The 8 Best Wading Boots Reviewed & Tested ( 2018 Hands-on Guide )

fly fisher wearing wading boot

Fly-fishing success depends in large part on the equipment an angler wields. And while rods, reels, and lines draw most of the attention, wading boots are also an important tool every fly fisher needs.  

We’ll discuss the various types of wading boots below, and compare their relative strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, we’ll recommend a few of the best options on the market.  

Below you will find a list of some of the most popular brands and models of wading boots on the market with models ranging in price from moderate to relatively inexpensive which will serve to enhance, rather than detract from, your fly fishing experience by providing you good durability without breaking the bank.  

But, please note that there are so many different wading footwear manufacturers on the market today who produce so many different models in both men’s and women’s styles and sizes, it is simply not feasible to review all of them here.

Therefore, we have chosen and reviewed few from among the many that we feel provide fly fishermen with a good value for the money. 

 

The 8 Top Fishing Boots of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews

These are our top recommendations for wader boots in 2018 ( also included are our picks for sandals and shoes ):

  1. Best wading sandal: Get the Simms Riprap
  2. Best wading shoe: Get the Chota Hybrid Felt Soled Wading Shoe
  3. Best overall wading boots: Get the Simms Men’s Headwaters Pro Boot
  4. Best women boots: Get the Simms Women’s VaporTread Boot
  5. Best entry level boots: Get the Orvis Encounter Wading Boot

*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:

ProductSimms Riprap Sandal
Simms Riprap Sandal

Chota Hybrid Felt Soled Wading Shoe
Chota Hybrid Felt Soled
 Wading Shoe

Simms Men’s Headwaters Pro Boot
Simms Men’s Headwaters Pro Boot

Simms Women’s VaporTread Boot
Simms Women’s VaporTread
 Boot
Orvis Encounter Wading Boot
Orvis Encounter
Wading Boot

Sizes7 - 148 - 147 - 145 - 125 - 14
Type of SoleRubberFeltRubberRubberRubber
Average Weight Per Pair34.4 oz 1 lb5 lbs 1.6 oz3.2 lbs3 lbs 5 oz
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
Check Price
Check Price

1. Best Wading Sandals: Simms Riprap

Simms RipRap Wading Sandals Simms RipRap sandals are some of the best known and most widely used wading sandals on the market today because they feature a wrap-around design that is very secure on an angler’s foot and, they are available with either sticky rubber soles or a combination sole that combines sticky rubber with felt.  

In addition, they also feature fatigue-fighting Right Angle Footbed technology combined with synthetic, hydrophobic, mesh uppers that resist abrasion and block debris from entering the footbed.

Plus, the felt-soled model features stud-capable rubber outsoles with felt pads in the center of the sole for superior grip on both wet and dry surfaces and both models feature a bungee lacing system for easy donning and removal.  

Lastly, they are available in both men’s and women’s styles and sizes.  

Learn more about the Simms Riprap Sandal.

 

2. Best Wading Shoes: Chota Hybrid Felt Soled

 

Chota Hybrid Felt-Soled Wading Shoes These wading shoes are unique in that they feature Chota’s dual insert footbed system that enables anglers to wear them with either wading socks or stocking foot waders by simply inserting or removing the footbed insert which changes the internal volume of the wading shoe.  

Also, they also feature a cushy PU mid-sole for all-day comfort while the bonded felt sole provides a secure grip on slick stream bottoms. Plus, Chota’s Quicklace lacing system provides a secure fit while making it easy to don and remove the shoes.  

 

 

3. Simms Riprap

Simms RipRap Wading ShoesVery similar to the RipRap sandals listed above, Simms RipRap wading shoes have the same features as their RipRap wading sandals in that they too feature fatigue-fighting Right Angle Footbed technology combined with synthetic, hydrophobic, mesh uppers but, instead feature an enclosed shoe design.  

Plus, they are only available with sticky rubber soles in a men’s style and sizes.  

Learn more about the Simms Riprap Shoe.

 

4. Best Overall Fly Fishing Boots: Simms Men’s Headwaters Pro

One of Simms most popular wading boot models, their Headwaters Pro wading boots feature waterproof nubuck leather uppers combined with a scratch resistant rubber upper to limit line-snares while simultaneously winning the war against wear and tear.  

In addition, they also feature dual-density EVA midsoles to minimize shock while the Headwaters wading platform maximizes underfoot stability.

Plus, full-coverage retention plates provide superior rigidity and the perfect home for Simms Hardbite studs and they are available with your choice of sticky rubber soles or 12mm felt soles.  

 

 

5. Korkers Buckskin Mary

 

Korkers Buckskin and Buckskin Mary Wading Boots

 

Korker’s Buckskin (men’s) and Buckskin Mary (women’s) wading boots are both made from hydrophobic materials for faster drying times in order to lessen the chance of spreading invasive species.

In addition, they also feature a rubberized, anti-abrasion, synthetic material and an enhanced midsole along with a scratch resistant rubber toe cap that extends to side panels.  

Plus, Korkers’ OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System enables an angler to choose between either Kling-On sticky rubber and Kling-On felt soles or, Kling-On sticky rubber and studded Kling-On sticky rubber soles so that you can adapt your choice of traction to any fishing condition.  

 

 

6. Best Women’s Wading Boots: Simms Women’s VaporTread

Simms Women’s Vaporhead Wading BootsSimms only model of wading boot designed specifically for women, their VaporTread wading boots feature a lightweight, hiking-friendly build, and the partial neoprene lining insulates your foot while wading in cold water.

Also, the waterproof, synthetic leather, rip‐stop nylon & scratch resistant rubber uppers along with a partial neoprene lining and an anatomical collar provide both durability and warmth.  

Plus, they are available with your choice of felt soles or sticky rubber soles with a full-length stud retention plate for secure footing.  

 

 

7. Best Entry Level / Low Budget Wading Boots: Orvis Encounter Wading Boot

Orvis Encounter Wading Boots Described by Orvis as an entry level wading boot, their Encounter wading boots feature nubuck leather and nylon uppers with a scratch resistant toe cap and an anatomical collar combined with a fully lined interior to provide both durability and comfort.  

Plus, they are available in both men’s and women’s models with your choice of felt soles or sticky rubber soles for a secure footing.   

 

 

8. Cabela’s Ultralight Wading Boot

  

Cabela’s Ultralight Wading Boots

For those fly fishermen who are budget minded, Cabela’s Ultralight Wading Boots are an excellent choice.

Featuring rugged nylon and synthetic uppers with Wade Guard on the toes and heels for added scuff and abrasion resistance and your choice of either sticky rubber or durable felt outsoles to provide ground-gripping traction on slippery rocks, they also feature steel shanks for added stability.  

Also, both the sticky rubber model and the felt-soled model include 28 hardened steel cleats with deep biting blades that can be added to the soles for extra traction on moss or other slick surfaces.

Plus, they are available in both men’s and women’s sizes.  

 

Types of Fly-Fishing Waders 

To understand wading boots, you have to begin by learning a little about waders. Waders are commonly available in one of two different types:  

  • Boot Waders: Waders with wading boots permanently attached to the legs  
  • Stocking Foot Waders: Waders with neoprene booties attached to the legs  

Stocking foot waders require an angler to wear a separate pair of wading boots over the neoprene bootie, and they are the type of wader preferred by most experienced fly fishermen.  

 

 

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. 

Bill Bernhardt
Bill Bernhardt is a professional fly fishing guide and instructor with over fifteen years of experience. Also, he is a professional editor and outdoor author who has published eight books and written more than 1,500 articles and, he has contributed to both American Outdoor Magazine and Southern Trout e-zine.

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