Best Wading Boots
Is it safe to say that one of the catalysts for ruining a day of fishing is poor quality boots? Now, this does depend on the type of fishing you are partaking in because if you are on a boat in the middle of a lake, your footwear is not going to matter too much. However, if you enjoy fly fishing or getting really close to the action, then it may be in your best interest to invest in some high-quality wading boots. Now, as you will see, the best models provide you with superb traction, excellent comfort, and will drain efficiently. While there is more to it than just those few attributes, that gives you a nice little glimpse of what is in store for you today.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 2.75 hrs of research
Included are both felt and rubber soles
Designed with cemented parts and strategic seam locations
Compatible with other Korkers 3.0 accessories
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST WADING BOOTS
1. KORKERS GREENBACK
Included are both felt and rubber soles
Designed with cemented parts and strategic seam locations
Compatible with other Korkers 3.0 accessories
Some users have noted these can run small
One of the reasons why Korkers remains ahead of the rest of the pack is due to their OmniTrax 3.0 interchangeable sole system. And, they actually include both felt and rubber soles with their Greenback Boots.Read more
A really nice feature here is the integration of the removable insoles. Of course, one buyer did note that these do not secure your heel very efficiently and heel lifting can result.
As mentioned, included with your purchase is both felt and rubber soles. Because of the interchangeable sole system, you can choose the style that you desire.
To ensure their Greenback boots would last longer than the average design, Korkers integrated cemented parts and strategic seams.
Two important design features enhance the draining efficiency here. Firstly, you have the internal channels that physically allow water to flow out and secondly, there are the hydrophobic materials that provide faster dry times.
Korkers does specifically recommend that you order a size up from your normal shoe size. As for the fitting, these are outfitted with traditional laces that sport rugged web loops.
The pinnacle of this technology has been bestowed before your eyes. If you are not looking to mess around, then you need to seriously consider investing in these bad boys.
2. KORKERS BUCKSKIN
These are both lightweight and comfortable
Designed with hydrophobic upper materials
Features the OmniTrax 3.0 interchangeable sole system
A few buyers have had issues with the shoelaces
Hey, it is Korkers back-to-back. Their BuckSkin Boots implement the same interchangeable sole system documented above and that is just a hint of what they have to offer.Read more
Not only are these light in weight but they are also designed with enhanced midsoles which pay dividends in shock absorption and general support.
Again, these are designed with the OmniTrax 3.0 interchangeable sole system. Also, Korkers includes two of their soles (both plain and studded Kling-on rubber) with your purchase.
There are a few specific features that enhance the longevity of each boot. You have the scratch rubber toe cap that extends to the side panels and the rubberized anti-abrasion synthetic material that is implemented.
As with the previous Korkers model, hydrophobic uppers are featured here that will dry very quickly. Additionally, there are large drainage ports that are incorporated and midsole drainage channels.
With traditional laces and durable metal hardware, achieving the right fit is easier. However, a few reviewers have documented issues with some of the shoelace eyes popping out of place.
3. ORVIS ENCOUNTER
These will accept Posi-Grip screw-in studs
The Vibram rubber soles enhance the grip
Designed with all synthetic uppers
They are pretty heavy
Orvis designed their Encounter footwear with rubber soles and also padded collars for enhanced ankle support. And, although these are a bit heavy, they are pretty much flawless otherwise.Read more
Indeed, the padded collar of each boot aids terrifically in ankle support. Some users have commented on the weight of these bad boys, though, in a negative light.
If you do need more traction, these will accept Posi-Grip screw-in studs. In addition to this, the Vibram rubber soles, even without the studs, provide great grip as is.
Without question, these are designed to last. Not only is each boot made with a scratch rubber toe cap for protection at the toe box, but also the synthetic uppers hold up to daily wear.
The same synthetic uppers that hold up to wear with great efficiency also aid in drainage. Because they dry so quickly, the risk of the spread of invasive species is limited.
There is no shortage of room inside each one of these shoes. It is noted by the seller, though, that if you are a half-size, you should order one size up.
Outside of the heavier weight, you can see why so many users have raved about these. Yes, the extra weight can be a bit of a nuisance but the overall quality overshadows it.
4. HODGMAN WADE SHOES
Features gusseted YKK zippers
These are extremely well-made
On mud and gravel bottoms, these provide great grip
The sizing can be tricky for sure
It is not surprising that the sizing of this next model can be tricky as it is a common issue with wading boots. But, if you can find the right fit, the rest will be history thanks to the quality.Read more
Sporting uppers that are constructed of 3.5-millimeter thick neoprene, these shoes are not only comfortable but they will also aid in shock absorption.
Overall, the traction provided by the non-marking rubber soles is admirable. Though they may struggle a bit on bigger rocks, they deliver great grip on most mud and gravel bottoms.
It is common amongst reviewers that these are built extremely well. You will find very few people with negative remarks about the longevity and that is huge.
Being primarily made out of mesh, at least the exterior, when you step out of the water, it is not going to take long for these to drain said water and to dry.
It seems that getting the proper size and fit can be tricky. With the sizes, the length will increase but the width will not, so that is part of the issue. Yet, in spite of this, there are adjustable cuffs that will fit snugly around your ankles.
The addition of the neoprene uppers really puts these over the top. If you know anything at all about Muck Boots, then you know that neoprene is a premium material that can make all the difference in the world.
5. REDINGTON SKAGIT RIVER
These are built for support and durability
The rubber toe caps enhance the durability
Comes with sticky rubber soles
They take a long time to dry
Again, the sizing can be confusing
Yet another model appears on this list that sports rubber soles, in addition to being designed with rubber toe caps for enhanced abrasion resistance. But, these do not drain the best, admittedly.Read more
A very important feature to look out for is a padded collar. Indeed, that is what is built-in to each boot and it delivers much-needed ankle support.
As is, the rubber soles that are designed here are great. The better news is you can add metal screws if need be, to enhance the grip even more.
For added abrasion resistance, Redington integrated rubber toe caps into their model.
Though there have been buyers who have claimed these can take a while to dry, they are implemented with mesh panels on the body and this will aid in draining.
It is not uncommon but be aware that previous buyers have had issues with the fitting. Some people claim these run too big and some claim the contrary.
If you are able to find the right size, which has been alluded to already, then you can enjoy one of the most complete models out there. Finding that right size, though, can be tough.
6. HODGMAN H3
Features reinforced toes for added protection
Overall, the provided traction is great
EVA midsoles are built-in
The construction is a bit on the cheaper side
Now, the H3 Boots are actually designed with felt soles, which are also very popular outsoles. And while these are a somewhat affordable option, they are designed with quality in mind.Read more
In addition to the padded collars, these are also equipped with lightweight EVA midsoles that will help to absorb shock. To say these offer support and are comfortable are understatements.
Again, felt soles are utilized here and these are a bit different than rubber soles. Per user feedback, it seems that the traction that these produce is good to great.
Though reinforced toes and abrasion-resistant uppers have been integrated here, it is noted by various buyers that these are somewhat cheaply constructed.
There are two specific features that enhance the drying efficiency here. They are the hydrophobic uppers and the mesh drainage ports that have been built into the side panels.
It is advised that you order a size down here as these boots tend to run one size larger than your normal street shoe.
If you are not a fan of felt soles, then you will probably be disappointed here. Everyone else will be thrilled due to the combination of the quality and the relatively affordable cost.
7. CADDIS NORTHERN GUIDE
Each boot is water tested beforehand
Each one provides excellent ankle support
Durable polyester is used for the outers
The included soles are not the best
Admittedly, a hindrance of this next model is the provided sole. It is not terrible, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not as good as the other features that stand out with this model.Read more
It is advertised that the soles of these boots will provide traction in all wading conditions. Now, it is worth pointing out that a few consumers have had different experiences and have questioned the performance of the soles.
Caddis specifically mentions that they only use the highest quality polyester to construct the outer sections of each boot. Plus, each model is also water tested beforehand.
From the photos, you can clearly see that mesh material has been strategically placed in certain locations to obtain the most efficient draining process possible.
To accommodate any other insulations, Caddis specially engineered their model to be oversized (by around half-a-size). So, take this into account when ordering your specific size.
These are great and few people will state otherwise. However, one of the most important features of a wading boot (the sole) has been questioned here. For some, that could be too big of a red flag.
8. FROGG TOGGS HELLBENDER
The provided comfort is excellent
Designed with lightweight mesh and PVC uppers
Features widened engineering for increased support
The felt soles are not replaceable
A few buyers have experienced the soles tearing from the boots
If nothing else, almost every single buyer who has commented on the comfort of the Hellbender boots has only had positive things to say about it. Everything else just falls into place after that.Read more
Yep, it all begins with the comfort in this case. Frogg Toggs designed their Hellbender Boots with polyurethane midsoles, lightweight mesh, padded ankle collars, and PVC uppers.
Now, the soles are not replaceable and that is a bit disappointing. With that said, the felt outsoles, while they last, do enable a much easier walk through lakes and streams.
Admittedly, there is a reason to be concerned here. There have been a few buyers who have had longevity issues with the soles (claiming they separate from the boots).
Both the lightweight mesh materials and the PVC uppers are going to help these drain and dry much, much quicker and easier.
The fit seems to be true-to-size. In addition to this, the speed laces help with the fitting and so does the wide engineering.
Have there been durability issues with this model? Yes, they have been documented in the past. While these last, however, they are comfortable and supportive.
9. DUCK AND FISH WADING SHOES
Features EVA midsoles for comfort
The extra-wide design provides a more stable base
There are drain holes to allow water out
A few buyers have had durability issues
The hooks for the laces are a little weak
This is yet another highly affordable option and it is one of the best, quite frankly. It is not the best of the best, per se, but anyone would be remiss not to give this the credit it is due.Read more
For increased ankle support, neoprene triple padded collars are included with each boot. The EVA midsoles also assist with both the comfort and the support, as well.
Though rubber soles are generally very efficient at what they do, reviews are out there that criticize the slipperiness that these soles provide.
The 1200-denier polyester uppers, reinforced PVC toe caps, and back counters do enhance the durability. That said, the hooks for the laces are kind of cheap and a few buyers have experienced issues with the soles separating.
There are drainage holes implemented and they will assist with the overall drying process.
It is actually recommended that you order your normal shoe size with this model. Part of the reason why is due to the extra-wide engineering.
Due to the price, it is understandable that there is going to be durability concerns. These can be overlooked a bit because of the overall quality that is present.
10. CADDIS FELT SOLE
The felt bottoms grip very well
Each boot is water tested beforehand
Backed by a one-year warranty
They are rather narrow
Longevity issues have been documented
Caddis is a high-quality designer and it is always important to look for that when you are in the market for any type of product, quite frankly. They specifically made wading boots that would appeal to those of you looking for affordability.Read more
Though these may not be the most comfortable wading boots on this list, they certainly are far from painful as they sport cushioned insoles.
Overall, the felt bottoms of this footwear seem to offer great traction. They will grip well and prevent you from follow on your rear while in the water.
As with the other Caddis model on this list, only the highest quality of polyester is utilized and each boot has been water tested beforehand. A few users have had longevity issues within several months.
The soles are porous and what that means is water is going to be allowed to flow out of them when you step out of the water.
As one reviewer reported, these run narrow and can be problematic for users with wider feet. That said, Caddis does intentionally engineer these to be oversized by around a half-size.
Look, this model did not secure a spot on this list merely because it is affordable. The quality is there and you can clearly see that. But, admittedly, there are superior options on the market.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
With your new wading boot, you are going to need it to be comfortable and supportive.
No matter the type of footwear that you are alluding to, the comfort they provide is always going to be a top priority. In regard to wading boots, it is even more so as you are likely to encounter some uneven and sloppy terrain. So, it is not only the comfort that you are looking for but also the support. Without question, this all begins with your ankles. This is one of the most prominent areas of your feet that need to be supported. With that said, make it a priority to look for models with padded collars. This may seem like a small integration but what it will do is provide you with much-needed support for your ankles.
In addition to this, though, a little bit of shock absorption can go a long way. This is where the design of the midsole comes into play. As with a good pair of running shoes, look for models that sport lightweight EVA midsoles. EVA itself offers excellent cushioning and compression and when it is outfitted into a midsole, it will deliver much-needed protection for your foot.
On muddy and rocky terrains, you will need soles that can combat them.
Normally, it is always important to not overlook the soles (which is the bottom layer that comprises any type of footwear). However, in regard to this footwear, the importance is amplified. There is a reason why anglers and fly fishermen crave wading boots and it is because they are outfitted with special soles that offer performance advantages. Remember, you are sure to encounter some rough and muddy terrain. Now, there are two main types of soles that you will see with these boots. Firstly, you have felt soles. Unfortunately, as will be documented later, some states do not permit the use of felt soles. If they are legal in your area of residence, you may want to consider them as they offer excellent traction on slippery rocks and terrain.
Felt soles essentially add around an inch of thickness to shoes and will mold to the shape of the rocks that it comes in contact with. The other common sole is made out of rubber. Ironically, the reason for wanting this type of sole is if you plan on walking around with your wading boots on. Rubber soles work much better for hiking and for general walking activities. And, if you are looking for even more grip, some soles will be able to be customized with studs. These are called studded soles and can accept small metal spikes to offer enhanced grip on slippery surfaces.
Yep, durability is everything here and that should not be a suprise.
It is extra important to take durability into consideration whenever you are dealing with special products that will endure some abuse. No, you will not be physically abusing the boots yourself but a toll will be taken with the number of times they go through the wet and dry cycle. With cheap materials, they will break down at an accelerated rate due to this grind. So, this makes it utterly paramount to invest in a model that integrates high-quality materials and high-quality craftsmanship. Yes, these are two different beasts entirely.
With the materials, you will want to look for water-repellent synthetic materials or even Nubuck leather. And, this even goes for the laces. You may not think of it at first but the laces can wear down as quickly as any other aspect of the boots. Do not look for cheaper materials such as cotton and go for nylon or polypropylene. Now, in regard to the craftsmanship, this is just as important. Ideally, look for models that have been constructed in a manner that is going to make them last. For instance, this could be integrated strategic seams or rubber toe caps.
The main features to look for all come back to the drying efficiency.
Understand something very important, if specific design features are not integrated then the water that is trapped inside of these boots is not going to magically disappear. They are not actually engineered to be waterproof but most of them will be engineered with drainage holes and materials that can dry very quickly. Some designs will implement drainage holes, mesh or even a combination of the two. No matter, though, there needs to be a system at play that allows the water to move in and out freely. That way, as soon as you get out of the water and begin to walk, the water that is trapped inside will be released.
Another important factor, though, is having interior materials that can dry quickly. This is where hydrophobic uppers come into play as they are going to dry with great efficiency. Unless you do not plan to use your pair in the water, which sort of defeats the purpose of needing them, you need to account for these kinds of things.
The fit is going to be essential with any footwear you buy and this is no different.
If you noticed a theme with most of the models on this list then you are not alone. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to order a size larger than you normally would with your normal shoe size. The reason for this is this extra space will give you the room you need to account for thicker socks. Again, because wading boots are not waterproof water is going to flow through them. If you do not have proper socks on (whether they are special wading socks or thermal socks in colder waters) then the whole experience can be ruined.
But, these types of socks will be thicker than your average pair and this is where that extra room comes into play. You will be thanking yourself later that much is for sure.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
You knew coming into this that this was going to be of the utmost importance. When is it ever not for footwear? But, what you may not have thought of right away is just how important comfort really is, in this case. During your adventures in your wading boots, you are sure to experience some rough conditions. That is why it is vital to look for models that provide ankle support, ample cushioning and overall support for your feet.
Consider the sole the glue that holds the shoe together, as that is essentially what it is. And, if you know anything about footwear, you know that the traction provided is a direct result of the design of the sole. In regard to these boots, there are two main types of soles that you will see (felt and rubber). Both of them offer specific advantages but there is something about felt soles that you may not have known.
At the end of the day, nobody enjoys spending their hard-earned money on cheap products. Much like with the comfort and the traction, though, it is perhaps even more important here. The constant grind that your boots will endure mandates that high-quality materials be utilized. It is as simple as that because if you go cheap here, you will know it in a month or two.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Which states have banned felt soles?
Yep, felt soles are not legal in some states in the United States. Some of those states include Maryland, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Missouri, and Alaska. The question is: why are those states not permitting the use of these types of soles? It all comes down to the research that has been conducted. You see, it has been shown that felt soles can harbor invasive species for extended periods of time. The logic behind banning them is to prevent the spread of these invasive species. Whether you like or not, this is a law in some states so avoid these soles if it pertains to you.
q: How do you clean wading boots?
It is worth noting that certain models will need to be cared for in different ways as different materials will be utilized. In general, though, you should be able to get away with cleaning your model with soap and warm water. Due to the fact that wading boots are meant to be used in water, you can also submerge them to make them easier to clean. Now, after you have rinsed them off, you need to allow them to dry in a cool area. You should avoid areas that are excessively warm and should also avoid exposure to direct sunlight.
q: What about women’s sizing?
For all the women out there, what are you supposed to do if a particular pair of wading boots you want is not offered in women’s sizing? Well, it is a general rule of thumb, but for most of these models, you will most likely achieve the right fit ordering one size down. Now, as you may have guessed, this can’t be written in stone because there is always going to be an exception. And, even though it can be a pain to do when ordering online, you should be able to return them if you ordered the wrong size. After which, you can make a judgment call on if you need to go a size down.
q: How exactly does the OmniTrax interchangeable sole system work?
Rarely do questions that get asked about a specific brand get included in a section such as this. However, it was documented just how great Korkers-branded wading boots are and one of the reasons why is because of the OmniTrax interchangeable sole system that they integrate. The question is, as it was not really analyzed earlier, how exactly does this system work? Well, the system is made up of four unique locking points and these fasten the sole to the bottom of the boot. So, granted you have a compatible sole, you can then interchange between different soles at your leisure.
q: How do you care for felt boots?
Yes, it was previously documented how to care for this type of footwear. However, this is actually looking directly at the felt soles. As was mentioned, these soles can harbor invasive species and you clearly do not want these organisms to be carried with the soles. So, a method to eliminating this issue is to mix a solution of warm water and bleach (use four ounces of bleach for each gallon of warm water you need). With this solution, after you rinse off the soles and scrub them with a brush, soak the boots with their soles in it for a few minutes. From there, rinse them off with warm water and allow them to dry.