Should I Get Bootfoot Or Stocking Foot Waders?

An angler wearing boot foot waders sits in a rowboat surrounded by gear.

Waders—who needs them? If you’re new to fly fishing, this is a question you’re probably asking yourself. Top-quality waders aren’t cheap, and at the end of the day, they’re another piece of gear you need to drag along and take care of. So why bother?

Why Waders?

Simple, because waders keep you dry, comfortable, and on the water longer. These three things make you a better fisherman.

If you’re used to wearing jeans or work pants on the water, the first time you try a pair of waders will be a revelation. Waders insulate your legs so your ankles and calves won’t ache in cold water. And because waders don’t soak up water, they don’t slip and droop like soggy jeans. Best of all, when you take your waders off at the end of the day, you’ll be dry and ready for a relaxing ride home.

As you begin your search for waders, you’ll find two major categories to pick from: Bootfoot and stockingfoot. Both keep you dry and both have advantages. So why choose one over the other?

Bootfoot waders: Have heavy-duty rubber boots connected to them. Because of this, there’s no need for you to purchase separate wading boots. Bootfoot waders are:

  • Ideal for surfcasters and saltwater anglers. With their attached boots, sand and grit have a tough time working their way into bootfoot waders. This is why they’re comfortable to wear when you’re standing in the surf and getting hit with waves for hours at a time.
  • Perfect for winter fishing because they hold more of your body’s heat. When properly layered with synthetic pants and two pairs of socks, bootfoot waders will keep you warm all day, even when you’re up to your waist in frigid water.
  • Less likely to tangle your line because the transition between wader and boot is smoother and more snag free. Most fisherman wearing stockingfoot waders and wading boots will eventually get line caught in their gravel guards or laces. With bootfoot waders, you don’t have to worry about this.
  • Harder to move around in. So, they’re not the best choice for people who do a lot hiking to out-of-the-way spots or for people who move around a lot on the water while fishing.
  • Heavy and cumbersome. This makes them harder to get on and wear for hours at a time. At the end of the day, they take up a lot of room in a gear bag or the back of your truck.

Stockingfoot waders: Have sock-like booties attached to the ends. When fishing, you wear a pair of wading boots and gravel guards over these sock-like booties. Stockingfoot waders are:

  • Better fitting. They offer you the chance to buy waders and separate wading boots that fit with more precision.
  • Ideal for hiking into secret spots or if you move around a lot on the water. You can get just the right wading boot to suit your needs for ankle support, comfort, and traction.
  • More adaptable and versatile. While most bootfoot waders come with either felt-sole or rubber-sole boots, stockingfoot waders give you many more options, from felt and rubber soles to studded or just rubber roles. The patterns of lugs on separate wading boots are more varied as well, so you can find ones that work right for the types of terrain and stream bottoms you walk and fish.
  • Easy to pull on, easy to pack away, and easy to store. Stockingfoot waders are almost as simple to slip into as a pair of sweat pants. They take up little room in a gear bag, too.

Wetsuit or Rain Jacket?

Along with asking yourself bootfoot or stockingfoot, something else to consider is if you should go with neoprene waders or ones made out of a breathable material.

Neoprene is the thick, insulating, waterproof material used in wetsuits. It insulates your body and helps you withstand extremely cold temperatures. With the right neoprene waders, you can stay warm and dry through blizzards and arctic-like temperatures.

Breathable waders are made from thinner, waterproof materials, They’re more like rain jackets than wetsuits. Breathable waders are preferred by most anglers because they’re lightweight and versatile. In the winter, you can layer up under breathable waders. In summer months, you can wear shorts so you don’t sweaty or clammy.

Breathable waders release some of your body heat, helping to keep you cool and dry. This is great in warmer weather. In conditions like these, neoprene waders can become sweat factories. And if you were fishing under a high Wyoming sun, neoprene waders would be working full time to make you feel uncomfortable.

Fit Always Comes First

When the time comes to upgrade to top-quality waders, you should consider the benefits offered by different types. If you want to spend hours on the water in the winter, picking up a pair of bootfoot models can help you stay warmer longer.

If you plan on doing some serious hiking to get into some secluded fishing spots, getting a new pair of stockingfoot waders is a great option. Then you can buy a wading boot that is more comfortable to hike in.

Whichever you choose, make sure the fit is good and you are comfortable throughout a wide range of physical motion.

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