Wading Boots – Which Product Should You Buy – Buyers Guide

When you buy a pair of stockingfoot waders, there is a good chance the next thing you look out for is a pair of wading boots fitting your needs. Picking the right product here is important since proper wading shoes for fishing have a significant impact on your safety. To give you an idea of what to look out for when you choose wading boots, I will write out the most significant differences between them in this buying guide.


Different Soles And Their Benefits

Since a good sole is an essential feature, you should know that there is a variety of materials to choose from. All perform different on the various grounds, that you will encounter while fly fishing. The number one factor for good soles in this sport is traction. When you stand in fast cold rivers and streams the last thing you want to happen is to step on a slippery stone, loose grip and in the worst case, fall into the rivThereforeefor you want soles you can rely on, supporting you while fishing. The soles should be stitched onto your boot and not glued, to increase longevity. Today, the most popular picks for the best wading boots are felt, or a sticky form of rubber.


Rubber Sole

rubber sole wide
Hiking to remote places to find awesome fishing spots, is not unusual in this sport. Fishers walk miles, just to get to that perfect spot where the chances are remarkably better, to catch big steal heads or similar.
That being said, one of the biggest benefits of rubber soles is their resistance to abrasion compared to felt soles. In terms of durability, soles made from rubber can certainly compete with a decent pair of hiking boots.

In earlier days, where the materials used for fishing gear weren’t as advanced as it is the case today, the grip that rubber soles provided, was mediocre at best. Because of that, Felt soles tended to have a huge edge on their counterpart.
Today the rubber used is specially developed, only for the purpose to improve said traction in rivers and streams. The grip rubber provides now, even on slippery stones, does not have to hide from felt soles. The material used is soft, to provide it the ability to adapt to the ground, giving you enough assurance, that you can practice the sport without much worrying about slipping or falling.

Felt Sole

felt sole
While being highly popular in the old days, the demand on felt soles drops constantly. A big factor here is, that a lot of states started to ban felt sole wading boots, with more and more following. The reason for that is the fact, that felt soles dry significantly slower than rubber, allowing invasive species to survive in them for longer times. If someone switches waters constantly, it is easy for said species to spread where they are not meant to be, killing thousands of fish that are not adapted. You can see the most recent example for this in the Yellowstone River where said invasive species attack trout.
All this aside, there are still states where you can use them, and if you make sure to dry them correctly, each time you plan on fishing a new territory, there is no argument against them. They provide exceptional traction even on mossy stones and gravel, making them still a popular choice on wading shoes for fly fishing.

Soles With Studs

Some rubber soles give you the possibility, to screw in studs for even better grip. When conditions are really demanding, for example in form of plenty of dead leaf covering stones or in really fast rivers, they can do an awesome job in giving you that little extra traction, you need in those situations. Usually, they can be purchased separately, and de- and attaching is easy and fast. Definitely, a feature to look out for when choosing the right pair of wading boots. They can definitely make wading safer.

Drainage Systems And Breathable Materials

a river that could be crossed with wading boots

If you buy your first pair of wading shoes, there is a good chance you do not know, that they are not intended to be waterproof. The opposite is the case. Proper wading boots fill up with water quickly and more importantly drain said water equally fast. The reason for this is, that water in your shoes makes them a lot heavier, and a really important feature for wading boots is lightweight. Since you want to keep this, even after standing in water for hours, it is important, that the water drains as fast as possible. Following that, your legs have to carry less weight, giving you more energy to catch fish.

Lightweight Materials

Therefor widely used materials are synthetic leathers, such as Nubuck and microfibre, such as polyester or nylon. All of these materials let water flow freely in and out of the shoes, without absorbing too much of it, while being fairly light and therefore more comfortable to wear. Lightweight highly adds to comfort for fishing footwear. All mentioned materials let your feet breath, so you do not have to deal with sweaty feet while fishing. A water-sealed boot could not provide that feature to that extent.
While cheap wading boots are often made from only one material, the more expensive ones use a synthetic leather and nylon combination, making them more durable. These materials also remain flexible for longer, compared to the cheaper versions. Seams should be triple stitched, preferably with nylon thread.

Hydrophobic Coating

Some manufacturers apply treatments, such as DWR to give the fabrics the feature of being even more hydrophobic. DWR is a fluoropolymer based treatment, and stands for “Durable Water Repellent”. An example for this is Gore-Tex, used for instance by Simms to make some of the best wading boots in the industry. The advantage of this is, that the material itself absorbs water not that easily, bringing it back to normal weight more rapidly after leaving the water. If this feature gets lost over time, you can restore it with a waterproofing spray.
There are shoes that come with additional drainage canals in their midsoles, with the purpose of improving the drainage system. This usually works pretty well, and can be a good thing to look out for, when searching for good wading boots.

Ankle And Foot Support

wading boot ankle support

Steep climbs and rocky slopes are only two of the variety of obstacles, you can encounter while fly fishing. Keeping that in mind it is only natural, that wading shoes for fly fishing share many traits with a good pair of hiking boots, which are designed to do the same. One of this traits is a good ankle support. No matter if on your way to the fishing spot, or right in the river, when you walk over bigger stones and rocks the risk to snap your ankle is always given. With stable ankle support, this risk can be minimized and therefore sprains or worse are far less likely to happen. Most manufacturers achieve that, with extra padding around the collars and stiff heel areas. In terms of foot support you want to look out for a good lacing system. If laced up correctly, nothing should wiggle, to give your feet stable support. A no-go is for example when your heels lift with every step you take. In addition to that, they should have a slightly thicker and wider tongue, this gives you more support in your boots, while at the same time makes it harder for gravel and debris to enter them. Most wading boots come with the tongue connected to the sides of the boots, to improve this feature even further.
Nearly all wading boots come with toe and heel caps, usually made out of rubber. This not only improves the longevity greatly, since the materials used for the upper parts are not as durable, and would otherwise be constantly in contact with rocks or similar, it also protects your toes and heels when bumping into them. This happens more often than you would think, and definitely can be hurtful.

Fitting And Sizing

When you take a look at Amazon reviews, it is common that people complain about the sizing of wading boots. Often this is the case because they are not aware of the fact that some manufacturers already adapt their sizing, usually about half or one size bigger than in regular shoes. The cause for that is simple and obvious, although there are people wearing them without, for example in the summer, these boots are usually worn together with stockingfoot waders. The neoprene booties will increase the size of your feet, especially in combination with another pair of comfortable socks underneath.
This is not the case for the companies SIMMS, Patagonia and Korkers, where you should just buy one size bigger than your regular street shoes. Most of the online shops have a disclaimer for that and most manufacturers also provide sizing charts, where you can easily determine what size you should order.
If they do not fit perfectly, send them back and get a pair that fits better. Fitting is another really important aspect when it comes to ankle and heel support. If only slight size adjustments are necessary, they can be made with an additional insole.
A small gap between your toes and the front end of the shoe is not a sign of wrong sizing. Far more significant is how the boot holds your feet. Keep in mind that even the best wading boots tend to shrink over. Boots that are too small tend to break down earlier and can limit the blood circulation in your feet, letting them become numb. This is generally unhealthy and will also let your feet freeze faster. Even if you only feel minor pressure points, expect them to amplify over time.

Features Of The Best Wading Boots


  • Sticky soles that provide enough traction, even in difficult terrain.
  • Perfect ankle and foot support to prevent sprains or worse.
  • A well-constructed drainage system to avoid soaked up boots.
  • Lightweight, durable and breathable Material to provide comfort.

Final Words

If there is one piece of equipment you should invest more money in, there are many good reasons for it to be wading boots you can afford. Comfortable and high-quality shoes not only affect how much fun you will have while fishing, they also lower the risk of an injury drastically. Think about it, a low-quality pair of waders might leak, and worst case you will have wet legs, but cheap wading boots without enough traction let you slip easily, which can result in far more devastating consequences. For even more safety while wading, it is worth to have a look into wading staffs.


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4 thoughts on “Wading Boots – Which Product Should You Buy – Buyers Guide”

  1. I am thinking about buying a new pair but never tried wading boots with studs before. Do you think it is worth the extra money getting soles with the possibility to attach studs?
    I am already sure that I do not want felt soles, but I still want enough traction to feel save in the river.

    • Hey John,
      thanks for your question.

      Yes, it’s definitely worth paying a little more for the possibility to attach studs. While the sticky rubber used is pretty decent today, the traction studs provide is outstanding.
      Happy Fishing!

  2. Wow, I think you covered literally every aspect I could think of. An interesting read for sure and it will make buying a good pair a lot easier!

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