Best Wading Boots for Fly Fishing Reviewed

Walking on slime-covered pebbles feels like you’re balancing on marbles. Good wading boots are a great investment. Instead of slipping and sliding across the stream, it’s better to be able to creep and cast than slip and slide.

A good pair of the wading boot can provide excellent grip and foot protection.

We’d love to help you choose the right fly fishing boots for you.

Below is a buying guide and reviews of our favorite wading boot.

The Best Wading Boots – Reviewed

Simms Freestone– The Best Wading Boot

Simms Men's Freestone Wading Boots, Rubber Sole Fishing Boots, Dark Olive, 8

Rubber and Vibram are the sole materials

Cleats: Not possible, but stud and cleat are compatible

Sizing: Men should order one size larger than their street shoe size. Women should order one size smaller.

Simms understands what hardcore anglers require, and their Freestone wading boot is a testimony to that.

Simms was well aware that felt soles were on the horizon and designed these boots with grip options that work. The Freestone’s sole is made of soft rubber and grippy Vibram. It offers what amounts to goat-footed hiking shoes. That may be enough for some anglers to get the sure-footedness that they desire.

Others may find Vibram or rubber insufficient. Simms suggests aftermarket studs and cleats. These attachment points are strategically placed across the sole of the Freestone, which is made to fit them. Amazing results, including remarkable traction on the slimy rock.

Simms’s aftermarket studded offer more traction.

These boots have over-the-ankle boot uppers. They can also be laced to provide ample ankle support when needed. Flat laces are my preference, as they don’t unravel like round laces. However, a simple double knot can solve that problem for the Freestone.

These boots offer excellent comfort and are well-suited for hiking to the stream. The sole material is great for hiking on rocky terrain. They also have a little bit of neoprene insulation for warmth in cold water. This is something I appreciate, as my local streams are among the coldest anywhere.

You can kick rocks all day with foot protection, without worrying about your ankles or toes.

These boots dried surprisingly quickly.

Simms’s Freestone wading boot is a difficult one to follow for both men and women.

Pros

  • Great grip, cleat, and Stud compatible
  • Great ankle support
  • Warm!
  • Great comfort
  • Reliable dry traction
  • Dry quickly

Cons

  • Without cleats or other aftermarket accessories, the wet grip can be dangerous

Simms Tributary – The Best Budget Wading Boot

Simms Tributary Rubber Sole Wading Boots Adult, Rubber Bottom Fishing Boots, Carbon, 9

Sole material: Rubber

Cleats: Not possible, but cleats and studs are compatible

Sizing: Men should order one size larger than their street shoe size. Women should order one size smaller.

Simms understands that fly fishing can be very expensive. The Tributary’s wading boot, which offers many of the same features as the Freestone, but at a lower price, is a nod towards that fact. The Tributary is a great value for money and easily beats comparably-priced competitors like Frogg Toggs Pilot II (and now discontinued Hellbender).

Tributary sole is made of all-rubber and it’s very, very grippy. The Tributary might work better than the Freestone on trails and dry rock, without the Vibram. However, the soles are not as durable.

They grip well on wet rocks, but I would attach studs or even cleats for slime and algae. Simms recommends this for all rubber-soled boots. The Tributary’s grip with cleats or studs is superb, and I don’t believe it gives up any ground to Freestone.

Simms’s aftermarket boots cleats are great, but they don’t fit well!

These boots are as you would expect. They cover your ankles and provide excellent ankle support when properly laced. Round laces are the norm, so double-knot!

You’ll love the Tributary warm boot. This feature will be appreciated by your friends who complain about their lack of feeling in their feet. They don’t dry as fast as the Freestone so be aware. They are also slightly “clunkier than their more expensive counterparts.

These boots are sure to protect your feet against sharp rocks and hard knocks. I think they have the edge over the Freestone. These boots feel heavier, but a little more solid.

Simms boots are comfortable, as you would expect. You’ll love these boots, no matter if you’re on the trail or in the water.

Pros

  • Great grip, cleat, and Stud compatible
  • Great ankle support
  • Warm!
  • Great comfort
  • Amazing dry traction

Cons

  • Without studs or aftermarket cleats, the wet grip can be dangerous

Orvis Ultralight (Men’s & Women’s) – The Best Wading Boot For Long Hikes

Orvis Men's Ultralight Wading Boot, 11

Sole material: Vibram

Cleats: Not available, but you can take aftermarket options

Sizing: Both men and women should order one size larger

Orvis knows that not everyone requires or wants a protective wading boot. An ultralight boot is a good option for anglers who have to hike a lot to get to the water. If you know of a better design, let me know.

These boots are available in both men’s and women’s sizes.

The Ultralight is a lightweight hiking boot that looks and feels like one. It offers suppleness, comfort, and a level of performance that is unmatched by its competition. Although dry traction is better than Simms’s Tributary but not as good as Simms’s, this is simply because Orvis chose to use a Vibram sole that can withstand repeated hiking abuse.

Wet traction can be quite good too. However, for rocks that feel more like Vaseline-coated bowling balls, I recommend Orvis aftermarket studs. These studs will definitely improve slimy traction.

To increase grip, you can use Aftermarket Orvis Studs.

Although the Ultralight offers great comfort, it comes at a steep price. The Ultralight is not as tall or as supportive as a traditional wading boot, so if you require strong ankle support, consider other options. You may also need to consider gravel guards since the Ultralight’s low collar isn’t as effective at keeping debris out of your boots.

They provide sufficient protection for your feet against knocks and bumps. They dry quickly but are not very warm. This can be positive: not all trout streams are near freezing. Warm boots for long hikes in summer can be torture.

The Orvis Ultralight is a great choice for fly anglers who have to travel long distances and face difficult terrain on their way to their streams. These boots are a great alternative to the traditional wading boot feel.

Pros

  • Great grip, cleat, and Stud compatible
  • Unbeatable comfort
  • Amazing dry traction

Cons

  • Support for the ankle is only okay
  • To keep debris out, gravel guards might be required

Orvis Encounter

Orvis Encounter Boot Vibram Size 13

Sole material: Vibram

Cleats: Not available, but you can take aftermarket options

Sizing: Men and women should order one size bigger than their street shoe size

Orvis’s Encounter wading boot is a classic that showcases its expertise in fly fishing. The Encounter’s price tag is in line with Simm’s Tributary boot, which is more expensive due to growing concerns about the cost of fly fishing.

The Encounter is made from tough Vibram and can withstand a lot of abuse. The Encounter loses some traction to ensure long-term durability. This is something you should consider when comparing it with the Tributary. The sole of the Encounter boot will last longer. If you prefer traditional wading boots that require you to travel on rough trails to get to the water, it might be a better choice.

This boot comes with Orvis aftermarket studs. It offers great traction on slick rock.

These tall boots provide excellent foot protection and ankle support. They also help keep gravel and silt from the riverbed. Round laces are the norm. They will untie easily.

As is the warmth, dry times are comparable to those of the Tributary.

The Orvis Encounter could be the right choice if you are unsure about the Tributary or want a more durable sole.

Pros

  • Great grip, cleat, and Stud compatible
  • Great ankle support
  • Warm!
  • Great comfort
  • Good dry traction
  • Sole that is very durable

Cons

  • Without studs or aftermarket cleats, the wet grip can be dangerous

Redington Women’s Willow River

Redington Women's Willow River Sticky Rubber Boot - 10, Sand

Sole material: Rubber

Cleats: Not possible, but studs and cleats are compatible

Sizing: You should order the same size as your street shoes (though some customers recommend ordering one size larger).

Redington’s Willow River boot, a great wading option, is tough and grippy. This boot is a worthy competitor to Simms and Orvis, and it’s perfectly sized for women’s feet. There’s no reason why you should settle for a male boot when there are products like this.

Soft rubber soles provide excellent dry traction on the Willow River. Many anglers find that this is enough to withstand wet rocks. Alga-covered stones can be dangerous and cause serious problems. If this is the case, Orvis offers aftermarket studs that will help you get through it.

Remember that Vibram is more resilient than the soft rubber and can withstand repeated hiking abrasions for years. The Orvis Women’s Ultralight may be a better choice if you are accustomed to long hikes.

The Willow River boot is tall and supportive with a thick, cushioned collar that helps keep debris out. It provides excellent ankle support when properly laced, with the usual caveats regarding round laces.

These boots are warm and comfortable with lots of padding. They also offer protection from hard rocks. Redington suggests that women order the same size as street shoes. However, some women find that this results in a tight fit when wearing stocking-footed waders.

These boots dry almost as quickly as the Tributary, and in many ways are about equal in terms of performance.

Pros

  • Great grip, cleat, and Stud compatible
  • Great ankle support
  • Warm!
  • Great comfort
  • Amazing dry traction

Cons

  • Without studs or aftermarket cleats, the wet grip can be dangerous
  • It can be difficult to size

How to Choose a Great Wading Boot

Sizing

We’ve previously written about the importance of good pair waders for cold water fly fishing. You will notice a dramatic difference in the size of your shoes if you use thick wading socks or a stocking-footed wader to keep your feet warm.

You can expect to see an increase in shoe size by one to two sizes, though it is a little more complex than that.

This is how some companies size their wading shoes. If you have a size 10 street shoe, your wader will fit into their wading boot. Other companies use street shoe sizes for their wading boot, which can be confusing.

This information is critical to determining the correct size for each boot.

Get rid of the felt soles

Felt has been the preferred sole material for wading boots, providing unsurpassed grip on slick rocks.

Hence, why not recommend it?

Environmental protection is the answer. Felt soles are very effective, but take a long time to dry. Once they do, pathogens such as Whirling Disease, Rock Snot, and Proliferative Kidney Diseases (PKD) can live in them.

Rock Snot is a killer of trout. So, skip the felt soles!

If you care about the sport’s future, you will get rid of your felt soles.

In fact, some states and one national park have banned felt-soled boots.

  • Alaska
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Yellowstone National Park

This idea is being considered by many more.

Stability, grip, and protection

Rubber provides more traction than felt on slippery rocks. You should consider the impact of felt on traction.

The danger of twisted ankles or harrowing falls from slippery, wet rocks is real. It may seem small, but a fall into a trout stream can cause severe injury.

Goof wading boots offer excellent wet grip and ample ankle support. They protect your feet from rocks and bumps.

Rapid drying

Waterproof boots for wading are not made of waterproof material. Water will often submerge them in the stream and fill them up more or less immediately.

They are made to dry quickly to kill any invasive species as well as prevent mold and mildew.

Wading boots that are comfortable and dry quickly are best.

Durability

Fishing trout streams requires tough gear, so your wading boots will take a beating.

You want durable materials that resist abrasion and tears and can withstand the test of time.

Rubber vs. Vibram

Rubber offers great traction and incredible durability. Vibram is good for traction.

Which one is best for you?

Vibram may be a better choice if you plan to make long, strenuous hikes along your stream. Vibram is the best choice for hiking boots and will withstand abrasion. To get a good wet grip, you will almost certainly need studs and cleats.

Rubber soles, on the other hand, may be able to withstand wet rocks well enough that you don’t need any aftermarket studs. However, you shouldn’t expect rubber soles to withstand long hikes year after season.

Comfort

You don’t have to hike long distances to get your trout stream if you’re fortunate, but many anglers do.

These boots can be used to cross streams and rivers, effectively double-duty as hiking boots.

Comfort is not just about how long you spend in the water on slippery rock; it’s also about steep inclines, dry stones, and steep ascents, and descents that are common to mountain trails.

Wading boots provide excellent dry traction and the support your ankles need to hike long distances. The boots will dry quickly, so it’s not a hassle to walk back.

Last Thoughts

A good pair of wading boots is essential to fly gear. They offer foot protection and slip prevention.

We hope this article helped you choose the best option for you. As always, we would love to hear your feedback.

Leave a comment below

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.