The 8 Best Wading Boots Reviewed & Tested ( 2019 Hands-on Guide )

 

Types of Wading Boots 

wading boot under waterWading boots are also divided into different types according to their design as well and the type of soles they have too. Just like the various types of fly fishing waders, each type of fly fishing boot also has advantages and disadvantages. Wading “boots” are available in a wide range of types, including: 

  • Sandals specifically designed for wet wading in warm weather  
  • Wading shoes designed to provide maximum protection to an angler’s foot  
  • High-top wading boots designed to be worn in conjunction with a pair of stocking foot waders 

 

Advantages and Disadvantages

Different types of wading boots provide different advantages and disadvantages.  

Wading Sandals and Shoes

Orvis Wet Wading Shoe
Orvis Wet Wading Shoe

While wading sandals are much cooler to wear in warm weather than wading boots are, they aren’t ideal for all circumstances.

Not only do sandal-style wading boots expose an angler’s foot to stubs and scrapes when wading over a rocky stream bottom, they also allow sand and gravel to enter the sandal.  

This grit can become lodged between the sole of the angler’s foot and the footbed of the sandal, which can be quite uncomfortable.

This causes anglers to spend a significant amount of time and effort using the stream’s current to wash the debris out of the sandal.  

Therefore, some anglers prefer wading shoes to wading sandals because they not only provide more protection, they are more comfortable because they usually keep debris out of the shoe.  

But because of their enclosed design, wading shoes tend to retain any sand or gravel that does enter the shoe until the angler stops and removes the shoe to wash out the debris.

 

Wading Boots

wading bootsConsequently, most experienced fly fishermen prefer to wear wading boots over either wading sandals or wading shoes because they provide the greatest degree of protection to the angler’s foot.  

Wading boots also provide a significant degree of ankle support, which helps the angler achieve more secure footing when wading over rocky stream bottoms. The higher tops also do a much better job of keeping sand and gravel out of the shoe.  

But, no matter how tightly you lace your wading boots, they will still allow a small amount of sand and gravel to enter the boot and lodge between your foot and the wading boot’s footbed.

Accordingly, experienced anglers often also wear a pair of neoprene gaiters when wearing either wading shoes or wading boots. Gaiters do an excellent job of keeping both gravel and sand out of the shoe or boot for increased comfort. 

 

Types of Soles 

Anglers must also choose between traditional felt soles and sticky rubber soles when selecting fly boots. Here again, you’ll find that each type of sole offers advantages and disadvantages.  

Felt-Soled

 

Kinetic Neogaiter Boot Felt
Kinetic Neogaiter Boot Felt

 

For example, felt soles have been in use on wading boots for a very long time now and they do an excellent job of providing an angler with a reasonably secure grip on rocky stream bottoms; especially when the rocks are covered with a slick layer of biofilm.  

However, the very properties that enable them to provide a secure grip on slick rocks also cause them to be prone to collect and harbor aquatic microorganisms.

Therefore, if an angler fishes more than one stream basin, it is very important that they take to time to allow their felt soled wading sandals, wading shoes, or wading boots to completely dry before wearing them while fishing in a different stream basin.  

If the felt soles are allowed to retain moisture, then microorganisms that can take up residence in the felt soles can be inadvertently transferred to the second stream basin and thus, ruin the water quality by transferring invasive species.

 

Sticky Rubber Soles 

Redington Palix Rubber Sole
Redington Palix Rubber Sole

Consequently, some states have gone as far as banning anglers from wearing felt-soled wading sandals, wading shoes and, wading boots and instead force anglers to wear wading footwear with so-called “sticky rubber” soles instead.  

However, while sticky rubber soles are the new vogue in wading footwear because they do not collect and harbor aquatic microorganisms.

The fact is that regardless of any claims a manufacturer may make to the contrary, sticky rubber soles are quite simply incapable of providing a fly fisherman with the same degree of secure footing as a felt sole is due to a law of physics that states that a liquid cannot be compressed.  

Consequently, because liquids cannot be compressed, there will always be a thin layer of water that exists between a sticky rubber sole and any submerged rocks in a steam.

Thus, regardless of how “sticky” the rubber is, rubber-soled wading footwear will always provide a less secure grip than felt soled wading footwear.  

Therefore, some wading boot manufacturers now offer wading boots with interchangeable soles which enable an angler to choose either felt soles or sticky rubber soles by simply removing one type of sole and replacing it with the other type.

 

Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-On Outsoles
Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-On Outsoles – has the OmniTrax 3.0 Interchangeable Sole System.

 

But, while this is an excellent concept, it does not always work as intended because, unless the sole attachment system is very secure, it can allow the soles to detach from the shoe when wading.

Consequently, most experienced fly fisherman still have a distinct preference for permanently attached felt soles on their wading footwear.  

 

Cleated Waders 

 

Cleated Waders 

Last, there is the issue of soles with cleats versus soles without cleats.

Of course, the idea behind adding cleats to the soles of wading boots is to provide anglers with a more secure footing by adding metal points that are capable of cutting through moss, aquatic plants, and the layer of biofilm that tends to build up on rocks submerged in trout streams.  

But, the fact is that while cleats do an excellent job of penetrating both plant matter and biofilm, they are not capable penetrating the surface of rocks.

Thus, they reduce the surface area of a wading boot’s sole to the points of the cleats which then have to bear the angler’s full weight.  

Therefore, wading boots with cleats in the soles can actually provide a less secure footing than those without cleats when wading on water-polished rocks!

But, even so, there are fly fishermen who simply would not fish without their cleats because they feel that the cleats do provide a more secure grip while others would not wear wading boots with cleats even if they were paid to do so.  

wader boot cleats

Plus, many anglers find than having cleats in the soles of their wading boots to be uncomfortable because, in order to prevent the cleats from causing distinct pressure points on the soles of an angler’s foot, the soles of the boots must necessarily be relatively stiff.

Consequently, the very large majority of experienced fly fishermen tend to prefer felt soled wading boots without cleats. 

 

Conclusion

So, as you can see, just like waders, there is a very wide range of wading boots on the market to choose from ranging from sandals to shoes to boots with price points that range from the expensive to the inexpensive.

Thus, choosing wading footwear can easily be every bit as confusing as choosing a pair of waders!  

But, with a little knowledge, the process can be greatly simplified by first deciding if you will be using them with or without waders combined with the level of comfort and durability that you require which will help to narrow your choices to best suit your particular needs. 

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