Whether you are surf-casting, float-tubing or wading, fishing boots and waders can make or break your fly-fishing adventures. Good wading boots for fly fishing should be comfortable, stable and have ample traction.
Streams have slippery surfaces, loose gravel and steep hills that make it difficult to navigate using regular footwear. Wearing quality wading boots help manoeuvre these areas safely and enhance comfort when fly fishing. That’s why they are an essential piece of fishing gear for all fly anglers.
Best Wading Boots Reviews
Redington Prowler Boots – Best Overall
These are the Best Wading Boot offered by Redington. They’re available on Amazon for a cheaper price than you can find just about anywhere else.
These Redington wading boots offer a very robust performance with an attractive aesthetic. Designed from the ground up by Redington to be fast drying and quick draining the synthetic materials will handle all day in the river, again and again!
The Redington Prowler Boots offer a moulded rubber overlay, wide sole and a padded collar for ankle support. The drainage holes help for quick drainage with both sticky rubber and felt options available.
COMPASS 360 Tailwater II
These wading boots have steel cleats spread across the soles, which gives them a fantastic grip on the riverbed. As felt soles are becoming outlawed, this is becoming more and more important. Compass 360 tailwater boots will give you a firm grip when walking underwater slime, rocks and muddy trails.
These wading boots are designed with a fantastic heel pull system that has durable webbing to help to get the boots on and off. This can be so hard especially when your socks are wet! They have extra padding to ensure adequate comfort and this doesn’t wear down as they get soaked with water either!
What I liked about this wading boot was the roomy fit created by the roomy interior and bevvy interior cushioning. The boots provide ample room for waders to stuff the layers of socks without feeling constrained or stuffed.
Compass 360 Tailwater boots are made of fast-drying Clarino synthetic leather with a monofilament mesh panel that reduces the overall weight of the boot and drains fast. It’s definitely one of the best wading boots options on the market right now.
Redington Skagit Boot
The Skagit boot is Redington’s mainstay boot that guarantees comfort, support and resilience. It is ideal for anglers looking for the best wading boot without a compromise on quality.
To begin with, Redington Skagit boot has a mesh panelling added to the body to allow quick drying times and drainage. The mesh panelling extends to the upper part to enhance breathability in and out of the water. The nylon and synthetic leather construction also increase durability and flexibility over time. The wading boot has a padded collar that keeps the ankles well-supported all day and reduces the risk of injury in case you slip under water.
Redington provides two types of soles for this wading boots design- the felt soles and sticky rubber soles. I tested both types during my last fishing trip, and I must say, the rubber soles would pass for felt soles. The rubber soles become extremely soft, providing a firm grip under water, and the crushed walnut shells added to the bottoms of the soles improve traction.
Anglers fishing in streams spotted with rotten leaves may add studs (purchased separately) to create additional traction. The process of fitting and removing them is natural. When you are out of the water, they drain pretty fast compared to other low budget boots. This pair of wading boots are very light, weighing a mere 3.5 pounds. This makes it incredibly easy to navigate the stream with all your gear, when fishing all day.
Patagonia Foot Tractor
These wading boots have aluminum bars spread across the soles, which gives them a broad, burly look. The rubber sole does not come into contact with the ground due to the aluminium bars, but they work exceptionally well in and out of the water.
Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots will give you a firm grip when walking under water on slime, rocks and muddy trails, even if you’re weighed down by gear. They don’t accumulate snow or hold moisture.
Also, the zig-zag design used on the bars helps fishers navigate the broad, flat stones easily. The bars are replaceable, which is pretty impressive for any angler. Another bonus are the counter-sunk screws on the latest design of these wading boots, which prevent the bars from becoming loose as was the case with previous versions.
What I liked about this wading boot was the roomy fit created by the large foot box and bevvy interior cushioning. The box provides ample room for waders to stuff the layers of socks without feeling constrained or stuffed. Patagonia Foot Tractor boot is made of fast-drying Clarino synthetic leather with a monofilament mesh panel that reduces the overall weight of the boot and drains fast.
For a pair of boots with large pieces of metal fitted on the soles, the Patagonia Foot Tractor, I’d say, this boot is pretty light. It weighs a little more than most flagship boots from other brands, but it barely feels like it.
Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot (Regular and Felt Sole)
What I like about this Korkers wading boot is the manufacturer’s proprietary Omni Trax interchangeable sole system that allows fishers to fit the traditional felt sole or the rubber KlingOn sole. You are not restricted to this kind, so you can fit a choice outsole.
The rubber KlingOn outsole performs well on muddy and snowy surfaces, but does not hold up very well on slimy rocks. As such, you may want to fit the felt outsole when going out for fly fishing. The soft and spongy rubber fitted on the KlingOn tread offers great traction in water but wears out more rapidly when used on dry land.
Also, regular changing of the soles reduces the life of the Korkers boots when the clip-ins break or weaken from repeated use. The Korkers boot is pretty lightweight, weighing 1.6 pounds when dry and 2.2 pounds when wet; the fabric dries extra fast. Korkers Buckskin boot also features high ankle support, a well-padded high cuff and a stiff heel lock to protect your ankles from twisting when navigating dangerous river bottoms.
Korkers are some of the best wading boots for fly fishers today, down to their unique interchangeable sole system. You get more choice and extra flexibility on the river with this Korkers product.
Orvis Men’s Ultralight Wading Boot
These wading boots make up part of the Orvis Ultralight Wading System. These boots provide superb performance and durability despite being much lighter than a lot of the other wading boots we reviewed.
If you travel regularly for Trout fishing then these are the boots for you. We found that on average they are 400grams lighter (per boot) than other offerings that make them perfect for airline travel!
They are constructed of a Nylon microfibre upper with a PU coating that allows for a lot of water to drain out, without compromising on durability. If you’re looking for an excellent pair of comfortable, lightweight wading boots that provide all of the durability of the other boots on offer, then the Orvis Ultralight boots are for you.
Chota Outdoor Gear Hybrid (Regular and Felt Sole)
The Chota Hybrid it the best wading shoe. It has a comfortable low-top design that is ideal for outdoor activities such as rafting, canoeing and kayaking. Its lightweight build makes it the perfect choice for wading, portaging and other water-related activities. It has a large micro-screen panel that drains water rapidly while preventing debris from entering the footbed.
The wading shoes offer the Chota’s unique dual-insert footbed system. It allows fishers to wear them with their stocking foot waders or wading socks. If you are not wearing the sock, you only need to remove the footbed insert to adjust its volume.
Another unique feature of the Chota Hybrid Felt Soled Wading Shoe is that it is outfitted with a padded PU mid-sole that provides comfort, even if you’re wearing it the whole day. The bonded felt sole improves grip on the slick stream surfaces while the lacing system offers a secure fit and makes it easy to wear and remove. Its heel and toe caps are reinforced to protect your feet from injury.
Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve
If you are looking for the best wading sandal that doubles as a wading sandal, hiking or beach sandal, Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe is your ultimate choice. To begin with, the sandal is fitted with a TC5+ Vibram material that gives excellent traction on different terrains. 3mm lugs are added beneath the shoe to provide additional grip. The wading sandal has several holes that aid in draining water.
Additionally, the manufacturer uses a UniFly midsole with has great padding to provide comfort when walking or hiking.
The upper part features a cut-out sandal design that also ensures rapid water drainage. It is made of waterproof leather, and the interior has a neoprene liner that repels water.
The manufacturer includes M Select Fresh material that keeps off bacteria. As such, you are confident that the wading sandals will not accumulate moisture that leads to bacteria growth and odour. Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoe features a sandal-like design that is easy to slip in and off, and users can easily adjust the fit using its bungee cord laces.
A Buying Guide for Your New Wading Boots
The discussion below looks at things that anglers should consider when buying wading boots, from studs to waterproofing. Plus, we recommend the top five best wading boots (and the best wading shoes and sandals too). If you’re looking for full waders then check out our best fly fishing waders article.
The Type of Sole
The sole of your wading boots should provide a firm grip when navigating slippery and rocky surfaces. Fly fishing boots are made with a range of different types of soles, like rubber or felt. These different materials offer various benefits to the user when wading and casting out a fly.
Felt sole wading boots offer the best traction on wet, slippery rocks compared to rubber versions. However, even with the best traction, felt soles work poorly out of the water as they take longer to dry. As such, if the fly angler is switching places constantly, it is easy for species to spread to areas they are not meant to be.
Another problem with felt soles on wading boots is that they wear out faster than their rubber sole alternatives especially when used outside the stream. While it is replaceable, it creates an additional cost to the fly angler, on top of all the other gear.
A while ago, rubber sole wading boots were known for poor traction and durability. Numerous technological advancements in fishing gear have been made since to rubber soles to improve functionality and longevity, making the rubber-soled boots the go-to wading choice for every fly angler.
Rubber soles are great for anglers walking longer range distances during fishing trips and targeting a range of species. The rubber sole grips well on slippery rocks. Rubber is also soft and extremely resistant to abrasion compared to felt sole wading boots.
The best wading boots should fill up and drain water fast. Wet boots are naturally heavy, so you should look for a light boot that drains water quickly. Orvis has produced a gear guide on how to select the right wading boot fit here.
The most widely used material for wading boots is synthetic leather like the Nubuck or microfiber such as nylon or polyester. These materials allow water to flow in and out of the shoes, and this eliminates the burdensome feel that comes with wet wading boots.
Neoprene waders are ideal for cold water anglers. Boots made from neoprene are durable, provide waterproof insulating warmth, and come in different thickness to enhance comfort. For moderate climates, anglers should buy neoprene wading boots/waders with 3mm and 5-7mm thickness respectively for colder climates. Neoprene is buoyant, which a bonus for float-tube fishing.
Nylon wading boots are ideal for fishers looking for cheap, lightweight waders. However, the wading boots warm up fast and do not breathe as well, so are less comfortable than other options. The other downside of nylon boots is that they provide less insulaton so your feet will freeze during cold weather.
I found the waterproof fishing boots the most versatile. These waders are designed for use during all seasons and have an air-permeable membrane that allows internal moisture and sweat to escape even when in water. You can pair them with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts during warm weather or add base layers to extra warmth during the cooler months. They have a loose fit.
Manufacturers like Simms apply a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to provide a waterproof feature for your wading boots. DWR is a fluoropolymer treatment that reduces water absorption and rapidly restores the normal weight after leaving the river. The coating wears out after prolonged use, but anglers can restore it using a waterproofing spray.
Important Wading Boot Considerations
Foot and Ankle Support
Most river bottoms are rocky and unstable, hence the need to wear a wading boot fitted with a well-supported ankle. The best wading boots that are properly supported not only protect your ankles but reduce the risk of getting sprains and other injuries. Most manufacturers insert extra padding around the heel area and collar to enhance support while others fit a tongue to the sides of the boots to improve the feature.
You should also look out for heel and toe caps on wading boots; they should have a rubber build to promote longevity and protect your heels and toes when you bump into rocks.
The best wading boots should also provide a screw-in cleat where you can fit a stud to improve traction when walking on extremely slippery places. The screw-in cleats can be used on both felt and rubber-soled boots. However, anglers should avoid fitting screw-in cleats on their wading boots when using a boat as they can damage the boat deck.
Look for wading boots that have the uppers constructed of microfiber or synthetic leather. The material is lightweight, flexible and durable. Your wading boots will also dries fast when you are out of the water.
Investing in a pair of the best wading boots should be your main priority when shopping for fly fishing equipment. Whether you go for rubber or felt soles, you shouldn’t head out with a good pair of wading boots, no matter what species you’re after. A fly fishing adventure involves navigating slippery surfaces, so safety is paramount.
Traction is the main feature you should look for when buying the boot. As earlier highlighted, rubber outsoles offer better traction than felt sole wading boots as they are more resistant to abrasion and dry more rapidly. This makes rubber boots our first choice.
The boot should also allow you to add a screw-in cleat to enhance traction. The ankle support is another important feature to look for as it increases safety and reduces the risk of injury.
All of our reviewed products offer excellent quality and durability, so you won’t go wrong with any of these wading boots. From Korkers to Redington to Chota, these are brands you can trust when it comes to fishing gear.