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fly fishing footwear

The Best Wading Boots in 2020 (The Boots Pros Use!)

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Whether you are surf-casting, float-tubing or wading, wading boots can make or break your fly-fishing adventures. You should aim to buy shoes that are comfortable, stable and have decent traction. 

Streams have slippery surfaces, loose gravel and steep hills that make it difficult to navigate using regular footwear. Good quality wading boots will help you fish safely and comfortably. Next to your fly rod, reel and line your wading boots are an essential piece of kit.

Top Pick
Redington Prowler Felt Bottom Boot - 9, Bark
Interchangeable Soles
Buckskin w/ Felt & Kling-On Soles, Size 05
Ultralight
Orvis Men's Ultralight Wading Boot, 11
Redington Prowler Felt Bottom Boot – 9, Bark
Buckskin w/ Felt & Kling-On Soles, Size 05
Orvis Men’s Ultralight Wading Boot, 11
Fresh, modern aesthetic
Traditionally styled lacing
Ultralight
Wide soles
Interchangeable Soles
Custom Vibram EVA midsole
quick-drying and quick-draining
Hydrophobic materials
Quick-drying
Top Pick
Redington Prowler Felt Bottom Boot - 9, Bark
Redington Prowler Felt Bottom Boot – 9, Bark
Fresh, modern aesthetic
Wide soles
quick-drying and quick-draining
Interchangeable Soles
Buckskin w/ Felt & Kling-On Soles, Size 05
Buckskin w/ Felt & Kling-On Soles, Size 05
Traditionally styled lacing
Interchangeable Soles
Hydrophobic materials
Ultralight
Orvis Men's Ultralight Wading Boot, 11
Orvis Men’s Ultralight Wading Boot, 11
Ultralight
Custom Vibram EVA midsole
Quick-drying

best wading boots

Wading Boot Reviews

Redington Prowler – Best Overall

Redington Prowler Boots

 

In our opinion the Redington Prowler wading boots are the best you can buy today. They’re available on Amazon for a cheaper price than you can find just about anywhere else.

They 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 wading 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.

The Good

  • Incredible Grip
  • Padded interior to enhance comfort
  • Very Sturdy
  • Removable Insoles
  • Reputable Redington brand

The Bad

  • Reports of Boot Eyes Delivered Broken

COMPASS 360 Tailwater II wading boots

These 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. The compass 360 tailwater wading boots will give you a firm grip when walking underwater slime, rocks and muddy trails.

They 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. They provided ample room for wading socks or an additional pair of regular socks without feeling constrained or stuffed. 

Compass 360 Tailwater wading 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 options on the market right now. 

The Good

  • Metal studs underneath improve grip greatly
  • Padded interior to enhance comfort
  • Look great
  • Very Nice Price

The Bad

  • Need to order studs separately
  • The studs may need replacing after some time

Redington Skagit Wading Boots

Redington Skagit Boot

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The Skagit boot is Redington’s mainstay boot that guarantees comfort, support and resilience. It is ideal for anglers looking for good wading boots 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. 

The Good

  • Reasonably priced
  • Stud compatible
  • Lined with mesh panelling for quick drainage

The Bad

  • Feels heavy when soaked in water
  • There are complaints that the boot take long to dry

Patagonia Foot Tractor

Patagonia foot tractor review

These are a special pair of wading boots with aluminum bars spread across the soles. This gives them the 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 Tractors 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 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 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 wading 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. 

The Good

  • Lined with aluminium bars that enhance the grip
  • Padded interior to enhance comfort

The Bad

  • May feel a little heavy for first-time users
  • They are expensive
  • The bars may need replacing after some time

Korkers BuckSkin (Regular and Felt Sole)

 Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot
 
 

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 wading 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 wading boots are one of the best options 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.

The Good

  • Pretty lightweight when dry and wet
  • Anglers can match the tread to the conditions
  • Outsole drains rapidly
  • Choice of rubber or felt sole

The Bad

  • Uses a traditional lacing system
  • Wears out fast when used on dry land

Orvis Ultralight

Orvis Men's Ultralight Wading Boot

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These wading boots make up part of the Orvis Ultralight Wading System. They provide superb performance and durability despite being much lighter than a lot of the other 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 wading boots are for you.

The Good

  • Lightweight
  • Fast Draining
  • Orvis Warranty

The Bad

  • Doesn't protect as much of your shin as higher boots do.
  • Generally get a size bigger than you think.

Chota Outdoor Gear Hybrid (Regular and Felt Sole)

Chota Outdoor Gear Hybrid

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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.

These 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 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.

The Good

  • Extremely versatile as anglers can wear it for other outdoor activities
  • Adjustable using the dual insole system
  • Has Chota's quick lacing system and the regular system for easy donning and removal

The Bad

  • Does not have an ankle support

Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve

Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve

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If you are looking for the best wading sandal that doubles as a regular pair of sandals for hiking or the beach, then the Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve 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.

The Good

  • Versatile
  • Dries rapidly
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to don and remove
  • Quick lacing system

The Bad

  • The outsoles could be improved
  • Does not have an ankle support

Buyers Guide

The discussion below looks at things that anglers should consider when buying wading boots, from studs to waterproofing. If you’re looking for full waders then check out our best fly fishing waders article.

The Type of Sole

The sole 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. Each type of sole  offers various benefits to the user when wading and casting out a fly. 

Felt Soles

Felt soles offer the best traction on wet, slippery rocks when compared to rubber versions. However, they wear out faster than their rubber sole alternatives especially when used outside the stream. As you’re walking up the side of the river you can almost feel them wearing away.

Another important point to note is that felt soles are illegal in a number of states and also in some countries (like New Zealand). [1][2] So make sure to check your local regulations to make sure that you are allowed to wear these boots in your waterways.

Rubber Soles

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. 

Rubber soles are great for backcountry lovers who often are walking longer distances over varying terrain. The rubber sole grips well on slippery rocks, loose shale and even wet grass. If in doubt then pick up a pair of these!

Wader Materials

Ideally you want boots that will 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. [3]

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 carrying around 2 bags of water on your feet!

Neoprene

Neoprene waders are ideal for cold water anglers. Boots made from neoprene are durable, provide a waterproof environment and 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.

Hint: Check out a pair of wading socks if you’re looking to get the best out of any pair of boots.

Nylon

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.

Hydrophobic Coating

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.

This helps in shallower river edges but when your up to your knees they are going to fill up no matter what you put on them!

trout fishing in New Zealand

Important 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. They should be 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.

Screw-in Cleats

They 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 wading boots. 

However, you should avoid fitting screw-in cleats on your wading boots if you plan on using a boat as they will destroy the deck.

Lightweight Uppers

Look for wading boots that have the uppers constructed of microfiber or synthetic leather. The material is lightweight, flexible and durable. Your boots will also dry fast when you are out of the water.

Conclusion 

Aside from your rod, investing in a pair of wading boots should be one of your main priorities 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. Your safety is paramount, especially if you’re heading out of cell phone reception. 

Traction is the main feature you should look for when buying wading boots. 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 wading boots our first choice.

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.

So that’s it! Let’s hope you’ve made up your mind on the best wading boots for you! Here’s our ultimate recommendation:

References

[1] https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/18010.htm

[2] https://fishandgame.org.nz/about/fish-and-game-faq/felt-soled-waders-restrictions-new-zealand-faq/

[3] https://www.orvis.com/should-i-get-bootfoot-or-stocking-foot-waders

1 thought on “The Best Wading Boots in 2020 (The Boots Pros Use!)”

  1. Fantastic List! I just wanted to writeto say that I got the Orvis wading boots and they were TOPS!!!

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