These Wading Boots Are Part Sneaker, Part Michelin Tire

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Blame Brad Pitt. Ever since the tow-headed actor splashed across the screen in A River Runs Through It, it’s been increasingly difficult to find an angler-free stretch of water. In the U.S. at least 6 million people this year will rig up a fly rod. The easy antidote to crowding? A long walk. Thanks to breathable fabrics, the $230 Orvis Pro wading boot is 50 ounces (just over 3 pounds), which makes it both lightweight and comfortable—and it’s “stickier” than ever, whether you’re casting from steep trails or slippery river rocks.

THE COMPETITION

• In developing its $550 Foot Tractor, Patagonia Inc. turned to the pros at Danner Inc., a rough-and-ready Portland, Ore.-based brand with almost a century of experience shodding lumberjacks and mountaineers. Fishermen can choose from three soles, depending on their traction needs, and the uppers are stitched in a way that allows the boots to be resoled.

• The top-of-the-line offering from Korkers Products LLC apes a 1980s ski boot. The entire back of the $240 Hatchback hinges open like a sardine can to make it easier to step in and out of while balancing streamside or in a tilting drift boat. They’re a bit heavier than the Orvises, though, at 4 pounds.

• Simms Fishing Products LLC has built a loyal following with its $230 G3 Guide boots, which feature a beefy molded heel for extra stability and a shock-absorbing Vibram sole.

THE CASE

Developed by industrial designer Jim Kershaw, the Orvis Pro collection represents a new approach for the blue-blood brand: treating anglers like athletes. The upper of the boots uses sneaker technology, a one-piece ultralight “cage” of polyurethane that keeps water out and precludes the need for the seams and stitches that tend to fail on hard-worn wading boots. The soles were developed with Michelin, which cooked up a proprietary rubber compound. Its research and development team designed a geometric pattern that channels water while sticking to a streambed like tires on a wet road. $230

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gaddy at jgaddy@bloomberg.net

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