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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Simms StreamTread Vibram with Star Cleats: a Brief Field Test

I was anxious to see if the new generation of Vibram sole wading boot would stack up against felt. As a fair amount of the water I wade is challenging I was very concerned about Simms discontinuing felt soles. If you are 29 or 39 then not much of any wading is challenging for you. You believe you are a mountain goat and that you always will be. You may always be, but 30 years from now you won’t be quite the mountain goat you are today.

For me, its thirty years from back then, when I too believed I was a mountain goat. I probably never was, but either way, as I am only days away from being 59, I’m not quite as steady on my feet as I once was. I’m not clumsy or unable to fish anymore, it’s not like that; I’m just aware of being older than I used to be. Anything that will help me wade securely and comfortably adds to my overall safety, enjoyment of the day, and even success chasing fish.

On learning felt was to be discontinued by Simms, at first I thought I would just stockpile some felt sole boots in my garage. There were none to be had in my size by the time I began looking. I wanted to test the Vibram sole boots and the Star Cleats to see if they were at least a suitable replacement for felt and studded felt. If not then I was going to buy felt sole boots from Chota or some other brand before they were discontinued also.

I am planning to fish in Alaska next year and I have heard that felt is, or will be, banned there in 2010 or 2011. If that is going to be the case then I needed to be exploring options that would keep my middle-age butt dry and safe. Either that or I could just stay home. Nahhh… I’m not that old yet. I still want to make that trip to Alaska next year. Melissa and Nathan, I’m really looking forward to it!

I recognize clearly that the time I spent in the river shown in this video is a very small amount of time and doesn’t constitute a serious, extensive, field test. That will only come with a season of use. I wanted to test felt, plain StreamTread Vibram, studded felt, and the StreamTread Vibram with Star Cleats all at the same time. I wanted to make the comparison on the same water the same day. That way, even though it was brief, I wouldn’t experience any memory lapse of sorts about how one sole performed. I wanted the comparisons to be side by side.

I began the trial skeptical that the Vibram would even be a close second to felt. I had purchased an earlier version of Vibram sole wading boots some years ago and was quite disappointed with them. Coming into the comparison I admit my bias was that Simms was doing something that at least looked good for the environment, but really, they just wanted to reduce their SKU count. In talking to several dealers, a few of them had the same thoughts. I should point out that none of them who panned the boot had actually used it yet.

Again, my field test, or trial, was not extensive. I will need to test the Vibram soles with Star Cleats in more settings through different times of year. I guess I think of what I did as being like going to Road Runner or Jock and Jill to try on new running shoes. They let you go outside and run around for awhile to try the shoes. We all buy the shoe that feels the best to us and then we go run in it. Or in my case, walk quickly or shuffle pretty dang slowly. Through use, most of us continue liking the shoe that felt best when we tried them on. What I did was sort of try these different wading boots on in the river. My first impressions and some follow up are in the video.


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