korkers darkhorse wading boot
Photo: Ryan Kelly

Review: Korkers Darkhorse wading boots

A detailed look at Korkers new do-it-all wading boot

I’ve been fishing a pair of Korkers Devil’s Canyon boots for a little more than a year and have remained convinced that they’re the best wading boots I’ve ever worn. They offered almost everything I want in a wading boot, save for the lack of a gaiter hook ring and a stiffer top section to protect anglers, such as myself, with weak ankles. Despite those missing features, I found myself grabbing those boots more than any others. Then I got my hands on a pair of the new Darkhorse boots from Korkers.

Just like with all gear, opinions on the efficacy of one boot over another are entirely subjective. I spend a lot of time walking and hiking through the backcountry and rarely want to lug wading boots in a pack. It’s much easier to throw on a pair of brush waders, or wet wade. That means my boots see a lot of dirt miles on top of however many river miles I walk in a given year.

What I look for in a boot is something that’s lightweight, durable, comfortable to hike in and has enough upper ankle support to help insure I won’t sprain anything, but not so much that I don’t have the needed range of movement and comfort. Korkers' new Darkhorse boot may be the first that provides it all.

What you look for in a boot may be entirely different, but even so the Darkhorse boots should appeal to the vast majority of anglers.

They’re exceptionally light, feature the nearly industry standard BOA lacing system, an exceptional design and sturdy materials, and the famous OmniTrax sole system. At $179.99 the Darkhorse retails for $20 less than the Devil’s Canyon boot.

The Darkhorse might be best described as the 9-foot 5-weight of wading boots, ideal for someone looking for a do-it-all wading boot.

What works

Design
The Darkhose has a similar profile to the K5 Bomber boots from Korkers - an aggressive, protect your ankles at all cost, snug design that provides stability in any moving body of water.

Korkers added two nice touches to this boot that help separate it from the competition. The first is the Achilles support in each boot, right above the heel where most wear on wading boots first occurs. On my current pair of Devil’s Canyon boots I’m starting to feel the holes forming in the boot liner. The Achilles support in the Darkhorse boot should offset that issue.

The other feature worth noting is the sturdiness of the upper section of the boot. While the toe cap and base are rigid, the upper sections are firm but move with your feet and ankles as opposed to simply being strapped to them. I definitely felt the additional support this construction provides, and I’d argue it increases the comfort level as well.

Comfort
Wading boots sometimes feel like ski boots. You need them, you’re glad to have them, and they definitely serve a purpose, but damn if it doesn’t feel amazing to take them off at the end of the day.

The Darkhorse boots don’t feel like sneakers, but they’re noticeably comfortable even right out of the box. Korkers has spent a lot of time developing boots that are sized roughly one size up from your daily shoe size. The Darkhorse line follows the Korkers sizing chart to a tee, and they just may be the most comfortable wading boot I’ve worn. The jury’s still out between the Darkhorse and Devil’s Canyon lines.

The tongue also opens much further than the tongues on previous Korkers boots, making slipping your neoprene wader booties inside an actual slipping process as opposed to wiggling or pulling. It’s also nice to have that extra room this time of year when a lot of anglers wear extra wool socks inside their waders to keep the winter chill at bay.

Function
I could keep going on about this feature or that, but at the end of the day what matters is this: the Darkhorse boots work. They’re a great boot that’s comfortable to wear, easy to get on and off, and they’re extremely lightweight and built with a design that should last for two or three season of hard use at a minimum.

What doesn’t work

Korkers added the ankle support and gaiter hook ring I wanted on the Devil’s Canyon boots and managed to price the Darkhorse line for $20 less. As of right now there’s nothing I’d change on these boots. For me and my style of fishing they’re damn near perfect.

Final word

$179.99 is a killer price for these boots. They’ll last the average angler four or five years at least, I’d imagine. Guides and industry professionals can probably get two seasons of 150-200 fishing days on these before you’d need to replace them (based on my experience with previous Korkers boots). Korkers made up for the missing gaiter hook ring on the Devil’s Canyon boot and added Achilles supports that’ll help your ankles and boots last longer and somehow did it for $20 less than their foremost models.

If you’re in the market for a new pair of boots, I’d make a call to your local fly shop and go try a pair of these on. Chances are, you’ll like what you feel.

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