1000 Day Gear Review: Grip Studs — Unmatched Traction for Wading Boots

by | Jan 18, 2024 | 16 comments

**NOTE** This is an update to the Troutbitten article I published in 2018. Five years later, I’m still wading with Grip Studs every day.

The most important thing we bring to the river isn’t the flies we carry. It’s not the leader, fly line, rod or reel. It’s good traction. To be effective on the stream, to be comfortable with your fishing tactics and enjoy yourself out there, you need good footing. You need the ability to stand tall and walk with confidence through the water.

Way back in 2015 I learned about Grip Studs. They’ve been my first choice ever since. After decades of testing different traction options, these are the best studs I’ve ever used.

My favorite fly fishing tips are based on movement. I often urge anglers to get closer to the target. Cast only as far as necessary, so you have maximum control over the fly’s path in the water. I encourage clients to cover more water — give the trout a good shot at the flies and then move on. I tell guys if the fishing is slow, focus on the water type where you are catching fish, and leave the other stuff for another day. And when searching for the biggest trout in the system, hop from one prime location to the next. None of that is possible if you’re slipping and stumbling with every step. If all you’re thinking about is how you might fall down, it’s tough to focus on the fishing.

I once read words from an author who argued that good wading is about learning to slide into place with each step. He said that everyone out there is slipping in the stream, so learn to deal with it, fish a lot, and you’ll gain confidence in slippery conditions.

I could not disagree more.

The wading angler needs gription! And solid, stable contact with the riverbed is the only thing to provide that confidence. There is no substitute for great traction.

** Links for purchasing Grip Studs are near the end of this article **

#3000A in Simms G3 boots. Soles showing wear, Grip Studs not.

The Troubles With Traction

My fishing friends will tell you how crazy I’ve been about boot studs through the years. I’ve tried everything. And here’s a short list of my complaints.

  • Non-studded felt is great until it isn’t. When you encounter the wrong algae or plant life on the bottom, the creek turns into a slip-and-slide. Same with non-studded rubber.
  • Studs of various designs work for a while and are usually best when new. My main gripe is how fast they either wear out or fall out of my boots.
  • Many screw-in studs have a wide head that flattens after a dozen miles of walking. They round off and lose their edge for biting in.
  • Aluminum options can be wonderful. I’m a big fan of aluminum bars and discs on boots. But aluminum chunks screwed into your soles are heavier than studs, they can slip on wet wood and ice, and they can be difficult to install. (That said, aluminum bars are my second option. They’re a great choice, especially for giving new life to boots with worn soles.)

READ: Troutbitten | DIY Bar Boots

#3000A Grip Studs in Orvis Pro Boots.

100 Day Gear Reviews

I publish very few gear reviews on Troutbitten. Lots of companies send me stuff that I don’t write a review for. I’m hard on gear, and most of it falls apart, it doesn’t live up to the promises or simply isn’t useful. When I first waded with Grip Studs almost a decade ago, I knew, immediately — I’d found my solution.

A while back, I started the 100 day gear review series on Troutbitten. I believe out-of-the-box reviews of fly fishing gear are useless (aside from showing features). How long does stuff hold up? That’s what is important to us. What fails first? For the Troutbitten crew, and for all of you readers out there, fishing hard takes a toll on our gear. Everything fails. So can it last 100 days on the water? And when it does, what kind of shape is it in?

The 1000 number in the title of this article is not a typo. I’ve logged well over 1000 days on Grip Studs.

The gear recommendations here on Troutbitten are products I’ve used extensively and believe in. My gear reviews are an honest account and reflection of my time spent fishing with these products. I fish hard, and I tell you no lies. That’s the way it will always be at Troutbitten.

READ: Troutbitten | Category | Gear Reviews

Nothing Is Universal

While searching for the best wading boot traction, I eventually conceded — there’s no perfect solution. This country’s valleys are too varied for that. No studs bite well into a granite riverbed. And sometimes felt soles really are the best option. But for the rivers I fish, for limestone, freestone and ninety percent of the rivers and streams I encounter, I’ve concluded my decades-long search for the best boot studs. Grip Studs are the best for me.

Remarkable Durability

After having problems with every other boot stud on the market (see my list of complaints above), I was justifiably skeptical about Grip Studs at first. But that’s gone.

Grip Studs provide excellent traction on almost every common substrate. They stay in the boots and don’t fall out. And they last a very, very long time.

This stud logged hundreds of miles, but it shows very little wear. Here it sits in a second pair of boots. These are Vibram Streamtred on Simms G3 boots.

The first Grip Studs that I installed outlasted the rubber soles. With so little wear, I transferred them to the fresh soles on a new pair of boots. My original Grips Studs outlasted those soles too. They now remain in a backup pair of wading boots.

So after eight years of walking in a few different sets of Grips Studs, I can tell you it’s common for one set of studs to make it through three pairs of boots before the tips round off and I finally feel the need to replace them.

I’m on the water over two-hundred days a year. I cover a lot of river in one day, and I wade hard. My Grip Studs last about three years — so that’s well over six-hundred days on the water.

Here are two reasons these are the best studs I’ve ever used . . .

Single-Point Tungsten Carbide Tips

Long ago, a few wading boot manufacturers offered carbide tips that came permanently installed in both felt and rubber soles. I owned many of these, and the studs always outlasted the boots. In fact, the studs saved wear on the soles, and the soles often outlasted the uppers. Bottom line — the boots held up longer because the studs absorbed most of the wear. And I don’t think I’m sinking into conspiracy theory to suggest that’s why companies no longer offer these kinds of studs as a pre-installed option. (Their boots lasted too long.)

Tungsten carbide is super-hard stuff, and you have to walk an awfully long distance to wear it down. Grip Studs were originally intended for installation in tires, most of which travel a lot more miles than even the most ambitious angler out there.

The single-point stud is key. I’ve installed other studs that had tungsten carbide pebbles glued into a screw head. These were poorly designed, and the pebbles wore off quickly.

I’ve also used tungsten carbide studs with screw heads that have four angular edges. These are good, but not as good as a single point. Each Grip Stud bites into rocks with every step. A single point bites deeper, and that’s the real trick. This kind of contact and stickiness inspires confidence in wading, and makes for a happier day on the water.

Here Today — Still Here Tomorrow

I assumed the Grip Studs would fall out over time, as many other studs have. These have stayed in. The auger design of the screw cuts into the boot sole and stays in place. When mounted properly, with most of the head recessed, there’s no wiggle in the stud, and it does not work loose. I’ve never lost a Grip Stud. (Read that again. I’m not kidding.)

These are the #3000B Grip Studs after many months of hard use. Aside from some minor corrosion, they are as good as new. Notice the auger-style screw.

What Size?

Grip Studs offers wading boot studs in a few different sizes:

3000A
3000B
11000

The #1100 studs are your best choice for felt. And I’ll make this point, from experience: Grips Studs install easiest into clean felt. They twist right in. But if your felt soles are well-used and full of dirt or sand, the studs can be difficult to install. If you power wash the dirty felt or use the hose at a manual car wash, the felt should be clean enough again to install the Grip Studs without trouble. Alternatively, drilling a small and shallow pilot hole is a good option.

A new #1100 stud in old felt.

The #3000B studs are good for rubber boot soles with a low profile tread pattern, while the #3000A are best for rubber soles with a deeper profile tread pattern.

Which should you choose for your rubber soles?

Here’s the thing: all studs bite best when they protrude past the rubber lugs. That way, the studs make contact before the rubber. Alternatively, if the tips of the studs are slightly lower than the top of the lugs, then the rubber touches first with each step, and the traction is not as strong. I prefer the first way — with the Grip Studs protruding a bit past the tallest rubber of the treads — because it provides the best traction, and it saves wear on the boot soles.

For slightly deeper tread patterns, the #3000A are the best choice. I have them installed in Vibram Streamtread on my Simms G3 boots, and they are the perfect length. I’ve also installed them in my Orvis Pro Wading boots, and they are the perfect length.

Understand this too: Grip Studs can also be mounted on top of the lug. So, given these two mounting options, 3000A or 3000B work in almost any boot.

If you have any question regarding which model works best with your wading boots, grab a straight ruler and measure the depth of the lugs. Then look on the specs for prominence for the Grip Studs.

The prominence (or, protrusion from the base of the rubber) is as follows:

  • 4.4 mm on the #3000A
  • 3.5 mm on the #3000B.
  • 1.9 mm on the #1100

Personally, I suggest the #3000A, if there’s any doubt. I’d rather have more prominence than less, and I like mounting the Grip Studs beside the lugs rather than on top.

Photo courtesy of Grip Studs.

How Much Coin?

Grips Studs are sold as Boot Packs, with 28 studs and an installation tool. These are $62. While the Grip Studs price is a bit more than competing brands, these studs don’t fall out, and they will outlast the life of your boot. I currently have a set of #3000A’s that are now in their third pair of boots. That’s great value.

A pack of 28 gives you 14 studs for each boot. Is that enough? Sure it is. But over the years, I’ve added more Grip Studs to each boot. Right now, I have 21 in each, because I love the extra traction, and the studs save the rubber of your soles by taking the wear.

Installation Tips

Many of my friends and clients now wear Grip Studs and love them. Here’s some feedback about installation, from our collective experience:

— I prefer using the hand tool for installation. But you can mount the installation-bit in a drill. If you do use a power drill, set it to slow, and just ease the Grip Studs into place. (Don’t screw ’em in too far.)

— Don’t obsess about the installation pattern. I like studs near the perimeter, and a few in the middle. Think about where you make the most contact. Where do you push off for the next step? Place studs at those points, and you’ll be good.

— Do not plan on removing and replacing Grip Studs. I’ve seen different manufacturers say you can put their studs in and take them out (if you want no studs in a boat, for example). Candidly, I’ve never seen a rubber boot sole that can take the abuse of any stud removal and replacement. But the auger screw design of the Grips Studs makes them even more permanent. Put them in, and keep them there until the boots fall apart. Then pat yourself on the back for fishing so much.

— Installation depth is critical. Stop when the flange of the head is almost, but not quite flush with the rubber. If you go too far, the Grip Studs can sink into the boot sole over time. Mount them as show here . . .

#3000A Grip Stud in Orvis Pro Wading Boot

Buy ‘Em

** Note **  The links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Troutbitten earns a commission if you click through and make a purchase. So, thank you for your support.

Here are the 3000A Grip Studs, with the most prominence, best for the majority of wading boots 

BUY Grip Studs #3000A HERE

 

Here are the #3000B Grip Studs, with less prominence (not quite as long), best for wading boots with smaller lugs.

BUY Grip Studs #3000B HERE

Here are the #1100 Grip Studs, with the least prominence (the shortest), best for the felt soles.

BUY Grip Studs #1100 HERE

Do It

I hope these Grip Studs give you the same kind of traction that I’ve enjoyed for so many years now. Thanks for your support, everyone, and have fun out there.

Fish hard, friends.

 

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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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16 Comments

    • Yes, they are the same. I’m just not sure what size those are.
      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  1. Our local shop swears up and down that studded boots scare spooky fish, like hearing rocks clinked together under water. Your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Hi Jim,

      This is a common objection to studded boots. If you believe trout can hear studs on the rocks and/or it bothers them, I would then not suggest you use studs. Can’t let something like take your confidence away.

      But many trout waters are simply not wadable without some kind of studs for traction. And an angler without studs fishes poorly by trying to push distances and not wading into great position. The fishing falls apart then, and the enjoyment of being on the river is minimized. Then you stay home next time.

      See what I mean? We need to get to the right spots to catch trout. Fly fishing is a limited range system. It requires good positioning to be successful in getting great presentations. So we wade. And without good traction, we don’t wade very much.

      To the point the guys at your fly shop are making though . . .

      I guess if that’s true, then anglers with boot studs wouldn’t catch many trout. Right? I can assure you that’s not the case. Anglers all over the world wear boot studs and catch more trout than those without studs, because of what I just mentioned above.

      Do trout hear the scraping of studs? Sure. In the softest water types, in slow pools, yes. But in most of a river, with mixed currents, I say there’s no way they hear the studs. Try standing in the middle of a piece of pocket water. Now put your head underwater and hear how loud it is. 🙂

      Better yet, take a gopro or a modern phone with an IPX 7 rating and record under water. Seriously. Do this with someone wading nearby. Studs cannot be heard any further than about five feet away, in average pocket water

      Something to think about, right?

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  2. My current home waters have the slipperiest rocks I’ve ever waded. My brand new Orvis Pro boots with Michelin rubber and studs sit in storage – they are nowhere as grippy as my old Patagonia felt Riverwalkers on their fourth sole replacement. Will studding my felt really make a difference? I fell in 2022 and tore a meniscus and I’m very cautious wading these days, using my Folstaf and looking for any edge I can.

    Reply
    • Simple answer is yes, for sure. Studs make a very big difference.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
      • Okay, Dom, ordered through your link. I’m looking forward to improved traction and staying upright on those slippery rocks. Thanks for the counsel.

        Reply
  3. Dom,

    I saw you mentioned using 3000A if there is any doubt. Based on my measurement of the depth of the lugs on my Orvis Ultralights it looks like roughly 5mm or so. I saw on the actual grip studs site they recommend 3000B – sound right to you?

    I’m intending to mount them flush with the sole as you’ve shown above (not on top of the lug) but I’m not sure if they intended that size to be mounted in the stud holes provided or where you recommended.

    https://gripstuds.com/pages/wader-studs

    I really don’t want to screw this up. Thanks for any help.

    Reply
    • Hi Jeremey.

      You won’t screw it up. And there are options. If you notice the way Grip Studs shows on mounting them on that page, they used the discs on the boot. So really, they are mounted on the lugs and not the soles. That’s a fine way to do it, and I mentioned in the article, that’s good option. If that’s what you’ll do, then yes, the 3000B. If you want to do it the other way, use the 3000A. Good things is, whatever you choose, you’ll have a way to mount them.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  4. I spent all last year losing and replacing studs. I had to retighten the studs after every trip, and would still lose a couple every time I went out. I was buying so many studs at the fly shop, they suggested I buy new boots.

    I read your prior article on Grip Studs and decided to replace all my studs with them. I haven’t lost a stud since.

    Also, I weighed them and they are much lighter than the studs I was using.

    Thank you for the recommendation!

    Reply
    • Nice. Makes you wonder why they aren’t more popular, right?

      Reply
    • I’ve used these for about 6 years in 2 pair of boots. I started with the 3000Bs and actually have lost a couple. They were from the same location on each boot, on both sets of boots. I originally thought it was an installation error however it being the same location I think it might be how I wade or step. I’ve replaced them with the 3000A and haven’t lost anymore. It’s time for new boots so it be cool if you made a short installation video.

      Thanks

      Reply
  5. Morning,
    I’ve tried everything over the years since felt was banned here in Alaska and now won’t wade without aluminum bars or discs on boots. We do deal with a lot of built up slime from heavy salmon runs. Do you have experience with aluminum, and if so how do the compare to the studs? I appreciate your level of detail and time you put into your reviews.
    Cheers

    Reply
    • Right on. I mentioned in the article above that I’m a big fan of aluminum bars and discs. I linked to that article too. Remember, anything on Troutbitten in orange is another link for you to explore. Here it is:

      https://troutbitten.com/2017/06/15/update-diy-bar-boots/

      Aluminum is great, but is wears out quickly. And once the edges are lost, traction suffers. So they must be replaced often. Also, aluminum is much heavier than studs and it’s terrible on ice.

      Make sense?
      Dom

      Reply
  6. Thanks 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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