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.
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?”
“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!