Simms recently joined forces with Vibram and created a boot sole that eliminated felt, this drastically decreases the transfer of invasive species. We fish multiple rivers, streams, and lakes within one season this is why we really like these boots. Because we fish different systems weekly we don't want to have to worry about possibly transfering invasive species from one system to another, the Vibram soles allow us to worry "less" (you should still always wash your boots before fishing a different system, or after every use). Felt allows invasive species to live for extended periods of time and possibly lay eggs in your boot soles, once you fish another system those eggs or species are then transfered to a different system. We would encourage any angler to be more aware about the possibility and impact of invasive species and their responsibility to prevent the spread of these species. We will admit that these soles are not quite as good as felt but they are getting better by the day. The benefit these soles provide in the fight against invasive species makes up for any difference or advantage in felt soles. Even though these soles reduce the possibility of transfer invasive species we still wash them after every use, our livelyhood depends on the fish population therefore we do everything necessary to protect them. We tell everyone that asks us about these soles the truth and allow them to make their own decision, although, we feel strongly that if you purchase felt sole boots you are not helping the issue and you could possibly be part of the problem.
The G4 Vibram Sole wading boots are great, we liked the ankle support, lacing, and durability. Simms says that these are the work horse boots within their wading boot line and they are not kidding, these are not the lightest boots on the market but they will withstand anything you throw at them. We highly suggest using the hard-bite studs with any vibram soles, yes the soles are getting better and better everyday but they are still not quite as good as felt. Knowing you are decreasing the opportunity for invasive species to hitch hike on your boots makes up for any difference between vibram and felt. We have noticed that these soles wear relatively quickly as well, at least in our eyes, we average over 120 on the water each year so we have been purchasing a new pair almost every year. As the technology continues to increase these soles will become better and better and will surpass any advantage of using felt, if you are looking for a new boots these are great and they will last the average angler multiple years of abuse.
Simms Flats Sneaker & Simms Flats Boot: First we should start out by saying Simms makes the best flats boots / sneakers period. Both of these offerings from Simms work extremely well. The flats sneaker is our go to for everyday use in salt, they are very comfortable and offer great protection while stalking the flats. The Flats Boot is for the hardcore flats angler, they are built like a tanker truck and able to withstand anything you throw at them. Both boots offer great ankle support "the flats boot has more ankle support than the sneaker", and they are going to keep your feet protected from any hard corals or miscellaneous sharp objects while wading the flats.
If you are looking for a great boot to take on your next flats trip look at the Simms Flats Sneaker. We would and do recommend them to anyone.
If you are a hardcore flats fisherman looking for the ultimate in protection, stability, and support then the flats boot is for you.
Patagonia Marlwalker & Surf Sneaker: We really are not big fans of patagonia flats boots or sneakers, we have not had good experiences with patagonia boots in general "took a brand new pair on a salt trip, the sole failed after the third day". We love patagonia apparel but we feel they need to step it up in the boots department to compete with Simms. If we had to choose between these two boots we would choose the Surf Sneaker, very lightweight, drains easily, and will last if you are not fishing the flats routinely "we do have a concern that the exterior is a bit on the light side and presents a strong possibility to wear easily and puncture".
Chota & Orvis Neoprene Flats Boots: In general we would not recommend a neoprene flats boot period, they do not offer enough protection from possible trip ending rays, coral, and other sharp objects. You can purchase these types of boots for less than the others but we would say that is for a reason, you don't get as much protection as the other boots offer. We like to have plenty of ankle support as well, when flats fishing your bottom can change drastically and we like to know that we wont roll an ankle and end our trip by skimping in the equipment department. Spend the extra money and purchase Simms or Patagonia flats boots, either option is better than neoprene "don't forget the cost of your trip, spend a little extra and know that you are not going to be sitting around drinking hard booze because you are pissed off at yourself for being cheap while your buddies are having a great fishing trip."
These are Patagonia's boot offering for those looking to get away from felt, as we have said and will continue to say, "everyone should get away from using felt, we must be the biggest advocates of protecting our systems, take claim in doing your part." These are great wading boots but they are not as good as the Vibram models Simms is putting out. These offer support, comfort, and traction "although we will go into more detail about the traction later." Patagonia is a great company with fantastic customer service and they are a company of which we like to support because of their environmental awareness and clean business practices. If you buy Patagonia you know that you are going to get a good product and you know that they have done everything possible to keep the environment in mind and if possible use recycled materials. Now back to the boots, these are good quality boots that will last a decent amount of time. They are very comfortable and supportive but they have a couple of things we really didn't care for. The first being that they don't lace up closer to the toe, by having a boot that laces up at the toe or closer to the toe you allow for a better fit and it gives you less of a feeling of walking around with clown shoes on. The second issue is traction, the soles that Patagonia decided to use are based on soft material for traction allowing the boot to actually give or cushion this is were the name "Sticky" comes into play. They believe that the soft sole actually makes the boot stick to the bottom, we agree but as long as the bottom is hard and jagged. If you have a slick bottom or a bottom that does not have many rough edges to it you will have traction issues. The traction issue was not a complete game changer for these boots, they do function reasonably well and will give any angler plenty of use. We would not recommend the Sticky bottom boots even though they are a good boot, the main reason being, we feel there are better boots on the market for close to the same price that will give you better traction and feel while wading.