My skepticism of waterproof-breathable fabrics (like Gore-Tex) and products that utilize them (like rain gear and “waterproof” footwear) is no secret. For a history, read:
- Why I’m hard on Gore-Tex, the King of Hype
- Breathability: an explanation of its importance, mechanisms, and limitations
- Core 13 Clothing: Rain Jacket & Rain Pants
Occasionally, however, it’s healthy to revisit long held positions, whether about family planning, gun control, or Gore-Tex. So last month while hiking the Glacier Divide Route I intentionally wore waterproof trail running shoes, specifically the La Sportiva Raptor GTX, the predecessor of the Ultra Raptor GTX. Prior to this trip they had been used little, and were in like-new condition. I’ve been a longtime fan of the Raptor family, and have worn the breathable version with excellent results on many trips, including last summer on the Wind River High Route.
Since Gore has quality standards for products using Gore-Tex, I will assume that:
- My shoes met Gore’s standards, and
- Other Gore-Tex footwear may perform similarly in similar conditions.
I’m inclined to go one step further, too. While all “waterproof” shoes are not made of Gore-Tex, the underlying fabric technology and footwear construction is generally the same. Thus, I’d say that the expected experience with non-Gore-Tex waterproof footwear will be about the same as well.
I have three takeaways from my recent experience with waterproof Gore-Tex shoes:
- In dry conditions, waterproof shoes trap excessive perspiration and body heat. In addition to being uncomfortable, these are ripe conditions for blisters.
- In prolonged wet conditions, waterproof shoes are decidedly not waterproof. External moisture easily enters through the top of the shoe; it can also pass through the membrane once the DWR treatment fails, and through the seams of the waterproof bootie on well used pairs.
- After getting wet, waterproof shoes dry very slowly, because there is no airflow through the shoe to exchange humid interior air with dry external air. While the shoes are drying, feet are trapped in a hot and wet environment, which again are favorable conditions for discomfort, maceration, blisters, and the growth of bacteria and fungus.
I’m disappointed that these findings were nearly identical to those I made years ago, but not surprised. Gore-Tex and other companies that offer waterproof-breathable fabrics or products are selling us a lie: that you can keep your feet dry when it’s wet outside. You’ll have better success with minimizing the effects and aftermath of having wet feet.
Day 1: Feet on fire
We left the trailhead late-morning, and conditions were warm and dry: 70-degree temperatures, few clouds, and no major creek crossings or dew-soaked trailside vegetation.
After about three hours we took a 15-minute rest, and I took the opportunity to remove my shoes and socks. I was shocked by the heat and moisture trapped by my shoes. The insides seemed to be about body temperature (high 90’s), and there was sensible dampness.
My hiking partner Dave was wearing non-waterproof shoes, specifically the La Sportiva Bushido. His shoes were closer to ambient temperature, and they were only slightly more damp than mine despite an hour earlier having intentionally soaked his feet in a creek.
Day 3: Guaranteed to keep you dry? Whatever.
We had breakfast between our first and second passes of the day. To that point, my feet had stayed “dry,” albeit more moist than they would have in breathable shoes.
The 1,200-foot ascent to Trapper Peak Pass began with knee-high brush and incrementally faded over the 1.5 miles into short tundra grasses as we gained elevation. The vegetation was wet from a combination of overnight rain and dew.
Granted, we were off-trail, but wading through wet brush is a common on-trail experience in Glacier, too, as well as many other locations with lush understory and narrow singletrack. On the Appalachian Trail I remember this frequently being the case.
By the top of the climb, my feet were legitimately wet. As in, if I’d forded a thigh-high creek I’d be no more wet than I was now. In this case, I believe that moisture simply wicked down my pants and socks, soaking the insides of my shoes. I suppose I could have used a “shingling” system of waterproof pants, waterproof gaiters, and waterproof shoes, but I think I would have overheated so badly and perspired so much that the outcome would be exactly the same.
Not only were my waterproof Gore-Tex shoes now wet, but they had absorbed a significant amount of water. In terms of energy expenditure, it was probably equivalent to putting a pound or two of rocks in my pack.
Day 3 and 4: Forever wet
Thanks to warming temperatures and an intermittent sun, the vegetation dried out by noon on Day 3. That afternoon we had a 12-mile on-trail stretch, followed by another 5 miles on the morning of Day 4 to reach Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Twenty-four hours after my feet had gotten wet, my feet were still wet when we hit the road. Not moist, not damp, but wet. This horribly slow dry time can be attributed to two factors:
- No airflow through to the shoe to exchange humid internal air with dry external air; and,
- A soaked exterior fabric that was choking the transmission of internal moisture through the waterproof-breathable membrane.
In addition to being wet, my feet were also hot, and I experienced some of the most painful maceration in recent memory. I know how to take care of my feet, yet I could not manage this situation.
Once I rendezvoused with my car and was able to slip into other shoes, I immediately did. And then I promptly threw away my waterproof shoes, after hiking just 60 miles. If I’d paid $140 for them, I probably would have demanded a refund.
I returned to the trail in the evening of Day 4. What’d I wear? A used pair of breathable La Sportiva Raptors. My only regret was not wearing them from the start.
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I have decided to give me on the “goretex footware” (Merrell Continuum – proprietary waterproof barrier). My feet create way too much heat which translates into a constant damp footbed after about three days of use and then it’s a constant damp/wet environment. When you factor hiking through wet vegetation for the most part of the day you will find yourself in some trouble.
I had two occasions to give it a try in Olympic NP (most recent this May). Once the top fabric wets out you are done for as the interior of the shoe just can’t breath. I would take the shoes off at camp, remove the laces and insert and open the tongue up as much as possible. Despite this, in the morning they were still very much damp. I found my feet to constantly be in a damp to wet state on day 4 and 5. They were not happy.
I basically hiked in wet shoes for three days – I’m leaving the gimmicks and waterproof shoes in the closet next time!
I have been waring Gortex shoes for years and Never had a problem. I use Solomon and Scarpa boots and approach shoes. These have been used in the wet weather of a Welsh winter and if you think its wet then you have’nt been walking in a Welsh winter. Try a different brand.
My experiences *partly* corroborate this finding. I find that gore tex walking shoes and boots are excellent when new, but extraordinarily variable in how long the waterproof membrane/seam seals actually last.
I’ve had Berghaus boots which lasted for years, yet my girlfriend’s Berghaus failed within 3 months with exactly the same wear and care. I switched to Salomon 4 years ago and had two pairs of walking shoes which, again, were excellent to start with, then failed massively.
To be clear, I’m not talking about wetting out, im talking about total failure so that I’m literally squelching in my socks within minutes in heavy rain and might as well be barefoot. All our footwear is correctly cared for as-per manufacturer and gore-tex instructions, and cleaned/ reproofed with appropriate products. We do a lot of walking (approx 7 miles/day in the week and 12 miles/day weekends all year) across country and hills, but aren’t destructive – the external appearance and interior of shoes in question don’t look worn or damaged.
Not sure where to go from here. The rest of me is nice and dry under gore tex pro jacket and trousers (I get up to 10-15 years waterproof wear out of these), but shoes are a real issue. I’d love to find a brand which actually lasts properly and remains waterproof long-term.
I have the same issue with all Gore-Tex shoes which have fabric parts on top. I really love all my Salomon shoes (Authentic Leather GTX, Quest 4 GTX, etc.): they are extremely comfortable and pass my feet perfectly. But their durability is really inferior: as I also walk relatively a lot (10–15 km per day), I found that they are normally no longer waterproof after 500–700 km and start disintegrating (literally!) in about 2000 km. I have to buy two pairs each year and this is frustrating. But I had almost the same experience regarding membrane on each pair of Gore-Tex shoes with fabric parts on top I had: Lowa, Technica, Salomon, etc.
But my experience with full-leather Gore-Tex shoes is quite different. A pair of Lowa Tibet is now well over 2000 km but not only keep structural integrity but still waterproof! I’d have continued wearing them daily but they are too heavy and too stiff for my simple walks in the neighboring forests and fields. I’m going to try switching to something with full-leather top but not so sturdy: Lomer Tucson/Keswick/Quarzo look promising and I’ll check them soon.
Please note that shoes == boots in my previous message. I’ve never used Gore-Tex lined low boots as it makes no sense.
I’d be extremely curious to get your take on Altra shoes with Neoshell. The WPB membrane is outside, so no absorbing external moisture, and Neoshell in jackets has proven (to me) to be noticeably more breathable than any Gore membrane.
No WPB shoe is worth wearing in even moderately warm conditions, but I’m thinking of something for spring/fall in the Pacific Northwest.
Neoshell still has a face fabric that is treated with DWR. Unlike Columbia OutDry, the membrane is not tough enough to be subjected to extensive abrasion. When a WPB fabric is put on a high abrasion area (like the exterior of a shoe) the DWR will quickly wear off and the face fabric will begin to wet out. That’s the beginning of the end for WPB performance.
For hiking in cold temps and wet conditions, I think a better solution is a neoprene sock, a thick wool sock, or maybe even a WPB sock (mostly for warmth, like neoprene, and to delay getting wet).
Perhaps ALTRA was addressing the lifespan of it’s WPness concerning the DWR in the Lone Peak Neo Shell by adding protective more abrasive resistant overlays to the outer in the 3.0 version in a shoe intended for a moderate lifespan?
I think the overlays were included to help with lateral control and to improve toe protection, both of which were lacking in the LP 2.5.
I’ve been having trouble with my fabric boots collecting sand, dirt n dust between the inner liner and the exterior surface. So much so, that it changes and deforms the shape and surface of the footbed and makes it too uncomfortable and cramped to wear. What a waste!
I used the breathable raptors (following your advice) and hiked- Grand Canyon (from South Kaibab to Bright Angel); Rae Lakes Loop; Glacier Point to Echo Valley and back (Yosemite); and day hikes at GNP (Pitamakin-Dawson, Highline, Grinnel). My only complaint is that they absorb dust like a Dyson- my feet were sooo full of sand and dirt that breaks included removing dirt. The overall performance was great and specially with the water- Several times I would jump to the water with all my clothes- including shoes- without concern. I had no issue if they got wet while fording- only if they caught dust- the mix of a soaked sock and dust is awful.
On dusty trails, feet get dirty in breathable shoes, no doubt. Washing your feet has to becoming part of your daily routine.
Hi, would light weight breathable gaiters have worked here, with preventing dust and dirt?
When I first started hanging around backpacking sites I didn’t understand the hate for GTX shoes. My boots were GTX and I’d never had a problem with them. Then I realized the hate was for what were, literally, sneakers with GTX. OBVIOUSLY this is a terrible idea! GTX can be useful in higher boots under certain conditions. But GTX trail runners just don’t make sense, ever.
In hearing of people’s experiences with waterproof footwear, there seems to be a pattern: boot users think it works, and shoe users think it’s awful. I’m not sure the issue is boots versus shoes, however. If water were only coming in the top, that might be the case, but I think there are other things going on, too.
I have worn several “waterproof” mid-top boots from Salomon, Merrell, and Timberland. They have all failed in prolonged wet conditions, even when water did not enter through the top. I think the issue may actually be the materials used in the upper. With trail running shoes and with the boots I just mentioned, they are a combination of nylon mesh, heavy duty nylon oxford or taffeta, faux leather, and TPU panels. A failure is easy to imagine: water soaks these exterior fabrics, and moisture moves through the membrane to inside of the shoe (where it’s less humid).
I wonder if WP boots made entirely of full-grain or synthetic leather are more waterproof, but because of the leather and not the WP bootie inside it. For example, if you coat Snoseal on a pair of leather boots, the water is going to bead off wonderfully, and moisture never even reaches the WP bootie.
I think your theory is probably correct. My old boots were leather and 8″ high. I treated them regularly and water never got in.
I wish there were a variety of non-GTX mids available. In the cold, I would rather use a neoprene or VB sock like you suggested above and just let the shoe get wet. But probably 70% of trail runners are GTX or come in a GTX version, so non-waterproof mids is a bit of a wishful thinking on my part.
I’m going to start asking others who swear by “waterproof” shoes and who supposedly have used them extensively (i.e. no “bathtub tests” as the basis of an opinion).
In cold sub-freezing weather, WBP and treated leather boots work okay. I use them during the hunting season, for example. It keeps the foot drier — and, thus, warmer — so long as the snow is not melting like it’s June.
Swear by them I am not sure. But I used the last 2 trips Gore-Tex lined shoes. Meindhl brand.
On the last trip the paths were becoming streams in many places and plenty of wet ground was covered (same on the last trip). I had zero issues. A friend I do many multi-day hikes with uses lined trail shoes and did so on this years TGO Challenge. He had no injuries or blisters.
But this hiker in the link the last time I talked with him was in 2015 at the end of the TGO Challenge. In a wet year for conditions he still managed to bag 28 summits and used lined Mids with no issues, and raved about his footwear choice to me. This year he used unlined trail shoes on his big Wales hike and suffered badly in wet conditions. Link: https://overthehillsblog.com/2016/07/02/trail-shoes-uk-bog-a-cautionary-tale/
I agree with Andrew’s comment here: Waterproof boots = good. Waterproof shoes or socks = bad. Maybe (just maybe) it is the conditions. For example, snow hiking, I’ll wear boots that are not goretex – just lathered up with snow seal. Of course, if it is snowy, feet are walking in cold, and are less prone to sweating. My experience parallels Andrews with waterproof shoes or socks. Pura Basura. Glad you gave it another go, though, as I agree it’s nice to revisit topics in case technology has changed.
great web site!
I have worn both all leather/gore & all fabric/gore boots. I now only wear leather & gore combinations. The leather when waxed/conditioned as regularly as possible, along with good wool mixture socks, is the combination I find works best to stop my feet becoming soaking wet from either water ingress or sweat or both.
I believe firmly that gore/leather boots are the ideal combination in temperature below 25c.
I discount fabric boots entirely because of their unique ability to collect dirt/dust along with carrying water around all day when soaked, and creasing/cracking then evetually breaking along fold lines., long before a good leather would.
Gore or other “waterproof” liners are way over hyped and the publicity surrounding these materials mislead me for a decade or more in my earlier years. I`m now 62.
I cannot speak for running or trail shoes however.
I can vouch for the veracity of the part about fabric boots. Not only do they collect dirt and water/ “mud”, It’s my belief that buildup of salt, (usually sold in various tones of blue as a “traction aid and ice melter”, ) absorbed into and spread throughout the weave of such boots functions like ultra fine grit sandpaper when the boots dry and the salt crystallizes, abrading away at the filaments of that cordura nylon.
Thank you for covering this topic. I have taken your advice and dumped goretex. After suffering years of painful blisters I am now blister free. The fun part is I now walk through streams with abandon since my shoes dry out so quickly afterwards. No more slow transitions to sandals and back to shoes on the other side.
Thanks so much for your advice concerning footwear. I would say its the single most important selection to make before an excursion. I am new to backpacking and watched countless YouTube videos commenting as to why its a good idea for hikers to wear WP footwear. Also I like your concept of wearing a lighter weight, low top shoe. It makes sense to allow for the feet to function as freely as possible allowing the ankle to their job (I watched your YouTube video). So many hikers promote stiff mid or high top water proof boots. I am convinced to purchase a low top fully breathable, high quality lighter weight hiking shoe! Thanks again and your experiences gives you credibility.
One question…Do you have any opinions of the Adidas ” Terrex Fast R” shoe? I have been interested but with so many selections its hard to make an informed choice.
I’ve only seen the Fast R. They appear to be well constructed and to provide the optimal amount of “rugged” without being overbuilt.
The rest of my recommended footwear:
* La Sportiva Ultra Raptor (my all-around top recommendation)
* Salewa Ultra Train (if you prefer a lighter, lower-to-the-ground shoe)
* Altra Lone Peak 2.5 (for non-technical trails and wide feet)
* Salomon X-Ultra (a more conventional “hiking shoe”)
Any experience with Inov8?
I think you should expect the same experience with any “waterproof” trail running shoes. The manufacturers all use the same fabrics, and these fabrics share the same end-story in the field.
Among those who swear by waterproof footwear, I’ve noticed two themes:
1. They wear WP shoes in cold temperatures and snow, when conditions are much less wet. I do the same; it’s the only valid use for WP footwear.
2. They wear WP shoes with an upper made of treated leather. This leather acts as an initial barrier for moisture — the ultimate face fabric, if you will — and it prevents the WPB membrane from being put in the position of possibly failing.
I think that the majority of failures with my work boots was in the welt, whether they were WP/B or not. Once the seam at the welt gave way, the water started coming in. All of my work boots were leather, but leather alone would not keep water from coming in at the seams. I used Neatsfoot Oil to preserve the leather, but it did not make the boots waterproof. The quality of leather used in boots varies tremendously, Some seem to last forever even without treatment, while others seem to fail in about a year. If you don’t stomp around in mud, water or snow, the leather holds up fairly well.
So, you’re placing eVent WP bootie technology as seen in the Hoka Tor Ultra Low and Ahnu Ridgcrest Low, neither with a complete leather outer but with water repellent leather and/or synthetic overlays or partial layers in the same categories of performance – breathability and dry times and prone to losing WPness – as GoreTex membranes with a full leather outer in comparable low cut trail runners/hikers?
You seem to be lumping performance associated with WPing – again breathability, dry times, losing WPness – will be experienced with the Altra Lone Peak 3.0’s w/ the Neo Shell with the added synthetic more abrasion resistant overlays as the same GoreTex shoe that possibly is of a seamed construction and full leather WR outer layer?
This is not an attempt to make a case to swear by waterproof shoes but to possibly consider all waterproof technologies in trail runners/hikers aren’t universal or equal. Have you demoed in the real world any of these three models comparing them to one of the Salomon WP trail runners/shoes w/ GoreTex?
Yes I think goretex in full-grain, waxed leather is ideal. Waxed leather repels water beautifully for ages and I’ve got a full day of dry feet in proper Welsh rain out of non-lined boots. However eventually the water does soak into the leather and once it does, the boots are wet, cold and heavy and you cannot dry them unless you use a campfire which doesn’t do them any good.
Add a goretex liner to that and you can extend the dry period to days. And as long as the goretex holds they can dry even quicker on the foot if you get a prolonged dry period as the water hasn’t soaked in so far, but that’s a once in a blue moon situation I’ll admit.
My issue with goretex liners is that they DO fail. I’ve never ripped old boots apart to confirm but I assume seams split or something.
I’ve walked in the following leather and gortex low top hiking shoe for years, combined with a light/mid wool sock and they have been fantastic. They are as tough as a boot, but much lighter. It’s straightforward to walk 20 miles in a day. Got caught in rain/snow on the trans-Zion; hiked in dusty, high-80’s doing the trans-Catalina; hundreds of miles within PNW conditions and never had any of the issues described. Have they ever gotten damp inside, yes. However, if water is going over the top of a shoe, of course it will get wet or soaked if submerged.
They dry basically as fast as any altra or la sportiva type show. I can’t tell the difference. All I had to do is loosen the laces and remove the foot bed. However, I don’t have to wash my feet due to dust build up and my feet have never been macerated like the above pics. They aren’t cheap, but I don’t even think about my shows when I’m backpacking long distances in wet conditions.
Would these give the same disastrous result ?
LA SPORTIVA TX5 GTX MENS WALKING SHOES
For the last 10 or 15 years that I worked, I wore WP/B work boots with Metatarsal arch guards and steel toes, specifically Matterhorn 12299, 8″ boots. They were the best, most comfortable and longest lasting boots that I had worn over a 40 year work span. I put lots of miles on them, but I was not walking all of the time. These boots would last me about 1-1/2 years vs. 1 year for most other boots. When they started to leak, I would retire them. I would wear them 10+ hours a day for 5+ days per week. They did a very good job of keeping water out, almost as well as rubber boots. I would work in mud and snow fairly regularly, but tried very hard to keep the water from coming in the tops of the boots. If water did get over the tops, it would take a while to dry them out. I usually tried to keep an old pair on hand for wet boot drying days. I kept my boots in my locker in a heated changing room, which dried wet clothing overnight and boots in a couple of days. I never had any blisters and I don’t recall any problems with maceration. I typically wore one pair of Acrylic work socks with my boots. The support was good and I seldom had twisted or sprained ankles, something I can’t say for rubber work boots. Other than comfort, what was remarkable was how dry my feet stayed compared to my other plain leather work boots, mostly Red Wing. I resisted these boots for a long time, but the company would furnish one pair a year free, so I gave in. All this goes to say that, for me, WP/B work boots were a good thing. It doesn’t carry over to my outdoor life. I typically wear low hikers or approach shoes outside. When I’m hunting in swampy muddy conditions, I’ll give in and wear calf high rubber boots, but they are not comfortable and I don’t like to walk in them. Even there, I sometimes get water over the tops of them. Once they’re wet, they take forever to dry out. I typically wear one pair of Acrylic socks in warm weather or one pair of Merino wool socks in cold weather. The other time that I will wear waterproof boots is when I’m walking in wet snow. As long as I can keep the water away from my feet, they stay warm.Once they get wet, they get cold. I don’t own any WP/B trail shoes and I don’t plan to buy any. One thing that I am looking at is NRS Hydroskin 0.5 Wetsocks, which I learned about from reading Dave C’s 2016 Bob Open posts. I’ve got a pair, but haven’t worn them. All in all, I don’t disagree with your assessment for your needs and maybe for my needs, under similar circumstances.
Is there a stiff soled 7-8 inch high boot that you recommend for off trail above tree line in the summer Winds? Old feet and ankles need more protection lol. Thanks.
Sorry, you’re asking the wrong guy.
If you are simply after ankle support, you may want to consider ankle cuffs instead, worn inside a rugged trail running shoe like the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor. These will give your ankles more support than high-top boots, but you’ll enjoy the weight and breathability of shoes.
Gore tex promises a lot of performance moving water vapor, but the truth is that the vast majority of water vapor moves when carried by moving air. This has been clearly shown in building houses, where the analagous product (tyvek) will allow water vapor to pass through, but virtually all problems with moisture are either from bulk water leaking in, or wet air reaching condensation temperature. It’s pretty hard to believe that a product making GT’s claims of waterproofness will be able to move enough air to keep hard working sweaty feet dry.
I think there is a case that a shoe could be designed that has waterproof areas over the forefoot (where light rain and dew from bushwacking collect), and ventilation channels that move air from the front of the foot back and out, using footsteps as a kind of air pump. Until then, I’ll mostly be wearing shoes made more for running.
I have to say that my feet did just fine with my all leather Raichle boots for many years of building trail and hiking as a ranger. I did have the advantage of never being prone to blisters though, and if you did let them get seriously wet, they weren’t going to dry out anytime on that trip.
The Salomon speedcross CS 4 is like that. Climasheild in the front not in the back. Also not gusseted so it can actually breathe a little unlike a completely non breathable wp shoe.
For those of you having trouble drying out the inside of your wet boots, I have a tip for you that I have been using for several years and it has always worked. First of all, I will admit I do more canoeing than walking these days, so the weight factor is less important to me than backpackers. I am using neoprene knee-highs, low cut water shoes, and some times Pacs (rubber/leather combo).
I carry a newspaper with me. At the end of the day I cram my boots or shoes full of wadded up newspapers. In the morning the paper is damp and the boots are always dry. I carry a mesh bag and fill it with the damp paper uncompressed and in a few hours the paper is dry. I will keep using this same newspaper over and over again during the entire trip. Of course, this does not work in the rain. My knee highs take three sheets per boot. Depending on the situation, often times I will wear damp socks to bed and they will also be dry in the morning. I usually wear two socks, one of which is a light and slick wicking sock to help prevent blisters and the outer sock is wool, the thickness of which is dictated by the weather.
Over the last two summers I have been hiking in Montrail OutDry trail runners. Admittedly, both major backcountry trips were in relatively dry conditions (just spent a week in the Gardiner Basin), but the shoes did not seem hot, and my feet stayed completely dry over both 8-day excursions. I did a couple of knee-high stream crossings last season where I left my shows on, and while the shoes did not dry as quickly as my Columbia vented shoes, they did no seem to take very long to dry, and I had no maceration problems at all.
I do take every opportunity to remove my footwear and clean and dry my feet, and I wash and switch out my socks daily. I also usually wear a pair of shorty gaiters. I’d be interested to see if you have tested OutDry footwear and how it performs for you vs. GoreTex. DISCLAIMER: I work for Columbia Sportswear.
What bacpack are you using (third pic) ?
That’s Dave Chenault, not me. Read his review of the Seek Outside Unaweep Divide Pack.
Waterproof boots? Has anyone ever worked how to stop water getting in the big hole at the top? For what it’s worth I’ve just ordered my fourth pair of Haix Nebraskas. Scarpas are far too narrow for my foot and Menial’s too expensive.
EVent WP or Schoeller fabric WR Gaiters can help with the hole on top layered under pants.
Here’s another approach don’t use a WP boot? Combine a non WP boot with a WP sock. WP socks can be found in crew length height, about 10″, or even higher height. WP socks come in different versions of warmth. With this greater component system you’re not locked into a WP boot with a jntegrated non removable WP layer. Taking the WP membrane, the WP sock, out of the boot helps dry time. Take along a second pr of socks like a wool sock.What some may find is that a taller boot is no longer necessary as that option may have been made, at least in part, to address keeping feet drier. The 10″ WP sock offers the height.
Are you surprised that non-gore-tex shoes breath more? Did membrane let water into your shoes?
It looks more like you choose wrong tool for the job…
Any experience using Wiggys Lamillite socks? They also have boots insulated with the same. (which is apparently climashield laminated to fabric.) I’m wondering how well the combination would work for hunting.
I personally use the Lasportiva Wildcat and it dries impressively quick. The wildcat is less protected than the ultra raptor but works well for me both on and off trail scrambling etc. I would use the ultra raptor but the toe box is slightly too constructive in the toe box for my feet. For my friends who wear ultra raptors we take a red hot needle and poke a couple holes right above the midsole foam midfoot. Do not put any holes upfront in the forefoot as its exposed to a lot more stress. We’ve done side by side tests and the ones with holes dry out significantly faster.
I’ve tried “waterproof” “breathable” shoes and boots several times over the years, each time thinking that surely they must have improved – how can these keep selling when they are neither waterproof nor breathable ?
But it’s been a disappointment every time, wet feet in the mildest of wet conditions, sweaty feet the rest of the time.
Leather boots appropriately treated are in fact both waterproof and breathable, though of course less breathable than fabric uppers. The newest boots I have are Danner hunting boots. They are comfortable in all conditions from early-season 70 degree days, to late-season days going from -20 up to warm enough that the snowmelt laps around the boot. With a decent pair of wool socks I have yet to experience wet feet in these boots.. it helps they are 10″ high, which is a bit much for hiking unfortunately.
I’ve Salomon Conquest hiking (goretex) boots and a pair of Salomon winter (climashield waterproof membrane) and both get wet. Only thing, they are comfortable. The winter boots the worse, they got soaked wet. Money waste. So far the Vasque Eriksson (gore-tex) are more waterproof but had not test them yet in heavy pouring rain. They are way too heavy, 3 pound pair. I agree with the sentence: Gore-Tex and other companies that offer waterproof-breathable fabrics or products are selling us a lie: that you can keep your feet dry when it’s wet outside.
A bit late to the party, but although I agree that there is a good degree of hype on the gore-tex marketing, I also think that you are overplaying the dishonesty/incompetence of the product producers. Most people who buy gore-tex products will not use it in conditions where it is likely to fail. In fact, I’d argue that most people buying gore-tex stuff do not expose themselves to harsh weather conditions. The them it might feel like they are, but they really are not. Also, I should note that gore-tex is no longer gore-tex (as in the original material that gave rise to the name) because: 1- it was very fragile and didn’t last long; 2- it was essentially made of carcinogenic material. So gore-tex is literally not what it used to be.
In a shoe, what gore-tex allows is for a show to be reasonably waterproof/breathable at low cost, while allowing for a diversity of looks/comfort. The best waterproof shoe is a well kept genuine leather shoe, but this limits the looks, it’s expensive to produce well, and hard work to maintain in pristine condition. Most people do not want or need that, and so a cheap gore-tex show does the trick.
But don’t get me wrong, I do agree that gore-tex and associated fabrics are hyped, and that most people make bad choices because they don’t understand the mechanics of the products they are buying.
The irony is that waterproof shoes are only got in mildly wet environments, and that trail runners are better when you expect a lot of water around. I have eVent teva mid cut boots which are very light and comfortable. Yes, they produce more heat than my Solomon trail runners, but I dont have to step around mud or puddles. Which is about all waterproof boots are good for. If your waterproof shoes/boots get water inside them, then you are now wearing buckets on your feet
I had a bad experience with Scarpa Goretex boots, the water got in via the top I think and literally I could not get it out again. I slushed through an entire day’s hike and it was terrible for my feet. Afterwards it was really difficult to dry them out – took days. Then the other day my Scarpa boots literally fell to pieces – the entire soles simply fell off the shoe! It seems they are just glued on. Imagine if that had happened in the middle of a hike. I used to think they were a quality boot but now I really have my doubts. I like their narrowness though as I have very narrow feet.
I’m not so sure about Goretex leaking just because the DWR fails. Are you sure that is correct? Because I’ve had jackets that no longer bead and they sure as hell don’t leak. They don’t breath at all but they don’t leak.
Also DWR would be useless in footwear anyway. DWR only works on surfaces in contact with air since they operate by lowering the surface tension of the fibres to a point where it’s lower than that of water itself and so the water is attracted to itself and forms beads. In footwear the goretex liner is in contact with fabric or leather all the time and so beading could never happen. That’s one reason they’re so terrible at breathing.
In terms of the value of goretex in shoes – it depends, IMO, on your usage. I generally go on weekend trips – one or two nights and being the UK, it usually rains and the ground ranges from muddy to soggy to marsh, with long wet grass and paths that look like streams in between. I.e. your boots get soaked. I’ve tried all sorts of footwear including sandals, plain leather boots and goretex lined boots.
Overall I like sandals for summer and goretex boots for winter. Sure goretex boots are slower to dry but in UK conditions (high humidity, low temps, wet grass all around) non-goretex footwear ain’t gonna dry before I get home either, but at least with the Goretex I can get full day, or two, of dry or nearly dry feet.
I’m guessing in other countries you get prolonged dry periods and air that isn’t 95%+ humid and footwear can dry between rain showers or stream crossings. Here they just don’t unless it’s the height of summer.
When hiking a foot can sweat upwards of 15 ml per hour. Looking at the surface area of a shoe you’re close or can be over the breathability capacity of the fabric. So they wet out. I use Gore-Tex shoes only in the winter with gaiters and a VBL sock to keep the moisture out and in the odd case some water gets behind the membrane it can still dry out somewhat. But yes, what we’re being sold on with GorezTex shoes just aint so.
Just to clarify your experience with GoreTex as this fabric is quiet misunderstood. GoreTex as it is, is fail-proof ! 100% undeniably, it is pure science ! An undamaged GoreTex fabric will never ever let water in ! It is mostly unknown, but gore-tex is also used in medical applications to envelop certain medical objects, as it is waterproofing and let’s tissue grow around it. It is also used to protect electrical materials as a shielding device !
If you made a goretex cup, put in water, you will never ever experience leakage ! After 10 years you would still find all water in the cup if it was properly closed ! If you used the other side of the fabric, you would still not experience leakage, but the water would disappear if little internal heat is applied !
How do GoreTex Garments fail ? The very first is the DWR ! Very often bad quality especially in cheap gore-tex vests, but either ways it should be reapplied ! This is a water repellent layer, what should be kept dry ! Once it’s wet, in about 5minutes you have inner condensation ! DWR is to keep the inner GORETEX layer dry and breathable , not to keep the actual vest dry !
Like you were in a plastic bag ! It is still waterproof, but breathability is totally eliminated ! This is why lower back, upper back and shoulders are often wet under gore tex vests. No, not because water got in. It is because of the friction and the total elimination of the DWR function. The outer layer got wet and in just 5minutes, you create inner condensation, and in 15minutes you are wet ! Basically you wrapped around your shoulders with a 2cent plastic bag ! Dirt and water should be eliminated from this DWR layer and by special methods, detergents reapplied !
This is how you get totally wet in a 100% goretex wading suit. It is like 10x lighter than PVC, but after a couple of use the effect will be the same.
You can see leather boots keeping your feet dry as leather, despite that it’s get somewhat wet, dries out very fast and body heat is helping this. Way better than DWR !
The other possible point of failure is seams and over use ! Boots and shoes are not seam-sealed ! Impossible ! All thermowelded shoes fall apart after just a couple hard-core days !
Gore-Tex shoes are not like clothes either ! You walk for a day, you do 30 to 40000 steps ! It takes no time to degrade anything ! One week, it’s finished ! Together with totally blocked outer membrane what is some synthetic mesh, DWR and leather you’ll have a feet soaked from the inside and from the outside too. Also, 99% of all times, the GoreTex fabric is attached to the sole by traditional means ! There is no booty or socket enveloping your feet from bottom to top !
You can check GoreTex boots for iceclimbing. As there is no bending and friction as we don’t really use them for walking, it stays waterproof and breathable nearly “forever”, despite the constant wetness !
So while you are totally right about gore-tex layered gear failing, it is not actually because of the material of Gore-Tex itself, but the attachement points, applications and use of it. Also the individual designs applied by companies !
The third options is activity levels. Yes, in the speedhiker’s and trail runner’s case the breathability of the 3 layer gore tex shell probably is way under the actual evaporated sweat levels.
I prefer the EVENT Fabric for high end activities like MTB, road cyclign and TrailRunning and the Gore-Tex for things like hiking, outdoor work and stuff.
If there was no wind and the terrain is not technical I prefer using a giant poncho as it is the most breathable and covers my entire body, except shoes.
So yes, to finish this, Gore-Tex itself is fail-proof ! Applications, attachement points, personal DWR layers and friction from use are not at all !
You can understand this, by saying that a bulletproof vest is bullet proof. Unless you used a AK47. It is also cut proof, unless you used a thin porcelain knife for stabbing. It depends !
So from all you’re saying I get that GTX works perfectly fine in the lab. While this is someting I am sure is true I don’t understand how it can be used to market “Guaranteed to keep you dry”. Myself just like the OP have used a few gtx shoes in the same category(currently using a salomon x ultra gtx) and after walking for a few hours in a wet terrain my feet are plain and simple wet. Its not a question of how much I have used the shoes for or how good the stitching is… so what Salomon qnd other brands cant properly stitch the shoes they sell ?! If that’s the case then we have a much bigger problem. If the membrane is not suited in the real world but only works in the lab why do they sell it as such ? How on earth is it normal to expect that waterproof shoes costing a few hunderds dollars should stay waterproof only a week ?! Also, if the DWR coating is kept spot on and you what reapply it like evey half an hour why would you even need a membrane if the membrane cant work without the DWR. I am no scientist but a super frustrated user and would really love to find a solution or at least get a written statement by gore tex that “I shouldnt expect wonders from my waterproof shoes”. And yes they do stay dry for about one or two hours walking in wet terrain but after this thry just don’t work.
Had a pair of Oboz saw tooth mids with bdry fabric (similar to gore-tex). Obtained them in 2014 for a through hike in the grand Canyon. I kept them and I put them to absolutely rigorous use over the years. Multiple through hikes, trodding through creeks, rain, wet brush. I played milsim airsoft in mud and snow over the course of days on most events. These boots have been absolutely solid, and they dry effectively as I wear them if they failed to keep water out. I never once treated them either because I wanted to put them to the test, I didn’t get failure to keep water out until 2 years of use. I’ve worn gore-tex boots in the army and was punished exactly as the article describes. This “bdry” stuff has changed my mind completely on synthetic water resistant* boots. I now use my Oboz for work boots (my way of retiring them) at tire shop where I kneel in water, snow and mud from time to time. My feet might get damp, but the boots still to this day dry effectively as I work.
My experience with GTX hiking shoes is the polar opposite to this article. Plus, “it can also pass through the membrane once the DWR treatment fails” – is objectively false, because the membrane will still completely block out water regardless of lack of beading off.
The marketing team at Gore-Tex must love to read comments like this, because you have bought into everything that they’re selling.
“the membrane will still completely block out water regardless of lack of beading off.”
That’s actually false. The membrane allows moisture to move through it, from the relatively more humid side to the relatively drier side. The membrane is not directional, whereby water would pass through it in one direction only. When the exterior fabric wets out, it is more humid outside the jacket than inside, and moisture will begin to transmit through the membrane towards the user.
3 MM CLOSED CELL NEOPRENE DIVERS’ SOCKS AS VBLs:
My favorite VBL is US Divers brand 3 mm neoprene closed cell divers socks=. The US Divers brand are factory seam sealed and come in a shaped and marked Left and Right foot to eliminate bunching of material at the toes.
These VBLs are warmer than heavy wool socks and STAY warm all day. They keep your boot’s insulation dry from your sweat.
Wear these over thin polyester or Polypropylene liner socks. CHANGE OUT the liner socks every night and wash them whenever possible. Polypropylene dries fastest.
In your tent:
-> remove insulating liners from my boots, place in foot of sleeping bag
-> telescope the boot tops and lay in the vestibule
-> remove VBL socks & turn inside-out to dry
-> put nasty smelling liner socks in a Ziplock bag (or wash & hang to dry overnight)
-> don fresh liner socks when feet have dried
-> don heavy “sleep socks”
You are ready for bed.
BTW, for more warmth you can buy 5 mm thick divers’ socks but this requires a larger boot size.
Gore-Tex changed my life. Permit me to explain: several jobs ago, my employer provided a safety footwear allowance. I did the snow removal for the company, among other things. My reasoning was that the best investment of the company’s funds would be in a pair of insulated, Gore-Tex lined work boots for the approaching northern Canadian winter. I’d never had a pair of Gore-Tex boots, but I’d heard of it’s legendary ability to keep the wearer dry, if not to heal the sick. As an unexpected fringe benefit, the safety boot allowance, besides covering the cost of these boots, ended up also covering the tuition fees of a lesson I was about to learn. In reference to how I began this post: before I wore those first Gore-Tex boots, I had no knowledge of, nor experience with this amazing product, nor of what a nail fungus infection was like. Eleven years after I retired my last pair of Gore-Tex boots (the very same ones), my toenails still haven’t returned to their “pre-Gore-Tex” condition, despite having tried commercially available chemical “cures”, funky-ass hippy-dippy salicylic acid trippy malt vinegar-red wine vinegar-apple cider vinegar-Datu Puti sarap asim and minyak cengkeh concoctions, the Word of a Master Mason, Swahili mambo-jambo, Latin hocus-pocus and pseudo-mystical, quasi-magical ersatz-oriental simsalabim.
Your toes are squished together by conventional shoes.
If you walk so much, look into “barefoot shoes”, with a wide toebox.
In my experience, the more flexible a shoe/boot is, the quicker the waterproof membrane fails – usually where the footwear flexes.
The best WPB membrane has yet to be invented. “Best” meaning very waterproof, very breathable (like eVent, for ex.) and VERY durable.
When it comes along we will all celebrate. In the meantime I need a GTX mid boot for shoulder season backpack hunting and hiking B/C it must keep my feet dry in snow and cold rain while using WPB gaiters.
Yes, I’m the same guy who preaches the virtues of wearing VBLs of 3 mm closed cell neoprene divers’ socks over thin poly liner socks in place of heavy, warm wool socks. So what do I care about dry feet when my feet are soaked in sweat in these divers’ socks? Mainly that my boots lining is DRY AND WARM. This goes double for lnsulated boots.
I live in New Zealand, mostly rainy and very muddy trails here including some river crossing. A gtx/leather boot here that makes you feel cozy and dry is actually very nice. After many years of using my Lowa Renegade in all sorts of conditions without ever had any blister or any other issue, I’m looking to swap it for a new shoe/boot more light/aggressive as I do a mix of hiking and speed hiking but still like a bit of ankle support and protection so I was thinking about Salomon X Ultra 3 mid GTX, X Chase GTX mid or Salewa ultra flex mid GTX…but you make me think that maybe I should go for something like Salomon X Ultra 3 Aero. In a recent hike a flas storm forced me to climb a single track full of mud and waterfalls for hours and I really enjoyed the boot warm and support, but they got soaked (very old, obviously starting to fail) and didn’t dry overnight. The day after, keep going with soaked boots that eventually soaked my overnight dried socks again was honestly aweful…any suggestions for kiwi conditions?
Thanks, love your page/blog.
“Freud”, Look at my post above on 3mm divers’ socks as VBLs. Should solve you problem for warmth.
What do you use to waterproof? Do you use a spray? If so, what brand do you find works best? It seems the “waterproofness” on my Merrell’s was destroyed when I soaked them in OxiClean & Detergent to try and clean them.
I have been using Revivex DWR spray but recently i tried Nikwax spray made for boots. It seems to work better than the Revivex. I like Revivex on cloth.
6 years in Air force hated every Gortex coat and pants I got. I wouldn’t use them. 20 years in construction and still hate every pair of Waterproof proof boots that I’ve ever had. Tried top tier merino wool socks. Still a joke. They don’t work. Buy multiple pair desert boots, tailor the socks to the situation and let them dry out over night.
I wear leather boots like a man – like me.
13 years Light Infantry, I’ve used everything from Danner Acadia, Hanwag SF, and currently in the Lowa Mountain GTX with little no issues. The Danners I had issues with as the outside of the boot was fabric rather than all leather, once leaving fabric outers with the gore-tex and moved into a mans boot (full leather) I’ve zero issues over the last 9 years now. That’s patrolling for 52kms, multiple operations, and they’re still doing the job. I take care of boots, wear gaiters when trekking through mud or sitting in a trench. Either man up and accept your mistakes (wearing fabric low cut hiking shoes through dew and creeks) or keeping crying about how your feeling are hurt because of your cheap ass shoes. Some gore-tex products are better than others. Welcome to the world
^^^This guy gets it.
Sorry for not believing you when you say this : “After 24 hours of dry conditions, the exterior fabric was only partially dry. Meanwhile, moisture was unable to escape from inside my shoe.”
That is simply impossible. If as you state the water is trapped in the shoe, and your walking in dry conditions , then the exterior FABRIC remaining wet for 24 hours is pure SORCERY.