The Truth About Feltless Soles

Want the truth about “sticky rubber” soles? Phil Monahan lays it bare in this week’s Fine Lines column. “Just because you eschew felt,” he says, “does not make you some sort of environmental hero.”
Question: “I’m looking to buy a new pair of wading boots, and I want to know if I should buy ones with the new feltless soles. I think it’s important to help the environment, but I don’t wanna drown. Are they really as good as felt?

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  • Tyler

    Another consideration is studded soles, with or without felt, but all the more common it seems with rubber soled boots.
    For most fishermen, at most times, on most rivers the difference in rubber versus felt is not so much about safety as it is about the mere inconvenience and discomfort of falling, with no real threat of such a fall being the fisherman’s last. Being wet is a worthy price for anything we could ever call important—so let’s give a nod to rubber soles. Studs, however, are another matter.
    Nothing saps the ethereal pleasure of fishing a small stream than seeing the telltale evidence of another fisherman’s studded boots desecrating the rocks that have obviously become to that fisherman a nuisance rather than a virtuous part of the overall experience. The parallel scratches of tungsten against stone are roguish testimony of how defenders of a righteous ethos can selfishly malign the pristine.
    Why should the soul of our being be of less concern that the sole of our boots?

  • I’ve just gotten into fly fishing within the last couple of years. When I finally saved up enough money to replace my felt-sole hip waders, I sprung for some stocking foot chest waders and Vibram sole boots from Simms. I LOVE those boots. So much more comfortable to hike around in and I would say they at least match the traction of my felt soles, if not surpass them. Plus they are so much cleaner to haul around… they still get mud and such sticking to the bottom, but not near as bad as the felt soles. I can tell my husband is jealous of my boots and I’m sure he’ll spring for some rubber sole wading boots as soon as he gets the chance!

  • Gerry

    Getting rid of felt soles is not a panacea for curbing didymo and other invasive species. In fact, I contend that rubber sole wading boots give a false sense of security and contribute to their spread. Not only soles, but laces and cuffs and the waders themselves can contain alga cells. My fear is that people with rubber soles will be lax in adhering to good practices to avoid spread of invasives. Also, you may think that taking a dunk in ice-cold water, or getting cuts and bruises from slipping on boulders is “only an inconvenience,” but I don’t. I obey good protocols to avoid spread. I have separate boots for use only in streams with known infestations. And I contend that my felt boots are doing less to spread invasives than the rubber soled boots worn by many other fishermen.