Best wading boots: fly fishing footwear guide

Updated on:

Best wading boots: fly fishing footwear guide

Updated on:

The best wading boots maximize an angler’s time on the water while lending confidence with each step, a benefit of added traction. Whether spending your days scrambling over cannonball-sized river rocks in search of wild trout or stalking coral-encrusted saltwater flats for flashes of bonefish, you know how important it is to protect your feet. Plus, wading can be dangerous. That’s why a quality pair of wading boots is critical. But who makes the best wading boots? And how do you know which type of wading boot is suitable for the fly fishing you enjoy? Leave it to us to highlight the best wading boots so you can be confident in your choice and on the next algae-covered rock.

Best wading boots: our top picks

Best Full Wading Boot
Korkers Devil's Canyon
Korkers Devil’s Canyon
9.7

Ultimate versatility, combined with maximum comfort, allows the Korkers Devil’s Canyon to stand out beyond others like Simms and Redington in this category. Why choose between felt or rubber soled boots when you can get both? Add rugged performance and cozy comfort, and you’ll understand why Korkers Devil’s Canyon is our choice for the best full wading boots.

Best Ultralight Wading Boots
Simms Flyweight
Simms Flyweight
9.6

Crossing a river is challenging enough without feeling like you have waterlogged hunks of carpet strapped to your feet. Simms’s Flyweight line of fly fishing gear is for anglers that choose speed as their best tool to ditch the crowds. Flyweights are lighter than any other quality wading boots on the market. The best part? These stylish flyweight wading boots feature Vibram’s Idrogrip as outsoles. The sticky rubber was specifically designed for wet applications. The softer soles aim to offer the best of both felt and rubber soled wading boots.

Best Budget Wading Boot
Simms Tributary
Simms Tributary
9.5

Simms developed the Tributary line of fly fishing gear believing that anybody could enjoy a day of fishing regardless of their budget. The entry level, Tributary wading boots come with abrasion resistance synthetic leather and rubber soles to keep a new or budget-conscious angler upright on slippery surfaces. Look to the Simms Tributary wading boots, our best budget pick, when you need a pair of boots that will perform and not break the bank.

Full reviews: our 10 best wading boots

Simms Tributary
Simms Tributary
Simms Tributary
Our Score

Simms Tributary wading boots is all about performance without the steep price tag. Simms developed their Tributary to introduce fly fishing to new anglers, but these entry level, wading boots feature all of the comfort and performance you’d expect from Simms. This Simms boot is great for beginners or seasoned anglers on a budget. 

  • Synthetic leather, mesh, and a rubber toe cap keep your foot shielded from river chaos
  • Boots come with felt and rubber sole system options
  • Entry level price point

Simms Guide G3

Simms Guide G3
Simms Guide G3
Simms Guide G3
Our Score

With a name like G3, Simms’s wading boot to complement its renowned waders had better not disappoint. The G3 boot may be just as impressive as the much-celebrated waders. Designed to keep waders upright, Simms designed the G3’s footbed and cushioning system to react to the highly uneven terrain of a river bed. The result is a boot that responds to the rocks keeping your foot stable.

  • Simms RiverTread® build gives you more feeling under your boot
  • Waterproof nubuck leather upper
  • Dual-density midsole for shock absorption

Orvis Ultralight

Orvis Ultralight
Orvis Ultralight
Orvis Ultralight
Our Score

Resembling a mid-height hiking boot, the Orvis Ultralight has become a very popular wading boot, a lightweight option to cover ground and ditch the crowds. The Orvis Ultralight employs super strong yet very light microfiber called Clarino for the boot’s uppers. The Clarino and spray-on rubber for abrasion resistance make the boot one of the lightest on the market. The boot utilizes a traditional lacing system with metal D rings to secure the foot and a proprietary Vibram sole pattern design for extra traction.

  • Dual durometer Vibram® outsole featuring the proprietary Orvis lug pattern
  • Tightly woven laces improve abrasion resistance
  • Designed to accept PosiGrip Screw-in Studs in strategic locations
Simms Flyweight
Simms Flyweight
Simms Flyweight
Our Score

A sleek, high ankle supported boot, the Simms Flyweight wading boot is the lightest boot on the market. This weight advantage is vital when you are determined to fish farther up the canyon than anyone else. The Vibram indigo sole is softer than other rubber soles by design, allowing the sole to act as a sponge on slippery rocks, not unlike felt soles. The Flyweight boot is excellent if you are racing up the canyon or sticking within earshot of the parking lot.

  • Vibram Indrigo rubber soles
  • The lightest boot on the market
  • Rubber and felt soles accept Simms Hardbite Wading Boot Studs

Patagonia Foot Tractor

Patagonia Foot Tractor
Patagonia Foot Tractor
Patagonia Foot Tractor
Our Score

Could the Patagonia Foot Tractor be the last pair of wading boots you’ll ever have to buy? Patagonia thinks so. They teamed up with Oregon-based bootmaker Danner to offer this tough, quick-drying, securely gripping wading boot that can be re-soled rather than thrown away. With three traction strategies, rubber, felt, and aluminum bars, Patagonia has raised the expectation of a wading boot. 

  • Vibram Idrogrip rubber sole
  • Re-soleable by Danner
  • Denier nylon paneling provides excellent abrasion resistance

Korkers Devil’s Canyon

Korkers Devil's Canyon
Korkers Devil's Canyon
Korkers Devil's Canyon
Our Score

As fly anglers, we know how valuable it is to be adaptable. This is true in the flies you’re throwing and the boots you’re hiking. Korkers is synonymous with versatility, and their Devil’s Canyons fit the bill. Korkers employs their omnitrax interchangeable sole system and comes standard with rubber and felt soles to start. The dual soles allow you to change depending on the conditions of the terrain.

  • Rubber and felt soles provided with Korkers’ OmniTrax® interchangeable sole system
  • Enhanced midsole, rubberized anti-abrasion synthetic material, reduced seams, recessed triple-stitched uppers, and molded rubber toe cap
  • Boa Fit System
Redington Prowler
Redington Prowler
Redington Prowler
Our Score

Built for maximum comfort in rugged wading, the Redington Prowler capitalizes on a wide footbed design to provide stability and extra cushion. Nubuck leather and sticky rubber adds to the prowler’s abrasion resistance, while the nifty heel step and rubber pull loops make hopping in and out of these boots snap. The best part? Additional mid-sole comfort rounds out this boot’s stated goal to offer comfort and performance.

  • EVA midsole for increased cushioning
  • Expanded rubber toe box
  • Substantial heel step
Patagonia River Salt
Patagonia River Salt
Patagonia River Salt
Our Score

Designed for wet wading, traversing the backcountry, and saltwater flats, Patagonia River Salts offers unparalleled quality and performance for a wading boot. We all know saltwater can ruin your gear, but Patagonia turned salt to its advantage, utilizing a saline tanning process to make its leather extra tough. Patagonia crafted the ankle area with 1,000 denier nylon which is abrasion resistant but super light. A stiffer outsole decreases foot fatigue so you can focus on what matters, the fishing.  

  • Saline tanned leather for durability in both fresh and saltwater
  • Lighter weight for wet wading, flats fishing, and hikes
  • Boots are made in the USA
Orvis Pro Boa
Orvis Pro Boa
Orvis Pro Boa
Our Score

Orvis’ Pro Wading Boot with the Boa Fit System doesn’t employ one collaborative innovation; it combines two. In addition to the comfort and security offered by the Boa system, the Orvis Pro also makes use of Michelin’s Outdoor Extreme outsole. Orvis and the famed tire maker believe that the rubber explicitly designed for the wet traction application of fly fishing offers 43% better traction on the river. When the goal is to provide anglers comfort and confidence, Orvis has found that looking externally for innovation is the best practice.

  • Michelin Outdoor Extreme rubber soles
  • Scratch rubber toe cap and heel for superior protection
  • BOA lacing system provides even tension and comfort 

Wading boots buyers’ guide

Types of wading boots

Wading boots should be comfortable to spend a day on the river while offering security with each step from extra traction. The perfect wading boot depends on the type of fly fishing or the terrain you fly fish. 

Most wading boots are separate from the stocking waders. However, extraordinarily marshy or muddy areas, for instance, coastal South Carolina for redfish, may necessitate bootfoot waders.  

Traditional wading boots resemble hiking boots. Matched with stocking foot waders, they protect your feet from submerged rocks and logs. Unlike regular boots, wading boots feature drainage ports improving hiking once off the river bed. A recent trend in wading boots and outdoor gear, in general, has been lightweight gear. Wading boots that follow this trend are designed to be lighter than traditional wading boots, and designed for anglers who cover greater distances to find fish. 

Wading shoes

An offshoot of the ultralight trend are wading shoes. Many anglers look forward to summer days when they can leave their stocking foot waders at home. Wading shoes offer versatile protection as a shoe when wet wading is the ticket to your best fly fishing of the year.

Saltwater wading

Saltwater anglers demand a stiff, protective sole and material integrity to stand up to salt. Mangrove roots and sharp coral heads would be impossible to traverse with a soft sole. Saltwater-specific wading footwear, thus, has very rigid soles to protect the feet and add stability.Type of sole

There are many approaches to a wading boots sole system, but they all focus on one main benefit: traction. Which sole offers the most security depends heavily on the variables and personal taste. Understanding what each sole system provides and knowing the type of terrain you plan to fish will help you choose which soled wading boots are right for you.

Felt

Felt is a cloth material that is produced by compressing fibers together. It is these fibers, affixed to the bottom of wading boots, that are so effective at gripping the slippery rocks that stand between you and troutvana. While felt excels at adding extra traction on slime covered rocks, the material is not as useful on other terrain an angler might encounter and is known to wear out quickly. Additionally, because felt soles act like a sponges there is concern the material may help transport invasive species to different water systems. That’s why some areas ban the use of felt soled wading boots. It is important to remember that invasive species can catch rides on any wading boots or wading gear. So besure to clean, dry, and inspect your wading gear for these stowaways when your fishing trip take you to waterways these critters are known to inhabit.

Rubber

Resembling that of a conventional hiking boot sole, rubber soled wading boots provide excellent traction while reducing the risk an angler may unknowingly contribute to the spread of invasive species. Rubber soles also tend to last longer than felt soles making them

Foot and ankle support

Uneven, unforgiving terrain can wreak havoc on an angler’s feet. And no one wants to risk spraining an ankle. The best wading boots have designed improved foot cradles and ankle support to protect the feet and lend a greater sense of foot stability for the angler. Anyone who has fished in the winter knows how painfully cold your feet can get when wading; it’s essential to do all you can to keep your feet and ankles protected.

Even the best pair of wading boots won’t keep your dogs from barking if you don’t have properly fitting pair. Don’t forget that you will need to fit thick wool socks and neoprene booties into wading boots. Because of this, wading boots should be sized up one to one and one half sizes compared to your normal shoe size. For example, if you wear a size 10 in a normal pair of shoes, expect to go up to a size 11 in wading boots. If you wear a size 10 1/2 you will feel most comfortable in a pair of size 12 wading boots.

Type of Lacing system

Boot lacing works in concert with the design of the wading boot to provide comfort, support, and security. The best wading boot lacing systems will keep your foot and ankle stable as the boot adjusts to changing terrain. Today, anglers have two lacing options, traditional nylon laces and the Boa Fit System. Both can be effective and are important features of wading boots.

Laces

Wading boot laces are long, large-diameter nylon laces adding strength and security to the boot’s design. Laces remain a viable and effective system for wading boots but can wear out. Additionally, frozen laces can be a real pain, once back at your truck, if you fish in the winter months. The durability of nylon laces are compromises from wear and with grit and sand becoming embedded between the fibers. Orvis is one wading boot maker who utilizes high-density fibers in their wading laces. They believe that the increased density makes it more difficult for dirt to penetrate the fibers.

Boa

Boa Fit Systems has taken wading boots by storm. This ratchet and cable system has its roots in the winter sports realm, think snowboard bindings, but has found a place in various performance footwear options, including wading. Instead of laces, the system consists of a wheel ratchet that securely tightens and releases a cable. The result is fast and easy to tighten and release. Initial versions of the Boa system were plagued with system failures; brokes cables or jammed wheels. New interactions seem to have put these issues to rest. When wading shoe companies no longer sell replacement boa kits along side their wading boots you can feel confident the issues have been fixed. Personally, as someone who does much of their fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains during the winter, I can’t imagine fishing trips without the boa system on my wading boots.

Screw in cleats, studs and other enhancements

What angler doesn’t need a little extra confidence? Many wading boot soles allow anglers to insert and remove wading studs, or similar enhancements, directly into the sole. When dealing with slimy rocks in fast-moving water, adding these tools for that added confidence never hurts because no one wants to fall in.

Both rubber and felt outsoles can accept cleats or studs. These increase the traction needed in swift waters, vastly increasing an angler’s ability to move along the river bed. Not recommended for boats or float planes, anglers can remove the studs when not in active use. Adding studs to your wading boots makes a difference when the conditions are dicey.

Final word on wading boots

Wading boots may be the unsung hero of fly fishing. The best wading boots are workhorses that allow anglers to pursue their passion farther than others are willing to go. A properly selected boot makes the sport even more enjoyable and adds essential layers of protection in the untamed wilderness. Choosing the right boot for you depends on the type of fly fishing, the terrain, environment, and personal taste.

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AUTHOR
Andy is a Colorado kid and lifelong angler. From bluegills in area ponds to high alpine lakes of the Rocky Mountains, he's fished it all. Andy enjoys helping other anglers catch more fish and sharing his passion for the sport.