Women’s Wading Boots – How to Choose Your Size?

Success!  I’ve just bought my first pair of fly fishing wading boots.  They fit perfectly. ? Here’s how I navigated the process of choosing the right size – even when buying online. 

Woman’s Wading Boot – How to Choose the Right Size?  Some brands recommend going up one size from your shoe size, while others advise staying with your shoe size.  The chart below summarises the sizing guides for the top four brands.  (Orvis, Patagonia, Simms, Redington & Korkers.)   Wading boots don’t come in half sizes so this is also covered. 

Buying my first pair of wading boots was exciting. But my problem was how do I choose the right size, when there is conflicting information and I couldn’t visit a specialist fly fishing shop. 

The lack of supply, (due currently to Covid19 supply chain issues), and the limited number of specialist fly fishing shops in my region, meant I couldn’t try on a whole range of boots. 

This was further complicated as there were few women’s boot options available. This meant I had to come up with a way to ensure I got the right size the first time. 

Here’s my step-by-step process to choosing the right wading boot size.

Step-by-step process to choosing the right wading boot size

First get an accurate measure of your shoe size by doing this:

  1. Place a piece of paper on the floor, against a wall. 
  2. Stand with your bare foot on the paper, with the heel touching the wall. 
  3. Mark the tip of your longest toe on the paper.
  4. Measure the length from the wall to this mark.

Points to remember:

  • Measure both feet as most people have one foot longer than the other and this is the foot that footwear size should be selected on.
  • Measure your feet at night after you have been walking on them during the day.  
  • Measure your feet standing up.
  • Remeasure your feet every few years as they do change as we age, mostly due to our feet getting flatter as our arches lower.

Select your wading boot size

The generic advice is to measure your feet wearing the socks or stockings you plan to wear inside your shoes.  

However, some wading boots manufacturers manufacture their boots with allowance made to accommodate wading booties and socks, while others suggest you go up a size. 

Confused?  I was. So I’ve laid out what the major brands recommend.

Sizing guides for the top five wading boot manufacturers

BrandWomen’s Shoe SizeMen’s Shoe SizeMen’s Wading boot sizeWomen’s Wading Boot Size
OrvisMeasure your foot and select from the size chart.Add 1.5 to get men’s size.One size up from men’s shoe size. (1.5 sizes if you are a half size.)One size up from women’s shoe size. (1.5 sizes if you are a half size.)
PatagoniaMeasure your foot and select from the size chart.Add 1.5 to get men’s size.Buy to your shoe size.Buy to your shoe size.
SimmsMeasure your foot and select from the size chart.Add 1.5 to get men’s size.Up one size.  If half size go to next full size.Down one size.  (Women’s shoe size 8 to Men’s Boot size 7.)

Measure your foot and select from the size chart.Add 1.5 to get men’s sizeBuy to your shoe size. (Boots are already sized larger to accommodate for wader bootie.)vBuy to your shoe size. (Boots are already sized larger to accommodate for wader bootie.)
KorkersMeasure your foot and select from the size chart.Add 1.5 to get men’s size.Buy to shoe size For half size go up to next full size.Buy to your shoe size.  For half size go down to that full size.

Conversion from women’s to men’s sizes

Here’s a simple conversion calculator to find the right shoe size for both men and women.
Shoe Size Conversion | Zappos.com

Womens Shoe Size Chart

If you are buying a men’s wading boot, then use this chart to find your size in men’s shoes here.

Mens Shoe Size Chart

In the US, based on length, women’s shoe sizes are about 1.5 sizes larger than men’s. So, a women’s size 8 would roughly be a men’s size 6.5.

For example: My foot measures 24cm or 9.5 inches.  That makes me a woman’s US size 8. And a US size 6.5 in men’s shoes.

(The Europeans do this sensible by having a unisex sizing system.  With a foot of 24 cms, I’d be a size 38-39 in Europe. Easy. Then it’s only a matter of selecting on width fit and style.)

The fit difference between men’s and women’s boots

In general, men usually have wider and longer feet.  This is why women like me with wide feet have an easier time finding a better fit in the men’s or unisex shoe department. 

Fun Fact:
After talking to Orvis Customer Service I can confirm that the men’s and women’s Orvis Ultralight Wading Boots are identical!  The only difference is the color of the trim and that the women’s boots have a sizing label that matches women’s shoe sizing. 

So when you can’t get a women’s wading boot, don’t fret.  Buy the men’s style.  

My only recommendation is that you look for a lightweight boot.  There can be quite a difference in weights and after spending the day on the river, my preference is for the lightest option. 

Choosing what to wear inside your wading boots

If you are wearing breathable waders they usually come with neoprene booties attached, so this is what you will wear inside your wading boots.  

And, when wet wading you will likely be wearing neoprene socks inside your wading boots.  

I also recommend you wear woolen socks inside your neoprene socks or booties. 

Read here about the options. My strong preference for merino inner socks.  

Another alternative for wet wading is to wear thick warm woolen socks, such as you would wear with hiking boots.  While not as warm, this is a very comfortable option for summer fish.

How to know if you have the right size wading boots?

How should they feel?   Wear your boots around the house for a few hours, wearing what you will normally wear while fishing.  

You should be able to wear your wading boots all day, without getting blisters or your feel feeling tired and sore. 

If your boots are too big, your feet will slip around with your heel sliding up and down the back of your boot. 

This is definitely not what you need.  Not only is it uncomfortable you are also increasing your risk of a sprained or broken ankle.

There is a big advantage to having good support when clambering over rocks, whether in or on the river bed.

If your feet feel tight inside your boots, or your toes are touching the end, your boots are too small.  Blisters and bruises will result.  And you’ll have an uncomfortable or even miserable day on the river. 

(I have found that my boots become to feel a bit looser as they take up water, so you might like to take this into account when ‘road-testing’ them dry.)

What to do if my wading boots feel too big?

Wearing boots that are too big can damage your feet, and you will also miss out on the support that the boots are designed to provide could result in a sprained ankle, or worse. 

Before you return the boots and get a smaller size, try these options:

Adding an inner sole.  However, since water gets inside your wading boots chose a material that will withstand getting wet.

Wear two pairs of socks, or thicker woolen socks, inside your wading socks in summer, or wading booties in winter.

What to do if my wading boots feel too small?

You could look at reducing the thickness of your wading socks.

If you can’t do that then return them!  Don’t wear them. 

Walking for miles in under-sized boots will damage your feet, and spoil your day – and even a few fishing adventures for some weeks to come. 

I once wore hiking boots that squeezed my toes, especially on the downhill sections of the trail.  As a result, I lost 3 toenails over the next month. Ouch! The pain and damage meant I couldn’t get outdoors for several months.  

Fly fishing can be hard work on any day, especially when walking long distances or wading up river beds. 

It really helps to have equipment that will allow us to focus on catching fish, not worrying about our sore toes.

Do your best to prevent the movement of invasive aquatic pests, and increase the life of your wading boots! Here’s my Easy 7-Step Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Wading Boots.