On some days and in some places, my kayak is a fishing platform that I don't leave from launch to landing. On these days, almost any footwear will do to keep the sun and parking lot pebbles off my feet. On other days, the kayak is transportation. It gets me to where I hop off and wade the flats of Florida's West Coast for hours on end, pulling the boat behind me like a big floating tacklebox. On these days, my feet need more.
I’ve have spent thousands of hours (really!) on my feet in Orvis waders and wading boots in the Northeast US, and have always been pleased with the quality, comfort and fit. When I lifted Orvis’ new “Andros Flats Hikers” out of the box, my surprised reaction was like unexpectedly lifting a half-empty carton of milk. At a little over 2 lbs. for my big feet, these boots are light! The polyurethane/nylon construction feels durable and well put together, and the non-marking soles won’t scuff up your deck. These are a fully-lined high-top boot, and the extended upper gives great ankle support for walking on uneven bottoms and bars. In addition, I like to think that the higher top gives me a little more protection from the myriad stingrays that cruise the flats (although Orvis makes no such claim).
Any footwear gets uncomfortable once something gets inside and starts abrading your skin. To combat this, the Andros Flats Hikers feature an integrated, fully-adjustable neoprene gravel cuff that does a great job for me in keeping out sand and shells. The soles strike just the right balance with a tread that provides a good grip on the shells, muck, or sand, but doesn’t clog up as you move in and out of softer bottoms. A large finger loop on the back of the cuff does double duty, making pulling the boots on a breeze and retaining the back of the gravel cuff.
Most of my wading boots have drain holes, but I have almost always felt some water between the sole of my foot and the insole of the boot. This is noticeable to me even when I am wearing waders. Not so with the Flats Hikers: these boots have a great drain system that lets the water move out of the boot when you step, and it literally pours out when your foot leaves the water.
There is only one very minor thing I’d change about the boots, but I can’t figure out how: The gravel guard is secured using hook-and-loop fasteners. The hook side is attached to the boot, and the sections that are exposed tend to pick up a little bit of grass if you’re wading in that type of flat. I’ve had no other issues or suggestions.
After wearing them on four or five extended days with long periods of wading, I’m very happy with the weight, comfort and support of the Andros Flats Hikers. They provide great protection for all the sharp points and bumps to be found on the bottom, and are not at all clunky or stiff for the time I spend paddling the kayak.
For me, customer service sells me on a company as much as a great product does. I can’t paraphrase Orvis’ “100% Satisfaction Guarantee” better than they do, so I will quote it here: “For more than 150 years, we have offered the strongest return policy in the business. We will refund your money on any purchase that isn’t 100% satisfactory. Anytime, for any reason. It’s that simple.” In my experience, that’s what they do. Enough said.
If you want to wear these barefoot, order your shoe size. Orvis does sell a thin neoprene sock that can be worn with the boots, but you’ll want to order a size larger. The Andros Flats Hikers retail for $139, and can be found at your local Orvis dealer or online at http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=4X8P.