When you’re into fly fishing and wading through rivers and streams, you probably know what it feels like walking across slippery rocks or pebbles. It can be like balancing on marbles, right when you’re trying to focus on casting to rising fish. Choose wading that will boots make your fishing experience productive, comfortable, and safe.
Our Motto: Get You To Better Fishing! TM
By Mark Velicer
An avid fly fisher for over 40 years, Mark has lived and fly fished WA, MI, CA, PA and NY along with countless trips to other places. He can’t get enough of the water; white water kayaking, rafting, drift boating, and hiking to alpine lakes.
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How To Choose The Best Wading Boots
New wading boots are flooding the market, thanks to improved manufacturing techniques, designs, and materials. How do you slog through them, and make the best choice for your needs? We’ve conducted a lot of research for you, to bring you information that supports a solid decision. Here’s what you’ll need to think about as you select a pair:
- What type of bottom are you fishing, and do you need rubber or felt soles for traction, or both?
- If you prefer felt bottoms, what are the regulations in your area to prevent spread of invasive species?
- Will you be hiking much on trails to get to your fishing location, how durable do they need to be?
- How much ankle support do you want or need?
- What temperature water are you fishing in, do you want insulated, or breathable boots?
- Are you fishing in freshwater, saltwater, or both?
- What colors, style, and fit do you like?
- How much do you want to spend, for the quality and features you need?
What do we look for in fishing boots? Our wader boots review consider features, style, material, design, construction, durability, and track record. Then, we carefully evaluate these characteristics against prices and warranty policies. In so doing, we’ve assembled some of them most detailed information you can find, to ensure you get what you need, at a right price for you. For more detail, check out our section below “What Goes Into A Quality Wading Boot?”
Our Top 3 Picks
The fishing boots that rise to the top of our evaluation are these three, while at the same time you can’t go wrong with any of the boots we highlight here.
Summary of Reviews
Wading shoes provide extra traction in the water than regular boots or shoes. But there’s a lot to consider when choosing the best wading boots that will meet your needs and budget.
The good news is that we have compiled all the knowledge we acquired, as experienced anglers, into this review and buyer’s guide. We made sure you get only the most important information you’ll need when shopping for the best wading boots. Let’s dive right in.
Detailed Reviews of Best Wading Boots
Each of our reviews is designed to get you all the information you need, in one place, so you can be confident in your choice of the best wader boots. Many of these brands come in both men’s and women’s wading boots models, and also some come in both rubber sole and felt sole options, so be sure to look at the details in our wading boots reviews.
An all-round, versatile waders boots for the all-around fisherman, the Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots is a robust-build fly fishing gear with rubber soles. Not necessarily built for a specific situation, this pair of lightweight wading boots provides sufficient grip on most slippery surfaces.
- Quick-drying Clarino microfiber
- Nylon microfiber with PU coating
- Custom Vibram EVA midsole
- Abrasion-resistant rubber spray adds
- Polyester mesh
Among its wading boot features is the PU molded construction that adds tones of abrasion resistance for extra traction. Yet, we haven’t felt like that has been necessary.
Gear testers have worn this pair of rubber-soled wading boots on the beach, the flats, and jetties. So far, they do well in most saltwater environments, according to multiple wader boot reviews.
Also, the hybrid wading/hiking boot design allows you to transition from hiking to getting into the river without the need to change your boots.
- Lightweight and nimble
- Great ground traction for hiking to water
- Only come with a rubber sole
- Overall fit is a bit small
The Simms Tributary is a pair of wading boots that cover your ankles well. And with proper lacing, this fly fishing gear provides excellent ankle support.
- Waterproof Neoprene Lining
- Traction rubber outsole
- Durable rubber toe cap
- Textile and synthetic lace-up upper
This pair of rubber-soled wading boots have a neoprene lining that keeps the water out. Putting them on and taking them off is surprisingly easy thanks to its front and rear loops feature.
Moreover, it has functional, stud-compatible soles that provide extra traction on slippery surfaces. Further, it has huge rubber toe caps that work well at fending off rocks.
If you prefer the felt sole wading boots, Simms has a Tributary version of that as well.
- Huge rubber toe cap
- Includes neoprene lining
- Excellent ankle support
- Speed lacing
- Not ideal on shallow water with mossy rocks
- Too clunky for rocky bottom wading
- Not suitable for rugged limestone landscapes
The Korkers Greenback pair of wading shoes is an entry-level product that is affordable yet provides excellent sole versatility. It allows you to change soles depending on the types of environment and state fishing restrictions.
- OmniTrax Interchangeable sole system
- Includes plain felt and kling-on sticky rubber soles
- Has internal channels that remove excess water and weight
- Hydrophobic materials
- Durable textile upper
Korkers took a step further by introducing its Triple Threat System. It is a feature that allows you to attach any of the 3 hardware types into the base sole for extra traction. The different hardware types are aluminum bars, aluminum hexes, and carbide spikes.
Moreover, durable synthetics make up the Greenback’s upper, which makes the product stand up quite well to rough wading and abrasive rocks. Also, this wading boot features internal channels that allow faster drainage. All together, the innovative features in these boots make them rise to the top of our wader boots review. If you travel and encounter different fishing conditions, the ability to change from felt bottom wading boots to rubber soles essentially gives you 2 boots in one.
- Change-out sole system
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Excellent drainage system
- Great concept and design
- Does not dry quickly
- Hard to install felt bottoms
The Frogg Toggs Men’s Hellbender is a fly fishing boot that offers a high level of protection and comfort in specific situations. It provides waterproof protection on wet or slippery riverbank surfaces and in shallow waters.
- Padded ankle collar
- Lace-Up closure
- Lightweight mesh and PVC upper with felt outsole
- Heavy duty riveted speed lacing system
- Nylon heel pull
- Wide wading last for support and stability
- Replaceable felt outsole
- Durable mesh upper with PVC outskin
The Hellbender is a low-rise pair of wader boots that is not an optimal design for ankle support, such as wading on uneven rocks or deep water where you can’t see the bottom, for example. Yet, its wide base makes it perfect for walking across muddy riverbanks and damp, marshy terrain.
But what we like about the Hellbender is the strong yet breathable material on the wading boot. It is excellent at letting the air circulate and wicks away perspiration. This is helpful in warmer fishing weather, and also for drying out after your day on the water. As such, while they aren’t classified as wading shoes, they are actually a step in that direction compared to many boots.
- Available in cleated or felt
- Very comfortable to wear
- Lightweight construction
- Wide wading last
- A little uncomfortable on the toes
- Eyelets can rip the laces apart
- Not as durable as other options
The Duck and Fish rubber-soled wading boots are not waterproof but have an exceptional drainage system. These are low-rise wading boots that allow the water in and drain it out easily (as you leave the water).
- Self-cleaning sticky rubber outsole
- Neoprene triple padded collar
- Reinforced PVC back counter and toe caps
- Extra wide last and mid sole
- EVA foam midsole
Also, these fly boots provide outstanding ankle support thanks to its Neoprene triple-padded collar. Likewise, the reinforced PVC heel and toe caps provide superior protection if you stumble over hidden rocks or logs.
This wading boot features a distinctive sticky rubber outsole that you rarely see on other options. It has a high level of grip on unstable muddy or wet surfaces and has a self-cleaning feature as well. While there is a limited history of testing and wader boot reviews for this brand and model, so far they are gaining traction (pun intended!) in the waders boots marketplace.
- Great quality for the price
- Drainage holes keep the boot lightweight
- Provides stability as you walk on slippery surfaces
- Strong ankle support
- Wide wading last
- Durable and light
- Stitching may start to come apart after a couple of months
- Rubber soles may separate from the base after a few outings
- Poor overall construction
- Not yet proven as saltwater wading boots
- Not waterproof fishing boots
The Hodgman H3 is a low-rise pair of felt sole wading boots designed for certain slick bottom types including sodden leaves and algae-covered rocks. That said, this fly fishing wading boot can also accept studs for extra traction (sold separately).
- Abrasion resistant and quick-drying hydrophobic construction
- Reinforced protective toe caps
- D-ring gravel guard attachment
- Padded collar and tongue
- Side panel mesh drainage ports
Although felt wading soles are banned in some states and have other drawbacks, they still provide excellent traction for certain slippery surfaces.
This pair of fly fishing wading boots are tough and highly protective when you’re wading in shallow water or on muddy, slippery terrain. It comes with strong PVC toe caps that protect your feet from unexpected hazards. The boots also provide outstanding ankle support through their padded collar and tongue.
We love the mesh drainage ports on the Hodgman H3’s side panels. They keep the boots lightweight by keeping the water weight to a minimum. All in all, if you are looking for felt bottom wading boots, these are a solid buy.
- Provides great walking stability on marshy ground and riverbanks
- D-ring attachment prevents debris from getting in your waders and boots
- Better protection and traction
- Does a great job sticking to the rocks
- Durability could be improved
- Uses low-quality glue
If you’re looking for a pair of felt sole fly fishing boots that are under $100 and comes with a high level of grip, the Allen Company Granite River wading boots could be your best option. These mid-sized, high-ankle boots are perfect for wading in conditions where traction is king.
- Lightweight EVA midsole
- Premium, durable toe and heel box
- Padded tongue and collar
- Speed laced upper
- Wide wading last
The Granite River fly fishing wading boot has a wide wading last that offers exceptional stability for walking or wading. It is excellent at distributing your weight across a wider area. Moreover, this is one of the few products that offer speed lacing on the uppers.
However, the drainage system needs to be improved on these fly boots. They do not effectively drain all the water because the location of the holes is a bit too high.
- Great boot for a budget price
- Excellent traction in muddy, rocky river
- Good ankle support
- Speed lacing
- Lace loops may rust
- Does not effectively drain all the water
- Not suitable for hiking
Safety is the most important factor to consider when choosing a pair of fly fishing boots. Hi-top boots provide better ankle support. Rubber soles are versatile, they are suitable in both wading and hiking activities.
Furthermore, you have to remember that water can get in as long as you submerge the boots in the water for hours. And thus, it’s wise to pick those that have a good drainage system.
If you haven’t picked a product from our list, we recommend the Korkers Greenback Wading Boot. It’s a hi-top, versatile wading boots with a decent drainage system.
Stay tuned for our upcoming articles on wading shoes, ice fishing boots, simms boot, orvis boots, field and stream wading boots, and more!
.What Goes Into A Quality Pair Of Wading Boots?
The key things to think about when reading our wading boots reviews are outlined below. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be certain to make a solid choice when choosing the best fly fishing wading boots to meet your fishing conditions and needs.
Types of soles
Nothing beats felt soles in providing excellent traction in slimy, slippery surfaces. Felt soles work by compressing and molding around the shapes of rocks when you’re wading in the water.
However, wading boots with felt soles are not ideal for hiking or walking long distances on land or they will wear out fast.
Moreover, they are now banned in many states because they harbor many types of invasive species. The rock snot is one example of an invasive species that indirectly kills freshwater trout.
Rubber soles these days are made from a soft, sticky rubber material that provides excellent traction on slippery surfaces. They now have a a grip that is comparable to felt soles.
They can be used for walking long distances to get to the river. They also retain less water and dirt compared to felt soles. In short, they are suitable for hiking to wading and vice-versa.
The Vibram outsole is a material made of rubber and foam. You can find it in many hiking boots since it is a very durable material. Yet, it doesn’t offer good traction in most wet surfaces and so studs must be attached.
Cleats or Studs
Anglers use cleats/studs on their wading boots to improve traction in the nastiest conditions. They are extremely effective when the water is strong or when the surface is dangerously slippery.
They can be attached to either felt or rubber soles. These cleats, studs, or metal spikes work by digging deep into a slippery surface.
Types of Material
Hydrophobic coating is a DWR or durable water repellent coating that makes wading boots waterproof. DWRs minimize water absorption. They also help restore the normal weight of your boot when you leave the water.
Wading boots with hydrophobic coating work best in shallow river edges. But with prolonged use, the coating can wear out. It can be restored with a waterproofing spray though.
Wading boots with Neoprene materials are best used in cold climates. The neoprene used in wading boots provides insulating warmth and waterproofing. These types of wading boots are also ideal for float-tube fishing since Neoprene is a buoyant material.
Choose a pair of Neoprene wading boots that are 3 mm thick for moderate climates. For colder climates, the Neoprene material should be 5 to 7 mm thick.
You can find nylon in many inexpensive, lightweight wading boots. Boots made with nylon material tend to warm up quickly. Also, your feet will freeze during cold weather since they provide less insulation.
Types of Lacing
Almost everybody has seen what traditional lacing looks like. This type of lacing features eyelets from the toe and to the top part of the boot.
Traditional lacing comes with drawbacks though. Knots can come untied. And in high-top boots, it can be hard to loosen the laces when you want to slip your foot in.
The speed lacing feature is usually combined with traditional lacing. Speed laces are usually positioned on the top of the ankle. This type of lacing is essential in hi-top boots where opening up the tongue for entry and exit is a lot easier.
This is a newer type of lacing that’s expensive but is quick and guaranteed to stay tight all day. It features a rotating ratchet mechanism for dialing a small, sturdy cord.
It is usually added around the top of the boot or the cuff. Velcro lacing is used to reinforce traditional lacing. This feature helps prevent the boot from loosening over time.