First Impressions

There’s been a lot written about felt vs. rubber for wading boots. A few years back, I started investigating rubber, not because I was concerned about invasive aquatic species, but for safety and convenience. I fish mostly small streams and often spend my days hiking and hopping from one granite boulder to another. Felt is great in the water, but doesn’t cut it out of the water. I’ve slipped on trails and rocks, found myself in the middle of a stream because felt wouldn’t couldn’t grab hold of a streamside ledge, and nearly broke a knee cap after sliding over a granite boulder in a pair of studded felt soles (pretty much like ice skating, I found).

I tried a number of options in my quest. First, I resoled a pair of Simms L2s with FiveTen rubber. Not bad, but the resole job didn’t hold up. Next, I tried a pair of lightweight L.L. Bean boots with sipped rubber soles. Also not bad, but not great either. Ultimately, I purchased a pair of Simms Rivershed boots with Vibram soles.

Out of the box, these things looked incredibly well made and rugged.


Because of my issues with past boots with studded soles, I opted for the non-studded version. Like I said, these things are rugged. They have a heavy-duty upper made of nylon and synthetic leather.

Upper: Synthetic, full perimeter rubber rand for extra durability
Sole: StreamTread (Vibram)
Weight: 4 lb (pair)

The toe and sides are covered with a rubber rand that climbs halfway up the sidewall of the boot to protect the wearer. The tongue is gusseted, lacing eyelets and hooks are strong. And the Vibram sole has an triangular tread pattern that is said to better grip in the wet.


The Riversheds, like all Simms boots these days, are built on a EEE width last. This makes the boot feel like it’s at least one to two sizes too big, even with neoprene booty. I typically wear a 10.5 or 11 shoe and ended up with a size 10 Rivershed. I also added multiple insoles into the boot — including a Superfeet Green insole — to keep my feet from sliding around inside. These additions had the added benefit of making the boot quite comfortable for hiking streamside.

The rubber soles are a definite improvement out of the water, but have nowhere near the grip of felt. In short, they don’t live up to the initial marketing hype. Ultimately, I added studs to the soles to help with the in-stream grip.

Tip: At nearly $30, I think Simms carbide tipped studs are way overpriced. Visit your local Fastenal location and get yourself some #4 ¼-inch hex head screws for a fraction of the price.

Final Verdict

With everything, there are tradeoffs. For me, rubber soles are the way to go given where and how I fish, the amount and type of hiking I do. The current generation of rubber soled boots definitely improve on older versions, but still don’t live up to felt in water. Studs are a must for safety.

First Impressions:
[Rating:4.5/5] Features:
[Rating:3.5/5] Fit:
[Rating:3/5] Final Verdict:

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide.