Dive boots have a couple of shortcomings that make them unsuitable for wading rivers and streams. The soles are thin enough that you can feel every stone or rock making it uncomfortable for prolonged wading over river stones. They also offer very poor grip on slippery or smooth surfaces.
Dive boots however work fine for wading shallow sandy flats like the ones inhabited by bonefish. They are also a good footwear option when launching watercraft and are one of the best options if you plan on swimming.
Why do some fishermen consider dive boots for wading?
In most situations, purpose-built wading boots provide not only the best grip and stability while on the water, but they also tend to offer good durability. But they are not exactly cheap, with most reasonable quality wading boots costing north of $100, and often more.
The main reason why some fishermen consider dive boots instead is the price. A pair of decent dive boots can be purchased for under $50, and there are some for significantly cheaper.
What are dive boots?
Dive boots are neoprene footwear designed to be worn with fins. Unlike dive socks, they come with a basic sole which improves durability and provides a limited amount of comfort while walking over uneven ground.
I decided to test how suitable dive booties are for wading in, and I choose to test them in a large freestone river with algae covered boulders.
On the river test and my personal impressions?
I am a confident wader and feel at home in the water. I am not afraid to push my limits and regularly will make crossings that are deeper than advisable.
So with this mindset, I decided such a crossing will be the perfect test for dive boots. The river I decided to test them in was a wide freestone river with algae covered rocks.
I wanted to cross over and fish the far beach because the side next to the road is always busy. While the far bank is nearly always empty of anglers.
Wading in neoprene dive boots did not fill me with much confidence. I had to concentrate on my foot placement and wade at a slow and steady pace. By making sure I place my feet between the large river stones, I was able to make my way across and reach the other banks.
The dive boots offer no ankle support. All stability come down to my own core strength and not taking any risks when my placing my feet.
On the far bank, I also did quite a bit of rock scrambling. The booties were okay climbing around the boulder and cliffs, but there is absolutely no ankle support, and I could feel every uneven surface. I use to do quite a bit of diving from the shore, and walking over uneven rocks while wearing booties is never a fun experience.
After a couple of hours on the river, my feet were starting to feel sore.
How much grip do dive boots offer?
The grip is terrible. They slide over wet and greasy surfaces and there is not enough grip to offer much assistance. The grip is poor both on land and in the water.
The only surfaces I feel that the grip is adequate was on dry rocks, sands, and pea gravel. Surfaces where all footwear excels.
Now, while the grip is bad. It is possible to wade in them but a lot of care must be taken to place your feet solidly between steps.
The soles are also very soft and flexible. This flexibility does allow your feet to mold to the shape of the rocks.
Dive boots are not waterproof.
Dive boots are made out of Neoprene which is waterproof.
But that does not make the boots themselves watertight. When wading water still sneaks in through the seams, through the zip and through the massive opening at the top. Going any deeper than ankle depth nearly guarantees wet socks.
Once out of the water, the boots do not naturally drain. There will always be half a cup or so off water trapped in each boot.
Dive boots are warm, but neoprene socks are warmer
Dive boots are quite warm to wear. They trap a layer of water next to the skin which provides a warming layer of insulation next to the skin.
But, Neoprene or wading socks are much more skin tight, and they do a much better job at trapping a layer of warm water. Neoprene socks, worn inside more traditional footwear are much warmer.
Dive boots offer no ankle support
They offer next to no ankle support, and in some ways they even feel worst than shoes or sandals because it feels like, at times my foot will slide slightly inside the boot itself. Quite simply, if you have weak ankles that need support do not wade with dive boots.
Where are dive boots suitable for fishing?
Dive boots are excellent for launching boats.I do like them when launching my kayak, just need to be careful on slippery clay or slime covered boat ramps. Dive boots work well for any on water boating activity. Such as kayaking, canoeing or drift boating. They are also a good option for a little extra warmth when float tube fishing,
Dive boots are suitable for flat fishing. They also are perfectly fine for wading over sandy flats, although a lot of sharp coral will eventually damage them and it can be a bit painful on the feet at times. Orvis even markets a pair of dive boots for exactly that.
Dive boots are a great option when you need to swim. The last niche situation where dive boots are suitable is when you plan on doing quite a bit of swimming. If you are fishing a crayon or gorge, and the only option is to swim. Then it is much easier to swim in dive boots than any other footwear.
How do they compare with other footwear for wading?
They are not a good option. The only footwear I find less suitable for wading would have to be flip-flops. Although, because I am lazy. I still wade in flip-flops occasionally.
If you are on a tight budget and can not justify dedicated wading boots, then I personally consider any trail running shoes, synthetic hiking boot, and closed front Sandals are all much better options.
Rubber rain boots / Gumboots are another decent option. They keep your feet dry in the shallows and the soles are usually quite grippy. Due to their design, being an absolute water trap I have never tried any serious wading with them. But they work fine around shallow or muddy lake margins or when launching a kayak.