L.L. Bean West Branch Wading Boot ReviewNovember 10, 2017
- High cuff fits long-legged anglers
- Studs deliver excellent traction
- Tough construction
- Good value for a studded boot
- Sloppy, built on a men’s last
- No hook for gravel guards
The women’s West Branch Wading Boot, Studded from L.L. Bean is one of the least-expensive ways to enjoy the sticky, rock-gripping traction provided by a studded sole. But it’s not a women’s-specific chassis—it’s a men’s boot offered in smaller sizes—and the high-volume fit is too loose to provide solid support.
The ankle cuff is higher than any other boot in this test. That’s a boon for taller, long-legged anglers who can appreciate the extra support. But on shorter testers (I’m 5’0”) it rubbed against my lower calf. And the footbox is enormous: High and wide, it provided too much volume for even my C-width feet, which slipped and sloshed around inside. Most anglers will want to double up on heavyweight socks, or use the West Branch for cold-weather fishing, when they’ll be wearing an additional neoprene sock within their waders’ booties.
Many sticky-bottomed boots accommodate studs, which must be purchased separately, and installed by the user. But the West Branch comes with studs included, making these boots a very good value. Those steel micro-spikes, along with the AquaStealth rubber, provide for very good grip, even on slimy rocks. The traction was among the best in test.
The broad sole should deliver good stability. Instead, the high-volume fit undercuts the boot’s support. The stiff upper limits how tightly you can pull the laces, so even when the laces were cinched as tightly as possible, the interior never closed securely around my foot. With my foot sliding around inside, I never enjoyed the kind of stability I hope to have in fast-moving water. I felt off-balance when climbing hills and stepping over rounded rocks.
The metal studs, thick rubber sole, and beefy leather uppers combine to make this a rather heavy boot. Dry or wet, it was the weightiest in this test, which was most noticeable when hiking to and from the water.
Most boots in this price range don’t include studs, but the West Branch boot does. It also features drainage ports. No toe hook for securing gravel guards.
The toe is reinforced with a thick band of rubber, and the stitched sole promises better longevity than glued constructions.
Kelly Bastone- Faculty
Mountain-dweller Kelly Bastone became a writer so she could stop asking the boss for permission to take a powder morning, enjoy extra-long lunch breaks to fish or mountain bike, and clock out early when the hatch is on.