100 Day Gear Review — Orvis Pro Wading Boots

by | Aug 8, 2023 | 20 comments

Fly fishing gear breaks down. Waders leak, boots fall apart and pack zippers fail. The stitching at the seams of all this stuff takes a lot of abuse, so how long can it hold up? How well is it built?

The 100 Day Gear Review Series on Troutbitten takes a look at how gear is performing after the century benchmark. Should our fly fishing gear last longer than 100 days? You bet. And after many months of heavy use, we can have an excellent understanding of what we bought.

READ: Troutbitten | Category | Gear Reviews

** Note ** Links for buying the Orvis Pro Wading Boots are at the end of this article.
(Your support is appreciated.)

Overall

What do I need in a wading boot? Durability, support, more durability, more support and even more durability. I don’t care about looks or laces. Instead, the way my feet feel after ten hours of wading and walking in a river is the deal breaker — along with durability.

A wading boot designed and built to support a foot that’s stuffed into the neoprene bootie of stocking foot waders is a blessing. But apparently, that’s not an easy undertaking, as I have more failures to share than success stories when it comes to buying wading boots.

The Orvis Pro Wading boots have outperformed my expectations. I’m wholeheartedly impressed with these boots.

The Orvis Pros are light, so I assumed they would lack support or durability over time. But after 115 hard days on the river — meaning I wade bouldered, rocky waters, hike long miles and fish longer days — the Orvis Pros are extra-solid, with only a few minor signs of inevitable breakdown.

115 Days on the Water, and still solid.

Structure and Support

Just like the term “profile” for a fly, “structure” covers a lot of qualities in a wading boot. And for the Orvis Pro Wading boot, structure is a strong suit for both the uppers and the soles.

The support I require on a river comes from the boot’s structure. It’s about how the boot is put together, how it holds my foot and strengthens it throughout the day. Instead of all the weight and torque of every river-step going straight to my foot, a good wading boot takes some of that strain, disperses it through the sole and helps my muscles take the next step, as the shoe returns to its original shape. That is great support.

It’s a quality found especially in the midsole. And it’s found in the strength of a well-designed upper. Good structure comes from a boot purpose-built for the job of wading rocky rivers, day after day. And in this case, support and durability go hand-in-hand. Because, while many boots start out with substantial support, the integrity of the sole and upper quickly breaks down, until you’re left with the lousy support of a wet slipper. And while wading heavy pocket water, I need a lot more.

These Orvis Pro Boots have not dried out since the first day I wore them. I’m on the water about five days a week, and I don’t rotate my wading boots. I’ve been told boots that aren’t allowed to dry will wear and break down more quickly. But that hasn’t seemed to matter for the Orvis Pros.

Let’s consider why . . .

Uppers

An industry-first cast PU upper eliminates seams while providing a zoned cage for added stability, grip, and extreme abrasion resistance without the added bulk.

That stability is a successful design that, once again, lends support. And it has held up over rough miles. Yes, it’s also abrasion resistant while being much lighter than most boots. Well done, Orvis.

The boot is higher cut for ankle support and lined with closed-cell foam.

Many high-top-style boot designs fail in the effort — they’re too stiff and uncomfortable. But the Orvis Pros offered comfort from the beginning, and after a hundred days, the ankle panels are still holding strong.

Scratch rubber at the toe cap and heel for abrasion resistance . . .

Long-term anglers know that the toe cap is a frequent point of failure. And once it wears and peels, breakdown for the rest of the boot follows. That’s not the case here, as the Orvis Pro toe cap and heel look about the same as they did on day one.

Toe Cap is Still Tight

Soles

The two-layer midsole has a co-molded ESS plate that provides improved stud retention and torsional stability.

There’s that word, stability, again. For most anglers, when they talk about support in a hiking or wading boot, this is what they mean — the sole holds up and doesn’t flex too much.

Improved stud retention is an excellent feature that is most often ignored in boot design (apparently). I’ve had plenty of wading boots that rejected studs after the rubber wore down a bit. While we probably blame that mostly on the outer sole, the midsole is actually the part of the shoe that holds the stud in place. Again, well done, Orvis.

The shock-absorbing Phylon midsole improves “river feel” and compresses less than standard EVA midsoles.

There are two schools of thought on feeling the river bed. Some anglers want to feel the rocks underfoot because they are more in tune with where their foot should go next and how to balance on the rocks. But too much of this quality results in a mushy feel to the soles and tired feet.

I’m more in the other camp that doesn’t care to feel the actual rocks under my feet. But I do like to feel the sole flex, and I don’t want to be out of touch with the riverbed, as if I’m walking on wooden soles. The Orvis Pro Wading boots provide this kind of river feel perfectly.

115 Days. Dirty, but solid.

** UPDATE ** Immediately after publishing this article, I received questions about the boot laces. Once the original laces wear out on my wading boots, I always replace them with these super-durable laces originally designed for hockey skates. You can buy them HERE.

** Buy Extreme MAX Durable Flat Laces 10mm HERE to Support Troutbitten **

Traction

You might be wondering why traction is not on my list of needs in a wading boot. Of course I need great traction — I’m actually obsessed with it. But, for me, providing good traction is the job of boot studs and not the soles themselves.

I choose rubber soles on all wading boots, and I add the studs myself. For these boots, Orvis teamed up with Michelin to offer “an industry-disrupting advance in wet rubber traction,” with a revolutionary design that offers significant improvements in river tread. I wore them twice with no studs. And for the rivers I fish, all rubber soles are useless — damn near dangerous — without metal studs.

I will, however, remark on the durability of the Micheline soles. As you can see from the photos, the Orvis Pro boots have held up to the beating of 115 days on the river. The lugs on most boots would have worn nearly flat by now.

There’s a lot of rubber left, after 115 days.

What studs should you use?

I’m a longtime user and big proponent of Grip Studs. And the #3000A fit well in the Orvis Pro. However, the Orvis PosiGrip Boot Studs are also impressive. I’ve worn these in another brand of boots, and I now have them installed in my son’s boots. They never fall out. They provide exactly the kind of traction I want, and they hold their edge a long time. (There’s that durability again.)

Real World

Gear reviews written about new items are useless to me. For any angler, It takes seasons of use and abuse to understand what we might like or dislike about the design of wading boots or most other fishing gear.

Likewise, that most important quality of durability only shows up after many hard days on the water.

After 115 days on the river, you’ve seen what my Orvis Pros look like from the pictures above. Here is the only sign of failure . . .

A small corner on this seam is lifting.

Do It

I sincerely recommend the Orvis Pro Wading boots. They are lighter than most, super comfortable and have excellent support in all the right ways. They are also . . . durable.

Put a pair on your feet, and go fishing.

Purchase

** Note **  The partnerships and the support of this industry are part of what keeps Troutbitten going. And I’m proud that Troutbitten is an Orvis affiliate. You can read my policy on gear reviews HERE. And if you decide to buy the Orvis Pro Wading boots, (or any other product at these links), Troutbitten receives a commission of the sale, at no additional cost to you. So thank you for your support.

** Buy Orvis Pro Boots HERE to Support Troutbitten **
at ORVIS.com
or
at Avidmax.com


** Buy Orvis PosiGrip Screw In Studs HERE to Support Troutbitten **
at Orvis.com

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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20 Comments

  1. This review is helpful. Particularly here in the backwater of Australia, where a pair of these boots will set you back AUD$530 (currently around USD$350).

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the review. Could you tell me how these boots are sized? What size boot would you choose for a given regular shoe size?

    Reply
    • I would say they run a little small. I almost always size my wading boots up one size. That works well with these.

      Reply
  3. Good review, Dom. I’m on my third pair of these boots. The first two had premature delamination problems with the soles. I’ve been told it was a bad glue batch. But my dealer replaced each pair, no questions asked, and the current pair is holding strong. Orvis warranties are another reason to trust their products. I also like the light weight of the boots, even when wet.

    Reply
  4. Very thorough review Dom. I think it should be mentioned that this boot does run narrow. My foot must be a lot wider than yours, because I could not tolerate them in the fly shop. Not comfortable at all.

    The best wading boots I ever owned were Simms Riversheds. Was very sad after many years when the soles finally came off. Thankfully Simms still has a model with a similar fit and protection.

    Enjoy the day,
    John P.

    Reply
    • I think you just need the next bigger size then.

      My other go to boots are Simms G3’s. These fit similarly if you upsize by one. The G3’s are great too. Just heavier. They hold more water.

      Reply
      • Besides weight, how would you compare the Orvis Pros to the Simm’s G3s? I’m especially interested in your views on their relative durability. If you could only use one of these boots, which one would it be?

        Reply
        • I get about 150-200 days from each pair. But keep in mind that I cover about 2 miles on average on a fishing trip, and my boots never dry out between trips. I like the extra support of the G3s. That’s in the foot bed and in the uppers and the ankle. The Orvis Pros, however are significantly lighter, with almost as much support.

          I get the same durability out of both. And honestly, I just wear what I have next, when one wears out.

          Dom

          Reply
  5. Great review, Dom. I love this series idea.

    So this is my fourth year with these boots, and probably not yet a hundred days. And when I say “day,” I almost always mean 8-10 hours in the water at a time. They have fully dried many times for the record. After reading the comments before posting this, it seems my boots suffer from that “bad glue batch” Louis Martin refers to above. Because the outer soles on these boots separated from the boot twice. I brought them to Orvis this year after first noticing the sole delamination. They sent them out to a local cobbler they deal with to fully repair the soles at no charge, which was great. I was without the boots for not even a week. Unfortunately, the problem happened again just days later after one time back in the water, and I just haven’t brought them back a second time, nor will I. (Credit to Orvis, though, for trying to make it right with the delamination issue.) I find them not durable at all in this regard, obviously, which is a shame because I do find them to be very comfortable. The original laces are bad quality, and I think the metal anchor to tether your waders is a terrible design, as the wader hook comes off the anchor loop 100% of the time. I’m just going to wear them until they completely fall apart, and then invest in the Danner/Patagonia collabo (Do you have any personal insight into those?) I’d rather buy once cry once for an American made, leather, resoleable boot.

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      Good to hear from you.

      I find that all wader laces suck. Ha. They all wear quickly.

      I never use that metal anchor thing on any boot either. I just hook to the laces.

      “Danner/Patagonia collabo (Do you have any personal insight into those?)”

      My friend has those. I am surprised how little support there is in the ankle. They are very flexy in the upper. Soles are really solid, though.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  6. Question on the Pro Boots. Do you need to upsize the boot or are they like the Simms where they are true to size.

    Thanks

    Dan

    Reply
    • Hi Dan. I find that they run a bit smaller than Simms. Try one size up.

      Reply
  7. I spent almost a hundred dollars over the US price to buy these boots in Barcelona, where local regulations prohibit felt soles. I put the Orvis studs in them, and fished with them for an entire season. They are the best rubber soled boots I have ever worn. And yet, they are nowhere near as safe and gripping as my un-studded felt sole ancient Patagonia Riverwalkers on their third (or forth?) replacement felt soles. Rubber, even Michelin Rubber, just doesn’t grip like felt.

    Reply
    • Oh I agree totally. Nothing grips like new felt, especially with studs.

      For me, though, I switched to rubber many years ago. Felt wears down very quickly, and the traction is really poor out of the water. They’re also terrible in the winter.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  8. I’m on my second pair, the first pair did catastrophically fail with the sole delamination occurring on both boots after periodic repairs with Aquaseal, but this was well after 100 days. I’m hoping it was a bad batch, but I’ve heard many reports of others having the same issues.

    I share many of the same opinions about these boots; I feel like they are the right balance of stability and durability, especially on the uppers. You definitely want to size up, they definitely run small. The stock laces are crap (like with most boots), I would recommend looking at Yakoda laces which are similar to the hockey laces you link to, but from a fly fishing manufacturer, have metal ends, and are cheaper.

    Reply
  9. I have owned these boots for almost two years with the Boa laces. These boots allow me to wade 4-5 hours a day and I am 77. These are rigid boots and are very hard to get on and I would recommend an extra size up.

    Reply
  10. Hey Dom, Any views on the BOA V traditional laces for these boots? Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      Personally, I don’t like the BOA laces, but plenty of anglers do.

      For me, BOA is great until it isn’t. When it fails, five miles from the car, you’re in for a long walk out, whereas with a traditional boot lace, you can just tie it back together. Also, BOA systems freeze in the worst winter weather, and I fish a lot of sub zero days. Lastly, I enjoy tailoring my boot fit by using boot grommets and laces so, for example the boot is extra tight around my ankle but loose a the top. That’s not possible with BOA. I’m picky about stuff, but that doesn’t all matter to everyone out there.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply

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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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