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Rubber Soled Wading Boots…Better Than Felt?

April 9, 2010

The latest hype in the fly fishing industry is the wading boot companies trying to replace the perfected felt soles with untested rubber soles. The theory behind banning felt-bottomed boots seems worthwhile (check out this article for more info on that), yet the replacement for felt seems forced upon us by the boot companies.  Every wading boot company has created a rubber-bottomed sole that they think will get you, the angler, from point A to point B without falling on your you-know-what.  Not one boot company uses the same rubber sole, yet every wading boot company just 2 years ago used the exact same felt on the bottom of their wading boots.  The real question is, will any rubber-soled boots be able to hold their own against felt-soled boots.

We all know that felt works.  Anytime you have a stream with rounded, moss-covered, slimy rocks, you need felt.  Other than that felt does have its drawbacks.  Felt wears out fairly quickly, it’s slippery on steep grassy banks and snow sticks to the felt bottoms.  To top things off, felt doesn’t dry, therefore, aquatic what-evers can be carried from one river to the next via your damp felt-soled wading boots.

Rubber soled wading boots in theory would be great.  Rubber dries out quickly, therefore, aquatic hitchhikers are less likely to be carried from one river to the next.  Rubber soles are nice to hike in, on the way to the river, along the banks, down grassy steep banks, and rubber doesn’t hold onto snow like felt.  This we know.  We walk around on rubber soled shoes all the time.  The real problem is those slimy round rocks found in most of our rivers.  How will rubber-bottomed wading boots hold up in those environments?

After checking out all the different rubber soled wading boots out there, I decided on Dan Bailey’s Eco-Grip Wading Boots. The Eco-Grip boot seems well built, with beefy stitches, toe guards, and a nice boxy fit, definitely not on the narrow side.  The rubber sole is what I really liked about these boots.  The tread bottom has lots of edges and lots of surface area, like what you look for in good snow tires.  Edges, surface-area, and grippy-soft rubber.

I’ve worn these boots on two different rivers with the dreaded rounded, slimy rocks.  All I can say is wow. These boots seem like they grip better than felt in almost every circumstance. Hiking, steep grassy banks, and slime covered round river rocks. The rubber soles really amaze me.  After walking in felt soles around 100-150 days a year for the last 15 years, I’m upset the boot companies didn’t go to rubber soles earlier on.

I’ve only worn the boots a few times now, but I am really impressed with their grip on slimy rocks.  I’ll keep you posted on how the boots hold up, or if I find some places where felt is still superior to rubber-soled boots.  Let me know what you think about these boots or other brands of rubber bottomed wading boots.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. rettayoung permalink
    March 29, 2012 11:27 am

    Hey there! How are these boots holding up?? I’m afraid to switch to rubber. I don’t want to fall down the river!! Thanks!

    • March 29, 2012 11:56 am

      As far as rubber soled boots go, the Bailey’s boots are pretty grippy. I really like these boots for fishing smaller streams and for fishing from spot to spot with long walks in-between. I have yet to put cleats or screws in the boots, but add some aluminum sheet metal screws to the bottoms, and I’m sure these boots would grip anything. If your not wading around on bowling-ball sized, slick rocks all the time, these boots are great. My only complaint with the boots are the thin laces break easily. Add some beefy shoe laces and your good to go.

  2. rettayoung permalink
    March 29, 2012 11:29 am

    Hey there! How are these boots holding up?? I’m afraid to switch to rubber. I don’t want to float down the river!! Thanks!

  3. Puma permalink
    June 11, 2013 8:05 am

    I have to say for rivers with mossy rocks, like the Kern River and Pitt in California, there is no substitute for felt. No matter how many cleats I’ve placed in what ever pattern on my rubber sole boots the fear of falling is always present, ruining a perfectly nice day on the river. With summer upon up in California the water levels are dropping and the sun is penetrating the waters causing moss. I’d rather wear the felt than someone have to rescue me from the river with a broken leg or torn ligaments. So the final call may be to pick up felt boots cheep and have two pair… I did.

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