Ask my mother her age and you won’t get an answer. Ask me my age, or even my weight, and I won’t hesitate. I won’t lie, either, but my mom remains unrevealed. All I know is she’s older than me and her first car was a brand-new ’63 (and a half) Ford Mustang that she loved dearly. That means she was born at least 16 years before 1963. That also means she comes from the era of ladylike manner that doesn’t discuss age, or weight, and always claims a smaller shoe size.

Shoe size is on my mind as I stand in the river. I love my mother as dearly as she loved that Mustang, but I’m cussing her and her secrets mid-current. I’m testing new wading boots, wearing one rubber-soled boot and one felt-soled boot. I’m supposed to be comparing grip, but I keep commenting on comfort instead. In fact, if toes could smile, mine would be flashing a toothy grin. A plenty wide one, too, thanks to the splay room in these spaciously designed new wading boots. My toes are not crunched, and I know crunched.

Like my ballerina mother before me, I’m also a ballerina, and from age 12 on my feet were shoved into point shoes like an ugly stepsister after Cinderella’s handsome prince. That’s just want you do with dance feet. That’s also what ladies often do when they lie about shoe size because they want the salesman to think they’re petite.

Well, I’m not a lady. I didn’t lie about my shoe size (6.5) when I bought my old wading boots at my local fly shop five years ago. They’re the right size, but I’m squeezed anyway because they’re a narrow style. They were designed to make me look petite while standing in pond water. Ridiculous.

Fortunately, the fishing industry and daughters of fashionable ladies everywhere are now rebelling against the ridiculous.

“If you’re not comfortable on the river, you’re not going to fish as hard or as long,” said Josh Prestin, brand manager for Redington.

Not only are new wading boots comfortable, they’re boxy. My mom wouldn’t be caught dead in boxy because it’s bulky. Nothing about a lady is bulky, but bulk means more traction. More traction makes you more graceful. And guess what else happens when you let your toes spread out: your balance is better. If only those teetering dancers of way back when knew that.

“When your toes can splay out more like they’re intended to, your body is more stable, and you’re more comfortable,” Prestin said. “Plus better traction is what you want. Whether it’s a tire or footwear, a bigger footprint has more traction.”

More is better even if it means bulky, so for Mother’s Day, consider new wading boots with extra wiggle room.

And if you’re wondering, I’m 44, I weigh 125 pounds, and I’m not following in my mother’s ladylike footsteps.


Kris Millgate is an outdoor journalist based in Idaho Falls, Idaho. See more of her work at