Simms Star Cleats for Vibram sole wading boots solve traction problems

Update: We are no longer able to carry Simms Star Cleats. Please see the newest product — Grip Studs made in Merlin Oregon!

Now that I’ve crossed the 40-year threshhold, I consider it my duty to be resistant to all things new and different. So when Chris Daughters showed me the new “Vibram” boot soles from Simms, I immediately started into the reasons they had to suck. My ass is still sore from the last time I fell for the “no-slip-rubber” marketing ploy. Then Chris showed me the new Star Cleats that screw into the rubber. I had to admit they looked killer, but I was still cranky on the rubber soles.

Simms Star Cleats

Instead of just shaking his head and writing me off as he usually does, Chris challenged my assumptions:

“How do you know? You haven’t even tried them?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Look, take this pair, these cleats, and try them out? And don’t lose these cleats–they’re the only ones I have.”

“But they…(heavy sigh)…okay.” I owe Chris at least that much since he so graciously puts up with my constant complaining.

That weekend I brought the boots and cleats to the North Umpqua to try out. I figured out a good configuration for the cleats, got them all lined up and ready to screw in, and realized I didn’t have a screwdriver. Nice. Way to go bonehead.

Fast forward another week: I screwed the cleats into the soles as Hickman’s jet boat slammed against tight wind waves. My hands cramped a little on cleat number seventeen, but thankfully there were only eighteen total, nine per boot. They looked awesome, but my natural super-human resistance to everything kept me from pulling them on.

Finally, this very morning, I tightened the laces on my feet and took the new boots for a test drive on the Willamette River. The Willamette in Eugene is like a slightly sleazy version of the Umpqua–her naughty older sister. But the substrate is the same mix of gravel and sculpted basalt bedrock. In other words, it could soak you and/or crack your tailbone if you got careless.

The first thing I noticed was how quiet and soft they were as I walked across the asphalt parking lot to the boat ramp. Not the usual crunching sound that makes me cringe. Simms cleverly designed the sole with a billion little rubber cleats that stick out slightly farther than the metal cleats. Plus the rubber is soft, so the cleats just press up into their recess in the sole. It’s slick, I gotta admit. Then I got in the water and ran around like a big idiot, trying to slip and fall. But I couldn’t. They actually worked. They worked great. And they were super comfortable.

I never thought I’d say it, but I have to admit that the new soles, in combination with the triple-cleats, are a step up from the standard studded felt soles. They are environmentally friendly since they can be dried and/or cleaned between rivers to avoid the transmission of invasive species. They are removeable, so an angler can choose whether or not to destroy the floor of his buddy’s jet boat. And, maybe best of all, I can sneak into the Idylyld Store with my cleats on for a mid-day glazed doughnut—quiet as a mouse. That’s just plain bitchin!


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13 Responses to Simms Star Cleats for Vibram sole wading boots solve traction problems

  1. jay nicholas says:

    RR. You just couldn’t resist taunting me with the glazed donuts at the Idylyld store, didn’t you. That got me thinking about the most excellent iced cinnamon rolls they have there, and the giant Styrofoam cups of COFFEE, and Corn Dogs, and then – – – what was your blog post about? Oh yeah, new Simms cleats. OK, I’ll give ’em a try. Final thought — since when did we care whether or not we tore up Hickman’s boat? Huh?


  2. Arlen says:

    Well, you’ve put your reputation on the line now. If we try out these boots and land on our asses the first time out, we’ll know who to blame. Like you, I tried those highly touted Aquastealth soles a few years back–they turned out to be a good substitute for ice skates, in my book. But to be fair, Chris did warn me when I was buying them that I might well spend more time on my butt than on my feet wearing those in our local rivers. I may give these new ones a shot when my current boots wear out–so don’t steer us wrong here.

  3. Tony Torrence says:

    I too tried the Aqua stealth soles and would liken my experience to that of a pig on roller skates. Then again, I thought turning 40 was responsible for inability to stay on my feet while in water. About a month ago I purchased the new Simms Vibram sole with their standard screw in stud. I was extremely impressed in my rekindled ability to wade without the need to dry my wallet upon returning home. If these new studs outperform the old stud I will be invincible. -TT

  4. Rob R says:

    This post is actually about a week old, having been bumped for more time-sensitive material. Since then I took a trip to the Umpqua and, I confess, brought my studded felt boots. I still was not 100% confident in the new boots, and the North Umpqua is so unforgiving. But this morning I brought the new boots out on a slippery part of the Willamette and was again pleasantly surprised by their performance. Keep in mind I took a nice dunking on the Umpqua with my studded felt soles, so no boot in the world can prevent all slippage. In other words, Arlen, I won’t be held responsible when you take a dive. But I will certainly take pity and buy you a beer sometime…

  5. Brian Chaney says:

    Just out of curiosity, have any of you tried Korkers current line of wading boots? I am interested in your opinons. I have never used the Simms Star Cleat, but feel that having to buy a $40 cleat system containing so many small parts (2 pieces per spike) as well as requires a tool (and labor) is a bit of a pain. Korkers patented Omnitrax System allows you to adapt traction in seconds….thoughts?

  6. Rob R says:


    With all due respect to you and your family–great people who have made important contributions to flyfishing–my personal opinion of Korkers’ quick-change sole systems is they are seriously flawed and dangerous (unless things have changed). In 2002 and 2003 my clients started showing up with them. They seemed like a great idea until my dudes ended up on their asses, or hanging on to me for dear life as they skated around on boulders. While the convenience factor was huge with your quick-change soles, the hard rubber rim around the sole made them dangerous for wading anywhere other than small gravel.

    I own two pairs of Korkers, one that I bought for wet wading/hiking and another which you gave me that has the BOA cable lace system. I’m very happy with both pairs of boots. They have their place (on the trail, in the boat, or on small gravel) but if I’m wading the Deschutes, Umpqua, Willamette, or any other place with boulders and/or bedrock, I can’t risk using them. I took the BOA boots to the Umpqua one day, forgetting the danger. It was a terrifying day, and I went straight to the Caddis the next day and bought a pair of Simms.

    It pains me to say that because Korkers is a company I want to support for a number of reasons.

    Let’s get together in Denver and hash it out.


  7. Arlen says:

    Brian, since you asked and I think you are seriously interested in user opinions, I’ll tell you that I agree pretty much entirely with what Rob said. I’ve had a pair of Korkers for a few years now, and I use them under the same circumstances Rob described. They are very comfortable, lightweight, and dry quickly. I really like the ability to quickly change from unstudded to studded soles. But in difficult wading situations, that wide, bare rubber rim leads to too many slips. Many times on an uneven bottom, only part of the boot is in solid contact with a supporting rock at any given moment. If the contact point lacks studs or even felt, there’s not much traction. If you could fix that, I would be interested in giving them another try. As it now stands, I use them only under less demanding situations.

  8. Rob R says:

    Korkers’ new Predator boots have a fixed felt sole with the BOA lace system. You can add cleats, but they’re not included. The upside here in my opinion is the BOA lace system, which I have been very happy with, especially compared the the cheese-ball guaranteed-to-fail laces that Simms throws on their boots. Just to be fair…

  9. maryam says:

    I am new to the fly fishing world and have just started getting my gear together. I have my rod and reel…and just purchased my waders…but now need a good boot. Is this the boot you would recommend for a new fly fisher…don’t know how much I will go…How much do they cost?

  10. Andrew says:

    I’ve been using my son’s Patagonia Beefy wading boot (felt soles with carbide studs). He needs them back, so the family got me a pair of Simms Headwaters Vibram and a box of the regular hex head screw-in cleats for my birthday last month. (nice family, eh?) I wore them in the N Umpqua this weekend. As noted above, this river is the true test of any wading boot. I was extremely impressed with their performance on wet rock (slimy and regular versions), dry rock, and on the trail. They are at least as good and probably better than the Patagonias.
    Quick question — has there been any problem with people losing the studs? Hasn’t happened to me yet but they aren’t exactly cheap, so I’d like to avoid it. Thanks!

  11. Holly says:

    Each one of those star cleats are handcrafted and individually inspected…they are bomb proof, and slip proof! I should know, I have been field testing them for the last 10 years in Montana, Idaho, and Utah. I’m proud to say that my dad created and manufactures them for Simms. Go Ma and Pa local homegrown businesses! way to go Dad, you’re a fishing genius! Buy and use them, they last forever…worth EVERY penny, and every step in the river: )

  12. Steve Hansen says:

    Been using metal enhanced wading boots for several years. Carbide tipped corks on the soles work fairly well, but wear out in 2 years, and are rough on floors of any type. Had great luck with “Stream Cleats” – they look like crap. They are galoshes that fit over wading boots and have aluminum bars pop-rivited to the bottom, but they stick to slippery rocks like glue! They’re easy to put on/off, and with a little work, the cleats are replaceable. You’ll get 3-4 years wear out of the cleats. Also, easy to clean and dry, and you won’t wear holes in the floor of your friend’s drift boat.

  13. Rick S says:

    I bought a pair of the Simms Guide Vibram sole boots with the star cleats and have worn them now several times this season. My first several times on the water I was very impressed with the traction of the boots and the combination of rubber and cleats. This past weekend on a section of water on the Arkansas River, I wasn’t so impressed and in fact the boots were terribly dangerous. The problem with the Vibram soles is with trying to walk on rocks with algae. They simply don’t grip and the 9 star cleats per boot really don’t help at all. On rocks with very little to no algae they work very well and are probably better than felt, but on rocks with the slightest bit of algae use felt if regulations permit. The combination of algae and the power of the current greatly limited me in getting to holes I can normally fish with my felt/studded combination compared to the Vibram/studded soles. The Vibram soles are probably best in the spring and winter as algae will be more limited. Now that it’s June, I will be breaking out my Simms felt soled boots again. Buy a wading stick for sure if you buy the Vibram soles, because you will need it unless you want to go swimming. Luckily, I keep a wading stick in the truck, but even with a wading stick I couldn’t get to holes I normally get to with felt/studded soles without a stick. Just my two cents!

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