The most relatable equipment for the masses when it comes to fly-fishing are the fly rods and the nets. A good rod and reel is the most important tool in a fly fisher’s arsenal. However, as any veteran fisher will tell you, there is so much more you need in order to start fly-fishing.
For instance, you need comfortable but protective clothing because you will be in the outdoors for hours at a time. The chances of getting sick due to exposure to the elements is low but it always pays to be sure. Usually, a comfortable t-shirt and some khaki shorts (although specialized long pants are available and recommended) are already acceptable. Do not forget the cap (or hat) for protection against sunlight. It is in the footwear that requires a bit more research.
Enter the wading boot.
Wading boots, as their name suggest, is for wading through shallow waters. As fly-fishers, it is always recommended to wade so that you can cross the distance between the area where the fishes are and you. As such, protective footwear is needed. Waterborne diseases, while rare, can still be present. Also there is always the chance of stepping on a sharp rock or piece of glass.
Below are the 7 best wading boots that you can purchase. They are group according to their category. To find more about other waders read our reviews.
- 0.1 Felt-soles vs. Rubber soles
- 1 Our Top Wading Boot for Fly Fishing
- 1.1 1. Korkers Greenback Wading Boot with Felt & Kling-On Soles (Best Value/Top Choice)
- 1.2 2. Korkers Hatchback Wading Boots with Felt & Kling-On Soles (Top Quality)
- 1.3 3. Hodgman Neoprene Wade Shoe (Most Affordable Choice)
- 2 Other Picks (But Not My Top Choices)
- 3 Midrange Section
- As for sizes, most brands have the same sizing system with other kinds of shoes. If you are size 10 then get a size ten wading boot. However, some wading boot brands (e.g. Korkers and Simms) may encourage you to buy one above your foot size.
- If you want to wade with shorts without stocking foot waders, buy neoprene socks and a sized-down pair of wading boots.
Felt-soles vs. Rubber soles
Before we can discuss the best wading boots that money can buy, we must first talk about the optimal configuration of your boot’s soles. Yes, soles of your boots are very important in fly fishing. There are two kinds of soles, namely the felt soles and the rubber soles. Below are the criteria for choosing what kind of soles based on circumstances.
Felt Soles: Buy them if:
- The area where you will be fishing is full of slippery rocks. The advantages that a felt based sole will really be felt if the stream or pond that you will be fishing in is full of big rocks that are slippery or covered with slime. Nothing beats the grip that the traditional felt soles offer.
Rubber Soles: Buy them if:
- The state that you are in bans the usage of wading boots with felt soles. The reason for this is the fear that you might contaminate local wildlife by introducing alien bacterias from other streams, ponds. Felt soles sometimes bring with them the bacteria from the pond or stream that they were last used. Of course, this does not happen frequently but some states have taken action still. Alaska, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island and South Dakota has banned felt soled wading boots for fly fishing.
- Rubber soles are good for the sandy banks of the rivers and streams. Rubber soles are heavily recommended if you are fishing in the aforementioned areas. The kind grip that rubber soles provide are matched for the sandy surfaces of a river.
- You fish in a variety of environmental conditions. Rubber soles are more adaptable than felt ones.
All-in-all, rubber sole technology has been gaining ground against its more traditional felt counterparts. In fact, rubber soles are more durable than felt soles. About the only advantage that a felt sole can provide is if you are wading in slimy areas with slippery rocks Right now, the future points to the wading boots with rubber soles.
- Most manufacturers of wading boots will have a felt version as well as a rubber version for its products.
- Avoid fabric based eyelets. They will not last long.
- Avoid lace loops. They are not very durable and deteriorate first.
Our Top Wading Boot for Fly Fishing
1. Korkers Greenback Wading Boot with Felt & Kling-On Soles (Best Value/Top Choice)
Korkers seems to be on top of the market as far as wading boots go. This is largely due to their appealing interchangeable sole system. I’ve managed to find up to 7 different types of soles offered by them, but there could possibly be more.
Anyways, they did not attract me simply with their flashy design and functionality, but with their wide range of prices. They seem to have a little something for everybody’s pocket.
So, I’ve chosen this Greenback model as my top pick because I think it offers the best overall value, with functionality and price included as the main criterions.
- Felt Soles
- Kling-on (Sticky rubber) Soles
- 3.0 Interchangeable Sole System, compatible with all other Korkers 3.0 soles
- Water flow-through sole
- Hydrophobic materials
- Very affordable at around $120
Felt soles are the standard option, great for most conditions. They are made of compressed materials so they feel really comfortable and are best for walking on slippery rocks. They offer the best surface grip and are also most suited for prolonged wearing.
The Kling-on alternative is good if you are doing a lot of hiking, up to your fishing spot for instance. Sticky rubber has a hard time wearing down and provides durability. So, they are a much better alternative than felt soles for hiking, but they can also be worn in the water.
The 3.0 Interchangeable Sole System allows you to use any other Korkers 3.0 soles you purchase separately on these Greenback wading boots. Just make sure the soles are from the same 3.0 system.
Their hydrophobic material really provides a much faster dry time, and the water flow-through midsole channels make your boots lighter because there isn’t any water retention.
Apart from that, the standard size 9 boots weight about 2 lbs 7 oz, which is pretty light, but you are suggested to go one size higher than your normal shoe size.
Made of compressed materials so they feel really comfortable and are best for walking on slippery rocks. They offer the best surface grip and are also most suited for prolonged wearing.
- Would these hold up to some light hiking for backcountry fishing?
As mentioned before, the Kling-on rubber studded soles are precisely for that purpose. They do not wear down easily and will prolong the usage of your shoes by a long time.
- I’m wearing size 14 footwear, so will size 15 be good or should I go higher?
Size 15 should be perfect, counting on waders and socks, and the additional comfort you must allow for your feet.
2. Korkers Hatchback Wading Boots with Felt & Kling-On Soles (Top Quality)
As mentioned in my top pick, Korkers is dominating the market with the interchangeable sole system. But, this Hatchback model is a much more high class choice, for those of you who do not worry about the price and want additional comfort.
This model offers various improvements as far as functionality and looks go. The first thing is the beautiful design. The boots are unique, almost entirely in black, with only the Korkers logo ‘K’ in white.
This boot is one of the first that features the rear entry system. This allows you to insert your foot in it easily, by using the Boa M2 lacing system. Using this rear entry system, you can put on your boots in a few seconds, while keeping it secured and firmly held at the same time.
Another cool feature is the Flow Foam Fit System, which allows the boot to conform to your foot, making it really comfortable. The internal drainage system releases the water quickly, allowing for a quick dry.
The recessed protective stitching seems really durable, and the boot really feels like it lasts long.
- OmniTrax Interchangeable Sole System
- Rear-entry, Boa M2 lacing system
- Flow Foam Fit
- Internal Drainage
- Beautiful design
- High Durability
This boot is one of the first that features the rear entry system. This allows you to insert your foot in it easily, by using the Boa M2 lacing system.
- Is the sizing different than standard road shows?
As with most wading shoes, you are advised to go one size up to allow your feet comfort and room for wader/neoprene socks.
- What is the size and weight of these boots?
The size is a bit larger than traditional wading shoes, because of the design and the features, but the flow foam system makes these boots light and comfortable.
3. Hodgman Neoprene Wade Shoe (Most Affordable Choice)
I haven’t managed to find a cheaper pair of wading shoes online, although you should do your research thoroughly if you only have price in mind. These can be found for under $ 40, but I still consider them to be decent quality wading shoes.
The low pricing does affect certain aspects, mainly the design. These boots have a plain look, made from a 3.5mm thick neoprene material. The feedback on the web suggests they are still good for wearing in warm and cold conditions.
The lacing is replaced by a zipper system, and the soles are rubber Kling-on type. This type of soles is best for all-around uses, good for slippery rocks, walking in and out of water, and is generally known for being durable.
- Can be found at extremely low prices
- 3.5mm neoprene
- Cuff adjustment on upper heel
- YKK zipper system
- Rubber Kling-On soles
- Toe protection
This type of soles is best for all-around uses, good for slippery rocks, walking in and out of water, and is generally known for being durable.
- Do they offer protection against Stingrays?
The info I’ve managed to find suggests that you need something thicker to be protected against the stingray barb, so with these boots what you see is what you get, or more accurately what you pay for.
- Is the sizing done the same as with other wade shoes?
No. The feedback suggests the sizing should be the same as with your standard shoes, because it is generally reported that these shoes do offer plenty of room and comfort already.
Other Picks (But Not My Top Choices)
Cabela’s Ultralight Wading Boots with Felt Soles
- Very affordable, good match for those who just want to try fly-fishing and do not want to spend that much for now.
- Comes with 28 hardened-steel cleats. This addition gives the Cabela’s Ultralight Wading Boots much needed extra traction and grip while wading.
- Excellent side mesh for drainage.
- Steel shanks for much appreciated stability.
- Also comes with a rubber sole option for those who want rubber soles instead of felt ones.
Durable felt outsoles provide ground-gripping traction on slippery rocks. Comes with 28 hardened-steel cleats with deep-biting blades that can be added for extra traction on moss or other slick surfaces.
White River Fly Shop Rubber Sole Wading Boots
- A very straightforward kind of boot.
- The low price means that prospective buyers (and novices) will not have to shell out much in order to get this good product.
- Bass Pro Shops have discounts for this (typically 60 dollars of the price).
- Felt sole versions are available.
- Made up of strong denier polyester.
The low price means that prospective buyers (and novices) will not have to shell out much in order to get this good product.
Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-on Outsoles
- The Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-on Outsoles has the acclaimed OmniTrax 3.0. This technology allows you to change your felt sole for a rubber sole and vice versa. This means that the Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-on Outsoles is very versatile. You can change the sole to meet the demands of the environment.
- Upper is made up of hydrophobic materials while the base is made up of large drainage ports. Both conspires to keep the water off the boots.
The Korkers BuckSkin Wading Boot with Felt and Kling-on Outsoles has the acclaimed OmniTrax 3.0. This technology allows you to change your felt sole for a rubber sole and vice versa.
Simms Freestone Wading Boot
- Very stylish and pleasing to look at. If you want to wade in style, this is your boot.
- The rubber upper gives off much needed protection.
- The build quality is superb and is very durable.
- May be stiff at first but this will eventually be gone.
Very stylish and pleasing to look at. If you want to wade in style, this is your boot.
Orvis Clearwater Wading Boot
- High-end stylish design but with an affordable price. Very attractive for fashionable fly fishers but with a bit of a tight budget.
- Has a molded rubber toe cap and can be fitted with studs, should you want the extra grip that studs can provide
High-end stylish design but with an affordable price. Very attractive for fashionable fly fishers but with a bit of a tight budget.
Wading Boots For Women
- Redington Siren Wading Boot
- Simms Women’s VaporTread Wading Boots
- Korkers BuckSkin Mary Wading Boot
- Orvis Women’s Encounter Wading Boot
Whatever your choice maybe, be sure to take into account the type of environment that you will be fishing in and the budget that you will have. Do not hesitate to reach out to veterans, they will have a thing or two to teach you. They will have the experience to know the outs and ins of fly fishing and the equipments to buy, listen to them.
Select the boots that you want, as well as the other accompanying equipments, and you are good to go.