I think you will agree that nowadays all fishing tackle stores and mail order outlets carry felt sole wading boots in a wide range of prices and sizes to fit the needs of the modern fly fisher. You always get what you pay for and a good wading boots with proper care will give the average fly fisher many years of service. Wading boots used for fishing are just not another pair of high priced hiking boots. They are designed to be wider and higher between the arch and laces plus added toe room to accommodate thick neoprene waders and the booties found on most of the better quality breathable waders. Good wading boots are constructed with quality workmanship and water resistant materials that will withstand the rugged abuse of river wading. I suggest that before you purchase any pair of wading boots try them on with your own waders and socks to get a proper fit.
With all that being said, after a couple of seasons are you just a little disappointed in the way those high dollar felt sole wading boots perform? Do they seem to be a little more slippery on some river bottoms than you thought they would be? There is a cure that will solve the problem, and it works on newer felt sole bottom boots and old worn out felts bottom boots as well.
If you have a pair if wading boots (old or new), with just plain felt soles try this fix: Find a reputable carpet store in your local area that sells and installs commercial grade water proof carpeting, the type used in offices, restaurants, hotels etc. This is not carpet used in residential housing or indoor/outdoor carpet used on patios decks. Ask to see some ruminates with short (3/8″or less) tight nap without a fabric or rubber backing. Tell the sales person what you want to use it for so he will know just what to show you. You will only need a piece 3’x 4′ to make four or five pairs of soles for your wading boots. Next, you will need to purchases Barge waterproof contact cement in the red and yellow can to glue the carpet over the existing felt soles. I have not used the Barge cement in the green can but I have been told that it is safer to use and works just about as well. The 32 oz. can of cement will do 5 or 6 pairs of carpet soles or felt sole replacements and it can be found at most major building supply stores or shoe repair shops. You will also need a couple rolls of ¾ inch reinforced strapping tape
If you want to remove the old felts soles from a pair of wading boots you can do it yourself: In an open work area away from flames or sparks, apply a liberal amount of acetone to the felt soles and allow them to sit with soles facing upward for 1 to 2 hours. Now using a heavy screwdriver, slip the tip between the felt sole the rubber sole of the boot at the toe end and pry the felt up. Then using a large pair of Vise Grip pliers, clamp down on the old felt sole at the toe end and pull it back and upwards; like opening a can of sardines, the old felt should peel off quite easily. However, if the felt soles are sewn onto the bottoms of the boots you will need to go to a shoe repair shop to have the felts removed, or you can just glue the carpet to the felts.
In your work area place the carpet on a hard surface with the backing up. Place the wading boot on the carpet and use a black marking pen, making an outline of the sole and mark “R” for right and “L” for left. If your boots have a raised heel, draw a line across the carpet sole for the heel. I use a very sharp filleting knife to carefully cut out the replacement soles about ¼ inch wader than the boot sole. If your boots have the raised heel cut it where the cross line is marked. Don’t worry about the replacement sole being a little oversized, you can easily trim it to size after the glue has dried. Now you are ready to apply the carpet to the bottoms of the boots.
In a well-ventilated work area, on a newspaper covered workbench, place blocks of wood on each side of the boots for support to keep the soles facing up. Then carefully apply a thick coat of Barge cement over the soles on the boots, making sure that the edges are well coated and allow the cement to become somewhat tacky. If the cement is absorbed into the felt soles apply another coat. Also apply one thick coat of cement to the hard back of the carpet sole replacements, and allow that cement to become tacky. Depending on the air temperature it may take 30 to 40 minutes for the glue to become tacky. This is contact cement, so carefully align the carpet soles with the bottoms of the boots and press them together the harder the better. Slip the boots on and walk around, stomping up and down, putting as much pressure as you can on areas of the bottom if the boots. Remove the boots and fold the upper part of the boots down into the boot opening. Use the strapping tape to very tightly wrap the carpet soles to the bottom of each boot. Make about 8 to 10 very tight wraps around the boot from heel to toe, then tightly apply about 3 pieces of tape from the bottom up and over the toe of each boot then do the same to the heels. The boot should now almost be completely covered with tightly wrapped strapping tape. After 2 to 3 days of drying, carefully remove the tape and using a sharp knife, trim the carpet as close as you can to the rubber sole of the boot. If you want a really neat job you can use a small propane torch to carefully seal the edges of the carpet.
I suggest that if you just want to replace the old felts with new felts replacements, this gluing method really works. However if you are not a handy man or you don’t have the time, just take the carpeting to a good shoe shop and have them put the soles or felt sole replacements on for you.
The quality and longevity of this project is dependent on the quality of the carpet, the amount of pressure that is applied to the newly glued replacements, and the proper application of Barge contact cement.
Good luck, good fishing and wade safely. For wading tips and additional fly-fishing how to tips and information please visit my site.