Don't you love those days when you can leave the waders home?
Whether it's a mountain stream in the summer or saltwater flats just about any time of year, wet wading is refreshing and a lot of fun. With a little help from the Michelin Man, the new Orvis PRO Approach Wet Wading Shoes were specifically designed with a host of beneficial features for wet wading fresh and saltwater anglers.
The most prominent features include a breathable built-in Ariaprene sock to keep out debris, Michelin Outdoor Extreme non-marking rubber treads (said to provide a 43% improvement in wet rubber traction and 25% better abrasion resistance than the competition), a removable 3D-molded OrthoLite insole, and integrated lace hoods to tuck loose laces away. Initial impressions out of the box were excellent. I liked how these didn't look much different than everyday shoes, and the quality seemed extremely high.
Let's start off with the good...
Support- In this regard, the shoes did well. I put some miles on these shoes and never felt the support was lacking. Also, as mentioned, the OrthoLite insoles are indeed removable, which makes them easy to clean or replace.
Socks- The integrated socks did a great job of keeping debris out of the shoes. I have tried other water shoes in the past (without an integrated sock feature), and it never took long for them to absolutely load up with sand and shells. Not only could that be uncomfortable and downright painful, but it was also a hassle each time I had to dump my shoes and put them back on again. Of course, some sand did make it inside of these, but on the days I wore them (in mostly minimal wave action), I never once felt the need to take a break from fishing to flush them out.
Weight- I like the fact that they aren't heavy. Even when wet, I never felt bogged down by the weight.
Sizing- These seem to be true to size. I take a 12 in a typical shoe, and the same size fits just fine here.
Washing- At the end of the day, the shoes can be flushed out quite well. It's impossible to get every grain of sand out of most shoes, but a good blast from a hose (with insoles removed) did a great job washing out the vast majority of particles.
Grip- The tread offered tons of grip. I only walked on rocks and some wooden structures a few times each, but I could quickly tell the tread was excellent. Unfortunately, I can't truly comment on durability because with these seeing 98% usage on strictly sand, that's not much of a toughness test.
Now, the not-so-good...
Putting On- There was always some level of challenge for me getting these things on. I found this especially true when sweaty or wet. The entry is a bit tight, but there are finger loops on the sock top's front and back which helped get some added leverage and torque. Luckily, they come off easier than they go on.
Discomfort- To put it mildly, I experienced a lot of pain while wearing the PRO Approach Shoes. When just starting the day, they felt comfortable and everything seemed fine. However, as more ground was covered, the issues began to arise. Each time I wore these and walked any distance, the area of my heel/achilles started to get chafed, eventually making walking pretty unpleasant and leaving very unsightly and raw red marks.
It seemed the cause of this irritation likely came from the area where the shoe and sock meet. When I ran my finger over the inside back of the shoe, I detected a little hard/rough zone here, which was likely the culprit. Honestly, I would've quit wearing these shoes after the first day if I wasn't testing them. If Orvis could redesign the inner portion to make it smooth and soft, that should solve the issue and make these genuinely awesome to wear.
In my testing, I found the Orvis PRO Approach Wet Wading Shoes to be well made and stylish but come up way short in all-day comfort. I can't recommend them for anglers actively walking long distances, but I could see these probably being okay for short jaunts or on a drift boat where an angler might want to just hop out here and there.
PRO Approach Wet Wading Shoes are available in storm (tested) or camouflage in sizes 7–14 at a price of $149.
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