Some anglers swear that felt-soled wading boots are the cat’s pajamas in terms of their non-slip abilities. Other folks either worry about felt spreading invasive life forms from river to river and don’t wear them, or believe that new-age Vibram rubber soles grip better anyway. Felt? Rubber? I don’t particularly have a favorite, because I put far more faith in spikes than I do the soles. For all I care my soles can be made of some James Bond material that oozes rock-clinging gel with each step; I’m still screwing spikes into them. And those spikes will be Goat Head Sole Spikes (below).
Take it from someone who not only falls often, but falls hard…spikes may seem insignificant, but they are not created equal. If you buy a pair of boots pre-studded with those piddly little short one-spoke jobs, you may as well just soak the soles in motor oil before wading. Unless they’re carbide, have more than 2 millimeters of length, and have a semi-pointed (not rounded) head, they’ll turn your boots into ice skates instead of cramp-ons. Perhaps you’ve seen the studs that look like a mound of super-tiny BBs all welded together. They’re not bad, but I’ve found after a season they grind down to nothing. There are also star-shaped cleats out there. When they’re fresh out the package, they have a mean grip, but I noticed that once the edges get dull and smooth, watch out on flat rocks. These also have a tendency to back out.
Goat Heads, which I’ve been wearing since the early winter, are, thus far, holding up better than any other spikes I’ve worn. These little suckers have 28 biting edges per spike, and the screw length is a touch longer than that of similar studs. They’re made of cold-forged, heat-treated, corrosion-resistant steel, and deep serration on the underside of the head stops them from backing out. I haven’t lost one yet, nor are the spikes mashed, deformed, or any less shiny than the day I put them on. And they really stick, having passed my stand-on-a-flat-rock-and-pirouette test many times. A pack of 30 Goat Heads will cost you $25, which includes a tool for putting them in. That’s a pretty cheap investment for fewer bruises and soggy undergarments.