felt or rubber wading boots

Felt vs. Rubber Sole Wading Boots (Which is Best for You)

Hey there, it’s your fellow fly flinger David, from Guide Recommended. I’ve lived and breathed fly fishing for decades, turning my passion into an obsession. I started out with my first fly rod in my twenties, and since then, it’s been a journey of constant discovery.

I learned all about wading boots and grip when I slipped into the North Branch of Au Sable River on an icy February with the air temperature in the single digits.  I’ve gathered pearls of wisdom related to wading boots I can’t wait to share with you. Today, let’s dive into the world of wading boots.

Rubber and Felt Wading Boot Soles
Rubber and Felt Wading Boot Soles

The Highly Level Differences Between Felt and Rubber Wading Boots

Traction: Felt soles generally provide better traction on slippery rocks underwater, while rubber soles are more versatile and provide better traction on gravel and when hiking.

Durability: Rubber soles tend to be more durable and long-lasting than felt soles, which can wear down more quickly, especially when used on rough terrain.

Maintenance: Felt soles can retain microorganisms and seeds, potentially contributing to the spread of invasive species between water bodies. As such, they may require more careful cleaning and drying after use.

Use Restrictions: In some regions, the use of felt soles has been banned due to concerns about the spread of invasive species. Hence, rubber soles would be the default choice in these places. Read more HERE

Boot Weight: The weight of the boots may also differ depending on the sole material. Some anglers find rubber-soled boots heavier than those with felt soles.

Price: Prices can vary between felt and rubber-soled boots depending on the brand and model. However, this difference is more often driven by the overall boot quality and features rather than solely the type of sole.

The Appeal of Felt Soled Wading Boots

Felt sole wading boots are what I use most of the time
Felt sole wading boots are what I use most of the time

My romance with felt soled boots was kindled at Abrams Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains. There I learnt that when it comes to slippery, underwater rocks, felt soles are the uncontested winners.

As an angler, maintaining a solid footing is vital for a successful and enjoyable day of fishing, and the right pair of wading boots can make that difference.

If in doubt abut what boots to take on an outing grab FELT soles.  They should be your first choice unless you’re fishing in a State with restrictions.   

The Virtues of Rubber Sole Wading Boots

Rubber sole boots are a must in the winter or fi hiking distances
Rubber sole boots are a must in the winter or if hiking distances

Michigan’s icy streams have been my training ground, and rubber soled boots my loyal companion. They repel the accumulation of snow and ice – a feature that any winter angler would swear by. If durability could win a gold medal, rubber sole boots would be the clear winner. Read more about winter fly fishing here.

Hiking along rocky terrains and rugged riverbanks, rubber soles have consistently proven their resilience. For those of you planning to fish from a boat, rubber soles provide the stability and grip you need on wet surfaces.

Modifying Your Wading Boots for Improved Traction

Studs in wading boots for better grip
Studs in wading boots for better grip

In my quest to conquer slippery conditions, I’ve experimented with various modifications to improve boot traction. Adding screws to the soles can provide an extra grip that proves invaluable on treacherously slick surfaces.

Similarly, carbide tire studs can also work. They significantly increase the boot’s grip, reducing the risk of those unwanted slip-ups. For a detailed guide on how to install studs in your wading boots, you can check out this article.

How to Install Studs in Your Wading Boots

Improving the grip of your wading boots can be as simple as installing studs. This process is straightforward and requires only a screwdriver that matches the stud head. Most purpose-built studs come with the appropriate screwdriver.

How to install studs in wading boots
How to install studs in wading boots

When installing, ensure the studs are spread evenly across the sole, with a higher concentration on the outer edges, heels, and balls of your feet. However, be careful not to over tighten the studs, as this could strip the rubber sole of the boot, making it impossible to hold a stud in the future. For a more detailed guide on installing studs in your wading boots, check out this article.

Interchangeable Soles for Your Wading Boots

As an angler who loves to innovate (I once tried my hand at inventing a fly line winder), I was thrilled to discover the concept of interchangeable soles. Renowned brands like Korkers and Pure Fishing offer this groundbreaking feature.

It allows us to switch between felt and rubber soles depending on the fishing conditions. If you’re an all-weather angler like me, these could be your new secret weapon.

Crucial Considerations When Choosing Wading Boots

Considerations when selecting wading boots
Considerations when selecting wading boots

In my experience, comfort is the backbone of a great pair of wading boots. Always try them on with your stocking foot waders to ensure a comfortable fit. A misfit can cause discomfort, hamper your performance, and even lead to potential injuries.

Weight is another vital factor. Remember, water will add weight to your boots, and heavier boots will tire you out faster. Opt for lightweight boots that won’t weigh you down after hours of fishing.

Drainage in your boots is an often overlooked, but critical feature. You want your boots to drain quickly to reduce weight, yet the design needs to prevent small rocks and pebbles from entering.

Warmth is paramount, especially if you’re a winter angler like me. Look for boots with a larger toe box to facilitate better circulation and keep your toes toasty.

Lastly, durability can make or break a pair of boots. Given that wading boots are exposed to harsh conditions, robust materials and quality craftsmanship can significantly extend the life of your boots.

Taking Care of Your Wading Boots

Proper care can significantly extend the life of your wading boots. Rinse them with fresh water after each use to remove any dirt or salt. Allow them to dry fully before storing to prevent invasive species from growing, along with mildew and odors. For a more detailed guide on how to care for and clean your wading boots, you can check out this article.

Guide Tip: Don’t let your felt soled wading boots freeze. It’s a sure way to cause the glue to fail on the sole. (I learned the hard way leaving mine outside in the winter)

If the soles of your felt boots are worn out, it’s pretty easy to glue new soles on. Just make sure you get the right adhesive and cut the felt to shape. I describe it all in my article 👉 How to replace the Felt on Wading Boots

My Top Wading Boot Recommendations

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to test various wading boot brands. I’ve found Korkers, Simms, and Orvis to be consistent in their quality and performance. They offer both felt and rubber soled options, giving you the flexibility to choose based on your needs.

Wading Boot Questions Answered Here

Should I buy a size up for wading boots?

Wading boots should be purchased in your regular size, but read the fine print and a try them on with your waders. For me I normally wear a size 9 and I buy 10s to accommodate the thick socks I like to wear.

Socks for Waders

I’ve written all about the best socks to wear. I like wool or a wool blend. Check out why 👉 Socks for Wading

How should wading boots fit?

Wading boots should fit comfortably snug, but not too tight. Think about how the water is going to squeeze your feet in 3 feet of water. A little bigger on dry land is a good thing. I lace my boots up loosely when wading and will tighten them up if I know I’ll be hiking.

How can I increase the grip on my wading boots?

There are several ways to increase the grip on your wading boots. This includes adding metal studs or cleats, installing carbide tire studs, or even using screws. Some brands offer interchangeable soles that let you switch between felt and rubber soles depending on your needs.

One More Cast and Another Step in Wading Boots

Whether you’re at the start of your fly fishing journey or an old hand at the reel, selecting the right wading boots can take your fishing experience up several notches. It’s not just about the thrill of the catch, but about harmonizing with the environment around you.

The right gear, including wading boots, can play a monumental role in this. Here’s to tight lines and great times on the water

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish

Sources and More

Scroll to Top