Wading boot buying guide | updated 2021
Welcome to our guide, to help you find the best wading boot for your needs. Over the last few seasons, I have been in the fortunate position to test and try many wading boots. I have been in contact with several full-time fishing guides who basically live in their wading boots for much of the year. With this knowledge, I have complied my advice on what I believe are the best wading boots currently available.
Having steady footing and stability while wading increase one’s confidence and enjoyment when fishing. The proper footwear can provide increase grip and a sense of security on all but the most slippery of surfaces.
Two types of Soles dominate wading boots, the traditional felt soles offer excellent grip on wet and slime covered rocks. The newer alternative, rubber soles which are improving with each generation. Most trout anglers would agree, that felt soles offer superior grip under most circumstances.
So why purchase rubber soles? There are several reasons, but one of the most common is to protect the stream’s health. Felt soles take a very long time to dry. Which makes them the perfect host for transferring unwanted microbes and organisms such as Didymo algae or New Zealand mud snails between catchments. This threat to the health of our waterways has even seen felt and other matted or woven soles banned in many jurisdiction.
Freestone Wading boots $169.95
Simms is among the most famous names for waders and wading boots. Their Freestone model might just be the best compromise between price and quality currently available. The new version of Freestone boots on my feet are even more comfortable. I hiked and fished many miles and never got a blister. I wish all boots were so kind right out of the box.
Easy wearing all day fishing, and still comfortable walking back at sunset. The Simms freestones are not the lightest wading boot due to their sturdy construction. One impressive attribute of Simms wading boots is their quick drying; they have minimum spongy material which will otherwise trap moisture. It is not uncommon for my Freestones to dry completely overnight, even left beside my tent. I wish the same holds true for all brands.
The rubber soles grip most rock types solidly. While the cleats, adds confidence walking over slippery algae-covered stones. I lost my footing once, navigating my way down a steep grass-covered bank. The tall wet grass was still wet from the morning dew and was extremely slippery. Such difficult terrain would prove challenging to any sole.
Replacement Simm cleats are on the expensive side. They are also easy to lose; I replace mine fairly regularly. I lost one after only the second trip. Third party replacement cleats are much more affordable.
I applaud Simm for making their boots available in a large range of sizes. Starting at size 5 all the way to the massive 16. As someone who wears a size 15, I wish other manufacturers will take note.
Simm Flyweight wading boots $199.95
Do you want to combine hiking and fishing? the Simm Flyweight wading boots are light on weight but not on performance. Simm Flyweight might be the best lightweight wading boots currently available. In this short review, we will take a deeper look to see if they deserve their reputation.
Wading boots are traditionally heavy, a design decision to prioritize stability and durability. However, there is a price to pay. Such heavy boots are tiring to walk in, lightweight wading boots such as the Flyweight are increasingly popular.
The durability has been impressive for a lightweight boot. Because of the lightweight materials, the boots cannot offer the same longevity as traditional leather wading boot. I have owned my pair of flyweight wading boots for over three years. They still have many more fishing days left in them.
They are not a stiff boot. A pleasure to wear and take off, even with cold stiff fingers after fishing a cold autumn twilight hatch. Despite their lightweight, they offer decent ankle support, especially with the laces done up tight. The Simm Flyweights were comfortable right out of the box. My feet are noticeably less tired after a day of hiking and fishing. So the weight savings makes a real difference. I happily wear my Flyweights rather than hiking boots on backpacking trout fishing trips.
Why not wear hiking boots instead?
Simms Flyweight wading boots actually feel like hiking boots, not cumbersome wading boots. Unlike hiking boots, they come with speciality soles designed to maximize grip on wet surfaces.
They dry quickly, and the cushioning does not hold an excessive amount of moisture. So unlike most hiking boots, the weight does not increase significantly once saturated. The soles offer reassuring grip, both when crossing fast-flowing rivers and on hiking trails.
How does the Simm Flyweights compare against the Orvis Ultralight?
Simm Flyweight vs Orvis Ultralight is quite the rivalry. Both brands have loyal, passionate supporters.
There is one paramount reason I recommend Simm flyweights rather than Orvis Ultralights. The material used in the Orvis boots seems more asorbent, they feel heavier on the river. They do dry quickly on the walk home, better than most hiking boots. In my experience they stay wetter longer than the Simms. If that does not concern you. The Orvis Ultralight wading boots are well made and comfortable. They retail for around $10 cheaper than the Simms.
If you can not find Simm Flyweights, or if they fit your feet poorly. The Orvis ultralights are a worthy alternative, which ticks most of the right boxes. Some fishermen find the Orvis boots more comfortable to walk in. If you are planning on doing more hiking than wading. The Orvis Ultralight might actually be the better choice.
Finally, the shoe laces supplied with the boots are rather short. Many fishermen replace them with a longer pair. If you are looking for durable laces for your wading boots then I highly recommend Obenauf’s Boot Laces Industrial Strength.
Patagonia Foot Tractor $349
Patagonias previous wading boot suffered from poorer than expected durability. The current version of their foot tractor was a turning point. Patagonia collaborated with Portland based boot manufacturer Danner. The goal, to design the most durable, supportive wading boot available on the market today.
The collaboration was a success, today’s Patagonia foot tractor wading boots is an excellent boot. Manufactured by Danner in the United States, the Foot Tractors are very durable and supportive boot.
Patagonia has a warranty and support second to none, and in designing the Foot Tractors Patagonia made design decisions to guarantee longevity. The Foot Tractor were designed to be repairable, possibily the only wading boot available today which can make such a claim.
I must mention it. The Patagonia foot tractors are heavy, maybe even the heaviest I have worn. Certainly not designed for extended back country trips, but I am a convert to ultralight wading boots for backcountry adventures. For shorter, less mobile fishing trips on big and swift rivers, they are hard to beat.
Rubber Sole Version
Patagonia used Vibram Idrogrip soles on the rubber version. Designed to grip securely to wet surfaces, they were an excellent choice. Idrogrips offer reassuring grip on most terrain types. I have worn them down mossy slippery banks, through muddy marshes, over boulders and up freestone creeks and the soles are equal to the best I have worn. In very slippery mud conditions or slick clay the grip is lacking, but such surfaces test all soles. They are a significant improvement over felt in such challenging conditions. Vibram Idrogrip soles are very thick and hard wearing. They are going to last.
I only worn the Aluminium bar version on one fishing trip. The bars provided impressive traction and assuring stability. They were good at cutting through thick slime. I hesitantly rate them above studs and they should be a lot more durable.