Wading boot soles

After reading @brian_miller’s post about his boot driers and not wanting to hijack his thread, I figured I’d start a new thread in a new category.

What type of wading boot soles do you like? I have a pair of Korkers Darkhorse wading boots (which are amazing boots) and need some new soles and am debating which ones to get. I’ve had the Vibram soles, felt, and studded rubber Vibram. The latter of which I have found relatively useless with absolutely no ability to grip anything.

I’ve been contemplating getting their new Triple Threat soles that have options for carbide studs, aluminum bars, or aluminum hex discs. I’ve also thought about their Svelte II, a synthetic replacement for felt.

What do you use?

I enjoy lightly fished remote water that I have to hike into. For that reason I consider top quality wading boots as a safety item for me, along with a wading staff (a telescoping, now hybrid folding telescoping trekking pole). Now that I am an old retired guy that often goes fishing alone during the week when most of my fishing companions who are younger have to work, it’s even more so.

I think I started out in the mid 70s with Weinbrenner “Gary Borger” felt sole wading boots and fished them for a long time until I had worn holes in the uppers at the toes.
On some water I took to using slip on aluminum bar wading cleats that were riveted to felt soles on low top rubber galoshes to pull over rubber or felt sole wading boots

My next pair of boots were a pair of Chota with rubber soles that slipped badly on rock snot but they came with screw-in studs. Problem was the studs would pull out and a set of OEM replacement studs was expensive. I used them for several seasons. I took to using stainless self tapping screws as replacements. I still use those boots for saltwater beaches without the studs.

Next I picked up a pair of first generation Korkers “Guide”(?) boot. The hyped-up rubber “Kling-On” soles don’t. They were-are terrible on rock snot. But for $10 more I got a special “Trout Unlimited” sole combination with the studded Kling-On soles rather than the felt soles as the second sole in the set. They were acceptable. I fished those for several years. I also tried the larger carbide studded soles but they were uncomfortable to walk in and were very slippery on large basketball + sized smooth rocks in high gradient fast moving rivers and liked the studded Kling-Ons more. When my second set of studded Kling-On soles wore through, the 1st generation soles were no longer available.

I bought the second-current generation Korkers Devils Canyon boots and purchased the aluminum bar cleat soles as an add-on to the basic Kling-On and felt sole combination. Woah… those soles are by far the best traction I’ve ever had on any kind of sub-surface river cobble, so much so that I rarely have to deploy my wading staff. They also work pretty well on dry rock and wet branches. The non-studded Kling-On soles do make acceptable hiking soles for long approaches and I’ll often carry both sets. I bought a second set of the bar cleat soles after the first pair wore out. I finally retired those boots just a few months shy of 5 years because the uppers we delaminating from the rand. They actually started to delaminate in the previous year but I used Gear Aid Aquaseal +SR to repair them.

A year later, the repaired areas were still good but a lot more of the original bond was failing. I gooped them up for one more trip after my wife ordered me a new pair of Korkers Wraptr boots for Fathers Day 2019. After that trip one of the bar cleats wore through so I bought a pair of the Triple Threat soles with the aluminum bar cleats for the new Wraptr boots that you see in the DIY Boot Dryer thread. So far I find no noticeable difference between the original and the Triple Threat bar sole’s traction. A friend bought the TT hex soles but we have not swapped soles-boots to compare. He likes the hex much better than the felts, which are pretty thin, wear through rapidly and are not good at all for steep muddy trails. Korkers cautions about using Svelte soles for hiking because of the wear.

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I bought a pair of Orvis and Simms wading boots at the same time for a backup. I used the Orvis boots for many years until it was just worn out. However, I had a lot of problems with Simms. The sole kept coming off and I kept trying to glue it back together until I was so frustrated that I threw them in a trash can. I again bought a heavy-duty pair of Simms wading boots that look like mountaineering boots and hope I have better luck this time. I really like felt soles but it does take time to sterilize them. Are there any rubber soles out there that really work? I slide around with cleats and bars when climbing over boulders so I need a super sticky sole for my fishing boots. At this point, I haven’t seen anything that beats felt soles Any ideas from you guys?

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I have (not yet) felt the need to buy wading boots. For cold weather I do use a pair of rubber boot-foot hip waders. Warmer weather means I’m wearing vibram-sole trail runners to wade in.

Thanks for the detailed reply. I was out fishing multiple times over the long holiday weekend and I left one river after about 45 minutes. The studded Kling-on soles were useless. It took me that long to wade only 25 feet (~8m) upriver, that was 10" (25cm) at the deepest. This was the worst rock snot I’ve ever experienced. I ended up putting my rod away because of how many times I slipped.

Last spring, after more than 30 years of wet wading in trail shoes or cheap hiking boots, I finally bought my first pair (the Korkers I mention above) of wading boots. I’ve discovered I’m not a big fan of felt and likely won’t buy that again. For some applications, the plain rubber soles work great and other situations, I need more gripping ability.

@brian_miller I’ve read quite a bit of negative stuff about the Svelte online, so I’m not likely to get those.

So far the boots themselves are holding up well. I have about 50 days in the water last year and have about 25 so far this year. The owner of the shop where I bought them is also a guide and said he’s on the water about 120 days a year. He had the same boots I do and is going into his fourth season with them. Aside from being scratched and going through several pairs of soles, his were still in good condition (he brought them out and showed them to me).

I busted my @ss in Montana using studs. I prefer felt over any other sole option.

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What we’re the river conditions like when you were there?

Rocky and sometimes algae covered rocks. The studs did nothing. It was like walking on ice with sneakers. One of the rivers, the West Boulder, I fell on a large, flat boulder right on my back. Fortunately I didn’t get hurt. I switched over to felt the rest of the trip.

I had not heard about the Svelte II until you posted. If you try them would love to hear a report. I have not found anything that is perfect and there probably will always be some sort of compromise. The nice thing about the Korkers model is you could own a few types of soles and just carry them with you and switch up if one type is not working.

I know @creekside_robb (in the past at least) implemented his preferred sole for hiking to stream then swapped it out for his preferred wading sole…which seemed like a pretty smart way to go about it.

@Gressak introduced me to https://www.gripstuds.com/Waderboots.php?fbclid=IwAR3PuK8lqwFnos0KAFd6FBtk8XtKd_xEFhfWSOvKM66AmzkD7pagPPSvAPc which in conjunction with a rubber sole (Vibram I think) on my boots has been much better than any other stud I have ever tried. They don’t wear down, they don’t pop out and well again not perfect but better. I’m not sure if you could put these on a Korker sole or not…but maybe worth a check?

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Again, I use the rubber Kling-On sole for long hiking trails and the bar cleats work great in the water. But I am not climbing in and out of the water over dry boulders.

Korkers does sell the soft rubber (non-studded) “VIBRAM IDROGRIP SOLE” that apparently are much better than Kling-Ons for trails but wear faster.

There are Korkers reviews on the web. Trident Fishing at least sounds like they’ve actually tested each sole rather than just parroting the Korkers marketing copy. They don’t like the bar cleats but do like the studded Kling-Ons and felts(???). I guess I don’t know jack.

At any rate with Korkers, I get lots of choices, and often carry more than one sole.

There is no perfect boot. The closest I have come are the simms freestones in felt and in vibram. I fish year round and mostly in the salt which is probably the harshest conditions as the salt will destroy most material and material tends to rot and corrode at a far higher rate than in fresh. Just the same these freestones have given me 6-10 seasons. As @arieger noted, I pair them with gripStuds…1800s for bubble weed in the surf…1300s for freshwater and weed free rock.

@R_Ruff notes the danger of spikes. On slick algae sometimes spikes cannot grip and even on smooth rock, there is danger of skating. Plain felt is better in those conditions, but most of the time spikes will save you from a tumble.

You need to know your spots, pick you footwear, and even then… test every foothold.

For fresh, there is claim that felt can harbor klingons…rocksnot and the like. I guess no matter the boot one should try to clean them prior to marching around especially in different geographic locations.

https://www.successfulflyfishing.com/how-to-clean-your-waders-and-wading-boots/

never saw the freezing recommendation…seems like the simplest…

@Brian_Miller , I like your boot dryer. I have a dehumidifier that I run in my basement most of the year. I just use that, but it can take a couple days to fully dry. I am a firm believer in drying gear…especially waders. Inside dry first then outside.

I have 4 pairs of boots in rotation…and outfitted for different conditions/purposes. I prefer this over dealing with korkers and interchangeable soles. Rotating and specializing based on type of water and type of structure. They get their turns and have opportunity to dry out fully.

One important tip I can share, I use the green superfeet inserts in all my wading boots. Wading boots never have any arch support and it will fatigue you pretty fast. Those green superfeet I buy are around 30-40 bucks but worth every penny. I have pairs that are still functioning perfectly after 5 seasons in the salt and fresh. Really well made…high density foam inserts that do not seem to hold water.

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I’ve been using the SoftScience Terrafin boots since October or November. It’s an awesome boot. Extremely lightweight. Very grippy soles. This is my first pair of wading boots, so I can’t compare them to felt, lugs, Vibrams, etc., but I’m very happy with them.

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I had the Vibram soles on my Korkers. Was not impressed. Great for hiking on land but that’s about it.

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One difference is weight. The TT bar sole is bulky and 8 ounces heavier because it uses a thicker sole and the Allen screws vs rivets. Also, the Wraptr boots are about 10 ounces heavier than the Devils Canyon boots; that’s 1 lb 2 ounces per boot (yikes! :open_mouth:) .

I went fishing for 6.5 hours today hiking 5 miles with about 1/4 mile of off trail bushwhacking, and fished 3/4 river mile upstream. I am shagged but inspired to get back to my daily workout routine!

I did four 5 to 7 mile day trips in July and August with approaches of up to 3 miles and up to 1.5 river miles of wading since my last comment. The first trip was the longest. After reading the comments about felt by @R_Ruff I took a gamble with bringing a pair of never used regular Korkers felt soles as my wading soles because the Triple Threat Vibram / bar cleat soles are so thick and heavy to carry in my sling pack.

The felts worked quite well; nice because I have two sets that were new-unused. On my third trip I did run into some rock snot in a slow section and went down in a slow pirouette; fortunately not injuring me or damaging my rod, where I think the bar cleats would have grabbed on the rough surface of the submerged granite. But I will probably use the combination of Kling-On for hiking and felts for wading for trips with over a mile of hiking prior to wading.

An earlier reply posed the question: “are there any rubber soles that actually work?”

Yes there are, but it’s complicated as the boot they’re attached to is no longer made but still can be found sometimes on eBay…
Five Ten Canyoneering boots.
There have been several models, but they all have this incredible, amazingly grippy “stealth rubber” sole. I don’t know how they did it, but they grip everything, wet or dry. The company was bought by Adidas and they discontinued this niche model because they don’t sell enough to make it worth the while for a big corporation.
Do an eBay search for “five ten” in the outdoor sports category. You’ll have to scroll through a bunch of climbing shoes, but eventually you’ll see the Five Ten Canyoneer 3 red and black boot. Size up 1/2-1 for a neoprene sock or close fitting wader bootie. Adjust your sock situation to make it work. I know guides in Utah swearing by them, my Tenkara mentor uses them, I own two pair in case I live long enough to wear out the first.
On the trail, steep slippery granite, or in the river, comfortable, durable, better grip than anything I’ve ever used.
If you ever see the previous models with a strap and buckle closure BUY THEM!

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I’ve been searching for them for several years now. When you find them on eBay (which is surprisingly often), they usually sell for more than the original retail cost. I usually see sizes for normal people, not clown shoe wearing ogres like me.

If I remember correctly, I think that @fallfishtenkara owns them and really likes them.

I’ve seen them there occasionally as big as 15… how big a shoe do you wear?!?

As for the price, I expect to be able to put my unused (barring unforeseen tragedies) back up pair (the pre laces model!) up there in about another year for an opening bid of about $200 and see where it goes. Of course they’re little guys, 12.5’s

Maybe someday they’ll come back into production…

Generally a 14, depending on who makes the shoe. It would be great if they brought them back. However, since the company was bought out and shifted focus, I (sadly) don’t expect to ever see them again.

I’m curious. Adidas is now selling the TERREX HYDRO_LACE MEN’S WATER SHOE for canyoneering. Is it similar to the Five Ten?