Cheaper than many of the boots in this test, the Orvis Women's Encounter Wading Boot offers an excellent value, and it does a better job than most at adapting to a wide variety of foot widths though at the cost of being a little on the heavy side.
Fit The Encounter looks like a high-volume boot, and I expected my foot to swim in it. But to my surprise, I found that the supple, meshy upper allowed me to cinch the laces tightly across the instep. Thus, I could take up excess volume through the midfoot. The heel pocket was still slightly loose—enough to let my heel slip up and down a very little bit while hiking—and the toe remained roomy. But the laces adjust to suit an array of fit issues: I could wear thin socks and still enjoy a comfortably close fit, or I could double up on socks (or use a neoprene liner in addition to my waders’ booties).
Traction The Vibram rubber sole feels grippy on dirt paths and dry boulders, but offers mid-pack performance underwater. It delivers trustworthy (but not failsafe) traction, so I occasionally felt my foot slipping off rounded or slimy rocks.
Support The underfoot construction delivers good protection from poky rocks, and the broad sole provides stability. Yet this boot also flexes more than the others we tested, so it feels more like a Converse All-Star high-top sneaker than a blocky, cumbersome boot. I appreciated that sensitivity while scrambling through rockpiles and downed branches. Yet despite the easy flex, I found it to be supportive enough for wading across rocky riverbeds.
Weight Despite the sneaker-like feel, this is one of the heavier boots tested, and its tendency to hold water makes it particularly burdensome during post-fishing hikes.
Features There are no drainage ports, so the Encounter picks up water weight, but there’s a hook for attaching a gravel guard to the toe.
Durability The Encounter pairs lightweight mesh with thick, abrasion-resistant synthetics and rubber where abuse is most likely.
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.