BOA vs Laces for Wading Boots: Pros and Cons Explained

BOA lacing systems and ordinary laces both have their pros & cons when used in wading boots. We break down the advantages of each type of lace

Many wading boots these days come with the BOA lacing system (or at least offer that as an option).

In this article, we break down what is the BOA lacing system and how it stacks up against conventional laces in wading boots. 

The idea is to help you choose which option is better for you when you buy your next pair of fly fishing wading boots.

What Is the BOA Lacing System?

Wading boots putting on Simms Boa
The BOA Lacing System is a fast, secure, and adjustable shoelacing system that uses a dial and steel laces to tighten or loosen the shoes quickly.

Instead of woven laces that you tie by hand, the BOA system involves stainless steel laces that are integrated into a system that you tighten by twisting a rotary dial at the front of the boot.

This tightens the steel laces progressively.

To release the boot, you twist the dial the other way and it loosens the laces allowing you to take it off.

BOA vs Laces for Wading Boots

I have used both systems of laces in my wading boots and think both offer some advantages and some disadvantages. In truth, I’d be happy to use either system in a high-quality wading boot such as Simms, and there are other factors that are more important such as grip, durability, and comfort of the boot itself.

But there are some subtle differences it is important to recognize in choosing which lacing system you want in your fly fishing wading boots

See also:

BOA Laces: Pros and Cons

Wading boots with BOA laces Simms Guides and Orvis Pro models
The Simms Guides and Orvis Pro Wading Boots are designed for the ultimate fishing experience, featuring BOA laces for fast and effortless lacing and a secure fit.
  • Stainless steel laces are more durable – unlike woven laces, stainless steel doesn’t decay over time and is practically unbreakable in this context.
  • BOA systems can be slower to remove and put on – with BOA lace boots you aren’t able to quickly undo the first three rows of lacing thanks to the open anchor points
  • More even tension – the stainless steel laces slide easily through the anchor points resulting in very even tension as you tighten the lacing
  • BOA boots are not the best for sandy environments where the grains can get into the mechanism. I’d opt for a traditional lace boot if I fished mainly in sandy-bottomed rivers

Conventional Lacing Pros and Cons

  • Boots with traditional laces can be faster to remove and put on – looking at the laces in high-quality boots the anchor points for the upper three rows of laces are open and you can quickly undo all three (without having to unthread the laces from the eyes) and step in or out of the boot
  • Less even tension – the thick woven laces don’t always slide easily through the holes and take a bit more manipulation to get a truly even tension with regular laces
  • The laces are easily replaceable – in the event your lacing system fails before your boots’ upper or soles do, it is very easy to replace woven laces. Just buy a pair of replacement laces! However with the BOA system if a component fails it is harder to repair and if it is outside warranty you might be up for the price of a new pair of boots.

Which Brands of Wading Boots Offer the BOA System?

Many of the top wading boot manufacturers – including our favorite Simms – now include BOA models in their range.

Here are four high-quality wading boots with BOA lacing.

Orvis Pro BOA Wading Boots
Orvis Pro BOA Wading Boots
Orvis Pro BOA Wading Boots
Our Score

These are high-quality, lightweight wading boots with a reliable BOA lacing system that has a lifetime guarantee.

They are comfortable and offer OK ankle support (I'd prefer the Simms Guides for a remote country trip for the extra ankle support) and feels like a hiking boot.

Orvis collaborated with tire maker Michelin to produce a high-grip rubber sole for this boot that grips well on slippery rocks without the need to add studs.

Simms Guide BOA Wading Boots
Simms Guide BOA Wading Boots
Simms Guide BOA Wading Boots
Our Score

I am a huge fan of Simms Guide boots (see here for my review and a picture of my old Guide boots that I absolutely flogged over the course of five seasons and were still going strong at the end of it). The Guides now have the option of BOA lacing in a boot that's proven to be comfortable and stand the test of time.

Korkers River Ops BOA
Korkers River Ops BOA
Korkers River Ops BOA
Our Score

These are striking black boot that Korkers say is their most durable yet. It is a high-end wading boot that is built to last with molded rubber and plastic sections and tough woven cloth incorporated into the design. It comes with Korkers boots' trademark interchangeable soles giving you the choice of felt soles or rubber soles depending on the situation.

Simms Headwater BOA Wading Boots
Simms Headwater BOA Wading Boots
Simms Headwater BOA Wading Boots
Our Score

Simms has added the BOA lacing system to their lightweight, entry-level Headwater wading boot. The result is a great boot, but a slightly higher price tag than the standard Headwater Boot. These are comfortable and light and good quality, although they won't last as long as the Guide models.

Can BOA Laces Break?

Theoretically, yes. But stainless steel is extremely durable and any breakage that occurs (highly unlikely) will be a result of a manufacturing defect rather than the wear and tear that you get with conventional laces.

Where Did Boa Laces Originate?

Wading boots with BOA laces Simms Headwater Close Up
Simms Headwater Wading Boots feature BOA laces for quick and secure adjustment, providing comfort and ease while wading in the water.

BOA laces come from the world of snowboarding boots, where they first appeared in 2001. The BOA System was invented by a Colorado entrepreneur and they are now used in running shoes, cycling shoes, workwear, skiing boots, workwear, golf shoes, and of course wading boots.

How Should You Care for BOA Lace Boots?

Pretty much the same way you do with other boots – rinse in cold water, particularly if they’ve been used in a saltwater environment. And be sure to dry them in the sun or near (but not too near) a fire or heat source if it is not sunny.

The one extra thing to do is run the hose or stream of water under the BOA dial to ensure any dust or sand that might impede the mechanism is flushed out.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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