Astral again

Last summer I bought what ended up being one of my favorites shoes ever; the Astral Brewer.  All of the limitations, and virtues, I noted in my review last summer have held true.  The lack of a little extra structure in the sides of the forefoot has gotten me pinched on numerous occasions.  The lack of a heal counter hasn’t been an issue while walking, but has threatened to pull the shoe off a few times in both mud and thick brush.  The rubber is very good, but the tread can be sketchy in mud and downright scary on loose over hardpack.  And while the upper fabric has manged over the past year, it doesn’t have much life left.

And I don’t really care, because the combo of zero drop, the right stiffness, and plenty of toe room is simply sublime, and simply not available in many other shoes.

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So I invested in the TR1 Merge, Astral’s midtop hiking shoe.  The tread pattern is more aggressive, the midsole 5mm thicker, the toe and heel have a rand, and the upper has a bit of padding in the ankle and tongue.  Weight, for my size 12, is 14.1 oz per shoe.

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The Merge does not have a heel counter, but on first glance the rand and doubled fabric provides a nice degree of stability the Brewer lacks.  It will be interesting to see if this breaks down at all.  I’m quite excited about the lightly padded ankle coverage, in a nonwaterproof package that doesn’t pretend to roll abrasion protection into the ephemeral notion of “support”.  I’m bummed by the thin stripes of pure foam in the sole, as the non-rubber areas of the Brewer have made for a few pokey experiences with cactus.

Overall, I could hardly be more excited.  Shoes over the past 5 years have only seem to come with more and more compromises for backpackers who like stout, minimalist shoes.  Exceptions are a big deal.

 

7 thoughts on “Astral again

  1. I was excited about these as well and they haven’t worked out for me. The TR1 series has had 4 models. The TR1 Trek was the first one. I ordered it right when it came out. The upper wasn’t stiff enough to handle the metal boot lace hooks, which dug into my foot uncomfortably. I returned them for a refund. I currently have the TR1 Junction and the TR1 Mesh. I have not tried the TR1 Merge.

    I was excited about them because I thought they would be good for hiking, packrafting, and fly fishing. A perfect blend that allows me to do bring one low top on a hybrid adventures. They have partially lived up to this.

    The Good:

    The outsole rubber is a good. It’s relatively long lasting and grips well when wet. They only have a 1mm drop and the 20 mm stack height is appropriate. The midsole foam isn’t as nice as some other brands but works well enough for a long day of hiking. They are attractive shoes.

    The Bad:

    – If you look at the bottom of the shoe, the outsole does not completely cover the midsole foam. After using these on scree and talus, the outsole quickly began to delaminate from the midsole. I recommend you seal all the exposed midsole foam with a heavy application of aquaseal now, while the shoes are still clean and it will take. If you don’t I think you will find this is the first failure point.

    – The uppers weren’t durable for me either, when used for off trail adventure.
    – The TR1 Mesh has the mesh of the tongue left unfinished, and it ripped at the bottom of the laces. This model was deemed insufficiently durable for off trail backpacking. Which was too bad because it’s light and comfortable
    – The TR1 Junction has seen the upper stitching fail and delaminatino of the upper. Also, for some reason, these one’s didn’t prove comfortable for long days hiking. I get pinched at the outside of my shoes, and I don’t have wide feet.

    I hope you post a follow up later, after a season of use. Maybe the Merge is built better. I strongly recommend reinforcing the shoe with aquaseal now, while it’s clean.

    1. To clarify; the midsole foam on the sides?

  2. I have them with me I can take photos of there’s a way to send them to you.

    I’m talking about the exposed midsole foam on the bottom of the shoe.

    While you are at it, hit the toes, those also delaminated quickly

  3. Hello, this is Mike. I really gotta change that Twitter handle. Anyways, I just came across your post while researching Astral’s TR1 Mesh. There are some deep discounts around the web for these, and I was considering using them for an upcoming 10-day, partially off-trail, trip in the Dark Canyon Wilderness. I was able to try them on at the local REI, and appreciate that these shoes are wide, but not too wide. In the past, when I’m in that area, I’ve just used whatever trail runner I currently got whose tread is worn down. But, right now I don’t completely trust what I have leftover on a 10-day trip. The only thing that concerns me about the TR1 is that the mesh seems open enough to let in an eventually annoying amount of debris. Do you have any beta to report, or opinions to share? Thank You!

    1. I think the TR1 Mesh is as if not more open than the Brewer. If so it would certainly let in lots of dust and sand.

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