What footwear should I wear for fishing?

Footwear to use while fishing is a critical investment in ensuring you’ll have a good time on the water. They are predominantly either specialized shoes or boots.

The Shoes:

Unlike a normal pair of boots or trainers, fishing shoes are designed with breathability and ease of movement in mind. They’re intended for getting wet, and many are even designed for submersion in water. A quality pair of fishing shoes can reduce your risk of an accident when you’re out on the water. 

Of course, there are many different types of fishing, and you can expect to find suitable shoes for each occasion. If you’re wade fishing, fly fishing, deep-sea fishing or relaxing at the side of a river, there’s a fishing shoe for you. 

The uppers tend to be mesh and leather with EVA midsoles and bungee-style laces. They have more recently taken the form of hiking and athletic shoes.

Most fishing shoes are quick-dry, helping to keep your feet as warm and comfortable as possible during a long day outdoors. The outsoles should be slip-resistant to help prevent falls on slippery surfaces.

Any type of sock is helpful regardless if it is wool, cotton, neoprene, etc. It will make your insoles last longer. Your bare feet will grab and pull on the insoles tearing them loose and start wearing on the inner part of your shoes. The socks allow for slippage in order to prevent this. Your feet will also sweat, which can lead to a slippery insole that is much harder to keep clean and odor-free.


The Boots:

Fishing boots will predominantly take two forms: Deck boots or Wading boots.

Deck Boots - these are designed to be waterproof, comfortable and non-marring. They will tend to be ankle height, lightweight and slip resistant. They are designed for long excursions in the toughest elements.



Built-in pull tabs offer easy slip-on functionality, and many have antimicrobial linings that help wick moisture away from your feet and reduce odor. Deck boots offer the ultimate in high performance footing and protection from the elements.

Wading Boots - these are literally made for walking in water, and should be sized one size up from a standard hiking boot. The extra space is given so that anglers can fit comfortably into their boots while wearing wading socks. If you plan on fishing cold waters in early season, adding an extra half size to your boot size is a good idea.

These boots will tend to be more rugged, as they are literally designed for handling all the unpredictable contours of a lake or stream. They are a staple for fly fishermen, who often need to get to a very specific spot out in the water, and often hike a fair distance to get to that water.

One caveat when it comes to these boots is the use of felt liners. Research has shown that the material can trap and transfer a variety of harmful invasive organisms. Given this, the following states have banned the use of felt liners:

  • Maryland
  • Alaska
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Yellowstone National Park

 The felt insoles of boots are made by condensing and matting wool into a tight network of fibers. This makes them pliable, with many fillable and fibrous spaces where organisms and materials can burrow into. Since the felt material takes a considerable time to dry, organisms can survive for long periods without dying.

Infestations caused by felt-soled boots are new to North America, and scientists are unsure of the long-term ecological impacts. New materials will likely replace felt in the near future. So be aware of the impact your boots may have on the spread of invasive species, and protect your feet to ensure years of good fishing ahead.      -WR