Korkers Darkhorse Wading Boot ReviewAugust 2, 2018
- Very supportive
- Good traction
- Boa Lacing System
- Durability of interchange system is questionable
Korkers Darkhorse Wading Boots take full advantage of several of the best innovations in the category, making them the most advanced boots in the class. And in this case, advanced innovations add up to peak performance and functionality. Korkers offers exceptional fit, in part by offering a wider range of sizes than any other brand. But mainly by using lasts – the molds on which the boots are built – that best represent an angler’s wader-covered foot. The designers incorporated Boa laces to allow precise tightening and fit without worrying about slippage or loosening during the day. And the materials used throughout the Darkhorse proved highly durable and functional.
With a snug heel cup, tapered arch and wide toe box, the Korker Darkhorse fits exceptionally well, with no heel slippage, toe jamming, or arch pinch, even among the most hard-to-fit anglers. The boots fit comfortably over bulky wader boots without slop or slipping. A good part of the fit comes as a result of the Boa lacing system. This system uses a steel cable looped through a series of laces and wound on a knob-driven reel. To tighten, simply turn the knob to wind the steel cable around the reel, tightening the boots smoothly and evenly. This gives precision control of the boot tightness without any threat of slippage or loosening. To remove the boots, simply pop the reel knob upward to let the reel spin freely and the cable to slide out. The stainless-steel cable is rust-resistant and very strong.
The availability of three different outsoles – and the ability to change from one to the other on the fly – makes the Darkhorse among the most efficient in grip and traction, regardless of the environmental conditions being encountered. The felt soles provide exceptional grip in rock-lined rivers. The felt cuts through rock slime better than any other sole material, giving firm traction in greasy conditions. When having to spend more time hiking to fishable water, and scrambling around dry riverbanks and trails, the steel-studded rubber outsoles give a firm bite for solid footing in and out of the water. And when fishing from rafts or drift boats, the unstudded rubber soles provide the best option — good grip on boats without the risk of damage from metal studs.
The Korkers weigh a bit less than Redington Prowlers, and like those boots, they shed water efficiently, meaning they don’t pick up water weight during use. The exception to this is when the felt soles are installed — that heavy felt pad on the sole holds several ounces of water, making the boots feel slightly heavier than the Redingtons by the end of the day.
The Korkers’ felt soles proved both denser and thicker than those provided with the Hodgman Aesis boots, giving them a much longer life than those Aesis soles. The Kling-on Rubber soles, too, proved exceptionally durable. The rubber is soft and grippy, but resisted wear very well.
The biggest concern we encountered with the soles wasn’t with the soles themselves, but with the interchange system. The series of clips and slots effectively lock-in the soles when properly secured. But grit and grime can foul the slots, making it difficult to lock-in the clips. If they aren’t firmly locked, it’s possible for the soles to come loose. Fortunately, a good flushing with clean water and – in extreme cases – the application of a stout wire or knife blade to scrape out of a clogged slot makes locking easy.
The addition of a polyurethane cap over the toe and around the heel give the boots great protection from abrasion. The nylon materials in the upper also resist wear, as well as repelling water, ensuring the boots stand up to rough use well. The Boa lace system includes a stainless-steel cable to minimize the threat of rust and corrosion.
The Darkhorse withstood hard use better than any boot we’ve tested to date, earning near perfect marks in this category. Only the minor difficulties with keeping the Interchange system clear of grime raised questions about the long-term durability of the boot.
We field tested the boots in a variety of conditions, from the pebbly beaches of Puget Sound while chasing Sea-Run Cutthroats, to the fast waters of the Salmon River in Idaho. We wore each pair of boots for multiple days, and wore mixed pairs on multiple occasions – that is, one model on our left foot, another on our right – to get direct side-by-side comparisons.
Dan Nelson- Managing Editor & Fly Fishing Editor
Dan Nelson is GearInstitute.com's Managing Editor & fly fishing editor. He is based in the Pacific Northwest.