The Porter from Astral is a comfortable outdoor sneaker for those looking for a balance of durability and breathability, as well as traditional boat shoe aesthetics. How is the user experience of the Astral Porter (MSRP $85)? Well first things first, I have general criteria that any outdoor footwear must have.
Kyle’s Outdoor Footwear Criteria
- Comfortable: I want shoes that are designed well for my feet, body, and lifestyle.
- Breathable: The low country is quite toasty in the summer months.
- Durable: I wear my shoes everywhere and in all conditions.
Kyle’s take on the Porter
Locations used: At the office, on the beach, up and down trails, on a boat, around town, and much more.
My first experiences with the Astral Porter came with a bit of excitement. So much hype has surrounded the Astral footwear line. Award-winning paddling sneakers from North Carolina’s only outdoor footwear brand. But what is the scoop with the casual footwear line (i.e. the designs not for paddling)? I need shoes for my everyday life.
Upon first glance, the Astral Porter is an impressively designed sneaker. Durable Cordura® construction, breathable Airmesh vamp and tongue, and drainage at the front sidewall and heel. The Porter is constructed with the architecture and geometry of the Astral Brewer, a recipient of National Geographic Adventure’s Gear of the Year Award, but differs by having a non-marking sole with a less aggressive traction pattern to better accommodate the intended audience and usage. This shoe has obvious influence from coastal environments like Charleston, SC (where I live) and joins many other boat shoe designs in the market.
Even though Astral joins a segment of the footwear market that has a lot of variety, the Porter separates itself with a simple design and each element serving a specific purpose. For instance, the heel lace is a functional part of the shoe fitting process, instead of just existing for decorative purposes. Being blessed (or cursed) with a set of narrow heels, I was pleased to tug on the laces of the Porter and witness the shoe tightening around my heel, providing a snug but comfortable fit instead of leaving a noticeable gap between the back of the shoe and my foot (experienced in boat shoe designs from other manufacturers) which has yielded painful blisters and lasting scars.
The Astral Porter also features the same drainage featured on the Brewer, another design feature with an intended purpose. The drainage holes in the front kept the water out when splashes of water hit my feet, and the flush port in the back assisted in the same effort while allowing an exit for pesky pebbles and sand that found their way into my shoes.
Breaking in boat shoes has been a nightmare of mine in the past. A well-worn pair of boat shoes feel almost like slippers, but the path to getting there has often been treacherous and filled with blisters and blood loss. The Astral Porter has a break-in period, but the experience of first wearing the sneakers was pleasant and comfortable at all times. I rarely wore socks under the shoes during this break-in period, an unthinkable thought for some boat shoe designs. But when the Porter did loosen up after about a month or so of frequent use, it was good. REALLY good! They transitioned from being a comfortable outdoor sneaker to being a perfect fit for my foot and something I wear nearly every day now, regardless of the weather.
The Astral Porter is also very durable! It is built with many of the same principles and materials featured on their highly regarded personal flotation devices line. Durability may not be important to other shoe owners, but for me, it is essential that a sneaker be capable of withstanding significant punishment from my lifestyle. I have only had these sneakers for a few months, so I still have a ways to go in understanding their long-term durability, but by the looks of them after rubbing against rocks, being covered in sand and saltwater, and general wear and tear, the Porter is holding up exceptionally! I’ll keep reporting back on my experiences with them.
My only frustration with the Astral Porter thus far has been the shoe laces. They have been durable and aesthetically pleasing, but I usually have to double knot the shoe laces to keep them tied, otherwise the laces will come undone. This could be an ineffective knot-tying technique I am using, my clumsy maneuverability, or something in the lace construction. Who knows? Regardless, I use a double knot technique and my shoes stay tied all day, rain or shine, on the beach, or around town. I still highly recommend this sneaker!
All things considered, I recommend the Astral Porter for those looking for a boat shoe that is designed to be effective on the boat or around town while maintaining trustworthy traction on slippery surfaces. This has been a good all-around sneaker for a day at the office and on the water. I am currently playing with the Astral Rassler, so keep on the lookout for that review.
Photos and words by Kyle Thomas