I have worn (fished with) Bean Aqua Stealth boots since the late 90s; I think it was near the time that they first started making them (having them made). The boots and the waders (also LL Bean) are still going strong 10+ years later. I am certain that I do not fish as much with waders as many of you, but the boots and the waders look like they are new.
In terms of grip, the Bean boots are very good, but I would have to say that felt (I have some hippers with felt soles) grips better on rocks with slime.
Taking everything into account, I prefer the Aqua Stealth soles. It works as well as felt in most conditions, and it wears much longer. My rarely used hippers with felt soles show much more wear. Also the rubber sole does not take days to dry, which is important if you are on a trip.
I've been looking into all this as I'll likely have a new pair of rubber soled boots before our winter trout season.
In my opinion, after using both studded and non-studded felt soles over the last few years, the ONLY disadvantage of studs is marring up the inside of a boat. If this isn't an issue, I say studs are the way to go.
Studded felt may remain the best possible option for traction, but they've got their downsides as well. We've already mentioned transporting microbes, which include both trout crippling Whirling Disease, potentially angler crippling Didymo, and many others. For folks that will be using them in snowy/frozen conditions you've got the bother of toting around 4" of ice on the bottom of your felt boots while hiking through the snow. (Doesn't really sound like a fun "day off" to me) In addition to all that weight attached to your legs, it seems to me like having 5lbs of ice stuck to the bottom of your boot can't possibly help keep your feet warm. Going back to weight, since a rubber sole necessarily doesn't absorb water (or develop ice) like a felt sole, there's a difference you'll feel while hiking that isn't reflected in the weight difference of boots when dry.
Since I basically never am fishing in waders out of a drift boat, I'll be getting rubber soled boots and adding studs. The studs will go around the perimeter of the sole, and likely a few in the middle as well.
Here's another huge advantage of rubber soled boots that rarely gets brought up: one pair of boots for both salt and fresh water! I do most of my saltwater wading in weather warm enough for flats boots and wet wading, but its not always warm enough here on the TX coast for that to be comfortable. With rubber soled wading boots, I'll be able to wear my waders at the coast without having to shell out another $??? for salt boots that will fit over the waders so I'm not thrashing my felts on oysters and such. Sure I'll have to rinse them EXTREMELY well to get all the saltwater off the metal hardware, but I'd still rather have to do that than need a 3rd pair of boots.
I'll likely be buying a Simms boot, but LL Bean makes a sticky rubber boot that looks like a pretty great value as well. Korkers might be the best possible option for the hiking angler, but I can't speak from any experience with them.
1) They're HUGE. Much wider size for size than other boots. If you look at pics of them you can see that the tread is way wider than the part your foot goes into. This makes them a tough fit in my Force Fins (float tube model) although they do fit.
2) For some reason without looking at the sole, it's almost impossible to tell the right boot from the left one.
I am trying to talk thge wife into a new pair for christmas, Korkers, they come with inter-changable soles and you can buy severel diffrent types.I have talked with a few diffrent people taht use these boots and really like them.
I'm a big fan of Korkers' interchangeable soles; in fact, I have two different-sized pairs. If I had to do it over, however, I'd spend the extra bucks and buy a set of their Boa Lacing System boots. Of course, I have a bad back and that speed lacing system would really be worthwhile for me.
I've made the move to rubber, but will miss the AC/DC platform shoe effect when walking in snow. The Freestone model from Simms, beats the Frankenstein G series and is my choice for rentals and my own. Use some Aqua seal on any exposed thread and they'll last a long time.....
I had the studded Simms Guide boots (leather) for just under 10 years. (5-10 Sticky sole)
I just got the Simms Rivershed with the Vibram soles last Christmas.
I haven't had any problems, and yes the soles seem hard but on rocks they seem to grip as you put weight on them. I finally hit some real snot rocks on the middle Provo a couple weeks ago. The only thing that would keep one from slipping on them is adding the studs. Felt wouldn't have been any better then the rubber.
I've fished this river and the snot rocks with felt and rubber for a long time and I like the rubber soles from Simms. Felt boots weigh more once you're in water, are a real ***** when you walk on snow and wear out at the heels. I haven't had any of those problems with the Vibram soles or the 5-10 soles. I really like the light weight of the Rivershed and they do have a big toe box. Joni bought me the carbide studs, but I have yet to put them on.
I've owned 2 pairs of felt boots that I also hiked in. I didn't have them long then I bought a pair of LL Beans Aquastealths studded in 1998. I've fished and hiked with them often and have grown to trust them. Last July I was hiking down to the Gunnison River of the Black Canyon in Colorado. It was 4.5 miles downhill over hard, sharp rock trails with a 45lb pack. At mile 2 my Salomon boots (of 7 years with little mileage) delaminated. I used fishing line as a repair for about 1/4 mile and lost the whole sole. Not long after my other sole also delaminated and I finished the last 3 miles on the lasts. I knew my wading boots had worked before but not with a backpack. I hiked that 4.5 mile trail uphill with the studded Aquastealths and hiking poles in 2 hrs and never noticed a difference since they weighed as little as the Salomons. I saw no damage to the studs or treads of either boot after this adventure and I was amazed that the studs did not hamper me the least bit. I'm getting a newer and larger pair this March-also LL Bean Studded Aquastealth Gray Ghosts. Money well spent!
Well I picked up a pair of the Simms Riversheds for Christmas with the stream tread and yestday was the first time I have had a chance to get out on the water with them. I was worried that they would not grip as well as the felt. I was wrong...I had absolutely no problems with them and they are also very comfortable. Today they really got the test as I wore them out in a creek with some of the slickest rock snot I have ever come across plus ice everywhere above water. Again they performed flawlessly. So far so good but I guess only time will tell. Another plus was the comfort of hiking in them. THe vibram foot sole makes this a joy as well.
I am with Fly2Fish.
I have a pair of Cablea's felts that I screwed the Chota cleats into and they worked great for my fall/winter wader fishing. ($6 for 28 cleats, 14 per boot)
I also have a pair of Kokers with the interchangable soles for my summer wet wading. I've got all the soles and for traction you really can't beat cleated felt. The next best if you are worried about micro-org-transfer is the cleated rubber soles.
If you do a lot of walking to get to that spot... get a pair of Korkers. Start out with the rubber only sole and switch to the cleated sole when you get to your spot. Switch back on the way out.
The key is to make sure the interior bottoms (Boot ans Sole) are clean and free of stuff. You don't even have to take your boots off. Just the sole!
Back to the OP which is dated back in September. I know a number of people who have had StreamTread boots since the introduction in Fall of '08. Their boot bottoms show wear, but they are still usable.
According to my NorCal Simms rep, Simms will replace any worn out StreamTread soles for $60.