The first time I used wading boots with felt soles it was like having my feet glued to slimy rocks that previously were indeed a slippery slope. During the next 30-plus years — with the exception of summertime wet wading — I've always used waders with felt soles. But as good as felt is on slippery, submerged rocks, it's lousy for climbing up steep banks, particularly those muddy/sand soft banks or which we have many in west central Pennsylvania. And when you walk through wet snow in felt-soled boots it quickly builds up, providing you with a pair of impromptu (and unwelcome) platform shoes.
White River Fly Shop Extreme Wading Shoe
Felt soles have fallen out of favor for environmental reasons, as well as functional ones. It's believed invasive growth like didymo algae — a particularly nasty exotic weed that thrives in cold water environments — is often transferred between waterways via anglers' equipment, especially the porous felt soles of boots. Many companies have quit producing shoes/boots with felt soles; they are illegal in some states (Maryland being one example). The situation has fueled the development of better lugged boots.
So when the felt soles finally gave out on my old wading shoes earlier this month, I decided to replace them with White River Fly Shop's Extreme Wading Shoe, a model featuring the latest generation of lugged sole coupled with removable metal studs.
Since receiving them I've used the new shoes multiple times on local special regulations trout areas (which are open year 'round) and have been quite pleased. No slipping on subsurface rocks; plenty of grip to climb the banks; and no elevator shoes when traversing the wet snow, which, unfortunately, continues to fall.
I ordered the shoes one size bigger than normal. As such, they easily accommodate the neoprene booties of the waders, as well as a pair of medium weight merino wool wading socks worn underneath.