Wade Fishing Footwear
By Gibbs Milliken
Equip your feet with amphibious footwear.
Any old pair of sneakers can be used for wading, but footwear designed especially for swift rivers and slippery rocks can help prevent a nasty fall, and proper boots can protect an angler from sharp oyster shells or the barb of a stingray.
Sandals that can be used both on the trail and in the water are very popular. The Bite Troutstream Sandal combines a large toe-guard with a two-part felt bottom and Durahide leather uppers. The sturdy outsole has felt center pads and sticky rubber edges for gripping mossy rocks. One-pull elastic laces keep the sandal tight on the foot. The shoe drains water easily and dries quickly. As with any open sandal, small rocks and sand still get under your feet and must be flushed to prevent irritation. ($69.99, style #3915A, Bite Footwear, (800) 248-3465, www.biteshoes.com)
The next step in wading footwear is full-foot protection. The Bite Steelhead RB Boot is designed with removable metal cleats that can be replaced with nylon inserts for boating or hiking trails. This boot offers comfortable support and good construction with solid sidewalls, cushioned ankle shields and soft mesh uppers. The cleats embedded in a sticky rubber sole provide firm footing among swift water hazards such as rocks and logs. ($119.99, style #2905B, Bite Footwear)
Another step up in versatility is the Korkers Konvertible Wading Boots. These all-weather boots accommodate with six different conversion soles that can be changed without tools. If you are traveling in varied terrain and weather conditions, have the extra sole sets available in a small pack for quickly adapting these amphibians to any kind of footing in or out of the water. ($129.95, style #K7500, includes trail and plain felt soles, Korkers, (800) 524-8899, www.korkers.com)
Minimalists who want a simple, lightweight water shoe might try the Teva Rodium Hydro. Designed like a fitted running shoe, these rely on serrated, sticky, non-marring Spider Rubber for traction. They are fast-drying and ideal for fishers using paddle craft or wading and hiking where full ankle support is not required. ($80, style #6663 Grey, Teva Sport Sandals, (800) 433-2537, www.teva.com)
Wade fishing the saltwater flats and oyster beds requires both foot and ankle protection. One well-proven design is the Hodgman Flats Stalker. This high-top shoe has a 5mm, three-ply neoprene upper that is perforated, allowing the shoe to breathe. It has comfortable, molded polyurethane mid-soles and hardened inserts to protect the bottom of the foot from underwater hazards, plus reinforced rubber heel and toecaps. The shoe goes on and off easily with a self-locking zipper and inside gussets that prevent the entry of sand and debris. Boat owners will appreciate the light-colored, non-slipping/non-marking ripple rubber outsoles. ($45.95, style #19223, Hodgman, Inc, (800) 323-5965, www.hodgman.com)
Along the Texas Coast, every wader should beware the danger of stepping on a hidden stingray; conventional footwear will not stop the painful stab of its barbed spine. Pro Series Predator Reef Boots are especially made to protect the feet and lower legs from stingrays. The tops, constructed of soft, flexible yet puncture-resistant materials, are bonded to a molded foot section built to withstand cuts and abrasions from oyster reefs and debris. ($99.99, item #35456600, Bass Pro Shops, (800) 277-7776, www.bassproshops.com)
Whatever you choose, fit and comfort should always be a priority. Nothing spoils a day on the water like aching ankles, bruised insteps and cut feet.