I’ve been fly fishing for over 15 years, and in that time I’ve bought nearly a dozen pairs of wading boots. Plus, I’ve rented a lot of boots when I’ve gone on guided trips, and I’ve included those in this list as well.
Some of my wading boots leaked after a few weeks of use, and some are still going strong today. Some were comfortable right out of the box, and some I’ve had to break in a bit.
In my years of shopping for wading boots, I’ve probably done hundreds of hours of research into which fly fishing brands make the best boots, what features are needed in great wading boots, and which boots are the best for different fishing situations.
In this post, I’m going to go over all of the best wading boots on the market based on my own experience and research.
When you’re shopping for wading boots, you should think about when and where you plan on using them. Many different boots are designed to be worn with neoprene booties.
So, if you don’t plan on wearing booties, you should keep in mind that you may need to go down a size or two depending on the brand. It’s useful information and something that I’ll go over more below.
Choosing wading boots may not be as important as other fly fishing gear like your best fly rod or your best fly reel, or even the waders themselves, but it’s still an important investment if you value comfort and versatility on the river.
Compare Wading Boots
|Top||Korkers Wading Boot||Best Overall||Buy Now|
|8 Fans Wading Shoes||Best Budget||Buy Now|
|Simms Freestone Wading Boots||Best Top-End||Buy Now|
|Orvis Men's Ultralight Wading Boot||Best Lightweight||Buy Now|
|Compass 360 Tailwater II Boot||Best Cleated||Buy Now|
|Korkers Mary Women's Wading Boots||Best For Women||Buy Now|
If you’re looking for a new pair of wading boots, then you’ve come to the right place because I’m going to go in-depth on different features and types. I’ll also dig into 10 different types of boots on the market.
Here’s a quick look at some of the boots that I’ll cover.
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Are the Best Wading Boots a Worthwhile Investment?
Absolutely. Safety, comfort, and mobility — you’ll need all three in something that could be considered the best wading boot. You’ll need a boot that will fit your feet while providing you with a stable base and allowing you to walk in and out of the water.
If these three factors are not met, then you could be in for a bad day out on the water. Nothing can ruin a fishing trip quicker than sore, painful feet.
So, whether you’re fishing the popular rivers and lakes of Montana and Wyoming or the quieter backwater streams of Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa, you’ll want a good pair of waders to be able to get into productive pools and away from other anglers.
Read over the three useful reasons for getting a good wading boot below. Use them to help you make your decision on what type of boots to get.
Don’t have fly waders yet? Check out our Buyer’s Guide To The Best Fly Fishing Waders.
The most important thing to consider when fishing is safety. If you’re not being safe, you’re going to get hurt, and if you get hurt you can’t fish. It’s that simple.
Safety starts with making the right choices. The first choice should be what kind of footwear you need. This is because if you have improper shoes, you’ll be slipping and sliding all over the river.
So, find something that will to give you adequate traction. Find a boot that will let you stick to the bottom of the river like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.
On top of being safe, you’ll also want something comfortable. You don’t want to be feeling blisters an hour into a trip. This will quickly ruin a day or an afternoon of fishing.
You’ll also want something that fits your foot shape. If you have a flat arch or a high arch, then search for something that will accommodate that. Fly anglers are much more active than people give us credit for.
A lot of our days fishing can see miles of terrain crossed. This includes elevation changes, climbing over rocks and fallen trees, and maintaining balance in a slippery, current filled river.
You’re not always going to be walking in the water while fishing. Depending on the type of fishing you do, that could be the smallest part of your day. Brook trout anglers who trek to mountain streams know about this.
So, you’ll need something that can handle dry land just as well as the bottom of a creek or river. Rubber bottom shoes with cleats are usually the best option for this type of fishing.
Felt bottoms do well in the water, but getting out on dry land can cause the fabric to break down more quickly. You’ll also lose much of your mobility when the wet felt meets a dry rock on land.
The Best Wading Boots of 2021
Below, I’ll go over 10 wading boots for fly fishing for 2021. Each of them will help you out in different fishing scenarios. So, check them out and see which ones will work the best for you.
- Pros: Great traction as well as durability
- Cons: They’re a little on the heavy side. Waterproof boots can hold water while you’re walking.
Simms is known for producing some great fishing gear. It doesn’t matter if it’s packs, waders, or boots. You know when you purchase something from this brand that you’ll be getting something good.
The Simms Freestone Boots are strong and rugged. They’re able to stand up to being rubbed up against submerged rocks, stumps, and other underwater abrasive surfaces. The bottom of the boot also prevents snow and ice build-up.
They’re made of synthetic waterproof leather and have scratch-resistant uppers. These boots will last you season after season.
Simms used right-angle footbed technology on these boots. This is a fancy way of saying it helps prevent foot and ankle fatigue, which will keep you out on the water for longer periods of catching fish.
- Pros: Great for the price. Reinforced toe box helps prevent abrasions
- Cons: Can be bulky, and are a large fit
The Orvis Encounter is a great wading boot for the novice. They’re cheap enough that they won’t break the bank, and they’re strong and sturdy enough to last you several seasons of hard fishing.
Just because they’re the best beginner boots for wading doesn’t mean you have to compromise. These are great and would be good for anyone. They have a scratch resistant rubber toe cap that helps prevent abrasions from forced impact.
The upper is made of all synthetic materials and is strong enough to hold up to repeated use. They will also dry quickly once out of the water. This helps prevents the spread of invasive species.
A padded collar is a feature for extra ankle support and also provide cushioning. This will help prevent blisters and soreness on your ankle and lower shin, making you more comfortable out on the water.
- Pros: Lightweight, with a reinforced toe and heel
- Cons: The lace eyelets not are rust-proof, and they’re not the best for heavy use
The 8 Fans Boots are a lightweight and cushioned boot that will be very comfortable for the wearer. The thick soles on these quick draining boots will have you walking in and out of the water comfortably and safely.
The Oxford uppers and quick lace system make a durable boot for the price. The reinforced toe and heel will help keep your feet scratch-free when being banged off of river bottoms.
The bottom of the boots have non-slip rubber soles. These help with traction and are slip-resistant while in the water or on wet and slippery surfaces.
These boots are made to size. So, if you normally wear a size 11 shoe, then go a size up to ensure that your neoprene bootie will fit in these. If you plan on wearing a sock underneath, then order your normal size.
- Pros: Felt sole grips the bottom of the river or lake superbly. Strong toe and heel cap
- Cons: Studs not included. Run large and can be heavy
The Simms Tributaries will provide you with excellent traction and grip, allowing you to easily navigate slick and rocky river bottoms. The upper is made of a strong synthetic material that will keep you fishing season after season.
The inside of the shoes is also equipped with a neoprene lining, making it easier to take off your boots after a long day. You’ll find that the felt soles are also stud-compatible. This will give you even more grip and traction.
You’ll also find that the rubber toe cap is re-enforced. This allows you to walk across slippery rocks smoothly and without issue.
These boots are also saltwater compatible. Just remember to rinse with fresh water when finished. This ensures that the pieces of the boot do not corrode or become brittle.
- Pros: Durable internal heel for taking the boot on and off. Padded collar for extra comfort
- Cons: Oversized fit. Heavy when walking long distances
The Compass 360 Cleated is a solid hiking boot as well as a great wading boot. The weight is a little heavier than desired, but it’s just fine for day fishing that doesn’t involve any super long hikes.
It’s made with non-shrinking nylon. So, you don’t have to worry about your boots shrinking when being continuously dried after being wet all day.
- Pros: Has LSG (locking stud grip). Can be worn with or without studs
- Cons: Cleats don’t always come with the boot. Unreliable seams
The Compass 360 Felt is a solid budge to mid-range boot. It’ll get you out on the water, but once you become a more serious angler, you may want to upgrade to something nicer or more lightweight.
They can be a little bulky, but they’re not all that bad. The LSG ensures your cleats stay in pace when you’re walking in the river, and it helps prevent slips and falls.
Overall, it’s a solid boot than can be worn with or without studs. Feel free to use either. It just depends on what you prefer and what you feel will give you the most grip and stability.
- Pros: BOA lacing system. Interchangeable soles
- Cons: Interchangeable soles are great but not durable. Sole is not as flexible
For the price, the Korkers Buckskin Boots are the best boots on this list. You get a great brand in Korkers, which is known for making great boots. They don’t disappoint with these.
The interchangeable soles are great for flipping out felt vs rubber soles. The idea is great, but the execution is not quite there yet. They usually wear down after a few times out and can lead to breaks.
The BOA lacing system is great and allows for a snug fit that will shake around as you walk over uneven river bottoms.
- Pros: Very lightweight. Great for long days of hiking and wading
- Cons: Laces are a bit short
This is an ideal boot for any angler. The Orvis Ultralight will work well on just about any river, and because of the rubber sole you don’t have to worry about breaking wading requirements.
The boot is lightweight, making it great for traveling as you store it in your bag. Then, in terms of fishing, you can hike and wade all day in these things and not be fatigued as quickly as with some others.
Considering they’re a lightweight boot, they’re surprisingly durable. Usually, this isn’t the case, but these buck that trend.
- Pros: Mesh drainage ports on the side panel. Great for the price
- Cons: Not great for salt water
The Hodgman H3 wading boot is felt-soled and comes with a superior grip. The mesh side ports allow for quick water drainage when you leave the river, keeping you walking light on your feet.
The boots are also quick drying and abrasion-resistant. The reinforced toe and heel will help keep your feet safe and secure when you’re out fishing.
It may not be a great boot for someone who’s out every weekend, although the causal angler would do well with these.
- Pros: Strong and durable material. Padded upper
- Cons: Soles need extra care (rinse off after use)
While the material of the Frogg Togg Rana boot is strong, you’ll find that the sole is mediocre at best. Use for extended periods or by a hardcore angler could result in the sole breaking.
You can purchase this boot in two different types of sole, either felt or cleated. So, you have the ability to fish anywhere with the rubber or just home waters with the felt.
BONUS: Best Wading Sandal
The lightest and often most affordable option for wading is a good pair of wading sandals. These are easier to transport, faster to take on and off, and often more comfortable.
The downside, of course, is the lack of support and insulation against the cold. But, if you have a good pair of insulated waders or are fishing in the summer, this may not be an issue.
- Pros: Strong and durable material. Supportive contoured arch
- Cons: Stitching may be damaged after extended use
They have a comfortable, sturdy sole and are very quick to put on and take off. They’re also machine washable and dry relatively quickly, ensuring you won’t have that musky smell for long if you’ve left them in a cupboard after using them!
Best Wading Boots Buyers Guide
Below, I’ll go over a couple of different types of features for your boots, some different types of wading, and which boots work well for each. This should give you a better idea of what to look for.
Felt vs Rubber vs Cleated Soles
Felt has the most grip of all the different boots for wading on rivers and lakes. This material grips the bottom of the river will cause fewer falls and trips. When compatible, felt with cleats is even better.
Felt is not ideal for walking outside of the water, though. For this, you’ll want a rubber or cleated sole. Wet felt on a dry rock or log is much more slippery.
Rubber soles are great for walking both in and out of the water. They provide a good grip on dry land and will keep you upright in strong currents. They’re great for anglers who hike back to their spots.
Cleats can be put on both rubber and felt soles. They add extra grip, and if your soles are compatible then it’s recommended you use them.
Low-top vs Hi-top
Hi-tops will give you better ankle support, meaning you’ll have less chance of a rolled or sprained ankle on the river.
Hi-tops are typically heavier, though, because of the extra material. That’s where a low-top comes into play. They’re great for travel and for walking long distances. They reduce leg fatigue.
Boot Foot Waders vs Stocking Foot Waders
Stocking foot waders are made to be worn with wading boots. These provide extra stability and protection for your feet. These are recommended for just about all anglers who plan on walking in the water.
Boot foot is usually the cheaper option, and it’s fine for anglers who don’t walk around much. They’re not as stable and are typically just a rubber boot. They get the job done, but are not as safe as a wading boot.
Wet Wading vs Dry Wading
Wet wading is where you’re not wearing any waders. So, you’re getting wet. Typically it’s done is shorts or quick-drying long pants paired with a set of wading boots. This is typically done in the summer or other warmer months.
Dry wading is done with your waders. This can be done year-round and is the most popular form of wading. Here you can use stocking foot waders or boot foot waders.
Wet wading can be fun and enjoyable, but most don’t wear their wading boots with them. Find a good pair of neoprene booties or wading socks and use your wading boots too. They’ll keep you safer.
Wading Sandals vs Wading Shoes vs Wading Boots
Wading sandals are great to use for wet wading. They provide an excellent grip and can be nice to wear during the warmer months. Your feet will not be as protected, though. So, a stubbed toe or scratched resistant heel is possible.
Wading shoes are a lightweight version of boots. They don’t have as much support, but they do have great grip and traction for walking. These are another great wet wading shoe, but with more protection.
Wading boots are useful for all types of wading. They provide protection and keep you upright in the river. They can be a little bulky, but they’re great for wading in the water and keeping you safe.
The Best Wading Boots Features
This all depends on the wearer. What are you looking for? Do you want something lightweight and strong? Or do you want a hi-top boot that will support you? Below I’ll go over this and more.
Breathability is a big deal in the summer and for wet wading. When you’re in the water, it won’t be that big of a deal, but if you’re hiking to your spot, then your feet could get too hot and sweaty, which could cause blisters.
In the winter, it won’t be that big of a deal. If anything, you want it to be as warm in there as possible. There’s nothing like fishing in 45-degree water before starting hiking in the 35-degree air.
This is very important if you want your boots to hold up. Someone who may only fish a handful of times a year might not need something like this.
However, a hardcore angler who goes out every weekend will need a strong boot. This is where seam reinforcement comes in. It will help keep you out fishing more and spending less time shopping for boots.
Wading boots can be crazy expensive. I had some pricy ones on this list, but there are some others out there pushing several hundred dollars. These are usually great boots but not practical for the everyday angler.
As long as you’re using a brand you trust and a boot that fits your needs, then you’ll be good to go. There’s no need to spend a crazy amount.
This is the same as seam reinforcement. Someone who fishes a handful of times doesn’t need a very durable boot, just something to get them through a few seasons before it needs replacing.
A fishing guide, on the other hand, needs something strong and sturdy. Otherwise, they’ll be spending too much time shopping and not enough time fishing.
Your boots need to be comfortable. This part is not up for discussion. A pair of boots that are too tight or snug and that slip or wobble will make you leave the river early, resulting in fewer fish caught.
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Table of Contents
- Fly Fishing Gear
- Are the Best Wading Boots a Worthwhile Investment?
- The Best Wading Boots of 2021
- 1. Simms Freestone Wading Boot
- 2. Orvis Encounter Wading Boot
- 3. 8 Fans Wading Boots
- 4. Simms Tributary Felt Wading Boot
- 5. Compass 360 Wading Shoes (Cleated)
- 6. Compass 360 Tailwater II (Felt)
- 7. Korkers Buckskin Wading Boots
- 8. Orvis Men’s Ultralight Wading Boot
- 9. Hodgman H3 Wading Boot
- 10. Frogg Togg Rana Wading Boots
- BONUS: Best Wading Sandal
- Best Wading Boots Buyers Guide
- The Best Wading Boots Features
Hopefully you now a better understanding of what to look for in a great wading boot. You need something strong, comfortable, and supportive that has enough grip.
The last thing you want is for your boots to give out on you and you go sliding off into a current. So, take the information above and put it to use in your own boot search.
Good boots won’t only get you out on the water more often, but they’ll keep you on the water longer, resulting in more fish caught and more memories made.
Some images in this post are courtesy of Shutterstock.
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