A Wet and Salty Review of the Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots, Built By Danner

By Tony K

I’ll admit it, I love cheap fishing gear. But this review is not for a cheap piece of kit; it’s for a very expensive pair of fly fishing wader boots – The Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots, built by Danner. The big question that seems to be on the mind of a lot of anglers is – Are these boots really worth $499? Or, can you get by with something cheaper? The answer to both questions is, yes.

The Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading boots won’t catch more fish but they will make a long day on the water more comfortable.

$500 is a lot of money to throw at boots, especially when you can buy a good set of Korkers boots for less than half the cost of the Foot Tractors. Here’s the real deal – Patagonia’s boots won’t catch more fish but they will make a long day on the water more comfortable.  When I first started fly fishing, I used a pair of old neoprene waders with a $17 dollar set of Wilco pvc boots. I drilled holes just above the soles to let the water out. I didn’t know any better and I definitely couldn’t afford more than that. Those boots at least got me out on the water.  After fishing for so long in junk boots, getting into a moderately priced set of Cabelas boots felt like going from my bike to my first car. I didn’t catch any more fish but my feet were a little warmer, more secure on rocks, and not nearly as tired at the end of the day.  Still, I found myself replacing boots every couple of years. After five years, I easily spent over $500 on boots. So, when Patagonia announced their collaboration with Danner for a line of American made boots, the price tags weren’t a total shock.

The option to resole the Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots through Danner means that I don’t have to pay another $500 when the soles eventually fail.

Patagonia and Danner both make quality products and have some of the best warranties you’ll find. The option to resole the Foot Tractor’s through Danner means that I don’t have to pay another $500 when the soles eventually fail. That’s a pretty big selling point if you can spare the hefty up front cost.

Right away the quality of these boots is the star. They’re sturdy and supportive but also incredibly comfortable. After six months of weekly use in a range of conditions throughout the Pacific Northwest, I am in love with these boots.

The specs you need to know:

If you’ve worn Danners, you know that they can be a hefty boot. I’m not surprised by the weight difference. The River Salt Wader Boots, another release from Patagonia/Danner, are a lighter weight model coming in at 56.2 ounces.

How do they fit?

These boots run big and roomy. But, Patagonia does address this on their site.

"Danner® boots are built to accommodate additional layers such as wader booties or socks, so we suggest choosing your regular street-shoe size. Foot Tractor Boots work with thicker wader booties or socks; If you want to wear them thin wader booties or if you’re wet-wading, please size down.”

Patagonia.com

Unfortunately I didn’t make all the way to the bottom of the product page where this is listed. I’m guessing other buyers also missed this message. According to reviews on the Patagonia site, 38% of customers had a similar experience. 

I wear a size 10.5 or 11 in street shoes and I usually size up for wader boots. The Foot Tractors fit closer to a hiking boot, maybe even a little bigger. I ended up with a size 11 which is still a little roomy. I opted to keep the room for thick socks in the fall and winter.

The main fit advantage that I’ve found with the Patagonia/Danner boots is comfort; these boots felt broken in right out of the box. I don’t know how the wizards at Danner did that but the support is evident at the end of long days wading over slippery rocks and on the trail. They’re on the heavy side and only get weighted down more when they’re wet, but I found the added weight to be a reasonable compromise for the level of comfort that I get out of these boots.

How do they perform?

Closeup view of the Patagonia and Danner logos on the tongue of the wading boots
Here’s the big one – How do the boots hold up? Well, they do exactly what a wading boot should do; they provide great support and traction. I can’t say that the Idrogrip sole blows other boots completely out of the water, but I did notice a slight gain in traction, at least there was a slight gain in my confidence while wading in the water. The boots also come with a pack of Patagonia studs for occasions that require extra traction.  There’s a model of the Foot Tractor with aluminum bars in the outsole for those of you who want to be near immovable in mucky conditions.

I live near the Olympic Peninsula on the Puget Sound in Washington state. I’m lucky to have salt and freshwater fishing close to home. I put my Patagonia/Danner boots through the wringer and they’re holding up better than I expected. 

Fishing along the beaches of Puget Sounds means shells, jagged barnacle covered rocks, and the destructive force of saltwater. After six months of weekly outings, these boots are barely showing any sign of wear. So far, they’re living up to both Patanogia’s and Danner’s promise of quality. For $500, they better.

Vibram sole on the Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots

How did I test the boots?

I don’t consider myself a casual angler. I’m somewhere between avid and obsessed. I live within a mile of saltwater which means I’m able to spend more time chasing fish. On average, I try to get out on the water at least twice a week, sometimes more. My shorter outings are usually close to home in saltwater, chasing resident Coho, or Sea Run Cutthroat Trout. Weekends usually take me somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula or to freshwater in the Cascade Mountains.

All of this means that I have put the Patagonia Foot Tractor Boots through its paces. With regular cleaning and care, I’m confident that these boots are going to be with me for many years. And when I eventually wear out the soles, Danner will be waiting with a new set.

The Bottom Line

So, we’re back to the main question – do the Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots have a place in my fly fishing gear? Absolutely. But you can live without them, and will probably catch just as many fish if you can’t justify the investment. 

$500+, depending on the model, buys you an insanely comfortable American made boot that’s backed with some of the best product warranties you will find in the outdoor industry. The ability to resole the boots means that there’s a good chance that they will outperform your needs 95% of the time.

Buying the Foot Tractors also supports Patagonia, which is one of the leaders in fighting for wild fish and protecting and preserving natural resources. If lending my support to Patagonia’s work means throwing in a little more cash towards quality boots and other gear, and I’m not breaking the bank, I’m happy to do it.

Why Wild Human Supports Patagonia

Patagonia has taken brand activism to a new level. From funding movies and conservation projects to leading the fight against climate change and protecting the world’s wilds and natural resources through federal lawsuits, Patagonia is one of the most powerful and ethical voices in the outdoor community.  Visit Patagonia.com to learn about all of their current initiatives. For the story about how Patagonia became the activism brand that we know today, check out the book “The Responsible Company.”

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