If you’re a fly angler who wades in rivers often, then you will know how important it is to have a good pair of wading boots. Why?
Wading boots are there to get you to those fishy pools and riffles that are out of reach from the bank. They help you to fish as successfully as possible, but there is a lot more to them than that!
A good pair of wading boots will protect your feet, give you excellent traction, be comfortable, and last as long as possible, all while fitting into your budget.
But how do you find a pair of wading boots that ticks all these boxes? That’s what I am here for!
Join me as I run through the best wading boots on the market in 2023. I discuss everything from traction to comfort, budget and more so you can find the best wading boots for your needs.
Table of Contents
- In Short – TOP 3 Wading Boots & What to Look For
- The Best Wading Boots on the Market 2023
- What to Look for in Wading Boots – Complete Guide
- Wading Out
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In Short – TOP 3 Wading Boots & What to Look For
When shopping for wading boots, something I have done for 20 years, I look for 6 key things:
If you can find a pair of wading boots that delivers across all these categories and fits your budget, then you are onto a winner. We discuss each category in detail in the buying guide below but for now, here are my favorite wading boots that hit all the nails on the head.
The Simms Men’s Freestone Wading Boots are the best wading boots for all-around use.
They are lightweight, comfortable, provide excellent ankle support, great traction, and foot protection to boot. Plus, being made by Simms, they are durable as they come and include an excellent repair or replacement warranty service. You might just have these for 10+ years!
For the quality, these wading boots are also very affordable and considering how long they last, are a great investment.
Best of the Best
You get what you pay for in the fishing world and it makes sense that the best wading boots featured in the article are also the most expensive.
The Orvis Pro Wading Boots are as good as they come. The rubber sole is built by Michelin for excellent grip, you can add studs, the midsole is shock absorbing, the insole molds to your feet for comfort. They are quick drying, self-cleaning, and protect your feet exceptionally well too.
To top it all off, the boots are built to last and have extra features that make life easy like a wader clip and heel pulls. If you fish every week and want some wading boots that can keep up, these are them!
Best on a Budget
For anyone shopping on a budget or who doesn’t fish that often, the Foxelli Wading Boots are the boots for you.
These boots are incredibly affordable while being durable and comfortable. The midsole absorbs shock, the ankle support is excellent, the grip is solid, and they offer great foot protection too.
Being so affordable, there has to be at least one con, and there are actually two. Some people find them a little narrow when combined with waders. Also, they take a long time to dry compared to others.
The Best Wading Boots on the Market 2023
Simms Freestone Wading Boots
When it comes to quality fishing clothing, Simms is one of the best-known fly fishing brands out there.
Two words spring to mind. Quality and performance, and that is what you can expect from the Freestone Wading Boots.
These rubber-soled fly fishing boots provide fantastic traction, regardless of what’s on the bottom. They are renowned for great grip on rocky bottoms plus the rubber toe and heel ensure your feet stay protected as well.
Built with a waterproof synthetic leather upper plus a reinforced heel and toe, they are ultra-durable and will last even if you use them 200 days a year. The build quality on these is hard to beat!
When it comes to support, these wading boots hit the nail on the head again. The hook and loop laces secure and support your ankle which is vital when navigating slippery rocks.
Oh, and consider this…
Comfort is king when you are wading up a river all day. For this reason, Simms has included a cushioned midsole to absorb shock and a neoprene lining for warmth and comfort.
The additional cushioning ensures these wading boots are super comfortable to wear, even for longer periods.
- A trusted boot from a trusted brand.
- Excellent traction.
- Really hard wearing and durable.
- Very comfortable.
- Excellent support and protection.
- Awesome value for the quality.
- None I can find.
In truth, you aren’t going to get much better than Simms, so consider these a solid option. They are mid-priced, great value, and built to last. The standout feature here is overall comfort, durability, and value making them the Best All-rounder.
Orvis Pro Wading Boots
If you fish hundreds of days a year, it pays to get kitted with the best gear. These top the list in terms of price and performance.
But is it worth it?
I’d say yes!
When it comes to grip, this is as good as you will get in a rubber-soled wading boot. Why? Because the soles are designed and built by Michelin.
Turn them upside down, and the sole literally looks like a rally car tire plus there are 12 strategically placed locations for studs! No matter the slippery surface, between the sole and the studs, you won’t slip!
And it doesn’t stop there.
I particularly like the ankle loops… Or should I say, straps? Taking these off and putting them on is a cinch.
The high ankle and thick tongue provide excellent support, while the Phylon midsole absorbs shock and the 3D molded Ortholite X25 insole provides ultimate comfort.
Wading boots can get a little mucky. Orvis has even considered this. These boots are self-cleaning, with a special coating that sheds accumulated grime as you walk!
One nice touch that you don’t always see is the forward loop used to clip your waders down onto the boots. This is very much a premium feature. If you’ve bought the best waders for fly fishing, it’s a handy feature to have instead of hooking them onto your laces!
- Best in class for grip on all bottoms.
- Exceptionally well made.
- Incredibly durable.
- Very comfortable.
- Rubber toe cap and heel for protection.
- Quick drying and good drainage.
- Expensive but worth it if you fish a lot.
If you want top-quality, you will have to pay for it, that’s just how it is. But trust me when I say these boots are well worth it. The price tag is about the only thing not to love.
Consider them as an investment as it is doubtful you’ll need another pair for a while which is why they are the Best Of The Best.
Foxelli Wading Boots
Foxelli isn’t a well-known brand.
Here’s why that’s just fine with me… You aren’t paying for a name. These boots are really good and cost half of what their rivals tend to charge.
They are packed with features. Let’s start with the flexible and grippy rubber sole. This works really well on most surfaces and will keep you on your feet.
The midsole is made of shock-absorbing EVA (just like Orvis), and just like some other premium brands, you get a nice reinforced rubber toe for protection.
And there’s more…
These things are comfortable. Seriously comfortable. The ankle and arch support is about as good as I’ve seen, and the removable ortholite soles keep your feet comfortable on those long wading days.
One feature I really like (which has been missing on some of the high-end boots) is that there are breathable mesh sections designed to aid drainage and keep your feet fresh.
As a final touch, the rubber kick logs are an excellent addition. If you haven’t heard of these before, they are a thickening section around the heel that lets you remove the boot by stepping on the section with the edge of the other foot!
- Very affordable.
- Solid grip.
- Shock absorbing.
- Good support & protection.
- Poor drainage.
- Quite heavy.
- Not as durable are more expensive options.
If you only fish a handful of days a year, or are on a serious budget, these are a great option. They provide the comfort, grip, support and protection you need when wading, and for an amazing price which is why they are my choice for Best on a Budget.
But, they are not as good as the more expensive options, and won’t last as long under heavy use. If you fish a lot, stretch your budget to the Simms Freestone boots!
Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll already know that Orvis is a solid brand when it comes to excellent fly fishing gear. Their boots are no exception.
Here’s something great…
These boots are really lightweight. They are constructed from a range of synthetic materials, including Clarino microfiber. This reduces bulk and also ensures that the shoes dry exceptionally quickly.
The heel and toe areas have been coated in a special rubber spray to offer additional protection and durability too.
But here’s the question…
Are they comfy? The answer is a resounding yes. These top-quality wading boots have a Vibram EVA sole (which is similar to memory foam). This ensures that they cushion your feet and absorb shock to ensure you stay comfortable when wading all day.
The rubber sole on these wading boots has a unique pattern, designed to act like little suckers on wet rocks. There are also stud mounts if you want to add studs for more slippery bottoms covered in algae.
You will notice that these boots are shorter than regular wading boots. This means they provide less ankle support. They will be great for shallow streams and wet wading in summer but are not great for colder months and deeper waters!
- Durable build.
- Very lightweight.
- Good for shallow streams.
- Excellent for wet wading in summer.
- Great traction and can add studs.
- Lack of ankle support.
- Not great for deeper water.
For warm summer conditions and wet wading these wading boots are a good fit. Being so light, you can get from one spot to the next quickly and safely. But, they don’t offer much support and are a little too expensive to be used only in the summer in my eyes.
Redington Forge Wading Boots
I actually own a pair of these boots and while they aren’t the most expensive out there, I can tell you from personal experience that they work very well.
Here’s why I chose them…
The Redington boots offer a nice compromise between weight, budget, and durability. Consider them the ‘goldilocks’ of wading boots, if you will.
They are neither too heavy nor too light. Redington achieves this by featuring cut-out sections on the upper that allow the boots to flex and drain simultaneously.
The boots are also very durable thanks to the quality materials used and the rubber edging for reduced wear, which also provides good foot protection.
Redington has actually added quite a few nice extras too. I really like the finger loop at the top of the ankle. If you’ve ever tried to pull wet boots off after a hard day’s fishing, you’ll know what a blessing this can be.
And there’s more…
The loop and eye system are made from an alloy designed to avoid corrosion. Corrosion leads to rust, which leads to frayed laces. With these wading boots, not a problem!
The rubber soles are flexible, durable, and offer a superb grip too, plus the shock-absorbing EVA midsole ensures all-day comfort. You get all of this for a very reasonable price too!
- Durable and lightweight.
- Quick draining.
- Very comfortable.
- Excellent value.
- Great traction.
- Solid support and protection.
- Can be a little wide for some people.
These are really great boots that provide everything you would expect from a quality wading boot and for a very reasonable price too! I’ve got no complaints! Get a pair of these, and you won’t be disappointed!
Orvis Clearwater Wading Boots
If you’ve seen the rods, you’ll know that Orvis’s clearwater range focuses on affordability without sacrificing quality. These boots are an excellent example of that philosophy.
If you liked the look of the Redington boots above but want to go for something just a little more premium, these could be the wading boots for you.
These boots are incredibly hard wearing, but they aren’t heavy meaning you stay light on your feet without sacrificing durability.
The upper is entirely made of synthetic leather, and Orvis has been kind enough to include drain holes (but these could be a little more prominent if I’m critical).
When it comes to being durable, these are second to none. The toe section has a reinforced thick rubber toe cap. This protects the boot, but it also protects your toes from sharp rocks.
Oh, and there’s more…
The stone color is really eye-catching and looks super smart.
But, Bob, are they comfortable?
You bet your sweet soles they are! The entire footpad is lined with thick EVA foam. It’s like walking on a cushion!
- Very comfortable.
- Eye-catching design.
- Really grippy sole with strategic reinforcement where you need it most.
- You can add studs.
- Available with felt of rubber soles.
- Super durable.
- Solid support and protection.
- Affordable for the quality.
- Orvis… Stick some more drain holes in, please! I hate walking around with a boot full of water.
Aside from the lack of drainage, these are some of the best fly fishing wading boots on my list. With excellent aesthetics, extreme comfort, and good grip, I think they are just about worth every penny.
Frogg Toggs Saltshaker Wading Boots
If you’ve seen my article on wading jackets, you’ll already know the name Frogg Toggs. What makes their jackets great also applies to their wading boots.
First, let’s talk about value. These are among the cheapest on my list.
But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t good. Oh, no!
For a lightweight, cheap and comfortable solution, they are fabulous. They feel and look more like sneakers than fishing boots! The upper is made of a blend of mesh and rubber. The rubber adds durability, and the mesh provides excellent drainage.
When it comes to grip, they are superb. The sole is cleated. This means that you’ll have decent traction without struggling for balance whether you are in or out of the water.
Considering the cost, they are really comfortable too. I like the soft anatomical collar that forms to the shape of your ankle. The boot is also lined with neoprene to give a soft finish and makes taking them off or putting them on a doddle!
Oh, and because they are rubber, they work just as well if fishing in saltwater too!
- Amazing value.
- Fabulous comfort.
- Good for fresh and saltwater wading.
- Solid grip.
- Great foot protection.
- They are wide, so if you have narrow feet, these might not be the best choice.
- Lacing hooks can snap.
- Could be more durable.
While they aren’t premium wading boots, they aren’t far off. If you are looking to save a few dollars or want something for infrequent use, they are great plus you can use them in fresh and saltwater too!
Simms Tributary Felt Sole Wading Boots
Now, these wading boots are a little different.
They feature felt soles unlike all the others which have rubber soles. Felt soles provide the best grip around when it comes to algae-covered rocks, and are a must for safety in some rivers.
But, they have fallen out of favor in recent years (I explain why in my buying guide).
The felt soles on these wading boots are 12mm thick and literally provide the best grip around in the water, but not so much out of it!
The boots boast some other nice features too! Things like the chunky rubber toe and neoprene lining take them from good up to great. The neoprene aids comfort and makes donning them easy. The toe cap works wonders to stop you from stubbing your toe on sharp, unseen rocks (ouch).
These wading boots are also as durable as they come, which isn’t a surprise considering they are made by Simms. You might expect them to be quite expensive considering the quality but they are actually very affordable!
- The best wading boots for slippery rocks.
- Felt soles are amazingly grippy in the water.
- Really lightweight.
- Very comfortable.
- Excellent durability.
- Fantastic value.
- Not so grippy out of the water.
If your local rivers are so slippery that felt soles are a must, then you can’t go wrong with these wading boots. Between the excellent grip, comfort, protection, support, and durability they provide at an affordable price, they are hard to beat!
Korkers Greenback Wading Boots
Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed I wasn’t the biggest fan of the felt-soled boots, but sometimes they are a must. However, what if you need both rubber and felt soles for different rivers?
Here’s the answer.
These wading boots by Korkers give you the best of both worlds. They are felt soled boots, but they also come with a removable rubber sole called the OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System.
This means you can go from felt soles to rubber and back again in a matter of minutes. The rubber sole simply clips into the base of the boots, covering the felt so you are ready for anything, algae-covered rocks or hiking through the mountains.
One of the criticisms of felt soles is that they spread invasive parasites between different waters. Korkers have included technology to deal with this.
A hydrophobic sole repels water and dries faster, meaning any pesky critters can’t survive. Great!
They also have a clever feature. Have you noticed I’m all about drainage? These boots have got a really clever system that takes water from the inside of the boot and deposits it through little ‘ports’ under your feet so you are heaving soggy filled boots around the place.
I also like that they use loads of mesh all over the boot to reduce the weight.
The last little extra is the inclusion of a removable flap on the heel. When you want to take them off, open the toggle, give them a pull, and you are away.
All in all, a wading boot full of clever design.
- Felt and rubber soles in one.
- Great drainage.
- Quick drying.
- Easy to put on and take off.
- Good support and protection.
- Not as durable as they could be.
- Let a lot of sand in.
- Quite expensive.
These boots remove the need to own two pairs of wading boots (felt & rubber), and let you interchange on the water. This makes life super convenient for those of you who need it on your local rivers, they are certainly worth a try!
What to Look for in Wading Boots – Complete Guide
Uncomfortable, slippery, wading boots that fall apart after a few months and don’t offer much support are going to ruin your precocious fishing time. They are hell to wade in, so how do you avoid them? Here is how!
While you are looking at wading boots, here are the key features to keep in mind to ensure you end up with a great pair.
Let’s explore each of these in turn.
How comfortable a wading boot is comes down to a few different things including sizing, fit, cushioning, and materials.
Getting the size right is very important as tight boots are excruciating, and loose boots cause blisters. So, do you order the same size as your sneakers?
Chances are you will be wearing your wading boots with stockingfoot waders and a few pairs of socks. If you are wet wading, you’ll be using neoprene socks so keep your feet warm.
Here’s what I always say.
Go at least one size bigger than what you normally wear. Be sure to check size guides and reviews to see whether the wading boots fit true to size. Some manufacturers actually account for you wearing thick socks. Others don’t’.
Comfort is also provided through the wading boot’s design. Look for design features listed below as these ensure your feet will be wrapped in clouds instead of sandpaper.
- Cushioned or shock absorbing midsoles
- Thick padded ankle sections
- Cushioned neoprene linings
- Padded tongues
If your wading boots don’t support your ankles and keep you on your feet, they are a little useless.
The key to having supportive boots is ensuring they cover your ankles and lace up securely.
Make sure your wading boots have a reliable hook and loop system. Now, I always check how many eyes the boot has and how far up they go.
The general rule I follow is – the more eyes and hooks, the better, as this provides more support to ensure your ankle doesn’t buckle on slippery rocks.
Suppose you’ve ever gone for a wade. In that case, you’ll already be aware of how many sharp rocks and underwater obstructions lurk beneath the surface. Let me tell you. Stubbing your toe in freezing cold water is something you’ll only ever want to do once.
It’s important to protect your feet. At best, it might be slightly painful. At worst, you are looking at a serious injury or laceration a hike away from any assistance!
When looking at wading boots, always choose those with chunky soles and look at the toe area for extra protection, in particular. Reinforced rubber toe caps and heel sections are a must!
Grip & Sole Type
One of the main purposes of wading boots is to provide you with excellent grip while walking through rivers. However, you will have to choose what sole type works best for you and the options are felt vs rubber.
Felt Soles vs Rubber Soles
There is no getting around it, felt soles provide better grip on slippery rocks than rubber soles. But, not all fisheries are slippery enough to require felt, and rubber will do fine plus felt soles have a lot of cons to them.
- Felt soles tend to degrade much quicker than rubber soles. They are softer and tend to wear much more easily.
- Felt soles are good for gripping on slippery rocks but are practically useless when navigating terrain on dry land. Anything sharp, like twigs or spikes, is going to go straight in the soles. They are also super slippery on terra firma.
- Felt soles are also prime for carrying underwater parasites from one lake to another. If you fish in the same venue, they might be worth it, but if you travel, you’ll find some local authorities ban them completely!
If your local river or rivers are so slippery that not wearing felt soles is dangerous (I have been there), then you don’t have much choice.
But, I would recommend rubber soles overall as they grip in and out of the water, are much more durable, don’t transfer parasites, and if you can add studs to them, they are not far off wearing felt!
Price vs Durability
The last two categories to look at are price and durability, and these two go hand in hand. You get what you pay for in the fishing world and more expensive wading boots will be better than cheaper ones. So, how do you play the budget game?
Ask yourself how often you are going to use them!
If you go wading 200 days a year, then buying budget wading boots is going to cost you more than buying expensive ones. You will probably have to replace budget ones every 6 months, whereas the more expensive ones might last 2-3 years!
For anglers who wade a few times a month, a budget pair isn’t a bad idea. Since you won’t be suing them too often, they will probably last at least a year or two, saving you a lot of cash.
What boots do I wear with waders?
If you own a pair of stocking foot waders then you will need a pair of wading boots to go with them.
Wading boots, unlike regular boots, are designed to be underwater. They are kitted out with features such as drainage, grippy soles, which regular boots simply don’t have, and are built to survive in the water, which regular boots aren’t!
Save yourself some time and money and go straight to wading boots instead of trying out regular boots first.
Can I use the same wading boots with waders and without?
In the warm summer months, it is lovely to wet-wade (without waders). You feel free, light, and you don’t overheat either. But do you need separate wet wading boots?
No, you don’t!
When you buy a pair of wading boots, you will buy a larger size than your feet to accommodate your socks and the neoprene stocking foot on your wanders.
These boots will be too big to wet wade in if you just put on a pair of socks but, if you buy some thick neoprene socks then they will fit just fine, plus the neoprene socks will keep you warm.
Can I use my wading boots in fresh and saltwater?
No, you can not! This is a mistake a lot of anglers make and a costly one at that.
Freshwater wading boots are not designed to handle saltwater and will degrade very quickly.
Saltwater boots in turn have a different fit to freshwater boots and will not work well with waders, so you will need to own a pair of both fresh and saltwater wading boots!
You will want a pair like these Simms Flats Sneakers for flats fishing which are made for the salt and last for years!
Thank you very much for reading my article about the best wading boots in 2023. I hope you enjoyed it and have found the perfect pair of wading boots for you.
Remember that it is all about finding a comfortable, grippy, and supportive pair of wading boots that also fits your budget, and will keep up with the number of days you fish!
Have you come across a pair of excellent wading boots that you want to tell me about? What do you look for in the best fishing boots? Let me know in the comments as I’d love to hear about it!