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Wading Boots – Boa Vs Laces – Which Is Better?

Wading Boots – Boa Vs Laces – Which Is Better?

Wading boots are an essential piece of gear for fly fishers. Although waders are also important, it is good to invest in a quality pair of wading boots. They are your only point of traction when you are wading around the river.

The big debate with wading boots is using a Boa system or a regular laced system. They both have pros and cons – and every fly fisher will have their personal preference. Personally, I like using laced boots since I am used to them. However, many fly fishers are switching to Boa boots for their ease of use.

Boa boots can be beneficial for older fly fishers who struggle putting their gear on. Boas are also helpful for anglers wanting to spend less time getting geared up. Laced boots are better for anglers looking to spend less money on boots, and don’t mind tying their laces.

This article will cover the benefits and downsides of each system. Hopefully, it will guide you in your decision. Keep in mind that Boa wading boots are usually more expensive than laced wading boots. Sometimes, this price difference is significant.

What Exactly Are Wading Boots?

Wading boots are meant to be used with waders. At the bottom of fly fishing waders, there is a pair of neoprene booties sewn in. These slide into your wading boots. Although these booties are waterproof, the wading boots are not. It often takes at least a day to dry out wading boots after a day of fly fishing.

Wading boots are bulkier than hiking boots, and they are sized larger as well. They are meant to have plenty of room, which includes your wader booties and your socks underneath. When selecting your wading boots, you should use your street shoe size. Although, wading boots are much more roomy than a street shoe. A pair of wool socks and wader booties add a lot of bulk, which must be taken into account when the boots are manufactured.

There are many styles of wading boots, but the most important part is the soles. Rubber and felt are the most common soles, and you can also get “studded” versions for more traction. Felt tends to be the grippiest, while rubber is more slippery. However, felt soles can hold water and carry invasive species, so they are banned in certain regions and national parks.

Laced wading boots were the only option for a long time. However, the Boa system has now gotten really popular. With the Boa system, you can tighten your wading boots super fast, as well as remove them quickly when you’re done fishing.

Pros Of Boa Wading Boots

Boa boots have a crank system, in which a steel wire is wound onto a gear. To tighten these boots, you simply turn the Boa system and crank it as tight as you want. They became really popular when snowboard boots started to use this system. In terms of getting your boots on and off, there is nothing faster than using a Boa system. To loosen the boots, simply pull the Boa dial up, and the wire will disengage from the system.

Some benefits of the Boa system are:

  • Extremely easy to use
  • Much faster than laces – you can gear up and be fishing faster
  • Easy to replace the wire if it breaks
  • Boas are great in the winter, the system will not freeze
  • System stays drier, no more dealing with wet laces

Many anglers are switching to this system. Although Boa boots cost more, they can certainly make your day of fishing easier.

Cons Of Boa Wading Boots

Although Boa boots are convenient, they do come with some downsides.

  • Boa boots are more expensive than laced boots
  • Boa systems can have more problems/ warranty issues
  • The thin Boa wire can eat into your boots material over time

Pros Of Laced Wading Boots

Laced wading boots are my personal favorite. Although it takes longer to put them on and tighten them, I find that I have less problems with laced boots. Laces are also much easier to replace than a whole Boa system – As well as cheaper.

  • Laced boots are usually cheaper than Boa boots
  • Laces are cheaper to replace than a Boa system
  • Laced boots have less warranty issues than Boas

Cons Of Laced Wading Boots

Laced wading boots do come with a few downsides.

  • Laces can break quicker/ more easily than a Boa system
  • During winter outings, laces can freeze and get snowpacked
  • Laces hold more water, can take longer to dry them out

Best Boa Wading Boot On The Market

The Korkers Darkhorse is my favorite Boa boot on the market. It is built extremely sturdy, and comes with removable soles. You can choose rubber soles, felt soles, or studded versions of each.

There is plenty of ankle support, which helps with long days on the water. The Korkers warranty is also top notch, and they will take care of you if anything goes wrong with the boot. With the Darkhorse package, rubber and felt soles are included. They are a top seller at fly shops all over the world.

Best Laced Wading Boot On The Market

The Simms Freestone is my favorite laced boot on the market. It is my personal pair that I use all the time. I have had them for a couple years now, and they are still in perfect shape. These feature a burly construction with mock leather and plenty of ankle support.

I prefer the Vibram rubber soled version, which you can add studs to. They are also more affordably priced than most Boa boots, which is a big plus. I can’t recommend this boot enough, and I will certainly buy another pair in the future.


For folks who want the easiest boot to use, Boas are the best option. Getting them on and off is simply a breeze, and this makes gearing up much faster.

For folks who want to save money and don’t mind using laces, buying a laced boot is a good choice. Although I enjoy the Boa system, I still prefer laces. There are less moving parts, and I like the simplicity.