Traction, Traction, Traction… That’s what wading boots are all about right? Well at least for years most boots you’d pick up at your local fly shop sported traditional felt bottoms that clung well to the river bottom. It seemed like for years the functionality of the boot didn’t matter as long as it was sturdy, laced tight, and had felt. The Korkers wading boot is breaking that trend… and in a big way.
These last few weeks I’ve been reviewing Korkers Devils Canyon wading boots. Its all part of a buying guide I’m working on to compare boots around the $200 price range. When I started seriously fly fishing as a teenager, I used low-end budget boots that didn’t last much longer than a single heavy-use fishing season. Those days are long since over and I learned back then that a little extra money spent up-front is worth it in the long run when you heavily fish a pair of boots.
Over the last couple weeks I’ve fished these Korkers wading boots in everything from the small local creek to the large tail water. They’ve performed incredibly well, and have a great comfort level to them when you are on the water for 8+ hours (which I did at least twice with this pair).
This is a market disruptor – its what sets Korkers apart from all the other boot manufacturers. You might remember when Spencer first reviewed the Omni-trax system in his review of Korkers Redside Wading boots here. The greatest benefit here is the pure simplicity of keeping all your fishing needs in one boot with interchangeable soles.
Maybe you’re thinking, “When would I ever need more than one sole?” Here’s a real example: I love to fish remote mountain streams and lakes to escape the crowds that exist on the roadside fishing holes.. Often this requires a fair amount of hiking. That means a boot that hikes well is a huge plus given I don’t enjoy the extra weight of carrying my wading boots in my backpack. If only somebody thought of a boot that could both hike and have good traction… oh wait, Korkers did.
I had a pair of Korkers about 5 years ago with their older version of the OmniTrax sole. I loved the versatility, but frankly it was a pain in the butt to change out. The boots were actually sold with a small metal tool that was used to interchange the soles and even then it could sometimes be a little difficult. Not anymore! The new OmniTrax design is wonderfully simple. In fact when they first arrived in the mail, I showed my 6 year old son how to do it and he was popping them off and on in a snap.
Well I shouldn’t make it sound like it was that easy for him. The only difficult part is the rubber tab on the back that fastens over a protruding plastic stud. However, that ensures the sole stays in place when you are stumbling around an unstable river bottom.
To remove a sole you merely unlatch the back rubber loop and tug moderately on the sole to disconnect the orange tabs that latch into the sides of the hard rubber outsole. Then slightly pull the sole towards the heel of the boot and the front orange tab will disconnect from the toe of the shoe. Its quick and easy.
My only critical comment about the new sole design is that each version has a slight overhang from the hard rubber/plastic base. For example, underneath the felt sole is the orange hard rubber base, however, the felt hangs a good ⅛” over that rubber base with the design of the boot. I would only worry that with extended use the felt could start to pull away from the hard rubber – but only time will tell.
Which Sole should I use?
Even better with Korkers new OmniTrax design is the fact that you get to choose which two base soles you start with. Your options are the Kling-On Rubber / Plain Felt or the Kling-On Rubber / Kling-On Studded Rubber.
I’ve already expressed my love for wading studs in boots, so it shouldn’t be hard to guess which ones I would probably choose if I was buying them. That said, I fished both the Rubber and Plain felt sole throughout the last few weeks and didn’t have the studded rubber Kling-On version available. Both were great soles and as I stated earlier, each has its own purpose.
You can also purchase a few other sole designs separately such as a studded felt sole, svelte sole, and an interesting looking Alumatrax sole. They even have a Vibram sole for you hippies out there…
Okay, okay, enough about what sets Korkers wading boots apart and lets focus a bit on the Devils Canyon boots in particular. The toe is made of heavily enforced rubber, that fully extends on top of the boot. This is a nice feature given you lead with the front of your foot when wading. Just past the hard rubber is a softer piece of rubber before the mid-sole of the boot made of a synthetic material meets it.
The heel’s rubber doesn’t extend as far up the back of boot, and I imagine this is mostly because there needs to be room for the sole’s latching system.
When it comes to the most important durable feature, however, I most appreciated the reduced number of seams. The Devils Canyon boot has very very few seams incorporated leaving less opportunity for stitching to come loose. I appreciated that given that is usually what has signified the end of past boots.
The most significant comfort feature I noticed was simply the inner sole. The boots are very comfortable, particularly in the resting upright position. My feet never got tired while wearing the boots, a big compliment to Korkers.
That said, the rubber outer sole is very stiff and I was surprised that when I walked the boot actually creased more by the ankle and upper foot than it did by the Toe, so I tended to walk a bit more flat footed in the boot. I think with extended wear that would change slightly and I didn’t seem to notice it at all in the times I fished them. The side benefit of this is that the boot flexed in a location where the least amount of stitching resides.
The cuff of the boot is made of a nice stretchy material that has more of the feel of a glove than a normal leather boot. This was a nice feature, and I would guess is also the reason for the boot being quite a bit taller than past wading boots I’ve fished. The boot is tall, but it never became an issue with the comfortable cuff design.
Lastly in regards to comfort, these boots are LIGHT! Weighing in at only 2lbs 14 oz per pair these are some of the lightest wading boots I have ever fished. It was immediately noticeable when I first picked them up and was confirmed after a few long days fishing on the river. I’d attribute the weight to the type of material used, and I’d recommend it.
Besides the OmniTrax Soles, there was one other feature that stood out, the M2 Boa lacing system. This has got to be the most creative lacing system I have seen to date. And pretty simple and effective as well.
The tongue of the boot has a round button the size of a quarter that pops in and out as well as rotates. When the button is disengaged (i.e. popped out), the lacing receives slack and loosens easily. When the button is engaged the lacing is locked and then tightened by rotating the button clockwise. Inside the button the thin wire lacing winds and locks. No tying, re-tying, and then getting frustrated with hard to loosen laces.
Hands down it was the feature that I liked the best. I already knew to some degree what to expect with the interchangeable soles, but the M2 Boa lacing system was just plain awesome. Not to mention the lacing is super durable thinly braided wire that is lightweight.
What I loved
- The M2 Boa lacing system – hands down my favorite feature of the boot and so simple and effective.
- The OmniTrax interchangeable soles – I love the variety and the ease of installation.
- The reduced stitching – less stitching equals longer life.
- The weight – they are under 3lbs, need I say more?
What I’d change
- I’d slightly modify the design on the edges of the soles and the overhang they have on the hard plastic.
- Frankly, I don’t think I’d change anything else.