Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots Review

11 July 2014
Comments: 13
11 July 2014, Comments: 13

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Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots Review

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If there is one memorable thing about fishing the Animas (besides the brown trout), it is the wading.  The wading can be tough.  Really tough actually.  Through the lower town section, boulders within the river depths range from “ankle rollers” to “SUV sized human submergers”.  These rocks are also coated in a wonderful slick film and green algae.  The Animas is a swiftly moving freestone river that plunges through deep pools, slicks, and endless pocket water.  I am in fair shape and have many years of navigating rivers on foot under my belt.  Throughout the summer I just wear swimming trunks, sandals, and a quick drying t-shirt while on the Animas; I expect to fall in a lot and usually do.

Safe to say, the Animas makes for great conditions to test out Patagonia’s new Foot Tractor Wading Boots.

I was able to take out a pair of our demo Foot Tractors (we have sizes 10, 11, and 12; feel free to stop in and demo them yourself) for a few hours on the Animas.  I arrived to the river early (5:30 am), it had rained the night before, and the river was holding steady at around 820 cfs.  Still a little high for wading, but great, conditions to put these boots to work.  And work they do…

Patagonia’s side of the story

However, before I get into my review, let me just just point out some tech features for the gear heads out there.  According to Patagonia, these boots feature:

  • -Clarino synthetic leather upper for the finest in lightweight and durability, even after extended flexing in wet environments
  • -Venergy monofilament mesh paneling for quick drainage and weight reduction
  • -Oversized toe box and heel cup feature Texon trilaminate to help protect heel and toe from rock impact and foot compression
  • -Sticky rubber lugged sole with inset multi-directional gripping aluminum bar design

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I was also able to discuss the Foot Tractors with our local Patagonia sales rep; from whom I learned a few things.  Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots have been designed, built, and produced in a more complete offering than the previous Aluminum Bar Wading Boots.  These are what the Aluminum Bar boots should have been.  Instead of making wading boots (with no tread) and slapping aluminum bars across the bottom, it is as if Patagonia actually started with the aluminum bars and built up from there.  The Foot Tractors have recessed aluminum that is easier to walk in rather than just bars bolted across the sole; the boots actually have rubber tread isn’t just a slick sole; and the tread is raised around the edges of the sole to assist with gripping rocks.

Unlike the previous generation, these boot’s aluminum bars are serrated to assist with side to side slippage as well as back and forth.  The Foot Tractors also have recessed screws for the aluminum bars that keep the screws from getting damaged and stripped.  This makes for easy replacement when the time comes.  It is the soft aluminum that helps these bit into the rocks, or rather the rocks bite into the soft aluminum for less slippage.  These will wear out over time and will need replacement.  This may seem like a detriment, but in actuality it is better than buying new boots.

My side of the story

So how well do these boots work?  Are they all that Patagonia’s claims that they are?  In short, yes.  They work extremely well.

Before I tell you why I really liked the Foot Tractor’s; let me tell you what I didn’t like about them first.

Even though Patagonia claims that they have shed weight on these boots (and I believe them), these boots are still heavy.  Strapping metal to any boot is going to make it heavy though.  These are not boots I would want to hike a few miles in.  Although they are not too bad for short walks thanks to the recessed aluminum, it is still a little awkward.  For rivers with good access from the road; the Foot Tractors are great.  These boots will also work fantastic for Northwestern steelheaders who swing flies all day in rivers that are extremely tough to wade.

Another thing: these boots are hard to get used to.  I have been wading in rubber boots for the past 5 or so years.  I am used to using the center of my foot with a flat movement to get the most traction.  With the Foot Tractors, using the center of my foot does not garner the best traction as the center is only rubber.  I had to get used to moving with my toes and heels again.  Once I got used to it, I could certainly feel the aluminum grip rocks that would have previously caused me to slip and slide.

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So what did I like about these boots?  Well even though they are heavy to walk in, once I was in the water; I never noticed the weight.  The boots were not uncomfortable and were very easy to maneuver with.  Of course the aluminum bit into rocks and prevented me from falling, as advertised.  The boots also look pretty styling too.  I am not looking for cool points though, I am looking for saying dry (and alive) points.  The Foot Tractor’s did their part with gripping extremely well on wet and very slick rock surfaces.

Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots have a far better grip than just standard rubber wading boots…not only that but they also have a far better gripping power than even felt.  They don’t slip and slide like felt when walking too and from the river as well.  Finally, using non felt boots prevents the spread of aquatic invasive species.

A few other points

First thing to consider when buying these boots, Patagonia’s warranty.  Patagonia has become very well known for their wonderful product warranty and have oftentimes gone above and beyond standard manufacturing malfunctions to help a customer out.

Another benefit to the Foot Tractors is the aluminum bars are replaceable.  Once the bars have worn down from many days on the water, all you need to do is pick up a set of replacement bars.  This will actually prolong the longevity of the boots as most of the wear will be had on the aluminum and not the rubber soles.

With the warranty and replaceable aluminum bars, these boots should last you a long time.  As an investment in my life (and comfort and warmth on the river), I would absolutely say the Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots worth it.

A final takeaway

One thing I did notice about wearing these boots is that they did instill in me a sense of “unsafe security” if you will.  I subconsciously felt that since these boots worked so well at gripping the river bed, that I could take greater risks while wading.  This was a very big “don’t” that I paid for by wading too deep and being swept off balance by the current.  I paid for it with wet clothing for the remainder of the day and thankfully nothing more.  Don’t do what I did.  Keep your pride in check.  If you are unsure about where you are stepping, don’t step there.  If you are in need of boots with greater traction for hard wading, then you are probably also in need of a wading staff to cross swift currents and test river depths.

Be safe and river smart.  The Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots will take care of the slick rocks for you.

Shop Foot Tractors

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Andy McKinley
Andy manages Duranglers Flies and Supplies online store and web content. When he is not plugging away in the basement of Duranglers, he can be found in the shop talking weird flies, throwing spey casts for few fish, eating pizza, drinking coffee, painting, and raising a family in Southwest Colorado.

His fly fishing writings have been published on blogs such as the Daily Drake and Simms Wading Room.

13 responses on “Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots Review

  1. Andy McKinley says:

    An additional note: Buzz Skillzor (aka Buck) of Duranglers shop fame wanted to put his two cents in about the Patagonia Foot Tractor Boots. He was able to take a pair of the boots out on the San Juan for some testing. In Buck’s words:

    “These boots are the best boots I have ever had on the San Juan. I usually have to take my wading staff out throughout the day to navigate the snot covered rocks throughout the San Juan. I never once used my staff. These boots are the real deal. They prevent slipping and keep you stable. They are also super comfortable and fit really well. I did notice the weight when walking from the car to the river; but once I set foot in the water I never gave the weight a second thought. Highly recommended.”

  2. Garth Jackson says:

    I have worn many wading boots and have yet to find a suitable pair that will hold studs in without loosing half of them during a season.

    Do the screw in these boots go into the rubber soles or do they go into a metal sleave so they can’t come out, similar to a spiked sports shoe,

    Thanks Garth

    • Andy McKinley says:

      Hello Garth,

      The Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots actually screw into a metal sleeve set into the sole of the boot, much like a spiked sports shoe. It looks like Patagonia sets all the screws in with loctite and the boots include an extra 6 screws with loctite and a hex key to screw them in. Here is a photo of the sole with wading bar removed:

      Patagonia Foot Tractor Sole

      Thanks for the question!

      -Andy

  3. Aaron says:

    I bought a pair of the original rock grips for steelheading and used them 2 weeks ago. Best grip ever, except they dug into the bone above my ankle so bad I was limping. It did not matter how loose I tied them. I looked at the upper and realized that was the problem. I got them for 97 bucks so I may have to try and modify them to work right!

    • Andy McKinley says:

      Hey Aaron,

      Thankfully Patagona has completely re-designed the upper for the Foot Tractor Wading Boots. They are very comfortable to fish in all day and do not have the ankle issues that previous models have had.

      Thanks for checking us out!

      -Andy

  4. Rob says:

    As an owner of a fiberglass driftboat do you think these boots will be safe for use in the boat? It would be nice to ditch the rubber mats needed with studded boots.
    Thanks!

    • Andy McKinley says:

      Hey Rob,

      Thanks for the question. Honestly you will still want to keep the rubber mats if you have the Patagonia Foot Tractors on. While they may be the best boots for wading, they will still be rough on your boat if you are not careful. Hope that helps. Let us know if you have any other questions.

      Thank you,

      -Andy

  5. […] quick way to take a dunk.  Good boots are a must and cleats or aluminum bars help immensely.  The Patagonia Foot Tractor Boots have given us a severe confidence on the San Juan this year.  Our guides are on the San Juan a […]

  6. Cláudio says:

    In my local waters sometimes I need to do some light climbing in granitic stones. Will this boots have a nice grip on dry stones too?

    • products says:

      Hello Claudio,

      The Patagonia Foot Tractors do have a good grip on dry and wet rocks. They are not the best boots if you are hiking long distances, but if you are just scrambling up and down the bank across big rocks, they will work great for you!

      Thank you,,

      -Andy

  7. Steve Wilson says:

    I have struggled with boots both in fit and in safety. I have a really wide foot and the boot is a blessing. I was able to cut down a size on the boot and still have plenty of room. That said, I am also older (68) and wading becomes problematic as one looses strength and balance. I wade the Yellowstone River with every type of bottom and current. I swear that this boot has enhanced my wading to a level I recall ten years ago.. I do not mind hiking miles in this boot because it is comfortable and stable. Yes, it is a heavy boot but I could mind that less when I am in the current, feeling secure. Your review of the boot is right on all the way to the sense of infallibility that they engender. You still need to have some common sense. My experience is based on a full summer of fishing.

    • Hey Steve,

      Thanks so much for your quick comment and review. We really appriciate your feedback. We love the boots and are glad to hear they are working out great for you too!

      Take care,

      Andy McKinley

  8. Jay says:

    Although I have considered getting Patagonia wading shoes several times I needed a new pair, the reviews about the durability issues (stitches coming loose, rubber edge peeling off, etc.) of Patagonia wading shoes kept me with Simms shoes.

    These new shoes look great and has indeed a sole that might work well.
    Curious how durable this shoe is…

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