Say what you want about rubber-soled fly fishing footwear, these products are here to stay. I personally switched because I like the combination of on-stream and off-stream performance. Rubber soles may not grip as well as felt in the water, but if you hike like I do, they deliver far superior traction when getting to and around the stream.

Manufacturers continue to innovate with new compounds and the latest crop of third/fourth generation rubber soles improve upon past options. Two cases in point:

L.L. Bean Gray Ghost Wading Boot – L.L. Bean eliminated felt completely from its product line in recent years. The Gray Ghosts boots are the company’s top of the line and are all synthetic from heel to toe. The rubber sole compound provides pretty good grip despite the less aggressive lug pattern. And L.L. Bean welds the seams to provide less opportunity for invasive species. See full review.

Redington Skagit Wading Boot (Sticky Rubber) – Redington includes both rubber and felt options in the new Skagit Wading Boot, giving their customers the ability to choose. The company’s Sticky Rubber includes ground walnut shells for extra traction (and this addition works pretty well too). At $99 these are a relative bargain in the category. See full review.

In addition to the above boots, Simms continues to market their line of all rubber-soled wading boots this year. I’ve had one of their products in use for several seasons:

Simms Rivershed Wading Boot (StreamTread) – Introduced in 2009, these boots remain relatively unchanged for the 2011 season. The Vibram-developed rubber never quite lived up the original and substantial hype. I still like the boots for their versatility. And with the right studs/cleats (I suggest a low cost option in my review) you’re good to go. See updated review.

A note on sizing: manufacturers typically build their wading boots on EE or even EEE width lasts. In other words, they’re much wider than your typical street shoe allowing them to be worn over combinations of socks, neoprene booties, waders, etc. Frankly, I think it’s overkill. And for this reason, purchase your wading boots in your street shoe size or the size below. If you typically wear a half size, definitely purchase the next full size down (not up, as typical with other performance footwear).

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide. And thanks to L.L. Bean and Redington along with Backbone Media for providing product for these reviews. Written by Matt K.