Cold weather, salt spray, and bloody decks are a potent combination that demands plenty of protection. Not only does your footwear need to keep you warm, but it also needs to keep you dry and on your feet, rather than your back.
That’s a tall order, and not many boots are up to the task.
If you’re not sure where to start looking for a good deck boot, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best on the market, as well as a complete buying guide to help you make the best choice for you:
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Related: Waterproof Fishing Jackets
Like the XTRATUF’s, don’t make the mistake of thinking the Grunden Deck-Boss 15-inch shaft boots are just an upsized version of the mid boot. From the sole up, they’re a different product altogether.
You’ll find plenty of deep traction on the soles, as well as a heel to help you stay put and ascend or descend ladders. You can count on these boots to keep you on your feet, even as waves wash the deck or blood pools near the bait tray.
Of all the boots on our list, I’d say these are the best for keeping your footing on a wet, bloody deck.
Indeed, according to Grundens, these soles are rated to “SRC Slip Resistance, the most stringent level of slip resistance certification; providing best-in-class traction on wet surfaces.”
The 15-inch shaft is waterproof, of course, and it’s tall enough to keep muck and water out of your boots. But when you don’t need that protection, the flexible upper folds down, retaining its shape due to a silicone band at the top.
That’s a thoughtful design element, and it’s clear these boots were made for serious fishing. Pros and amateurs alike who fish in rough conditions that demand waterproof, warm, slip-resistant boots should take a close look at the Deck-Boss 15”.
As any angler can attest, slimy fish, plenty of blood, and decks wet with spray are hell on shoes. There’s just no question that fishing can be nasty business, and from fish flopping on the deck to a casting net full of shrimp, slime, blood, and unidentifiable muck is everywhere.
And when the weather’s anything but warm, you want a boot that provides plenty of traction, enough warmth to keep blood flowing to your toes, and true waterproof reliability. While not insulated, Huk’s mid-boots are warm enough for everything but winter in colder climates, where only a taller, insulated boot will do.
That said, for all but the most serious anglers - and the hard-working pros - these dependable deck boots will keep your feet warm and dry in most conditions.
With a neoprene and rubber upper coated in a proprietary DWR--essentially a water-repellant film--you can pretty much guarantee that your feet will stay dry. And since these are waterproof, a few squirts of dish detergent and a hose can clean them up at the end of the day.
That’s a bigger deal than you might think when you’ve hauled a few good-sized tuna over the gunwale or had a shark thrash on the deck, and anything less than really washable will quickly descend into a stinking, useless mess.
HUK makes these boots to last, and they’ll hold up to anything you throw at them on deck.
Flat soled and grippy, you can count on traction on deck, and these boots should provide firm footing on anything but blood and slime--and nothing, no matter what the manufacturer says--will do that.
For thicker socks and wider feet, I advise you to order one size up.
XTRATUF’s boots really live up to their name, and while you may not be familiar with the brand, if you happen to be a commercial fisherman in Alaska, chances are you make a living with them.
XTRATUF has been supplying hard-working pros with ankle-high boots for years, and they know the ins and outs of angling as well as anyone.
These pros rely on XTRATUF. Enough said!
Constructed of rubber and neoprene, these ankle boots provide waterproof protection and an added boost of warmth from the thick neoprene. I’d say they’re a bit more insulating than the HUKs, and for cooler fall and spring weather, and for winter in climates that aren’t brutal, XTRATUF’s ankle boots will keep your feet plenty warm.
They can get clammy, however, and though they include a breathable liner, that waterproof rubber exterior limits how much moisture can be wicked away.
Super easy to clean, they’re on par with the HUKs: just wash with a hose and some detergent if necessary.
The soles on these boots are super soft and grippy, specifically designed for maximum traction on everything from the oily fish scales of mackerel to the blood of tuna, haddock, or Alaska pollock. And while nothing is truly no-slip on a wet and messy deck, these boots come close.
If you fish in a cooler climate and need a waterproof boot that’s easy to wear and easy to clean, XTRATUF’s deck boots are an awesome choice. Just be sure to order up if you wear a half size.
The only complaint I’ve heard about these boots, and it applies to the entire range of XTRATUFS, is that quality has declined since the company moved production to China.
This isn’t a bit of jingoism: people say that their boots just don’t hold up to years of use like they used to and that the shaft material doesn’t look or feel the same as the old ones.
Does that mean they’re not a good buy?
I can’t say, but it makes me wonder.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that XTRATUF’s Legacy boot is just a 15-inch version of their wildly-popular Performance series mid boot.
But it’s actually an entirely different product from the sole up, and professional fishermen working in the harshest conditions rely on these boots to keep them warm, dry, and upright.
First off, the sole is made with deeper channels and more aggressive patterning, including a heel to help you climb ladders and keep your footing in nasty conditions. That heel also creates a natural arch in the boot that locks your foot in place. That’s something you’ll notice on a pitching deck, and it really does improve your ability to stay upright.
The tall shaft is composed of triple-dipped latex neoprene, and besides being waterproof, it’s very warm. In fact, if I were fishing in cold weather in which ice was growing on exposed surfaces, these would be the boots I’d pick, hands down.
The shaft’s design also prevents water from entering into your boots when the deck’s awash from a wave.
Inside the Legacy series, you’ll find a “Breathe-O-Prene” footbed that increases comfort, wicks moisture, and dries quickly.
If you fish hard conditions, or make a living on the water in cold weather, these are boots that won’t let you down, provided the quality is what it was.
Grundens has been making fishing apparel since before most of us were alive - and it shows.
Their Deck-Boss ankle boots are made from unspecified materials, but one thing’s for sure: they’re 100% waterproof. They’re also perhaps the most comfortable option on our list, sporting a super-cushioned footbed that ensures all-day comfort.
The sole on the Deck-Boss series isn’t quite as grippy as XTRATUF’s options, so for the really nasty work, and for the professional fishermen who work boats for living, these ankle boots are probably not the best choice.
That said, most of us aren’t professionals, and what we need are waterproof, warm, comfortable boots that are easy to clean. These Grundens are just that. And given that they’re among the most comfortable options out there, unless you’re working on The Deadliest Catch, you might want to give these a try.
We’ve reviewed plenty of fishing shoes and boots, and for warm weather or wading, there are lots of good options out there.
But when you’re working a pitching deck awash in blood and swept by waves, you need something else entirely.
Good fishing boots need to be 100% waterproof. Waterproof means waterproof - not water-resistant!
By that, I don’t mean moisture-wicking GORE-TEX or any of the other wonder materials, nor do I mean the typical water-repellant coating you’ll find on outdoor wear.
I mean materials like latex and rubber, usually applied over warm neoprene.
For hard-working anglers who make a living on deck, cold, wet feet can mean lost pay.
The boots we’re recommending will keep your feet dry, guaranteed (assuming you choose the appropriate height and wear the attire you should), and unless you fall overboard, sweat will be the only moisture your feet will contend with.
Some fishermen ply their trade in the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico, others work the cold waters off Maine, and still others fish the stormy seas of the Bering Strait.
“Warmth,” then, is a relative term, and just how warm you need your boots to be is something only you can decide. Adding thicker socks will go a long way toward providing greater insulation, but if you do, be sure to order up a size.
We’ve noted on each pair the seasons we feel we’d be willing to fish in each boot, all day, without worrying too much about cold feet.
Grip is no joke, and having slipped on a pitching deck myself, knocking my head hard, I can tell you that you need boots that give you the best purchase you can buy.
Proper sole materials - typically softer than street shoes - and deep channels help hold your feet in place, giving blood and water somewhere to go rather than creating a solid sheet of liquid under your boot.
We’ve rated each boot for grip, and we really do think the Grundens Deck-Boss 15” is the best buy out there.
You need to be able to keep your boots clean with minimal fuss, and every boot on our list can be hosed off with a bit of detergent and kept looking new.
If your feet and backache, hard work just gets harder.
That’s a fact.
Soft soles, well-designed insoles, and properly sized shafts make a big difference in determining all-day comfort. And this works hand in glove with warmth and waterproofness to keep the feeling in your toes.
For pros and dedicated amateurs, comfort is a necessity, not a luxury.
This was a particularly hard choice, given the unbeatable reputation and popularity enjoyed by the XTRATUF series. And there’s no question that on fishing boats from Alaska to Florida, you’ll find commercial anglers wearing those brown boots and no others.
But it’s also true that complaints have begun to emerge - not from the casual user, but from the commercial fishermen - about the quality of the China-produced XTRATUFS. And until that’s sorted out, I’d have to pick the Grundens 15s.
Tall enough to guarantee you’re kept dry, but foldable down to a shorter length, Grundens Deck-Boss boots are warm, waterproof, and surprisingly comfortable. Add to that that they have perhaps the best anti-slip sole on the market, and you’ve got a winning combination that gets our vote.