I have horrible feet. Full-on hammer toes. High arches. I’m prone to ingrown toenails. When my feet are mistreated, everything suffers, especially my fishing.
I have several pairs of wading boots that I don for very specific wading situations. Heavy duty boots with spikes for big water and slime-covered rocks. I use lighter canvas boots that can be worn over neoprene booties for wet-wading, and I will occasionally drill spikes into them, too. I even have a pair of sandals that I’ll wear on warm days on small water where the rocks aren’t too big and staying cool is important.
But I haven’t really come across the perfect pair of wading boots for the one or two times each year I’m able to get to the salt and chase fish on the flats. My first pair of flats boots took about a week on the sand and mud of the Bahamas to go belly up. I eventually gave up on them, and just took to wearing my canvas “river boots.” But saltwater is hell on everything from eyelets to clips to the soles of the boots, and I realized this was, at best, a temporary solution.
Keeping in mind that spending a fortune wasn’t an option (how often does a guy from Idaho get to fish the salt? Like I said, in a good year, maybe twice), I started looking for boots—or even booties—that could get me across the sand, mud and the occasional oyster reef without trashing my already-impaired feet.
Enter the Simms Zipit Bootie II.
The genius is in the simplicity. And the price is right, even for the casual flats angler. Hell, if you go once a year, or once ever, this is a worthwhile investment.
Comfort and fit
As I said, my feet are in terrible shape. I’ve struggled with wading footwear my entire fishing life (which may be why, in the summer, I simply go with a pair of a cheap sandals I can alter to my liking). Heavy-duty boots are often too binding around the ankles, and lighter boots often compromise cushion to meet certain specifications. And, to be honest, when I first saw the Simms streamlined, zip-on booties, I figured I could wear them, but only with neoprene booties underneath.
I was wrong. The corrosive-resistant zipper opens wide, allowing for easy put-on and take-off, and, surprisingly, once on, they were quite comfortable. They don’t bind or rub. The zipper is shielded from the skin by two thin nylon flaps that don’t impeded comfort. In short, they feel good.
Seems weird to talk about “armor” when you’re talking about a flats bootie, but the Zipit II is equipped with hard rubber atop the neoprene base that covers the top of the foot, the base of the foot and the heel. The only “unprotected” portion of the foot is the ankle, and I think the designers left this area vulnerable simply to keep comfort intact.
In addition to the rubber atop the boot, the boot’s sole is also hard rubber, which is vital if, say, you’re wading for redfish in Galveston Bay, where razor-sharp oyster beds are common and protection is vital.
These booties, unlike Simms’ full-on boot counterparts, won’t leave a huge hole in your budget. They retail at $79.95, and they’re worth every penny. For comparison, Simms’ other offerings range from $120 to $200. The Zipit II booties are a bargain.
What doesn’t work
Yes, the hard rubber is nice, but the exposed ankles and the exposed area between the ankle and the Achilles make these booties just a bit on the vulnerable side, especially if you’re you’re in sting-ray country. My friend Rhett Schober, a guide out of Akumal, took a nasty hit from a ray earlier this year. The affected area? That little two-inch target zone between the ankle and the Achilles.
The Simms Zipit II flats booties are a great product built to make wading in sand, mud and rock in saltwater more bearable. Their comfort level is surprisingly good, and the considerable armor they offer adds to the support. I especially like the easy-on, easy-off zipper. They’re easy to clean and easy to pack, and they don’t cost more than they should. On the whole, the booties make a great addition to the casual angler’s travel bag.