5 Best Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Shoes in 2024

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
5 Best Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Shoes in 2024
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Investing in a pair of high-quality waterproof shoes is one of the wisest things you can do for your feet. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorsy person or a casual weekend warrior, you need to have the right gear when going on hiking trips with your family and friends.

For this guide, we’ve vetted over 50 lightweight waterproof hiking shoes across different brands. We have carefully tested them and essentially put them through obstacles that would tell us more about the shoes. Each model offers different functions, comfort levels, and other commercial features, which we’ve thoroughly examined on a variety of muddy terrains and H2O hiking adventures.

With tons of options available, getting the perfect pair can be time-consuming. To narrow down your best choices, we’ve ranked all the lightweight waterproof hiking shoes in our inventory. Read on to see our top recommendations in specific categories.

How we test hiking shoes

Each model on the list is methodically analyzed and tested in the field. We carefully examine the quality of materials built into the footwear and determine how they actually perform during hiking activities. Here’s exactly what we do:

  • We put in the time, energy, and even our own savings to buy the lightweight waterproof hiking kicks for our wear tests. This is to guarantee our 100% impartiality when publishing our reviews.
  • We take the shoes on a series of hiking trips on various distances and terrains. During this time, we check and double-check every parameter of the shoes which includes the fit, comfort level, waterproof capability, durability, and many more. We further subject the shoes to tougher outdoor conditions, including increment weather.
  • To enrich our data, we take into account the results that we reach in our lab. We do all sorts of tests to understand more how the shoe responds to different factors such as abrasion from our Dremel tool, bending from our digital force gauge, and even chilling temperature from our freezer. We even turn on our saw machine to split the shoes open and uncover everything that comprises them.

Best lightweight waterproof hiking shoes overall

What makes it the best?

We performed various lab tests and test hikes while looking for the best overall lightweight waterproof hiking shoe, and it was the Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX that won us over. This shoe pulls off out-of-the-box comfort and excellent stability, packed neatly into a 13.3 oz (378g) package.

The instant comfort comes from a perfect amount of padding around the shoe. We measured the tongue at 9.4 mm - squishy enough to protect the tops of our feet but not excessively so. The midsole also has found the sweet spot between protection from sharp objects and ground feel. Our durometer told us the midsole measures 32.5 for softness. This sits squarely on the average and helps us to feel surefooted and stable over long distances.

For such a lightweight shoe, Salomon has really piled on the support. The high collar keeps our ankles steady on rough paths and the stiff heel counter prevents our foot from sliding around in the shoe. In the lab, we rated the heel stiffness as 5/5, the stiffest possible. We felt the stability afforded by the shank running through the midsole, while the flexible forefoot enabled us a much smoother stride. We pushed the shoe to 90° with a force gauge to put a number to our observations. It measured 37.1N, 31% more flexible than average!

The waterproofing in this shoe is second to none, as we found when we splashed through puddles and streams. Not a drop of water got in (as long as we didn’t go in over the ankle, of course!).

We simulated their performance in winter conditions by leaving them in the freezer for 20 minutes and testing them for flexibility. They measured 75% stiffer than other hiking shoes in cold conditions! Therefore we don’t recommend the Salomon X Ultra 4 for winter hiking. Or, at least, keep in mind its best to store them at room temperature and that they might feel brick-ish until warmed up. 

Pros

  • Instant comfort
  • Impeccable waterproofing
  • Very lightweight
  • Exceptional grip
  • Excellent support and lockdown
  • Stable platform
  • Roomy toebox

Cons

  • Quicklace is not for everyone
  • Too-high collar
Full review of Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX

Lightweight waterproof hiking shoes with the best cushioning

What makes it the best?

Does a cushioned, waterproof yet lightweight hiking shoe even exist? It does indeed, and it’s called the Hoka Anacapa Low GTX. Supremely comfortable underfoot, it is the perfect companion for long days out on the trail.

Right from the outset, the soft midsole is noticeable, and we didn’t need to break in the shoe. The average midsole softness for a hiking shoe is 32.9 HA, but we had a sneaking suspicion this would be much softer. After our lab test, we can confirm that this shoe has an extremely soft midsole, measuring just 23.3 HA - 29% softer than average. The insole is also 2.1 mm thicker than average. Altogether our hikes were really pleasurable for the feet and we felt like we could keep walking all day!

The waterproofing is impeccable in this shoe, and even when we were splashing through streams and puddles, our feet stayed dry. Good waterproofing often comes at the cost of weight, but somehow this shoe even weighs 0.8 oz (23g) below average!

While the wide midsole gives this cushy kick a stable platform for walking, when we measured the width of the upper, we found it to be 3% narrower than average. For most hikers, this won’t present a problem, but for those with particularly wide feet, we recommend looking at other options.

Pros

  • Mind-blowing cushioning
  • Podiatrist-approved sole
  • Excellent grip
  • Top-notch waterproofing
  • Lightweight
  • Out-of-the-box comfort
  • Roomy toebox
  • Well-made
  • Contains recycled materials

Cons

  • GTX version only
  • Pricier than average
  • Weird-looking heel
Full review of Hoka Anacapa Low GTX

Lightweight waterproof hiking shoes with the best stability

What makes it the best?

Stability? Best out of best. Waterproofness? As good as it gets. Weight? Feels lighter than our scale shows. It's the Swift R3 GTX and no wonder it's our #1 stability pick! 

On our hikes, this hiking shoe felt insanely stable. It did not matter what we threw at it - gravel, single tracks, slippery slopes... Just when you expect some instability, there is none. In the lab, we've tested it for lateral stability and it got the highest score. Then, we tested its torsional rigidity where it also got the highest score, 5 out of 5. Can't be stiffer than that! 

To up the ante, we took our caliper and measured the width of the midsole. Turns out that both values, heel width and forefoot width, are wider than the average for a hiking shoe! 

Looking at the weight, 14.39 oz (408g) might sound a lot. Especially when the average for all hiking shoes is 13.93 oz (395g). But, shoes with stability elements and the Gore-Tex membrane always weigh more. In this case, we didn't mind at all, especially because at no point this the Swift R3 GTX weigh us down. Thanks to all of its stability features, our legs felt significantly less fatigued after 20+ miles long hikes. 

When it comes to waterproofing, this shoe gets all the flying colors. Our feet and socks remained completely dry even after some heavier rain. We also loved how soft this shoe is, even softer than the average hiking shoe. Our durometer showed 26.0 HA while the average is 30.7 HA. And, thanks to our freezer test, we learned that the shoe stays soft and comfy even in cold weather! After 20mins in the freezer, it got only 17.3% firmer. The average for hiking shoes is 22.6%. 

It really is all fun and games, unless you want to hit the trails immediately when you get this shoe. Break it in first. All that stiffness comes at a price and that price is called break-in time. 

 

Pros

  • Boot-like stability
  • Highly durable and protective
  • Lightweight for what it offers
  • Excellent waterproofing
  • Breathable for a GTX shoe
  • Generously cushioned
  • Very secure foothold
  • Top-notch grip with deep lugs

Cons

  • Stuffy for summer
  • Can be too stiff (even stiffer in cold)
  • Break-in needed
Full review of Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX

Best lightweight waterproof shoes for speed hiking

What makes it the best?

After our extensive lab tests and trial hikes, we declare the Merrel Moab Speed GTX the best lightweight waterproof hiking shoe for speed hiking. A frontrunner in the race to a lightweight, waterproof shoe, its superb breathability keeps our feet fresh and dry on our speed hikes. To add to its list of achievements, it’s also superbly grippy, making it a great choice for fast-and-light day hikes.

We expected this shoe to handle wet, muddy conditions without fuss, and it didn’t disappoint! Despite the 4 mm lugs measuring slightly less than the average 4.3 mm, the reduction is more than compensated for by the wide spacing of the lugs, which easily shed mud. We found this gave us increased grip on all kinds of trails, and we felt confident in our foot placements, allowing us to hike faster.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that our feet didn’t get as tired as we might have expected after a long day’s hike. In the lab, we weighed the shoe at 11.4 oz (323g) - significantly less than the average of 13.9 oz (395g)! This more streamlined shoe helps our feet skim over rocks and up hills, and we can put in more miles as a result.

Waterproof shoes generally score low for breathability, but the Merrel Moab Speed GTX employs a creative solution. The breathable mesh tongue helps air flow into the toe box, and in our smoke test, we awarded the shoe 3/5 for breathability - a huge success for a waterproof shoe! The Gore-Tex membrane prevents water from getting into the shoe; even standing in a fast-flowing stream wasn’t enough to get our feet wet.

Official numbers state the heel-to-toe drop of the Moab Speed GTX is 10 mm, but our lab tests discovered evidence to the contrary. Our caliper measurements of the heel and forefoot stack heights discovered a very steep drop of 15.6 mm! We therefore don’t recommend this to hikers who prefer a more natural feel to their hiking boots.

Pros

  • Plush on day one
  • Watertight
  • Sticky
  • Featherweight
  • Stabilizing
  • Incredibly supportive
  • Propelling

Cons

  • Unflattering heel fit
  • Frail outsole
Full review of Merrell Moab Speed GTX

Best lightweight waterproof hiking shoes with a wide toebox

KEEN Targhee II
85
Great!

What makes it the best?

We hiked with lightweight waterproof boots and crowned KEEN Targhee II as the best with wide toebox. It’s a low-cut shoe that makes it versatile enough for other outdoor adventures, while its protective build makes it an armor against all the forces of nature.

The toebox gives us plenty of room for thicker socks and for natural toe splay. This ensures we find our footing with every stride. 

We’re mindblown with how the leather upper strikes the balance between protection and breathability. Even as we crossed through muddy puddles and streams, we had no encounters with wet socks as long as it was below the ankles. We also weren’t drenched in sweat on warm days, which is amazing for a leather boot!

The outsole is so robust that it feels like we have armor underfoot. It can weather the toughest terrains, without worrying about rocks and roots poking through. From slippery slopes to loose gravel, we’re secured of Targhee II’s sticky traction.

Unfortunately, it feels quite loose and unstable in the heel area. We prefer a snugger fit for better protection and stability.

Pros

  • True to size
  • Roomy toebox
  • Waterproof
  • Impressively durable
  • Grippy outsole

Cons

  • Loose fit
  • Rigid feel
  • Break-in period needed
Full review of KEEN Targhee II

When we look at hiking shoes, two of the most critical characteristics we are curious about are the weight of the shoe and the shoes waterproofing. Whenever possible, we try to look for shoes with the best of both worlds.

salomon-x-ultra-4-gtx-review.JPG

They are lightweight, prevent foot fatigue, and have some sort of waterproofing (or repellency) to prevent feet from becoming completely soaked. Keep reading if these factors always land at the top of your list also you won’t be disappointed. 

What makes hiking shoes lightweight?

Hiking shoes continue to impress us. They seem to get lighter and lighter while still possessing key characteristics such as reliable durability, sticky traction, and cushioning. And in the case of the shoes in this article, waterproofing. All of these contribute to their high-end performance.

Hiking shoe manufacturers like Salomon and Hoka can make lightweight hiking shoes with the help of innovative materials. In the past, leather was the go-to material. It dominated the hiking market. Leather has many attractive qualities, but being lightweight is not one of them.

Nowadays, synthetic materials like nylon, mesh, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and even kevlar make hiking shoes weigh less without sacrificing function.

Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX lab test

Improvements in the insole, midsole, and outsole technologies of hiking shoes have also contributed to the overall weight loss of hiking shoes. For example, modern lightweight hiking shoes use an ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam in the midsole to provide shock absorption with less weight.

Lastly, hiking shoes are more lightweight than before because of their low-cut cuff. The hiking shoes in this article range from 10 ounces to 15 ounces.  On the other hand, hiking boots with high-top cuffs can weigh well over 17 ounces.

Advantages of lightweight hiking shoes

There are many advantages to wearing lightweight hiking shoes. The first of which is how they feel on your feet. Lighter shoes decrease foot fatigue because the muscles in your legs and feet don’t have to pick up as much weight every time you make a step. With less weight and fatigue, you can go farther and faster.

Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX support

Lightweight hiking shoes are also more sensitive and flexible. Greater sensitivity enhances the ground feel you experience on the trail. As a result, you get better feedback from the terrain and can feel all the subtle nuances beneath your feet.

Another advantage of light hiking shoes is their softer cushioning. This is especially critical for bumpy and rocky terrain. In most cases, lightweight hiking shoes rely on EVA foam in the midsole for weight-saving and cushioning.

Waterproof vs. water-resistant vs. water-repellent

As you spend time shopping for lightweight waterproof hiking shoes, we are confident you have run into phrases like “water-resistant” and “water-repellent” along the way. Let’s clear up the differences between these three categories.

Hiking shoes are waterproof when they incorporate an additional membrane on the shoe’s interior. In most cases, shoe manufacturers use Gore-Tex as their fabric of choice. The waterproof membrane is sewn into the shoe like a bootie, preventing water from soaking through the shoe’s upper.

Water-resistant hiking shoes

Water-resistant shoes do not have a waterproof membrane on the shoe’s interior. Therefore, they are not considered waterproof. Instead, water-resistant shoes rely on the natural water-resistant properties of the materials in the shoe’s exterior to repel moisture. Water-resistant shoes can only expel small amounts of moisture, not all moisture.

For example, leather is a naturally water-resistant material. Therefore, leather will keep out water from light rainfall. However, leather will begin to soak in water over time or in a torrential downpour.

Water-repellent hiking shoes

Last is water-repellent. Hiking shoes in this category do not have a waterproof membrane in the shoe’s interior. Instead, water-repellent shoes use a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating on the shoe’s exterior to repel water.

The DWR prevents water from soaking into the shoes. So when water comes into contact with the DWR, it beads up and rolls off the shoe instead of soaking in.

Most waterproof and water-resistant hiking shoes have a DWT treatment on the exterior. However, not all water-repellent shoes are waterproof or use naturally water-resistant materials, hence the need for a DWR.

Lightweight waterproof hiking shoes with Gore-Tex

Gore-Tex is the industry-leading waterproof fabric for waterproof footwear. Not every shoe manufacturer will use Gore-Tex. There are other effective waterproof membranes. However, over the years, waterproof shoes have become synonymous with Gore-Tex.

hoka-anacapa-low-gtx-goretex.JPG

Despite other waterproof fabrics on the market, Gore-Tex continues to outperform and be a fan favorite.

  • Every single square inch of Gore-Tex fabric has 9 billion pores. 
  • Each pore is 20x smaller than a water droplet, which is why Gore-Tex is waterproof. 
  • However, the pores in Gore-Tex fabric are also 700x bigger than a water vapor molecule, which is why Gore-Tex is breathable.

After the Gore-tex fabric is chosen to make a hiking shoe, it is bonded with other high-performance textiles to create a laminate. In the case of footwear, the laminate is then used to make a bootie sewn into the shoe. In other contexts, the Gore-Tex laminate is used to make jackets, pants, and gloves.

Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX Drop

Gore-Tex laminate inside a shoe

In many days, Gore-Tex is the “perfect” fabric. It prevents water from entering yet is breathable enough to let moisture evaporate from the inside. How could there possibly be any drawbacks? Let us explain.  

Drawbacks of Gore-Tex

If you look at Gore-Tex waterproof hiking shoes through a critical lens, you will find some drawbacks. However, we must admit, in most cases, the pros of Gore-tex easily outweigh the cons.

First, Gore-Tex makes hiking shoes heavier. The extra material on the shoe’s interior will increase the shoe's overall weight. For example, the Gore-Tex Salomon Ultra X 4 weighs 13.3 oz (378g). On the other hand, the non-waterproof Ultra X 4 weighs 12.5 oz (355g).

Salomon-X-Ultra-4-weight.jpg

The second drawback of waterproof Gore-Tex waterproof hiking shoes is that they are more expensive. In most cases, the price difference between a Gore-tex waterproof shoe and a non-waterproof shoe is between $15 and $30.

Lastly, waterproof Gore-Tex hiking shoes dry out slower than non-waterproof shoes. This is because the Gore-Tex membrane can trap water inside the shoe if water inundates the interior from spilling over the shoe's cuff.

This is only something to work about in very wet conditions, for example, during a water crossing. However, it is worth mentioning that non-waterproof hiking shoes dry out faster due to the lack of a Gore-Tex membrane.

Gore-Tex is not the only waterproof fabric

Despite Gore-Tex being the industry leader in waterproof technology, they are not the only player. Many hiking shoe manufacturers use other waterproof fabrics in their hiking shoes to attain the industry’s waterproof standard.

For example, Keen footwear utilizes the Keen Dry technology to create footwear that repels water while also letting moisture evaporate from the inside.

The ideal scenario for lightweight waterproof hiking shoes

You may disagree with this, but not all hiking shoes need to be waterproof. If you are using waterproof hiking shoes in scenarios when they are not 100% necessary, you may be missing out on wearing hiking shoes better suited for the job.

That’s why investing in waterproof shoes for certain scenarios is important.

Waterproof shoes are perfect for prolonged exposure to cold climates and wet terrain. They are ideal for climates and terrain where moisture from mud, snow, rain, or groundwater is a consistent and unavoidable obstacle.

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For example, waterproof hiking shoes are perfect for day-long or multi-day adventures when the forecast looks wet and you predict prolonged exposure to precipitation.

However, if the forecast calls for dry and sunny weather, you may be better off with nonwaterproof shoes. This is because nonwaterproof shoes tend to breathe better. Breathability and ventilation will prevent your feet from overheating.

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Nonwaterproof shoes will also dry out quicker. So, for example, nonwaterproof shoes may be better suited for the occasional creek crossing in dry weather because they can dry out faster, whereas Gore-Tex waterproof shoes may trap water inside.

These characteristics are more important for dry weather. 

Frequently asked questions 

What does GTX stand for?

GTX is the abbreviation for Gore-Tex. When GTX is included in the name or description of the shoe or is on the shoe itself, that signifies that the shoe uses a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and not some other proprietary technology. 

Do all waterproof shoes come with a DWR?

Yes, a DWR treatment is always the first line of defense for waterproof shoes. The DWR creates an invisible and impermeable layer on the shoe’s exterior that makes water bead up and roll off instead of soaking into the shoe.

salomon-x-ultra-4-gtx-upper-under-microscope.JPG

On the other hand, not all water-repellent or water-resistant shoes that use a DWR coating are considered waterproof. To be dubbed waterproof, the shoe must incorporate a waterproof membrane, be it Gore-Tex or a different type of material. 

Are waterproof hiking shoes 100% waterproof? 

We would like to answer yes to this question. Unfortunately, however, waterproof hiking shoes are not 100% waterproof. The reason is that no hiking shoe, even those with Gore-tex membranes, can prevent water from entering the shoe above the cuff, for example, when you step through deep water or mud.

For extra protection, you can attach gaiters to your shoes. Gaiters are garments that attach to your shoes and protect your lower leg and ankle. You may also consider wearing high-top hiking boots instead of shoes for extra protection in wet terrain.

Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto
Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and run all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyzes every detail of the shoes that you might buy.