BOA vs. Traditional Laces

April 1, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

I had the fortune to fish almost every day last week, crisscrossing my way through Montana and Wyoming. Everything went fine until Wednesday, when I was gearing up. I slipped my wading boots on and started turning the knob to tighten my BOA laces, only to notice a few strands of the steel wire starting to peel free.

I’ve been fishing BOA laces for the better part of a decade now, and this was only the second time I had a set of laces go bad. I’d already been thinking about BOA laces, though, because I read something a few weeks ago about a new wading boot release (I don’t remember where I read it, or who wrote it, unfortunately). The author said something to the effect of “I’m glad these new boots have actual laces, because I’ve heard too many horror stories of BOA laces breaking at the worst times, like on once-in-a-lifetime trips.”

The author also mentioned that he thought it was easier to carry a replacement set of traditional laces instead of new BOA cables. If you don’t carry any extra laces with you, chances are you can find extra shoelaces laying around. Getting new BOA laces on short notice isn’t generally possible, especially in the more remote areas we love to fly fish.

To only have two sets of BOA laces go bad in ten years seems like a good track record to me. However, my recent failure combined with that article got me thinking – are traditional laces actually better?

To test that theory out (and due to the failure of my BOA-equipped boots) I grabbed a pair of wading boots with traditional laces. It’s probably worth noting that both my BOA and regular lace boots are the Korkers River Ops, a boot I’m quite fond of. I have over 200 days on the BOA River Ops, and many of those days have seen long hikes, rock scrambling, and of course, plenty of falls.

I immediately noticed that I was able to get a tighter fit over my entire foot, and not just the ankle, with traditional laces than I do with BOA cables. BOA cables are convenient (especially in the winter) but I’ve yet to use them on a wading boot where I was able to secure my foot as snugly as I can with traditional laces.

Now, my laces eventually worked themselves loose after a few hours of fishing, and I had to stop to re-tie. I never have that problem with BOA laces.

While perusing various forums this weekend, I’ve found that most anglers have a similar experience. Traditional laces give you more control over a precise fit, but BOA can’t be beat for its ease of use.

After wearing my traditional laces for a few days last week, however, I think I might be converting back from BOA. I noticed a big difference in how secure my feet felt while wading, and my feet weren’t as sore after a long day on the water, either.

It’s a small sample size, so I’ll certainly reach for my traditional laces more often in the next few months to see if I really enjoy them.

What about you? I’d love to hear from MidCurrent readers on this topic.