Do you wear socks with wading socks when fly fishing?

You’ve finally bought a pair of wading boots and neoprene socks so you can have some protection and be comfortable while wading in summer.  And now you’re trying to decide what to wear inside your wading socks – if anything. 

Do you wear socks with wading socks? Wearing socks inside your neoprene wading socks will protect your feet while fly fishing.  Socks, especially merino wool will preserve the skin on your feet from rubbing and blisters, as well as guard your wading socks against bad odor and prematurely wearing out. 

When wading socks are worn inside wading boots, (without waders), they are not designed to keep the water out.  So why wear socks when they’re only going to get wet?  

Here’s why and my recommendations to keep your feet comfortable and fresh.

So what are wading socks?

Wading socks are used when “wet wading”.  This is what fly fishing in summer without waders is called. But because your feet will get wet, you still need to keep them warm.  

That’s why many fly fishers wear neoprene wading socks inside their wading boots.  

These socks replace the booties on the end of your waders, but unlike when wearing waders, your feet get wet – which is much like how a wet suit works when surfing or diving.  

Replacing your wading booties with wading socks means your wading boots will continue to fit the same.

Wading boots are often bought a size bigger than normal boots to fit booties, so it makes economic sense to keep using the same boots both in summer and winter.

Wading socks sometimes come with gravel guards, which like the putties worn with hiking boots, keep sticks and stones out of your boots. 

4 benefits of wearing socks under wading socks

  1. Your feet are protected from the friction of rubbing against the neoprene fabric.  Most important when walking up and down the riverbank, or walking miles to get to your favorite backcountry fishing spot. 
  2. Wading boots don’t always fit as smoothly as regular socks so you may be left with a crease, which can rub against your skin. 
  3. It’s a feel thing. When cold and wet, neoprene fabric is clammy and sticks to your skin making them difficult to get on and off. 
  4. Socks, especially woolen socks, are designed to absorb moisture whether that’s sweat or water.  And even when wet the special properties of wool will help keep your feet warm.

What happens if you don’t wear socks inside your wading socks?

Your feet sweat inside your neoprene wading socks.  And they fill with water when you wade deeper than the top of the socks.  That’s how they are meant to work.

  1. Without warm socks inside your wading socks, that retain heat, you may find your feet cool down when you stop walking resulting in chills and discomfort.  
  2. Your sweat has nowhere to go. Woolen socks will absorb your sweat and at the end of the day are easily washed out after use. 
  3. The skin on your feet is rubbing against the neoprene fabric putting wear on both surfaces.  Woolen socks are designed to give by absorbing and releasing pressure, so will take the impact of the friction created.

How to choose socks to wear inside wading socks


It all depends on how much space you have within your wading socks and boots.  Too much thickness and your feet will feet squished and tight. 

But if your feet are rattling around inside your boots, because your boots are a loose fit,  then you are much more likely to develop rubbing and discomfort.  

You are also missing out on the support that comes from wearing good wading boots, especially around your ankles.  Most wading boots are designed to prevent strains or even broken bones.


Wading boots are designed to drain so that you are not carrying around a bucket-load of water.  The more water retained in your boots, the heavier they will be and the easier you will tire. 

However, neoprene wading socks are waterproof so they will retain water within your wading socks.  

That’s why a fabric that absorbs and retains moisture is a good option for inside your wading boots

Fabric choice

The special qualities of wool make it a perfect choice for inside wading socks.  

Wool works naturally with your body to regulate moisture and temperature to provide optimum comfort in all conditions. 

Alternatives are specialist wading socks like these Fox River Outdoor Wick Dry Alturas Ultra-Lightweight Liner Socks (The disadvantage is that they offer little thermal protection.  Once you feet are cold, they will stay that way. 

A pair of regular sports or hiking socks will provide you with cushioning in the areas that need it.  And your ankles and foot arches will benefit from the impact of miles of walking in heavy boots across rocky terrain. This is a popular choice on Amazon – 

Dickies Men’s Dri-tech Moisture Control Crew Socks

Another alternative is a regular pair of business socks. IF your wading boots are already a close fit, then you will only need a thin layer of fabric between your skin and neoprene wading socks.

My all-time favorite sock for under wading socks

As a New Zealander, I’ve grown up with the benefit of merino wool clothing which is grown in abundance here in New Zealand and in Australia.  

I’m very familiar with the Icebreaker brand.  Icebreaker made a full range of including casual clothing, snow wear, sportswear, and all types of underlayers and underwear. 

They understand how to use good fabric technology to make merino clothing that will benefit your body in all climates, both hot and cold.  (Merino sheep live in both very cold and very hot climates which is why their wool is naturally good in both extremes.)

I wear Icebreaker for casual day-wear at home, when outdoors and now I’m convinced they made the best socks for wearing inside my wading boots. 

Merino is finer than traditional making it soft and smooth against my skin. It stays warm, even when wet, and has properties that help my skin breathe.  

Walking for a full day on the river with wet feet is a test for any skin.  Wearing Icebreaker socks is the best solution I’ve discovered to stop my feet from getting cold or blisters, as well as tired. 

How to care for socks and wading socks

Merino sock care

Since my recommendation is for merino socks, you’ll find good quality socks, (like Icebreaker) are easy care.  

Use a wool wash detergent and put it through a gentle cycle in the washing machine.  Or simply rinse out by hand with a gentle soap. 

Allow the socks to dry naturally, or on low heat in the dryer in an emergency.  They’ll be fine.   

But if you are out in the bush and need to wear the same socks before they have a chance to dry, then just put them back on. 

Merino wool retains its insulating properties and fiber endurance when both wet and dry.

Wading sock need care too – or they will stink!

Because neoprene doesn’t breathe,  odors and micro-organisms will stay in your wading socks unless they are cleaned regularly.  

A quick rinse in the river after every trip is a good first step.  Then when you’re home wash them with a good antibacterial soap, or any mild detergent. 

If they are really smelly, try a wetsuit shampoo. 

Allow them to dry thoroughly by hanging them on the line. Remember to turn them inside-out so that the inside also dries thoroughly.

Here are full instructions on how to machine wash your wading socks.

Summer Wet Wading is Cool!

Wet Wading in the summer is a real pleasure – with the right gear.  

No need for full waders, just a pair of shorts works great, But you can also put on a pair of merino (or thermal) leggings if you looking for extra protection from the cold or wind.

Next time you are fishing over the summer, try wet wading. You won’t regret it.

Go here to find out how to choose the right size wading boot.