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Are Hiking Boots Waterproof? | Benefits and Drawbacks

When buying hiking boots during the wet seasons, one of the features that people look out for is waterproofing. Trust us, you have to be prepared in case of any situation.

You could find yourself hiking on wet terrains, or you could get caught up in the rain, and you wouldn’t want to deal with damp or irritating feet. This is why many people opt for waterproof hiking boots.

However, one thing about this feature is that it doesn’t rain every day, nor do you hike on muddy or wet terrains all the time. So, you may not need waterproof hiking boots at all times.

But sometimes, it’s safer to wear them. Another thing is that some hikers have claimed waterproof hiking boots don’t fully keep water out. And that makes you wonder sometimes; are hiking boots waterproof? Even if they are, what makes them so?

Should you or should you not wear waterproof hiking boots? All these and more have been lingering on hikers’ minds, and we’re sure you’d like to know the answers to them. We do have answers for you, so we better get right into them.

Let’s find out.

Cowboy Boots 1

Are Hiking Boots Waterproof?

a pair of waterproof hiking boots

Yes, hiking boots are waterproof to an extent. However, not all hiking boots are waterproof. On different occasions when shopping for your boots, you would’ve noticed some manufacturers list “waterproof” as one of their boot’s features.

So, yes, since this is one of the features some hikers look out for when purchasing hiking boots. Furthermore, waterproof hiking boots prevent water from getting into your boots. Of course, one thing you wouldn’t want to deal with when hiking is wet feet.

Why? Wet feet could make hiking uncomfortable, cause irritation, smell, and maybe blisters. However, like we said, not all hiking boots are waterproof. Also, you should know that the level of “waterproofness” depends on the boot’s material as well.

Leather, naturally, is water-resistant (to an extent) and can prevent water from getting to your feet. However, manufacturers still add a waterproofing layer in the boots to boost the overall waterproofness.

However, some other boot materials would require that manufacturers make them specifically waterproof. So, when you’re looking for waterproof hiking boots, check if they have that feature when shopping.

One way you can do that is to check the manufacturer’s product description. Some other times, you have to check reviews from customers regarding the specific hiking boot.

Like you know, it’s always best to learn from experience and testimonials. So, find out what other hikers are saying about the boots and how effective the waterproofing feature is.

But do you need to wear waterproof hiking boots, or can you do without them?

What Makes Them Waterproof

You may have been wondering how some hiking boots are waterproof while others are not. So, what makes them separate from each other?

1. Waterproof Lining

Merrell Women's Moab 2 Mid Gtx Hiking Boot, Sedona Sage, 8 W US
Click image for more info

Waterproof hiking boots have linings in them that prevent water from entering them. And manufacturers usually place these linings after the outer layer of your hiking boots.

Also, they make this lining from expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). Gore Tex’s founder discovered this waterproofing “technology” while experimenting for his clothing brand.

This ePTFE hardly absorbs water and has good resistance properties, and that is why different manufacturers use this technology in their products.

Gore Tex’s waterproofing technology is the most popular; however, some manufacturers have their unique technology, like Merrell. Merrell uses a waterproof technology they call, M-Select Dry, which they use in their hiking boots.

So, manufacturers put this waterproofing technology between a lining and knit backers.

After that, they insert the combination in the hiking boots uppers to prevent moisture from entering. Also, they add some waterproofing features on hiking boots’ tops to prevent water from entering.

2. Water-repellent coat

water repellent coat of hiking boot

Manufacturers sometimes use waterproofing materials or treat the tops with durable water repellent (DWR). They also use a water repellency coat on other parts of the boots to ensure that the boots are waterproof.

The only issue with DWR or water repellency coats in general, is that it can wear off with time. However, you can remedy that with waterproofing treatments.

3. Gusseted tongues

Another part that makes hiking boots waterproof are the gusseted tongues. They’re usually at the top part of your boots, in between the lace hooks or eyelets.

Manufacturers don’t only attach these tongues to hiking boots’ base, but to the sides as well. That way, they prevent anything from entering the boots.

Also, they prevent water from getting into your boots from that side, or any form of leaking at all.

4. Raised eyelets

raised eyelets of waterproof hiking boots

Another way manufacturers make hiking boots waterproof is thorough raised eyelets. Using eyelets instead of hook holes ensures that there is no form of opening that water can enter through.

5. Waterproof sole glue and stitching

Manufacturers also use waterproof sole glue and stitching to prevent water from getting into hiking boots. They secure the soles with this waterproofing method so water won’t slip in from any opening beneath.

6. Duck boots

ALEADER Womens Duck Boots Men Insulated Waterproof Winter Boots Cold Weather Snow Boots Tan 7 US Men / 8-8.5 US Women
Click image for more info

Another thing manufacturers do to make hiking boots waterproof is to combine leather uppers and rubber bottoms to create duck boots. Both rubber and leather are water resistant to an extent, so they offer some protection.

So, when you consider how manufacturers make hiking boots waterproof, you’d realize that they’re worth their usage and price. What are their pros and cons?

Benefits of Waterproof Hiking Boots

Why do you need to wear waterproof hiking boots? Primarily, manufacturers add this feature to hiking boots to protect hikers’ feet on terrains from getting soaked.

1. They keep your feet dry

waterproof hiking boots keep your feet dry through puddles

A so-called benefit of waterproof hiking boots is that they keep your feet dry through your hiking trip. It doesn’t matter how long you’d be on the trail for.

Generally, a lot can happen when hiking; for instance, sudden rainfalls or hikes through a stream. You would need waterproof hiking boots for those situations to protect your feet.

They may be your best bet for long hiking durations.

Also, wearing non-waterproof hiking boots for long hiking trips might not be the best choice for you. This is because you may not have adequate time or equipment to dry wet hiking boots.

However, waterproof hiking boots hardly get soaked, so you can be sure that you’d keep dry feet till you’re back to the comfort of your home.

Further, there are situations where you have to consider buying waterproof hiking boots. First, you need to consider your hiking environment.

For instance, if you were to go hiking in the desert, there wouldn’t be any need to wear hiking boots because you’re not likely to step on water. Also, it’s less likely to rain in the area.

However, if you’re hiking in the Pacific Northwest, where rainfall is pretty consistent, you’d need waterproof hiking boots. Even if it’s not the rainy season, you could still get wet from the moist underbrushes.

2. They’re durable

Another benefit of waterproof hiking boots is that they are more durable than non-waterproof ones. This is because they are sturdier and have better constructions. So, you get to use them for a longer period while they protect your feet at the same time.

While waterproof hiking boots may seem all well and good, some people don’t agree that you need waterproof hiking boots. Some think they’re good, while others believe they’re unnecessary.

Why do they say so?

3. They are warm all the way

waterproof hiking boots keep your feet warm in snow

There is nothing better in the winter than hiking in rainy, snowy and cold weather with dry feet. Obviously, waterproof boots do a lot for your foot health, comfort and safety around this time.

Besides, waterproof functions prevent cold air from the outside from getting into your feet just like the way they help keep your feet dry and comfy from water and wetness.

Water repellency is a must to survive in snowy rains or snow falls.

4. Easy to clean

One of the other highlights of waterproof hiking boots is that they are easy to clean.

Sometimes you just need a hose to wipe away all dirt and mud on your boots.

If it’s for non-waterproof hiking boots, you’ll probably need a special brush and soap to do this.

Drawbacks of Waterproof Hiking Boots

People have different experiences with hiking boots, and for that reason, some say that you should ditch the waterproof versions. Why should you say no to waterproof hiking boots?

1. You have to sacrifice breathability

waterproof hiking boots are less breathable

Most waterproof hiking boots are hardly breathable. How? You’re preventing airflow within and outside the boots when you seal up openings to prevent water from getting in.

Since they keep moisture out, they also trap moisture within your boots. As a result, you have to deal with sweaty feet all through your hiking trip.

Also, sweat could soak up your socks, making your feet wet and smell. You could also get blisters and have an overall awful hiking experience.

When you consider this, you might start reconsidering getting waterproof hiking boots for yourself. So, the safer option would be to get mesh materials that allow for unrestricted airflow within and outside your boots.

2. You don’t need them always

Another reason you don’t need waterproof hiking boots is that you won’t always need them. First, they are not so breathable, which makes them quite uncomfortable.

Second, you may not need the waterproof effect on hot sunny days or summer seasons because it’s less likely to rain. Instead, you’d be after hiking boots’ breathability on a sunny day.

Also, when you consider the hiking trails you’ll wear them on, you may not need waterproof hiking boots. Like the example we gave earlier, you wouldn’t need waterproof hiking boots in the desert because it’s usually dry.

3. They’re heavier

hiking boots on grass

Another reason people would rather not wear waterproof hiking boots is that they are heavier than non-waterproof ones. Manufacturers usually add some type of lining to them that makes them waterproof.

This adds some ounce of pounds to the hiking boots’ weight. If you don’t need the extra weight, you’re better off without it.

You know you don’t need the extra weight if you’re hiking on simple terrains and during warm weather. This is because their weight could make you tire easily when you only need to relax and unwind.

4. They’re more expensive

Waterproof hiking boots cost more than non-waterproof ones. The waterproof feature and the extra materials that manufacturers add make them cost a few dollars more.

If you go for non-waterproof ones, you’d be saving yourself some money, especially when you don’t exactly need the waterproof feature. However, you shouldn’t let the price bother you much if you know you need waterproof hiking boots.

For example, waterproof boots will serve you better during the rainy season, wet terrains, and longer hiking.

5. They’re not fully waterproof

waterproof hiking boots get wet

One other reason some people see waterproof hiking boots as unnecessary is that they’re not totally “waterproof.” How?

First, their waterproofness wears off overtime. The more you wear them, the less they can resist water. This is because you expose them to dirt and abrasion from time to time.

Also, water reduces their level of waterproofness, so you’d have to reproof them as time goes on.

In the end, they’re not as waterproof as people think. So, they’d rather wear hiking boots without the waterproof feature and enjoy breathability, less weight, and save money.

The debate of whether to wear waterproof hiking boots or not depends on you and other things. The factors depend on the weather, the hiking trail, and your geographic location.

How To Waterproof Hiking Boots

First, you should know that you can waterproof your hiking boots. Like we stated earlier, materials like leather usually have some waterproofing features, unlike synthetics.

In some other cases, manufacturers can spray them with DWR, which isn’t precisely a waterproofing membrane. This is why you notice that water stays on your boots and trickles down without getting into your hiking boots.

However, this coating may wash off as time goes on, and the more you wear your boots, so you’d need to recoat them. Although some people think it may be impossible to waterproof synthetic hiking boots, you actually can. How?

1. Prepare the waterproofing materials

You don’t need much to waterproof your hiking boots. You only need to get the right product for each material and apply them to your hiking boots. Some materials are tender, so what works for one may be too much for the other. An example is full-grain and nubuck leather.

You can waterproof your hiking boots with proofing wax, cream, spray, or others. But, again, you should ensure that you get a proof product that is particular to a material.

Nikwax Nubuck & Suede Proof Spray-On,4.2 oz. / 125ml
Fabric & Leather Proof (Sponge-On)
For synthetic and suede
For leather
Nikwax Nubuck & Suede Proof Spray-On,4.2 oz. / 125ml
For synthetic and suede
Fabric & Leather Proof (Sponge-On)
For leather

Last update on 2021-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2. Prep your hiking boots

After you have your products ready, you need to prep the boot’s material to absorb the proofing product.

First, you need to brush off the dirt from your hiking boots and get them cleaned the way you would clean them usually.

3. Apply waterproofing product

Next, you need to get them damp to absorb the product. For instance, leather doesn’t soak in water as quickly as synthetic materials, so you can wrap a wet towel around them to get them to suck more water.

But, then, you need to read the manufacturer’s instructions on the products before you apply. Now, you can apply the cream, wax, or spray and leave them to dry. You only need to use a small amount.

Note that you have to let them dry naturally. Don’t heat them to speed the process; however, you can dry them with a fan. Also, leave them in a place with enough ventilation.

This way you’ll have your waterproof hiking boots for your next hiking trip.

You can check out more methods of waterproofing hiking boots here!

Conclusion

The simple answer to “are hiking boots waterproof” is yes. However, not all hiking boots are waterproof.

So, should you wear waterproof hiking boots? Absolutely, but only when necessary. After reading this article, you’ll see that you don’t always need waterproof hiking boots.

You need to consider the weather, your location, and the hiking terrains. We also discussed the disadvantages of waterproof hiking boots.

As you know, dry feet are happy feet, so you need to protect them as much as you can when hiking. So, whether you wear waterproof or non-waterproof hiking boots, ensure your feet are safe, happy, and dry.

Enjoy your next hiking trip!


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