product to test free of charge and with no stipulations. Financial compensation was not received for this post. Opinions expressed here are my own. Read our full disclosure policy. Some images provided by Astraldesigns.com