Several years ago I had a major scare while out on a flooded Pennsylvania trout stream. After wading too far out for my own good, I slipped on a moss-covered boulder. Before I knew it, I was being swept downstream by the swift current. With great fortune, I managed to get ahold of an overhanging branch to pull myself ashore. Since that day, I haven’t stepped foot on the water without studded boots.
If you find yourself lucky enough to have rivers, streams, and lakes that aren’t frozen over during this time of the year, consider equipping your trusty wading boots with aftermarket cleats, studs, or bars for additional traction on your next wade. Wading boot studs, cleats, and bars are suitable in nearly all angling situations, aside from that shiny drift boat! Consider one of the options below if you ever find yourself out in the winter when the river is freezing from the bottom up, sneaking through slick moss-covered mountain streams, or scaling muddy river banks. A majority of these traction offerings will work on either felt or rubber-soled boots. Several companies make systems tailored specifically to their boot lineups but most have universal offerings.
Brands like Orvis, Goat Head Gear, Simms, Patagonia, and Korkers all produce high-quality studs, cleats, and bars. These brands offer a variety of products for $20-$80. In a matter of minutes, you can improve your traction on the water. Primarily tailored for wading boots with a thick sole (most recommend 1/2″ soles), several types will also work on your favorite pair of hiking shoes, boots, or sandals for wet wading in those warm summer months. This is not an exhaustive list of traction options for wading boots but provides great options across multiple price points.
Goat Head Gear
Goat Head Gear, out of Utah, specializes in aftermarket footwear traction systems. Whether you are wading, ice fishing, or even running that stubborn cabin fever away this winter, Goat Head Gear has a solution for you. Goat Head Gear produces a variety of outdoor solutions that many anglers find helpful.
The core fishing offerings from Goat Head Gear are ½” and ⅜” Sole Spikes. The only difference between the two models being the length of the screw. The ½” Sole Spikes are specifically designed for traditional rubber or felt wading boots with thick soles. The shorter ⅜” version is great for a variety of applications. Sandals, soft-soled sneakers, and removable soled wading boots (think Korkers) can all be stepped up with the ⅜” version. 15 minutes is all it takes to take your traction to the next level with the provided wrench. These are the cheapest offering on this list at $19.95 for 30 Sole Spikes in either thread size and can be purchased at Goat Head Gear.
See what Joe at Redd’s Fly Shop has to say about Goat Head Gear’s Sole Spikes. (Spike Review Begins at 2:12)
No stranger to any list involving fly gear, Orvis offers their tungsten carbide-tipped PosiGrip Screw-In Studs as a great traction solution. The made in America, Posi-Grip Screw-In Studs are compatible with any wading boot sole. While some of the other products in this review provide a wrench for installation, Orvis provides a ¼” hex adapter for power drills reducing the installation time to a matter of 2-3 minutes. Orvis offers their stud kit for the price of $32.95 for 24 studs (12 per boot). You can purchase the Orvis PosiGrip Screw-In Studs online or at your local Orvis store.
As a powerhouse of wading equipment and outdoor protective gear, it is no surprise to see Simms with a quality lineup of traction systems. The following products are specifically designed to fit Vibram soles found on Simms RiverTread, StreamTread & VaporTread Platforms. First, the Simms Hard Bite Star Cleats have carbide chips welded to the stud for increased traction. If a softer, aluminum cleat is your preference, Simms has you covered. Simms also offers a softer AlumiBite Star Wading Cleat. This version excels in rocky environments with soft aluminum studs that conform to the mico-surfaces of rocks.
Some users find the relatively flush mounting of the Simms cleats in relation to the sole to detract from the overall effectiveness. While the flush mounting can seemingly be problematic, the benefit lies in the fact that you won’t even know they are there! The Simms Hardbite Star Cleat and Simms AlumiBite Star Wading Cleats can be purchased directly from Simms or at your local fly shop. The HardBite Star Wading Cleats are $29.95 and the AlumiBite Star Wading Cleats come in at $21.95 for sets of 10. These two offerings are more expensive options on this list as you would need two sets to outfit your favorite boots.
See what the folks at Modern Fly Fisher have to say about the Simms cleats:
A favorite of outdoor enthusiasts and fly fishers alike, Patagonia has multiple offerings for added wading boot traction. Designed specifically for Foot Tractor – Sticky Rubber Wading Boots and River Salt Wading Boots, the Patagonia Traction Stud Kit is a great option to consider. This kit includes 26 studs with six-sided bite tips made of hardened steel for durability. Like the other offerings on the list, Patagonia provides a wrench for installation. The Patagonia Traction Stud Kit can be purchased online or in stores for $39.00 and will fit all brands.
If you wear Patagonia’s Foot Tractor Wading Boots, you are likely familiar with the bars that came affixed to your boots. As Patagonia states, if you are ready to replace your bars, you must be doing a lot of fishing! Contrary to the carbide studs offered by most manufacturers that bite into rock, aluminum bars provide added grip due to the material being softer than rock, creating a “sticky” grip. Designed specifically for Foot Tractor soles, the Foot Tractor Aluminum Bar Replacement Kit is the no-nonsense choice for you. The kit includes 10 bars (6 large & 4 small). For $49.00 you can get like-new traction and add years of life on your favorite pair with the Foot Tractor Aluminum Bar Replacement Kit.
Korkers is maybe the best-known brand when it comes to traction systems for wading boots. The key offerings from Korkers, wading boots with interchangeable/replaceable soles, have every angler in mind. Korkers’ existing lineup of wading boots is all equipped with interchangeable soles in a variety of configurations. Options include: felt and rubber soles, no studs, carbide studs, aluminum disc studs, and aluminum bars. Swapping out the soles is a breeze and can be completed in seconds. Korkers are by far the most versatile traction system on this list.
In addition to the pre-studded soles, Korkers offer their Trax systems which are essentially crampons to wear over other footwear. Korkers final traction offering includes replacement hardware for all of the soles allowing you to extend the life of your boots time and time again. Remember those fancy drift boats? Go ahead and throw on a pair of felt or rubber bottoms without studs for the day in just a few seconds. Replacement soles from Korkers start at $39.99 with all replacement hardware available for $29.99.
To see a breakdown of Korkers replacement soles check out this video from AvidMax:
Taking a spill is hardly fun in the warmer months, but can be outright dangerous in the winter. Be sure that you are taking the appropriate measures to stay safe out on the water this year. Keep in mind, most guided float trips will prohibit studded boots. Wading boot studs and bars are a relatively inexpensive means to achieving superior traction on the water and one that I highly recommend. Lastly, remember to monitor the health of your studs by checking for crisp edges at least once a season, advice I need to take myself. This will help ensure that you are putting your best foot forward. Stay safe and stay upright!