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Buying Wading Boots for Beginners

7 mins read
close up of wading boots underwater with half the camera out of the water.
By Spencer Durrant

The right pair of wading boots can make or break your day on the water. Good boots provide stability and confidence while wading – two key features you need if you’re serious about getting into fish. Great boots are also comfortable, and don’t break the bank.

For beginners, though, choosing that first pair of wading boots can be tricky. Today, we’ll go over the different features of wading boots to help you become more familiar with what you need when looking for your next pair.

Wading Boots for Beginners

If you’re looking to buy your first pair of wading boots, or you’re upgrading from a cheap pair, you need to focus on buying boots that have good soles, laces, fit you well, and are comfortable. Those are the four key features to look for if you want a pair of boots that’ll give you the best performance while on the water.

Soles

Wading boots are designed to give you the ultimate in traction and stability when in the water. Different types of soles are built to perform better in certain environments as well.

Rubber soles are the most common, because they’re the most versatile. They’re great for use on days when you’re walking or hiking to get to the water (like fishing streams in the backcountry) and most boots with rubber soles have the option to add metal spikes for additional traction support.

close up of wading boot soles as an angler is sitting on a rock

Felt soles are the unbeaten king of traction on extremely slippery surfaces. They grip moss-covered rocks exceptionally well. However, they’re not as durable as rubber, nor are they what you want to wear if you’re putting serious walking miles on your boots. It’s also worth noting that felt soles can carry and transmit aquatic insects and diseases, like New Zealand mud snails or whirling disease. Alaska has banned felt soles in all of its rivers to combat invasive species and disease spread.

You’ll also find that certain wading boot manufacturers tout different sole designs or new materials added to help the rubber be more slip-resistant. All of those details are worth taking into account.

If your budget allows for it, you really shouldn’t look to buy new wading boots that don’t allow you to add metal studs or bars for additional traction. Rubber soles with metal spikes are a favorite for traction, stability, and comfort among guides and anglers alike, so that’s the route you should probably go.

Remember, wading boots are designed to provide traction and stability in the water. It’s not worth skimping out on staying upright just to save a few bucks.

Laces

Laces gets a mention thanks to the popularity of the BOA lacing system. BOA laces are superior to traditional laces in just about every way, the only exception coming in boots designed for long hikes and fishing. Traditional laces lock in your heel more effectively than BOA laces do.

Other than that, BOA laces are the way to go. They’re extremely convenient, especially in colder weather. And they wear out at a much slower rate than traditional laces, too. Again, if it’s in your budget, your wading boots should have BOA laces.

Fit and Comfort

Fit and comfort are individual preferences, so we won’t spend a ton of time here. But it’s important to try on wading boots before buying them. If possible, wear your waders while trying on the boots to get a feel for how everything fits. Pay attention to how the boot feels through and above your ankle. Good ankle support is key to wading comfortably, and for hiking, if you plan to wear your wading boots while trekking to your favorite fishing spot.

Your feet should feel locked in and secure in the boots, but they also need some room to slide around a bit. Allowing your feet to move inside the boot can help you better grip and get your balance on slippery surfaces.

close up of wading boots as an angler is walking through a river.

Pricing, Warranties, and Wear and Tear

Good boots run anywhere from about $170 to north of $300. If you want uncompromising performance on the water, you’ll need to be prepared to spend that much money. With that being said, you don’t have to spend $300 or more to get a great pair of boots. My personal favorite pair retails for $200, and I’ve had them for almost six years.

Most boots from major manufacturers come with a decent warranty that protects against the product failing or wearing out prematurely. A few years ago, the soles on one of my boots almost detached completely from the rest of the boot. I called the company, sent them some pictures, and had a new set within a week. For big failures like that, the warranty comes in handy. All the major manufacturers are generally good to deal with when it comes to warranty and repairs.

Remember, though, that you’re buying terminal tackle here. Boots will wear out, no matter how well you take care of them. Wading boots, in particular, don’t have an extremely long lifespan. If you fish 30 or so days a year, your boots will probably last the better part of a decade. Expect at least four years of solid performance from any pair of higher-end boots you buy.

Wrapping Up

Wading boots are arguably one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll ever buy. They’re literally the foundation for a great day on the water. Without good boots, wading becomes tough and dangerous. Take the time to research your options, find a sole that works for your fishing environments, and spend the money to get yourself a decent pair. You won’t be sorry that you did.

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