“Wet wading” is totally underrated. Why spend the time gearing up with full chest waders or even hip boots if the water temperature and climate where you’re fishing is pleasant? Tough, reliable wading shoes are a great alternative to more expensive and intensive wading systems and truly simplify fishing in a ton of scenarios.
Our list of the best fishing shoes for wet wading has compiled the best footwear options in each category for every style angler. Whether you fish stony streams or creeks, sandy shorelines, or muddy-bottomed ponds or estuaries, we’ve tracked down the top choices for you. Wet feet, stable stones, and tight lines from all of us here at Heavy!
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1. Frogg Toggs Saltshaker Flats ShoePros:
- 50% Polyester, 50% Rubber
- Neoprene lining for cushioning and easy on/off
- Reinforced midsole for shock absorption
- Mesh and rubber upper
- Anatomical collar for all-day comfort
- Anti-corrosive hardware stands up against saltwater
- Cleated outsole provides superior grip on wet and dry surfaces
- No color selection
- Limited small sizing available
- Fairly cumbersome for long distance trekking
The Frogg Toggs Saltshaker Flats Shoe is a brilliant affordable option for saltwater wading applications that’s built particularly robust for high longterm integrity, corrosion resistance, and traction support in a variety of wading conditions.
These wading shoes are 50% polyester and 50% rubber and built with anti-corrosive hardware in order to withstand the harmful effects of saltwater. A neoprene lining furthermore creates some cushioning and makes the Saltshakers easy to take on and off.
Featuring a reinforced midsole for shock absorption and a cleated outsole for traction on virtually any surface, these boots are comfortable for all-day wear and feel solid underfoot when it comes to traction. Their lace-up design and anatomical collar also ensure these boots stay nice and snug and don’t pull loose in the mud or muck.
The design is certainly a bit more cumbersome and heavy duty than more minimalist neoprene wading booties, but the intention here was to create a particularly saltwater resistant option that handles rough, abrasive environments well.
Oyster beds, rocky tidal flats, and exposed coral are all navigatable with this tough as nails option, so if you’re the type of angler who doesn’t let some gnarly terrain stop them from reaching the fish, you’ll love this pair of stompers from Frogg Toggs.
2. Best Value Neoprene Booties: Hodgman Neoprene Wade ShoePros:
- Highly affordable
- Can be comfortably worn without neoprene socks for most foot types
- Design eliminates gravel and sand entering the bootie and is also great for wading through muck and mud without creating suction and getting stuck
- Tough rubber soles effectively protect against sharp or pointy objects on the bottom like sea shells, rocks and twigs
- Zippers are built durably and endure less strain on the front vs. the side of the bootie
- The 3.5mm neoprene side walls could be susceptible to puncture abrasion damage during longer hikes (out of the water) if you’re trekking through briers and jagged stone
- You’re likely not going to want to wear these booties out in public unlike some of our other options that are totally hip in and out of the water
- Require regular cleaning/maintence due to neoprene construction
Neoprene booties or wading shoes are a great option for those anglers who want to fully enclose their feet. If you’re going to be stepping through some sloppy muck or mud than you want to avoid wading footwear that is designed with the sole separate from the body of the shoe (aka sandals).
Neoprene wading booties and sneaker style wading footwear will perform better in the muck because the soles stay secure to your feet and won’t generate the same suction when you step as sandals do. Neoprene is also an excellent insulator so wading wear of this style will definitely keep your toes warmer.
If you’re wet wading then water temperature likely isn’t a problem but during those long days in the stream your extremities can get a bit chilly at the end of the day.
This 3.5mm pair of neoprene wade shoes are simple but superior to the competition. Hodgman has built these booties with tough rubber outsoles so they protect from anything pointy while wading. Stony streams, ponds and lakes full of twigs and coastline with sharp seashells are no problem with these bad boys – you can focus on the fishing and know your feet are safe.
One advantageous feature of this style of wading footwear is how well this type of bootie keeps out small rocks and gravel. If you’re stream fishing where there’s a lot of loose stone it can be a major pain in the ass to take off your shoes/boots every ten minutes to clear them of gravel. These booties have a tight fit with zippered closure that’s furthermore above the ankle so there’s no need to ever clear them of debris
These can be worn barefoot, or with a pair of thin neoprene socks if preferred. Depending on your feet and how you walk you might find that these booties give your ankles some chafe – a pair of thin neoprene socks will solve this issue.
Consider buying a size up if you’re going to pair them with socks so there’s room for them!. Most customer reviews insist these boots are comfortable barefoot, and you can always try wearing a regular sock if chaffing is an issue with your foot type. It’s more of a comfort factor than anything, the wade shoes are adequately warm on their own.
For the cost, this is an excellent value product. These are built tough and the soles have good traction so you can repurpose them for all sorts of other tasks. Boating, jetty fishing, woodland hikes or even yard work are all good matches with these booties. Some tough wading booties with an array of other applications at a reasonable cost – Hodgman is a killer choice for this category of wading footwear.
Some other neoprene bootie options we found to be good value include the similarly priced Aransas II Surf and Sand Shoe from Frogg Toggs and the Neoprene Flat Wading Shoe from Duck & Fish. The booties by Duck and Fish are 5mm as opposed to 3.5mm and employ a side zip, but they come a bit cheaper than Hodgman’s equivalent. The pair from Froggs Toggs have a sportier sole that might be preferred for longer hikes as opposed to the simple rubber base by Hodgman. Run the numbers and decide what’s best for you.
3. Best Neoprene Booties: Orvis Christmas Island BootiePros:
- Protect against coral abrasions
- Pop on and off with ease
- Quite comfortable barefoot
- Great for longer walks and days of exploring without blistering or chafing your feet
- Instantly drain when you step out of the water due to the Airprene construction
- Roll up and pack compact
- Fairly expensive
- No real tread on the soles, these grip coral and rock well but get a bit slippery in the mud
- Some might not like the grey aesthetic
Here’s my personal favorite choice of fishing shoe for wet wading. I purchased myself a pair of Christmas Island Booties for a fly fishing trip down to Mexico this past winter, and they performed with flying colors. While my fishing buddies went through several pairs of wading booties each due to the aggressive abrasiveness of the coral, my booties held up wonderfully over the entire month of fishing.
These booties don’t look like they’d be rock solid, but they are. They’re mindfully built to be both ultralight and tough in all the right places. Vulcanized rubber soles and heavy-duty ridged rubber sidewalls protect you from any potential scrapes while the Airprene construction of the uppers allows these boots to instantly drain. It’s a brilliant design that’s effectively durable and light as a feather.
The construction of these boots furthermore allows them to be rolled up nice and tight for easy, compact packing.
Orvis has built these booties with quality YKK side-zippers so they come off and on in seconds You won’t have to peel your feet out of these, they pop right off! The Christmas Island Booties are also remarkably comfortable for long walks and days of exploration. In or out of the water, these booties won’t chafe or blister your feet if sized correctly (they run true to size). This quality makes them the perfect flats booties in my opinion.
An ultralight, comfortable wading bootie that comes on and off with ease and stands up to coral abrasions – what more could you ask for? A bit on the expensive end, but well worth the cost.
4. Duck and Fish Neoprene Flats Wading ShoePros:
- 5.0m/m neoprene and durable nylon upper
- Cuff adjustment fits snug around the ankle upper for keeping out debris
- Hook and loop strap and a YKK durable side zipper for easy on and off
- Reinforced rubber vamp and heel for added integrity
- Excellent price point
- Lack any form of ankle support
- No real cushioning aside from the inherent neoprene construction makes these booties a bit minimalist for long treks over technical terrain
- No color selection
The Duck and Fish Neoprene Flats Wading Shoe is a simple and straightforward option for budget buyers seeking a pair of wet wading shoes for flats fishing, but will perform just fine for most angling applications,
What you see is what you get with these ones – these booties are designed for the minimalist fisherman seeking an affordable, yet reliable option for wet wading.
The 5.0mm neoprene construction engineered with a hook and loop strap and a YKK durable side zipper enables easy taking on and off and does not require you to wear wading socks. A cuff adjustment fits snug around the ankle upper for keeping out debris like sand and pebbles, and a reinforced rubber vamp and heel are present for added integrity and lifespan.
This is about as simple as neoprene wade booties get, but Duck and Fish has brilliantly engineered this pair of wet wading shoes to feel great underfoot, and for maximum convenience when it comes to pulling them on and off.
While this option may not offer any real ankle support or very much cushioning for more intensive trekking applications, the quality and performance here well outperform the price point for those anglers who anticipate spending most of their time in the water, vs. on the trailhead.
5. ForEverlast Ray-Guard Reef BootsPros:
- Rock solid construction holds up against coral, oyster beds, sting ray barbs and whatever else!
- Can be worn with or without waders
- Soles provide great traction
- Run true to size
- Excellent value
- Fairly heavy
- Can be a bit difficult getting in and out of due to the closure system
- Some might not like the aesthetic
Here’s a rock-solid pair of reef boots by Foreverlast Inc. that’s perfect for the fishermen out there with a need for tough footwear. If you often walk around the reef, oyster beds or unfriendly stream beds then you’ll love how tough these booties are built.
These are furthermore designed to stand up against stingray barbs if you share your fishing spot with any potentially dangerous rays.
As the brand name implies, these booties are well crafted and built to last.
These boots conveniently run true to size, so if you plan on wearing them barefoot or with a pair of neoprene or cotton socks, buy your usual size. If you plan on pairing these booties with waders, buy a size or two up depending on the thickness of your wader’s stocking feet.
The soles of these booties are furthermore a great choice for traction. Customer reviews insist these booties keep you properly planted on both hard surfaces and mud. They’re a bit on the heavy side, but that’s the price you pay for this level of toughness. You can’t have excellent protection against puncture and abrasion without building a relatively heavy wading boot!
All things considered, for the cost, this is an excellent value pair of wet wading fishing booties. You can easily pay far more for wading wear that’s inferior in durability and traction, so this option gets two thumbs up from us regarding price point!
6. Frogg Toggs Aransas II Neoprene Surf & Sand ShoePros:
- Highly affordable
- Tough soles, toe and heel caps make these booties suitable for more rugged wading environments
- Upper ankle strap makes for a great fit
- Cleated outsole for traction
- Run a bit large
- Zipper is not the best quality, be careful not to jam it with sand
- Some might not like the aesthetic
Here’s an awesome budget pair of neoprene wading booties from Frogg Toggs. The Aransas II Neoprene Surf & Sand Shoes are built impressively tough with a 5-millimeter neoprene body, an EVA midsole, and cleated athletic outsole. For those anglers who are hard on their feet and need some solid protection, this is a great option.
Both the toe and the heel are furthermore reinforced so you can stomp around out there in confidence. If you’re an angler who spends a lot of time around sharp or jagged rock or coral, then you’ll appreciate the toughness of the soles on these bad boys.
You can wear these booties barefoot, but they certainly run a size or even two big. I would recommend wearing these with a pair of thin neoprene socks to maximize comfort and minimize debris entering the shoes.
The front zipper is an effective closure system, but be careful not to jam it with sand – do your best to rinse the zipper before opening or closing to extend the lifespan of this bootie. The upper ankle tension strap is a nice touch that allows you to customize the fit of this bootie more than a lot of the competition.
All in all a highly affordable neoprene bootie option that’s both comfortable to fish in and provides solid protection against wading environments that are not foot-friendly.
7. Orvis Andros Flats Hiker Wading BootsPros:
- Nearly indestructible design and materials
- Soles provide some killer traction and protect the arch of your feet from painful impacts
- High ankle support for long hikes and sketchy footing
- Fully adjustable neoprene gravel cuff ensures no debris enters the boots.
- Built with drain holes
- Can be worn barefoot or with wading socks
- Fairly heavy
- Some anglers might not like that these boots are laced - they don't pop on and off like a lot of less robust wading booties
- Expensive option, these cost more than most wading boots nevermind wet wading boots
Here’s another pair of flats boots by Orvis that perform near flawlessly in all sorts of wet wading contexts. The Andros Flats Hiker Wading Boots can be worn with or without neoprene socks but will effectively keep debris out either way.
These boots are Orvis’s more robust alternative to the Christmas Island Booties and are designed to provide greater support and abrasion protection in hazardous wading environments. These are the fishing shoes for wet wading those absolute mine-field, coral ridden flats or oyster bed laden estuaries that just seem to shred any and all footwear.
The Polyurethane and nylon construction makes these boots tough as nails while the height of the uppers provides some righteous ankle support. These are also a great option for stream fishing or for alpine lakes where footing can be sketchy due to the hiking-inspired support and traction. A fully adjustable neoprene gravel cuff furthermore ensures no debris enters the boots.
The soles provide excellent traction on top of being particularly durable for wet wading shoes. If you struggle with pains in the arch of your feet while walking over stones and coral fragments then these boots will eliminate that issue for you. You can go stomping around knowing your feet are safe from abrasion and impact pains.
A durable boot for the most deadly wading environments that feels awesome for all-day wear. Orvis has come up with a winner with the Andros Flats Hiker Wading Boots.
8. Orvis Men’s Ultralight Wading BootPros:
- Compatible with or without stockingfoot waders
- Uppers are built from Clarino microfiber with PU coating, and feature mini-ripstop inserts
- Vibram EVA midsole, and Dual-durometer Vibram rubber sole featuring the Orvis lug pattern
- Exceptionally lightweight as a traditional wading boot, and as a wet wading option!
- Polyester mesh lining
- Compatible with studs for adding further traction
- Expensive option
- Intended to be worn with stockingfoot waders, so you'll want to pair these boots with neoprene wading socks
- Mesh panels have potential to endure abrasion damage if you're not mindful - these boots are built light rather than tough
The Orvis Men’s Ultralight Wading Boot is a top-notch, advanced wading option intended for use with stockingfoot waders, yet is wonderfully suitable for wet wading applications as well!
If you’re seeking a performance option of footwear for wet wading but also own a pair of chest waders, this pair of boots will fill both roles. If you wear a pair of neoprene wading socks, and/or gravel guards, then wearing the Ultralight Wading Boots without waders is no issue!
Orvis has designed these boots for adventure anglers who cover a lot of ground during a day of fishing and therefore need to be light on their feet. The brand has engineered a truly featherlight pair of wading boots here while somehow still retaining excellent ankle support, sole cushioning, traction, and longterm integrity. This is a do-everything pair of boots that will be your best friend for applications like trekking through technical backcountry to wading muddy tidal estuaries.
The uppers are built from Clarino microfiber with a PU coating, and feature mini-ripstop inserts while also featuring a polyester mesh lining for reduced weight. It’s a minimalist design when it comes to traditional wading boots, but fairly robust in wet wading shoe terms.
A Vibram EVA midsole, and Dual-durometer Vibram rubber sole ensure excellent underfoot cushioning and support, and truly exceptional traction if paired with some studs easily installed via the Orvis lug pattern. These boots are up for anything, so no matter your angling style, chances are they’re a stellar fit for you!
Featuring low weight, high traction and support, and impressive comfort, the Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots are hands down one of the most versatile pairs of wading boots on the market for both wet wading applications as well as for use with traditional waders.
9. Best Lightweight Wading Boots: SoftScience Men’s Terrafin Boat ShoePros:
- Unique wading sneaker/boot hybrid that’s suitable for both wet wading and for use with waders (buy a size big and use them for both)
- High ankle keeps debris out and provides some extra support
- Our top pick for use trudging through mud due to the closed shoe design and high ankle
- Supportive benefits of a boot paired with the lightweight sportiness of a water sneaker
- A good bit more expensive than most other water sneakers - you’ll have to decide if you want a wading boot/sneaker hybrid or one of each
- Come in whole sizes only
- A bit hevier than open toed wet wading options
Here’s a slightly heavier duty version of a wading sneaker that’s meant for some more strenuous trekking. This style of wading footwear could be described as a wading sneaker/boot hybrid that has the build of a more robust boot yet maintains a lightweight profile.
If you like the idea of a comfortable, supportive shoe for hiking that’s a bit tougher than the previous model listed, this could be what you’re looking for. The price is certainly a bit higher with this style wading shoe, but the idea is that it’s built to last.
These sharp looking boots from SoftScience can be worn with your chest waders or on their own wet wading. I think it’s worth buying a size up so you can utilize them for both styles of fishing. If you pair them with neoprene socks then they’ll fit great for wet wading and therefore be sized properly for both contexts.
The advantages of this style wading footwear are covered in the last section. Sneakers/boots like this are lightweight, good in the mud and totally suitable for trekking. These boots are certainly built tougher than the water sneakers already listed and only a bit heavier to walk in.
They’re a synthetic/fabric combination and have a generously thick sole for navigating stony terrain. Customer reviews claim there’s good cushioning for those longer walks and nice bounce back with each step. I love how the uppers on these boots extend above the ankle for some enhanced support.
If you’re a stream fishermen who traverses high water with moderate to strong current, you’ll be wise to wear wading footwear with ankle support. Half the point of wet wading is the minimalist approach to angling, but depending on where you’re fishing you might need a heavier duty boot like this.
At the end of the day, this option from SoftScience still feels more like a sneaker than a traditional wading boot — it just gives you the option to utilize it as either one!
There’s not really any other comparable wading footwear options in this style. SoftScience makes one of the only wading sneaker/boot hybrids worth buying! In a world of solely sneakers or boots, this is a happy medium!
10. Best Hiking Sandals for Wading: KEEN Men’s Newport H2 SandalPros:
- Awesome hiking footwear for long and/or more intense treks out to the fishing hole — they’re KEENs!
- Lacing system is super simple and provides a secure fit
- Polyester webbing and sole material is built super tough - you’ll own these for years of hiking and fishing
- 21 different color options to choose from
- Women’s sizing available
- These are definitely on the pricey side of wading foot wear - you could buy a pair of waders for this cost but considering the Newport H2s are a long lasting hiking sandal built by KEEN this is still a great value buy
- Although better than most sandals, you may have some difficulty pulling these out of deep muck or mud
- Limitied sizing/colors available
Here’s a unique approach to wading footwear from renowned outdoor outfitter, KEEN. An industry leader in hiking boots, KEEN is a trusted and beloved brand by outdoorsmen and women everywhere. The Newport H2 Sandal is a sort of hiking boot/sandal hybrid that combines the best features of both.
Intense trekking is no problem with these sandals, and they’re just as capable as fishing footwear. Offered in both men’s and women’s sizing, the Newport H2s are an advanced approach to wet wading.
The Newports are built to endure heavy abuse. KEEN builds their footwear knowing you’re going to beat the hell out of it — it takes many seasons to wear out their craftsmanship. These sandals are no exception, the polyester webbing of body and rubber outsoles make the Newports tough as nails.
KEEN has built the toe with their signature style to eliminate painful stubs and the polyester body is also more attached to the sole than the design of most sandals.
It’s an open bodied sandal, but the webbing of the strapping and heel has a lot of contact and connection with the sole. This means less suction when stepping through mud. Being a sandal, these will be tougher to pull out of the muck than neoprene booties or wading sneakers, but they’re designed to minimize this issue.
When the weather is hot it’s nice to have the breathability of a sandal and KEEN has found a way to effectively wear this style footwear over any terrain.
The razor sipped outsole paired with 3mm built in lugs gives these sandals some awesome traction. Once again, these are essentially high quality hiking boots that are suitable for wading. Your toes are also snug within the toe cap rather than being exposed which enhances the fit for actively hiking/fishing.
The bungee system for securing the Newports is both super fast and simple. These sandals come on and off in a flash and adjustment is as simple as the push-button on the bungee. These are designed to be worn barefoot so no need for neoprene socks unless you prefer to have a full seal over your feet.
Some anglers may want full coverage depending on the wading environment (neoprene booties or wading sneakers might be a better option in this case). The manufacturer recommends buying a half size larger than usual shoe size for an optimum (barefoot) fit.
Because of the platform height of the sole and the design of the strap webbing, rocks and gravel entering the sandals when properly secured is barely a problem. If you find that you’re taking on a lot of debris through the open heel of the sandals they loosen and eject whatever’s gotten underfoot easily. The Newports are perhaps the most versatile option on this list and essentially up for anything, but none the less be mindful about what style wading shoe is ideal for your personal fishing conditions.
The breathability and comfort of a sandal, support and toe protection of a hiking boot and stone gripping sole characteristic of wading footwear — the Newport H2s are a seriously bad ass wet wading option. If you need something that’s trail ready, compatible with a wide variety of wading environments and built to last then these KEENs are right up your alley.
Another crowd favorite that’s very comparably designed (and priced) to the Newports are the Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Sieve Water Shoes. It’s a super similar design with more of a closed heel than the Newports for those fishermen who have a preference to Merrell over KEEN. The Blaze Sieve Convertible Water Sandals also by Merrell are another solid option that employ an open toe design and a Vibram tc5+ outsole for righteous traction. One more option worth mentioning is Columbia’s Supervent II Water Shoe. All great choices for this realm of wading footwear!
11. Best Casual Sandals for Wading: Chaco Men’s Zcloud Sport SandalPros:
- These are some sharp looking sandals you’ll end up wearing to the beach, to the bar and around town
- Provide an awesome snug fit with a real posture enhancing sole that feels great on long walks — these are NOT your average sandals
- Adjustment is simple — tighten/loosen these up in a jiff when you’re traversing loose gravel and want to keep sand/stones out of your soles
- Pack tight in a backpack or duffle if you want to bring these sandals on a trip!
- Nine different color options to choose from
- Women’s sizing available
- A bit on the expensive side, but these are sandals you’ll do far more than just fish in
- When standing on dry land, line has a tendency to snag the adjustment clip if fly fishing
- Walking in sloppy muck or mud will create a lot of suction in these sandals and put a lot of strain on the strapping
My Zcloud Sandals and I have been through a lot of fishing and hiking together. Chaco sent me out a pair to sample in the fall and I’ve since beat the hell out of them around the globe from the rocky streams of Patagonia to the sandy beaches of southern Spain.
These are versatile, casual sandals that can be worn in any context that are particularly awesome for wet wading. Chaco also offers this model in women’s sizing.
I knew right away that the Zclouds were not your average sandals upon trying them on. The arch support and quality of the soles overall put these sharp looking sandals in a whole other league. The fit provided by the durable polyester strapping furthermore seats your feet nice and snug.
Walking many miles in these sandals is no problem — just make sure you take the time to properly adjust them when you take them out of the box (directions included). Sometimes I choose to loosen mine up while walking on flatter ground and they behave like flip flops — it can be nice after hours of wearing them tight to your feet in the river current.
The rubber outsoles are pretty dam righteous when it comes to navigating stony stream beds in particular. While fly fishing in Patagonia I walked in and out of the stream without breaking my stride while my buddies wearing regular sandals complained about rocks hurting the arch of their feet through their footwear. The soles are designed quite thick to really put some material between you and the ground. Wet stone and slick surfaces are also handled very nicely by the non-marking ChacoGrip rubber outsole and 3.5mm deep lugs.
I almost never had to deal with small stones or gravel accumulating under my feet, but by simply loosening the straps for a moment or even just arching my feet (in the river current) I could easily clear out my sandals.
Walking in deep muck or mud can be a bit challenging in the Zclouds. Because they are both open toed and heeled and leave your foot mostly exposed, a lot of suction is created between your foot and the sole while pulling your feet free. I’ve moved through mud in these just fine (you don’t have to take them off) but I wouldn’t purchase them if muck is a norm where you’ll be fishing.
My only real complaint with the Zclouds is that while fly fishing sometimes my line gets snagged on the adjustment clip. It can be super frustrating when you have a big cast going and it happens to me somewhat consistently when my right foot is out of the water. It can be corrected by mindfully changing your casting stance, but it’s annoying when you’re trying to focus on your cast, not your feet. When the sandals are submerged it’s not an issue, but it’s still something to note for all you fly fisherman considering the right wading footwear.
All in all, these are excellent sandals for both wet wading and regular use. I’ve worn mine countless miles across South America and Europe and they’ve honestly seen more casual wear than fishing (beware the classic Chaco tan lines!) They furthermore pack really tight at the base of a backpack and are the perfect solution for the adventure angler who doesn’t have the space to pack full on waders.
If the temperature is warm where you’re traveling to fish then save big time on pack space and just bring a pair of sandals like the Zclouds for wet wading.
Alternative options to the Zclouds in this same wading style include the Universal Sandal by Teva. It’s a budget option that won’t provide the same arch support or traction as a pair of Chacos, but is still a great choice for an easy pair of “grab and go” wading footwear. The Z-Trail Lightweight Sandal by Xero Shoes are another comparable option that sacrifice traction and arch support for lower cost and weight.
12. Merrell Men’s All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water ShoePros:
- Excellent quality hiking boot for all day treks
- Transitions between wet and dry environments wonderfully
- Vibram outsole & cushioned midsole provide great traction and comfort
- Breathable mesh body drains nicely and protects your feet
- Dry nicely and built with M-Select FRESH technologies to avoid smelly boots
- These are top quality boots and wading shoes, you'd be smart to limit them to freshwater use if you want to maximize lifespan
- Expensive option
- These boots are laced so they don't pop on and off as quick as some other options
When you think of Merrell, you probably think of hiking boots, not wading shoes. You’d be correct if you thought Merrell was one of the top hiking boot brands in the industry, but don’t sleep on their water shoes if you’re looking for a wet wading option for fishing.
The All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoes are a perfect blend between a hiking boot and wading shoe. These are super comfortable for all-day wear no matter where or how far you trek and transition wonderfully between wet and dry terrain. If you’re a backcountry angler who often hikes miles before and after reaching your fishing spot, these boots should be on your radar.
The Vibram soles make these boots exceptionally lightweight and provide excellent traction on almost any trail or wading environment. The cushioned UniFly midsole and molded TPU heel counter combine to add even more comfort to the Aero Sports.
The body of these shoes is built from a breathable mesh that allows them to drain, yet doesn’t allow any debris in. The material is also odor preventing so don’t worry about these shoes getting nasty after getting wet – they dry out nicely and don’t stink.
We wouldn’t recommend these boots for use on saltwater flats, estuaries or coastlines that have particularly abrasive obstacles like coral, oyster beds or seashells. The Aero Sports would likely hold up and perform just fine, but these wading boots double so effectively as hiking boots it would be a shame to cut them on abrasive hazards or allow the salt to degrade them.
If used for freshwater fishing applications these boots should last for years of heavy fishing and hiking.
Make sure to check out the All Out Blaze Sieves also by Merrell if you like the idea of a full-on hiking boot that doubles as a wading shoe. The Sieves are built with an open heel, hybrid sandal/boot design that allows water to pass through the shoe rather than a mesh body. They also utilize a cinch lace system rather than laces.
13. Astral TR1 Mesh Minimalist Hiking ShoesPros:
- Draining midsole and hydrophobic meshes make this a great hybrid shoe for hiking/wading
- G.15 non-marking rubber soles with aggressive 5mm lugs provide excellent traction
- EVA and rubber absorb impact and effectively conform to the ground, stream bed or sea floor
- Mesh sides provide great ventiltion making these a cool option for particularly hot climates
- Sharp aesthetic looks great for more casual, around town wear - multiple color options available
- Fairly expensive
- Low cut design does not provide much ankle support
- Integrity of the mesh is questionable long term if where you're fishing is particularly abrasive against your feet
The Astral TR1 Mesh Minimalist Hiking Shoes are a brilliant option for wet wading applications where you want to be light on your feet and cover a lot of ground.
These wet wading shoes are remarkably ultralight and super ventilated due to the mesh sidewall construction, so they won’t be as durable as some more robustly built options. This is also a low-cut design, so if solid ankle support is a must for you, then you’d be wise to look elsewhere.
Although the integrity is not as bomb-proof as some of the other options listed here, don’t go thinking these shoes aren’t built to take a beating. Assuming the wading environment you’re fishing in is not super abrasive and hazardous, these will hold up just fine for you! Muddy pond bottoms, freestone streams and rivers, and tidal flats are all friendly enough settings for these wading shoes to excel.
G.15 non-marking rubber soles with aggressive 5mm lugs provide excellent traction, while integrated EVA and rubber absorb impact and effectively conform to the ground you’re stomping on. These shoes are designed to move with you and truly conform to whatever you’re walking on, so if you fish on largely uneven terrain, the amount of feel here might work against you.
It’s worth noting how well ventilated these shoes are due to the mesh design – if you require some extra traction and protection out wet wading but struggle to keep your feet cool enough, defintiely keep this option in mind. They’re comfortable with or without wading socks.
All things considered, Astral has come up with a stellar pair of wading and hiking shoes that will be your new best friend on long treks into backcountry fishing holes, casual sessions at the lake and everything in between!
14. RAX Quick Drying Slip-Resistant Aqua Hiking ShoesPros:
- Quick dry material and hole on the sole for fast draining and drying when in and out of the water
- Breathable and effectively durable air mesh upper
- Slip-resistant rubber outsole with lugs provide traction
- High density EVA material and triangular design of the midsole improves stability and cushioning
- Easy fastener on the quick-lace system for easy taking on and off
- Toe cap for added integrity
- Can be worn as regular sneakers
- Decent color selection
- Fairly expensive option considering the level of integrity here
- Long term interity of the mesh uppers is quesitonable if wading in abrasive environments
- Some anglers might not prefer the quick-lace system when it comes to a tight and secure fit pulling out of muck and mud
The RAX Quick Drying Slip-Resistant Aqua Hiking Shoes are essentially a pair of water-compatible sneakers intended for wading that will perform wonderfully for fishing applications depending on the context and setting.
These sneakers are exceptionally lightweight and feature a quick-lace system for rapid and easy taking on and off. The quick-dry material and hole on the sole furthermore work together to achieve fast draining and drying when in and out of the water, so these are a good choice for fishermen who do a fair amount of trekking between fishing spots.
Slip-resistant rubber outsole with lugs provide adequate traction for most wading environments, and the inherent design provides a touch more ankle support than completely soft-bodied neoprene wade booties. There is also a toe cap for some added integrity on the front of the shoe and to avoid painful toe-jams when wading through unpredictable, turbid conditions.
Perhaps best of all, these wading shoes look and behave like regular sneakers, so you can get away with wearing them off the water in regular social contexts. There are even a few color selections to choose from.
Simple, straightforward, and highly effective depending on your angling style, the RAX Aqua Hiking Shoes are without a doubt a great go-to for those seeking a streamlined, easy on and off option for remaining light on their feet.
15. ALEADER Men’s Quick Drying Aqua Water ShoesPros:
- Super affordable
- Incredibly lightweight sneaker that drains quick and doesn’t hold a lot of water in the fabric when on land. Great for when you want to be light on your feet but still require the protection of closed foot wear
- The water drain outsole is well rated for slippry conditions — these are stream ready sneakers
- Are low profile enough to be worn as regular sneakers and also built well enough to be used with chest waders
- 15 color options to choose from
- The ankle height and closed shoe design may allow sand and fine gravel to enter the sneaker depending on where you’re wading
- The soles could become plugged up with stones if where you’re fishing has a lot of gravel in the stream bed
- These won't hold up long if wearing in the salt water - make sure to rinse them thoroughly after wearing in the ocean
Wading or water sneakers are a different approach to wet wading that might be just your style. A nice pair of wading sneakers is essentially no different than a regular pair other than the materials used to make them water shoes.
The fit and feel is therefore very sporty as opposed to feeling like a sandal or a traditional wading boot. If a typical day of fishing for you involves a long hike and you want to bring just one pair of footwear that keeps you light on your feet and can be submerged while wading, this style option is worth investigating.
Wearing sneakers while fishing on the river or at the lake might seem a bit ridiculous at first, but this is one of those cases where simple is better.
I have a fly fisherman friend in southern Colorado who swears by his cheapo Walmart sneakers for use as wading boots. He insists that although he goes through a pair per season there’s no reason to spend upwards of $100 on a pair of boots for his breathable waders. His traction was not any worse than the rest of us while wading the sometimes very slippery freestone streams in the area and it really made me scratch my head. When it was time to hike home (sometimes for hours) at the end of the day his sneakers were far lighter to trek back to the car in than our clunky boots.
Upon further thought, I realized sneakers as wading boots (wet or paired with chest waders) is actually quite brilliant. These sneakers from ALEADER are a better version of what my fishing buddy was wearing that are actually designed for use hiking and wading.
The breathable air mesh fabric of these sneakers keeps them super breathable and lightweight while out of the water. These sneakers are similar in concept to neoprene booties because of the full coverage they provide, but the material used will keep your feet much cooler in hot weather.
A ComforDry sockliner even provides some cushioning in the sole and promotes a drier and therefore healthier shoe environment between uses. It’s a real sneaker meant for wading — not a wading shoe that struggles to keep up on the trail.
The rubber water-drain outsoles provide some great traction in slippery conditions and the Solyte midsole is desgned to give you some nice bounce back while hiking. You can keep moving all day in these comfortably and without them gaining any water weight. These should perform well in the mud compared to sandal style wading footwear because the soles are secured to the shoe body but they’re fairly low cut so be mindful pulling your feet out of muck over ankle height.
There’s holes in the soles for draining water that may be large enough to allow some debris into the shoe. If you fish streams or creeks with fine gravel bottoms then this feature might work against you but there’s almost zero customer complaints about the soles on this model.
Some Customer reviews insist buying a half size small for the proper fit. If you’re going to pair these sneakers with 1mm neoprene socks than buying true to size or a half size up is probably a good bet. If you want to try pairing these with your chest waders then try buying a full size larger than your true size to account for the neoprene booties. We think you’ll be impressed with their performance whatever the context.
You gotta love the versatility of a wading sneaker. If you like the idea of this style wading shoe and want to check out some other models, make sure to look at this ultralight pair from Putu as well as these quick drying sneakers from Keesky.
ALEADER also makes a slip on version of this model if you dig this pair but could do without the laces.
Why Wet Wade?
When the sun is out and you're going fishing it's pretty liberating just throwing on a bathing suit and your favorite pair of wading sandals, neoprene booties or sneakers. It's a super quick way to get on the water and in a lot of contexts, it's more comfortable than using a dry wading system.
When temperatures are hot, it's also of course quite nice to get wet while wade fishing.
Freedom of motion, the bulk you carry on your person and the weight of your feet are all improved upon while wet wading as opposed to using traditional waders. All you need is a lightweight fishing pack and you're fully geared up and ready to rock!
Of course, not every fishing setting or scenario allows for wading shoes, but the ones that do are well worth being prepared for. Hiking longer distances, in particular, is far easier while wearing shorts and sneakers than chest waders and boots - if you like to cover ground when the sun is shining then this list is for you.
Make sure to consider the terrain you'll be walking over while reading through our list and also the level of durability you'll need. Some of our options are best paired with neoprene socks, while others are good to go barefoot.
Neoprene Wading Socks
Many of the above listed options are best utilized with a pair of neoprene socks, very much like you wear traditional wading boots over stockingfoot waders.
The use of a neoprene liner and or gator keeps debris out of your wading shoe, adds some insulation to your feet, improves cushioning, and reduces or eliminates chaffing depending on the footwear.
The benefits of wading socks are quite worthwhile regardless of whether or not your wading shoes require them - so it's wise to consider pairing some neoprene socks with your wet wading system regardless of what you choose.
1mm or 2mm thickness is preferred for lower profile wading shoes and sneakers, while 3mm or even 4mm neoprene socks are ideal for more robust wading boots.
A few of our favorite options include:
- WETSOX Frictionless Suit and Boot Socks
- Orvis Neoprene Wet Wading Guard Socks
- Korkers I-DRAIN Neoprene Guard Sock
- Caddis Neoprene Booties with Gravel Guards
- COPOZZ 3mm Diving Socks
Neoprene booties are a great go-to wet wading option for a variety of angling contexts.
While they might not provide the ankle support and traction of more robust wading shoes or even sandals, neoprene booties are highly affordable, come on and off easily, pack super compact for travel and also ensure your feet don't get too cold while fishing in borderline chilly conditions.
Some of our favorite neoprene booties for wet wading include:
- Orvis Christmas Island Bootie (editor's choice)
- Hodgman Neoprene Wade Shoe
- ForEverlast Reef Boots
- Frogg Toggs Aransas II Neoprene Surf & Sand Shoe
- Duck and Fish Neoprene Flats Wading Shoe
Wade shoes come in all shapes and sizes, spanning a wide spectrum of angling and trekking applications.
If you're seeking footwear that won't slow you down on longer, more intense hikes into backcountry fishing spots, or just want something particularly low profile for more casual wading environments, wade shoes are a great call.
There are, however, some more robust, heavy-duty options suitable for aggressively abrasive and sketchy wading environments such as the Orvis Andros Flats Hiker.
A lot of options furthermore have a sharp aesthetic that can totally be worn in and out of the water, as well as around town!
Some of our top picks for wade shoes include:
- Astral TR1 Mesh Minimalist Hiking Shoes
- ALEADER Men's Quick Drying Aqua Water Shoes
- SoftScience Fin Boot
- Merrell Men's All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe
Don't overlook sandals as totally adequate wet wading companions. Several brands build traditional sandals and specialized open-toe footwear that work wonderfully for a variety of fishing contexts.
If you want to feel the water between your toes, fishing sandals will give your feet the most freedom to breathe, and in most cases will put your feet more in touch with the environment you're wading in than other options.
Furthermore, fishing sandals oftentimes have a sharp look and can be versatilely worn in a wide array of contexts and setting apart fro wet wading.
Our favorite fishing sandals include:
Many of the fishing shoes and wet wading options listed here are best paired with neoprene socks in order to avoid chaffing and maximize overall comfort. Neoprene socks can also, of course, be used for some added warmth if you're the type that gets chilly extremities even in warm water.
If the option you decide on recommends pairing the footwear with neoprene socks, or if you simply prefer to have a barrier between your feet and the unknowns of the water body you're wading in, we've pinned down a few neoprene socks that won't disappoint.
For ultralight, particularly thin neoprene socks that you'll barely realize you're wearing, check out the following:
For slightly thicker, more robust neoprene socks that more closely imitate the bootie of a stocking foot wader, take a look at these options:
Keep Off The Coral!
While this article recommends some wet wading footwear for enduring the abrasion and puncture risk of walking on and around coral, we here at Heavy want to remind all you anglers that you should always do your very best to steer clear of coral and find alternative walking routes.
All coral types are living organisms that do not enjoy being stepped on, some species being much more fragile than others. Damage from stomping and crushing coral is oftentimes irreversible, so be extra mindful out there. Sunscreen is horribly detrimental to the health of coral as well to name one other culprit negatively affecting coral populations around the world - so consider using sun shirts, fishing gloves, and hats as an alternative to sunscreen while wet wading.
Furthermore, coral is habitat, food, and cover for countless species of fish - many of which you're likely targeting!
Being kind and respectful of our oceans means keeping off the coral, so while sometimes it's unavoidable, make sure you're not chasing fish in environments that put you directly on top of the reef!
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