The best wading boots need to fit your budget, but they also need to fit your desired fishing conditions and fishing style. In this gear guide to the 10 best fly fishing wading boots, we pick our favorite boots for durability, agility, traction and overall price-to-value.
Along the way, we’ll share the key features you need in a fly fishing wading boot. Plus, we’ll show you how to decide between felt soles or rubber soles on your wading boots.
And the question of your budget? Casual weekend summertime fishers can usually get excellent results from entry-level and midrange boots, but if you fish more than 20 times each year, a more expensive wading boot will be your best-buy wading boot . . . because it will simply last more than twice as long as budget-focused beginner wading boots.
Before we dive in to our wading boot picks, you should know that the best wading boots are designed to be used with stockingfoot waders, which have thick neoprene booties that will take up space inside your wading boot. Consequently, what size wading boot should you get? Most wading boots are sized to match your regular shoe size. If you’re a size 12 in running shoes, for example, get a size 12 wading boot. However, some manufacturers, notably Korkers and Simms, ask you to size up from your regular size so you would order a size 13 — although one of our favorite new wading boots from Simms this year, the Flyweight, is sized to match your street shoe size.
But what if you don’t want to wear waders at all and you just want wade around in shorts on hot summer days in cool streams? Great question. We love hot summer fly fishing in just our wading boots. Here’s how you do it: You could size down, but the best way is to get a pair of neoprene socks, which will take up the extra space in your boot.
10 Best Wading Boots
Here are our favorite 10 Best Wading Boots, ranked based on overall durability, features and price-to-value. Frankly, there are only a handful of wading boot manufacturers that we trust — it’s already hard enough to find time to get out on the water, so why struggle with bad boots?
All of our top ten wading boot brands produce several different styles — more than we mention, all trustworthy — but these are the wading boots we most consistently recommend:
What about the best wading boots for women? In years past, most women had to choose smaller sizes of men’s boots, but now some manufacturers are specifically making wading boots for women that are sized appropriately — skip to our Best Wading Boots for Women section below for the top wading boots for women in 2020.
Best Wading Boots: Felt vs Rubber Soles
Before you choose a pair of wading boots, you should first consider the question of traditional felt vs rubber soles. If you primarily fish in rivers and lakes in a state that has banned felt soles, you’re answer is simple: Choose rubber-soled wading boots.
Which states have banned felt soles? Alaska, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.
So why have these states banned felt soles?
The suspicion is that invasive species can get lodged in the felt sole of your wading boot and hitch a ride from one waterway to another. While possible, the risk is low for most fly fishers, partially because most people don’t get to fish multiple areas in quick succession. Still, if you plan to fish in waters with invasive species problems, just choose rubber-soled boots. Of course, bad critters can hitch rides on most any gear. If you’re going to fish problem water, be sure to thoroughly dry all your gear in the sun and/or disinfect it between trips.
On the other hand, felt soles offer traction on wet, slick rocks that is hard to beat. On dry land? Rubber is usually better. For more detail, skip down to “Why choose wading boots with felt soles?” Meanwhile, let’s get to our top wading boot picks for 2020:
Best Wading Boots for Fishing 2020
1. Simms G3 Guide Wading Boots
Simms consistently produces high-quality gear, and pretty much any Simms wading boot could arguably be one of our best wading boots because they tend to last a very long time; however, the newly updated G3 Guide Wading Boot with Vibram Soles is tough to beat. These extremely stable wading boots are built with neoprene internals for added warmth and comfort, and the soles accept optional cleats and studs from Simms. The upper has waterproof nubuck leather and plenty of lacing for easy adjustments and fit. The outside edges of the boot are protected by a huge scratch rubber rand for abrasion resistance, plus you get a burly rubber toe kick. Of course, Simms offers a felt sole version, which can also accept studs if you’re looking for improved traction over land.
Special Note: Size up one U.S. size in the Simms G3 boots for men (or one size down for women) to find the right fit for your stockingfoot waders. For example, if your men’s regular shoe size is 12, buy a 13 Simms wading boot; however, be sure to check the size charts for other Simms boots. For instance, the Flyweight noted below should be sized the same as your regular shoe size.
Patagonia just shook up the wading boot world by partnering with Danner, a Portland, Oregon manufacturer of some some of the best work boots in the world. Built by Danner, the new Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots have been totally redesigned to offer better durability, fit and comfort. These burly boots promise to deliver all-day stability and last through years of abuse. The traction starts with grippy Vibram Idrogrip rubber but then moves to another level with Patagonia’s patented aluminum bars. The bars cut through slime and provide a great bite on rock. While the previous generation of bars spanned the width of your foot, this new version has two bars that are split under your forefoot. The idea is to let the sole flex so the bars can better conform to the surface of rocks. Of course, we still think felt has a slight lead in the water, but felt can’t compete with this tread system on land, giving these boots an overall traction edge.
As for weight, the Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots are big and burly and weigh in at about 86 ounces per pair. The boots are made with waterproof full-grain leather with 1,000-denier nylon paneling. Any cons? The Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots are easily the most expensive boots on this list, but they’re made in the U.S.A and backed by Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee.
The Orvis PRO Wading Boots start with a collaborative partnership with Michelin — that’s right, the tire company. The Orvis PRO Wading Boot uses a rubber sole compound specifically designed for fly fishing. The resulting Michelin Outdoor Extreme outsole promises to deliver great abrasion resistance while improving wet rubber traction. But Orvis didn’t stop there: The company partnered with Ortholite to create a 3D molded X25 insole designed for high-impact sports. The cast PU upper eliminates seams and is shaped into what Orvis is calling a zoned cage to added stability. The Orvis PRO boot has a high ankle for more support. The front of the sole extends up for toe protection, along with a burly scratch rubber toe bumper. One last note: We like the large heel pull for easy on/off.
The new Simms Flyweight Wading Boot is our favorite ultralight wading boot. The Flyweight is the lightest wading boot ever made by Simms, but it’s surprisingly stable. It’s aimed at fishers who cover a lot of ground or hike-in to their favorite fishing spots. Because it’s so light, it is also a great wading boot for travelers who need to cut down on airline or floatplane weight. It weighs in at 40 ounces for a pair of size 11 boots. Pretty fantastic. The long lacing system extends down to the start of the toe box, which gives the Flyweight boots a great adjustable fit.
While the traction appears to be minimal, the Vibram Idrogrip sole offers surprisingly great grip and feel — plus it’s stud compatible if you want extra bite. The synthetic gray upper looks modern and fantastic. For extra durability, Simms added a TPU overlay for high-abrasion areas. You also get a rubber toe rand. To learn more, check out our full Simms Flyweight Wading Boot Review. Special Note: Don’t size up on these Simms boots, i.e. if your men’s regular shoe size is 12, buy a 12 Simms Flyweight Wading Boot. It’ll be a perfect fit with stockingfoot waders.
Simms Flyweight Wading Boots
Ultralight and nimble
Surprisingly good traction
Surprisingly good support
Boots are too new to tell how well the new tread design will wear over time
Orvis says the quick-drying Clarino microfiber in these lightweight wading boots provide a better strength-to-weight ratio than leather. They’re super light — the size 10 weighs in at about 1.25 pounds (40 ounces for the pair). If you have bad ankles, note the lower ankle height than what you get with most wading boots — but we actually like the extra nimble feeling that comes with shorter wading boots. In fact, we believe the shorter ankle height helps deliver more feel from the boot as you walk over uneven ground, resulting in better balance and agility. The overall fit is a bit small and definitely snug with standard stocking foot waders, so be sure to size up if you’re a half size in your street shoes. Any downsides? The Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots only come with a rubber sole, but they do accept Orvis’s PosiGrip Screw-In Studs for extra traction. Read our full Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots Review for more detail. All-in-all, if you want a lightweight packable wading boot, the Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots should be on your shortlist.
The Korkers Devil’s Canyon Wading Boots are far better wading boots than it might appear at first glance. In fact, they’ve turned into our favorite interchangeable-sole Korkers boot. Here’s why: The Devil’s Canyon is a fairly lightweight and nimble boot. The upper extends above the ankle and provides surprisingly good support — it almost molds to your ankle. And yet, somehow the Devil’s Canyon feels nimble when you’re scrambling over rocks. Better yet, the M2 Boa lacing system is easy to adjust and it opens wide, making entry and exit easy. In addition, the mostly one-piece design fends off sticks and rocks. The stitching around the caps is recessed, which further protects the stitches from wear. Meanwhile, the Korkers claim to fame is the company’s OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System, which lets you switch from felt to rubber or even to studded rubber soles. Incidentally, if you’re in a state that has banned felt, the Korkers Triple Threat Aluminum Hex Sole option (read our Triple Threat Hex Sole review for more detail) delivers truly outstanding traction.
The Redington PROWLER-PRO is Redington’s best wading boot and offers an excellent price-to-value ratio. They’re surprisingly light, nimble and stable, which makes them a great choice for active anglers. They run very slightly large yet boast out-of-the-box comfort. The toe box is generous but the fit snugs down easily. We’ve put many miles on the previous generation Prowler wading boot, and the new PROWLER-PRO promises to deliver similar durability. Redington has improved the drainage, cut weight, and modernized the overall design. We especially appreciate the new heel step ledge, which makes kicking off the boots after a long day of fishing super easy. Oh, one more thing: The Redington design choices for color and materials look even better in person.
The sticky rubber is pretty good when wet and is stud-compatable for extra traction. We’ve had multiple reviewers spend time in these boots and they all love the blend of stability and feel.
The new Simms Tributary Wading Boot is our top budget wading boot pick this year. With an astounding price point just under $100, it promises to deliver durable value for fly fishers on a budget. The neoprene lining improves comfort, and the front and rear loops make entry and exit easy. The rubber toe cap is huge, which should help fend off rocks. The rubber sole isn’t the same Vibram Idrogrip material found on Simms’ higher-end boots, but it is stud compatible if you need extra grip. Simms does not make a felt version of this boot, so if you like the style and price point but want felt, try the Orvis Encounter Wading Boots – Felt.
The Korkers Greenback is Korkers entry-level wading boot — and it’s a great value. You can sometimes find the Greenback with just one sole included at a slightly lower price point, but we recommend you go with the felt and rubber sole option if possible. It’s just more versatile. Despite being an entry-level boot, the OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System is just as good as it is on Korkers’ high-end options. The stitching, materials and build quality is durable. The overall design is classic and solid. The hydrophobic synthetic-leather and textile uppers dry fast. The traditional lacing system works well when wet and helps you dial in the fit if you want a tighter forefoot or looser ankle — or vice versa. With the interchangeable OmniTrax soles, the versatility at this price point is excellent.
10. Cabela’s Ultralight Wading Boots with Felt Soles
These affordable wading boots punch well above their weight, and come with 28 hardened-steel cleats that can be added for extra traction. They have side mesh panels for drainage, steel shanks for stability, scuff-resistant toes and heels. Plus, they come in a rubber lug sole option, also with screw-in cleats. The total combination of features and price make these boots easy to recommend. Cabela’s has just released two new pairs of entry-level wading boots — Cabela’s Felt-Sole Wading Shoes and Cabela’s Extreme Wading Boots — but we haven’t had a chance to check them out yet. We expect they will likely offer good value for the price, too.
The bottom line is that felt soles offer the best grip on wet, slippery rocks. If you’re wading in gravel or small rocks with gentle shores, the felt advantage is not that big of a deal. On a mix of big round and flat rocks covered with slick slime, though, felt wading boots usually win out when it comes to traction in the water. Aside from being banned in some states and countries, the disadvantages of felt is that the felt can wear thin if you spend a lot of time walking on shore or trails to get to the water.
Why Choose Wading Boots with Rubber Soles?
Rubber-soled wading boots have come a long way over the last few years. While they aren’t as good as felt for wet wading in most streams, the gap has closed considerably as rubber technologies and tread designs get grippier. In addition, the best rubber-soled wading boots come with metal studs or the ability to screw in studs for extra grip on slimy rocks. The core benefit of rubber-soled wading boots is that they are much more grippy on the banks and trails around rivers and streams — and they aren’t affected by the aforementioned felt bans. Incidentally, we’re starting to see manufacturers trend toward rubber soles for their newest wading boots, likely due to concern for regulations and possible invasive species issues.