There are no hard-and-fast statistics on the subject, but I do know this: anglers spend a lot of time on their feet while chasing fish. Do your feet a favor and outfit them with quality footwear for the best protection and comfort on the water. Proper arch support, quality cushioning, insulation, breathability and waterproofing are all important aspects to consider when choosing angling footwear. In this guide we'll concentrate on what's available to protect your precious feet, covering boots, shoes, sandals and clogs for a variety of fishing conditions.
Long days on the water can take a toll on your feet. Proper footwear can alleviate most of the pain and discomfort related to all-day standing.
Hiking and Hunting Boots
Hiking boots and hunting boots can easily serve double duty as fishing footwear when you're not in the woods. Both boots provide adequate arch and ankle support, and there are dozens of styles to choose from.
During early spring and late fall when cold days are the norm, an insulated pair of hiking or hunting boots can serve you well on the water. However, once temperatures get near the freezing mark, even insulated hiking boots won't provide enough warmth or protection for a full day of fishing.
High quality boots will feature breathable materials to keep your feet comfortable, letting sweat vapor escape. Many boots contain waterproof liners and a durable water repellency treatment to prevent moisture from saturating the outer fabric. These features make them good choices if you like fishing in the rain. Other great options include rubber boots.
In warm to cool rains, it's tough to beat a pair of quality rubber boots for all-day weather protection. There are plenty of options to choose from.
Height (or cut) is an important consideration when buying rubber boots. High-cut boots, like RedHead's Bone-Dry 16' Span Tough 600 Rubber Bottom Boots or Aigle's Bennylgrip Boots, might seem overkill if you're fishing out of a boat, but if you're a shore angler, these boots will keep your feet and lower legs dry on walks through fields of wet grass. The added height lets you walk the shallows, which is handy for landing fish along heavily treed shorelines.
Look for boots with a non-slip outsole as boat decks and docks get extremely slick when wet.
If you're looking for rubber boots to keep your feet dry while boat angling in the rain, shorter cuts often feel more comfortable. Mid cuts stopping below the calf or above the ankle are often sufficient; however, consider the amount of overlap the boots provide with your rain pants if you plan to fish during downpours. When standing, you'll likely be adequately covered with an ankle cut or higher. Yet, if not protected by a console when seated, your lower legs may be exposed. In this case, a higher cut boot provides much better protection. When buying boots, wear your rain pants and try on a few different cuts while seated to determine the height of boot you need. Good choices for fishing rubber boots are Aigle's Bison Outdoor Boots, Shimano's Evair Fishing Boots, and BOGS' Classic Mid Waterproof Boots.
Insulated rubber boots will keep your feet warm when fishing on cold, crisp mornings -- especially when the forecast calls for day-long drizzle. Don't forget to look for boots with a non-slip outsole; things get slippery when wet, and buying rubber boots designed to grip soaked surfaces is important for your safety.
As long as you're rain pants provide adequate coverage over waterproof shoes, you're feet and lower legs will stay dry.
Waterproof shoes function like rubber boots, just in shoe form. Examples include RedHead's Mallard Mocs Non-Insulated Shoes, BOGS' Journey Slip On Waterproof Shoes and Muck Boot Company's SUV Hiker Shoes. These shoes will serve you well from late spring to early fall in average rain conditions. Again, as long as you're rain pants provide adequate coverage over the shoes, you're feet and lower legs will stay dry. Depending on the coverage of your outerwear, you may be fine with shoes in extended downpours as well. This will suffice during summer showers. The low-cut of shoes will help keep your feet from getting too hot. In colder conditions, though, higher cut boots offer extra protection and insulation from cool, damp winds. Given this, consider waterproof shoes for warm conditions and stick to boots once temperatures get cool.
Boat and Deck Shoes
These shoes are designed specifically with anglers and boaters in mind. Pick up a quality pair, and you'll see they're packed full of features for water lovers. Most are constructed with materials offering water repellent properties. Look for models featuring non-slip, non-marking soles.
Shoes should provide plenty of cushioning in the mid sole to help absorb the shock from bouncing in waves, as well as deliver day-long comfort. Models will have varying degrees of breathability built-in to their design. Mesh inlays, like those found on Woo Daves' Oxford Fishing Shoes, encourage plenty of air flow, making them extremely comfortable to wear during summer.
Boat shoes are available in conservative (above) and athletic styles.
Boat shoes and deck shoes come in a range of styles. Both lace-up and slip-on models are available. If an athletic look is more your fashion, consider World Wide Sportsman's Bayside Hydra Reef Boat Shoes or Sperry Top-Sider's Gradiant Fishing Shoes. If you'd prefer a more conservative pair, there are plenty of options, like RedHead's Anchor Boat Shoes or Sperry Top-Sider's Barracuda Low-Profile Fishing Shoes.
Athletic shoes are gaining ground on the fishing scene. Study fishing magazines from the last couple of years and you'll notice a trend of more anglers wearing running or cross-training shoes on the water. If you're wondering why, the answer lies in comfort.
On blue-sky, summer days, running shoes are on my feet the majority of the time. They deliver superior cushioning, and after a full day of standing and casting, my feet rarely feel overly tired.
Running and walking shoes offer plenty of cushion and arch support, and lace designs ensure a snug fit. Most feature mesh areas for superior airflow, making them ideal for warm temperatures, but not the best option for cool, windy conditions. One tip when considering athletic shoes: look for non-slip and non-marking soles; while fairly standard on boat shoes, the same can't be said for athletic footwear.
Sandals, Clogs and Flip-Flops
Sandals, clogs and flip-flops are all great warm-weather footwear options, when wind and rain aren't a concern. There are a variety of options on the market. Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing this type of footwear.
Flip-flops may be great for shuffling from the barbeque pit to the dinner table, but they're not likely to deliver the cushioning and arch support necessary for standing in a boat for extended periods. Sandals or clogs might be better options if you move around a lot while fishing.
Some sandals include interchangeable outsoles to adjust to varying terrain.
Make sure you get a proper fit. Oversized pairs have a tendency to slip off at inopportune times. A size too small and you're toes will be exposed. I always do a tap test when buying toe-exposed footwear. It takes about ten seconds. After putting them on and tightening any straps, walk up to a wall and lightly tap your foot on it. If you're toes don't hit, it's a fit. If they slip forward and hit the wall, you either need a larger size or must adjust the straps so your heel is closer to the back. This might seem trivial, but trust me, it's worth making sure you're toes are sheltered. In fact, Keen's Newport H2 Hiking Sandals have a patented design for the ultimate in toe protection.
Some sandals and clogs are designed for getting wet. A handy feature if you're often walking in the water to launch your boat. Good options are RedHead's River Walker Sandals, Columbia's Surf Tide II Sandals or Crocs' Beach Shoes.
When it comes to materials, look for sandals or clogs that provide adequate airflow, either through open areas or mesh. You may also want to consider picking up a pair featuring anti-microbial materials to help reduce foot odor.
There are plenty of footwear options to meet the demands of different climates and weather conditions. When outfitting your feet, always ensure you've got a good fit. Lastly, don't skimp when it comes to footwear. A wise man once told me, "Always buy the best when you're putting something between you and the ground." This includes beds, chairs and footwear. Trust me -- your body's worth the investment.