Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots Review
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
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.
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.