Fishing can take a great toll on an angler's feet. Casting upright for long hours on the water, working a bow-mount electric throughout the day or alternating between sitting and standing can cause stress, pain and tiredness, oftentimes making a fishing trip begin to feel unpleasant and ultimately unbearable.
What you choose to wear on your feet can have a direct impact on your comfort level for the day, and if you're like most anglers, those can be some pretty long sessions out on the water!
What Kind to Choose
Fishing footwear can be broken down into three categories: water shoes, athletic boat shoes and sandals. All are a necessary component for our wardrobe, as weather conditions will typically play a role in deciding which to select.
Due to the cooling and breathable effect sandals have, they are a certain necessity during the dog days of summer to combat the high levels of heat. The same can be said for water shoes, both in waterproof and non-waterproof styles. For the majority of other time periods, including early morning and evening trips and of course spring and fall, athletic footwear are a hands (or should I say feet) down winner.
Wading Through the Water Shoes
Water shoes are a relative newcomer to the fishing scene but definitely bring advantages to the fair weather angler. Available in two styles: waterproof and non-waterproof, they are tailor-made for both hot weather boating or inclement summertime fishing.
Water shoes are breathable and are easy to slip on and off.
For those looking for a breathable yet leak-proof shoe, check out the line of waterproof models. Most sport leather and mesh uppers with a handy elastic bungee lace system for easy on and off. Non-slip and non-marker rubber outsoles help protect your deck while providing a sure grip on slippery surfaces. This style is a true champion when rain is in the forecast and keeping dry is of utmost concern.
Quick-dry components are a vital attribute for the non-waterproof styles. These are great if you need to get your feet wet when launching the boat or if you like to dangle your feet over the side periodically to cool your toes down. Look for EVA insoles and midsoles and those that sport grippy rubber outsoles for increased wet and dry traction.
Regardless of the style, ensure that shoes offer a snug yet comfortable fit. Socks are an option but are generally overlooked when the thermometer is rising.
Another option for fair weather anglers is the "croc" or "clog" style of footwear. This lightweight and breathable offering is a water-friendly shoe with numerous openings that provide ventilation and drainage. Look for a comfy sole and buckle straps for a more adequate fit.
Sorting Through the Sandals
Make sure sandals have tread, which is important for walking and standing on wet casting decks and floors.
There are literally hundreds of makes, styles and designs of sandals on the market today, causing confusion and bewilderment for the uneducated footwear buyer among us all.
One of the most important considerations when trying on a sandal is fit. Look for a style that is comfortable and well-fitting, steering clear of those that are loose or sloppy in feel. You want to have a bit of play in the toe area, allowing for slight movement to counteract cramping and numbness.
Next on the list is the sole. Flip the sandal over and take a hard look at the bottom. If you don't see any kind of tread, then move on to the next. Tread is important and mandatory for walking and standing on casting decks and floors, even more so when these surfaces become wet with moisture. Non-slip treads should also feature soles that are non-marking, keeping your boat clean and rubber-free.
Mid-sole support for the arches of the feet is paramount for increased comfort. The more cushion that is available to your feet, the more relaxing and fatigue-free they will ultimately feel.
The material of the sandal itself is a very important consideration. Waterproof is the way to go. The more repellant qualities they possess, the longer they will last.
Materials can take the form of leather, suede or nubuck, with many being formed through a combination of two. Ensure that the frame of the sandal has no noticeable rough spots or sharp protrusions that can rub against sensitive feet.
Lastly, you'll want to mull over the fastening options. When it comes to sandals, it's either Velcro or buckles. My personal preference is for Velcro, as this allows a custom fit for the size and contours of your feet, while also providing quick on/off applications. If you do go the route of buckles, make sure that they are corrosion resistant and solidly constructed.
Athletic Boat Shoes
Athletic boat shoes are a mainstay on many fishing boats, allowing an angler to fish in comfort for the course of the day. But choosing the right pair is crucial for this to happen.
Similar to the sandals, you want your shoes to be the right fit. Allow half-an-inch of room for the toes, while making sure that the width is not too tight or slack. Always try shoes on with the style of sock you intend to wear. This is extremely important, because sock material and thickness can make a big difference in how the shoes ultimately fit.
Boat shoes make a long day on the boat as comfortable and practical as possible.
Next on the agenda is material composition. Leather is commonly used in most fishing shoes, although suede and nylon mesh are also quite widespread. Whatever the material, ensuring that it is waterproof is a mandatory step. For those that ply the waters filled with salt, pick a pair that has been treated to repel the corrosive effects of this style of water.
Overall construction should be immaculate. Seams should be well stitched, and the materials used should be of the highest standard and quality. Some kind of "air vent" is a fantastic option for allowing your feet to breathe. These usually take the form of a nylon/mesh design and are predominantly placed in the upper collar area.
When flipping the shoe over, you should find a well-constructed and sturdy outer sole. Choose a pair that have non-skid traction capabilities, and of course, are non-marking. Look for the sole to have some flex in the middle region, as this is necessary for comfortable walking and movement. Too rigid and your feet will feel the pain.
The foot bed should be thick and comfortable, with lots of cushion for stress-free standing. Many are removable for washing. Try to find a pair that is "odor-free," as special scent receptacles will keep your feet smelling fresh and clean all day.
Laces should be strong and cut resistant and can either come in regular or bungee style. Both work great, and choosing one over the other is mainly down to personal choice. Whichever it is, make sure the eyelets are treated so they will be rust-free.
Selecting a pair of fishing shoes does not have to be a difficult task. Knowing what to look for in terms of features and quality will go a long way towards fun and comfortable times when out on the water. Your feet spend a lot of time working for you — make sure you treat them right.