10 Best Waterproof Hiking Boots in 2021

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on
10 Best Waterproof Hiking Boots in 2021

Other than keeping your feet nice and dry, waterproof hiking boots come in a variety of designs to match different types of hiking adventures. This guide will help you navigate this vast selection.

Having reviewed over 100 pairs of boots, we have selected the top picks in five different categories. Are you looking for a rugged boot for backpacking? A lighter one for speed or urban hiking? Perhaps you only need it for occasional trips and don’t want to spend over $100? See our recommendations below to find the one that serves you best.

Also scroll down to our guide sections to learn more about Gore-Tex, the different levels of water protection, and how to maintain your waterproof boots.

How we review waterproof hiking boots

RunRepeat gathers, collects, and analyzes data from hundreds of retailers and experts, as well as thousands of users. We do all this so that you can shop conveniently in the comfort of your own home and provide you the following:

  • 300+ boots from various brands in one list
  • An easy-to-read summary of all the boot’s pros and cons gathered from reviews from 110.000+ users and 900+ experts 
  • A CoreScore is given to each boot to easily gauge the likability of the shoe based on what users and experts say. 

Best overall

This is not a drill. The Renegade GTX Mid from Lowa is the cream of the crop for wet-weather journeys!

Engineered with Gore-Tex’s waterproof membrane and equipped with a gusseted tongue, the Renegade GTX Mid is fully capable of warding off all manners of liquid. Its high enough clearance also saw to it that we’d get dry feet through moderately flooded areas.

Speaking of clearance (or shafts), the Renegade GTX Mid’s collar was astonishingly supportive throughout our adventures. It was solid through and through, not putting to work our ankles too much!

Breaking in the Renegade GTX Mid was quite quick for us. This means that we got all the comfort we needed minus the pain and suffering, usually brought forth by pinching and tight spots. Yup, none of those were present in the boot from the start.

Now, despite being fully waterproof, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid gave us more than enough breathability. We attribute its ability to keep everything unstuffy on the inside mainly to the hiker’s moisture-wicking footbed.

And let’s not forget the beefiness of the Renegade GTX Mid. It’s a tank, yes, which means your days of super-calculated steps just to avoid abrasive hazards in the rain are over in this magnificent Lowa piece!

See our full review and facts

Do you want to avoid the drama entailing soaked feet? Salomon has the solution for you in the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX!

If our moisture test results are anything to go by, we can safely say that the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX is undoubtedly watertight. We splashed our way through mildly muddy puddles and gushing streams in this, and our feet didn’t get damp at all!

Like our top pick, the Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX also comes with impressive breathability. Although this time, we are linking this welcome feature to the hiker’s partly mesh upper.

Hiking in the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX was also exceptionally secure underfoot. We trampled on mud, walked on wet grass, and boulder-hopped, yet we didn’t slip. The boot also gave us incredible control during ascents and descents. Remarkable traction, indeed!

This must-buy of an alternative provides superb comfort, too. The chief suspect in this is the X Ultra 4 Mid GTX’s interior padding, which was quite plush for us straight from the box. We also give its fluffy heel rest extra credit here. We just wish its footbed, or the flooring underneath it, was as cushy as its predecessor’s.

See our full review and facts

Best for backpacking

Here comes the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX—your best companion for pack adventures in the rain!

We weren’t prepared for the magnificence of this Salomon hiker in terms of waterproofing. Indeed, the Quest 4D 3 GTX mightily fenced out moisture, whether in about 4 inches of creek water or moderate rain. It kept our feet dry, preventing unwanted heel blisters as a result.

We lasted miles upon miles of trekking in excellent comfort, too. Yes, the Quest 4D 3 GTX has the comfiness to match its fantastic waterproofing. Its collar was such a blessing—we got no rubbing in it, giving us premium suppleness throughout our wet-weather journey.

Negotiating slippery terrain was a cakewalk for the Quest 4D 3 GTX. Muddy slopes, rocky patches, and even frozen tracks didn’t slow us down, thanks to the boot’s Contagrip outsole. Its excellent multi-directional lugs kept our feet anchored in virtually every surface we encountered!

And let’s not forget how stabilizing the Quest 4D 3 GTX is. Yes, gnarly roots and fist-sized rocks didn’t stand a chance against this Salomon offering. If stability is what you’re after, this is the boot for you!

See our full review and facts

Are you a fan of buffed leather? Then strap up with the Zamberlan 996 Vioz GTX and trek moisture-free!

Almost seamless in construction, the leather upper of this backpacking boot repels all manners of wetness with its Gore-Tex liner. It was a real delight crossing streams and creeks in the Zamberlan 996 Vioz. Every drop just beaded off it, leaving us with fresh feet and undeniable smiles! We just wish its leather shell was more breathable, though.

Matching its premium-looking upper is the boot’s plush interior. Yes, the Zamberlan 996 Vioz greeted our tootsies with royal comfort, with its heel zone and collar being the stars of the show.

The Zamberlan 996 Vioz has tons of support, too. Its comfortable collar didn’t relent in the entirety of our multi-day testing, granting us safety on uneven terrain. Having said that, we still got more than enough mobility in it, which was just remarkable!

And you wouldn’t be mistaken if you thought the Zamberlan 996 Vioz was one tough beast, because it is. Particularly impressive in this regard is the durability of the outsole. After journeying across all that ruggedness, its grippy lugs had no dents on them!

So, yes, the Zamberlan 996 Vioz is a fantastic workhorse, even if its asking price can be quite demanding for most people.

See our full review and facts

Best lightweight

Agility and fast movements on the trail where bad weather persists? We say “yes” to that with the Columbia Fairbanks Rover!

Light at 490-ish grams per boot, this eye-catching piece will take you places with less restriction. Its barely-there weight kept us going as if we got nothing on our feet. Yes, bigger, more aggressive strides are yours in the Fairbanks Rover!

The Fairbanks Rover has excellent waterproofing, of course. No moisture ever got inside its flexible confines after our water test, which involved traipsing through creeks and streams.

Equally impressive is the Fairbanks Rover’s level of comfort. We sustained no blisters and felt no hotspot inside its pampering mid-top shell. Around the instep, we experienced no bunching, while its midfoot gave us a plush hug.

We also want to give the Columbia Fairbanks Rover its well-deserved spotlight on the insulation front. Indeed, this lightweight waterproof hiker is remarkably warm, making it ideal in the snow or where temperatures drop to around 5°F.

And lastly, you can say that this hiker has the price to match its lightness. Selling at $140 MSRP, the lightweight Fairbanks Rover is definitely a smart buy!

See our full review and facts

If you’re a big fan of Merrell and hiking light in wet conditions is your thing, the Ontario 85 Mid Waterproof is what you need!

You are destined to go farther in the Ontario 85 Mid Waterproof, considering that your strides will be boosted by its pair weight of no more than 850 g. We don’t know how Merrell did it since the boot in question has some serious overlay work done on it. There’s also its metal hardware—the hiker’s D-rings for eyelets.

This incredible alternative from Merrell doesn’t skimp on waterproofing. Yes, it, in fact, lives up to its name by staying watertight throughout our day-hiking excursion. We give the Ontario 85 Mid Waterproof’s gusseted tongue more props, too, for allowing us to play around puddles without getting our tootsies wet!

Now, the Ontario 85 Mid Waterproof is both comfy and grippy. About the former, we are talking about its excessively plush liner and bunch-free tongue. About the latter, the boot’s lugs—despite their low-profile design—gave us exceptional grip on the trail, particularly on wet surfaces.

While its lacing system can be hit-or-miss (being that it can be quite tricky to keep tight), we still find the Ontario 85 Mid Waterproof a remarkable second choice!

See our full review and facts

Best for speed hiking

There’s no stopping you from getting to your destination as fast as possible. That said, if you want to do that in the right gear, you got to have the OUTline Mid GTX in your arsenal!

We’ve gone through hundreds of waterproof hiking boots, and it became clear to us that this Salomon speedster is the most empowering of them all. At approximately 420 g per shoe, the OUTline Mid GTX makes every step (big and small) fluid thanks to its ergonomically designed sole unit. Its moderately rockered toe zone also contributed to our fast movements.

The OUTline Mid GTX is nothing short of impressive in the comfort department. We used it right away for about 4 hours on the trail, and all we got out of it was a hotspot-free ride. Plushness was all around our nimble feet, giving us enough confidence to keep going and complete our initial test.

As a Gore-Tex boot, the OUTline Mid GTX kept our feet far away from moisture. We splashed our way across a stream, whose shallowest part may have been 3 to 4 inches in depth, and nothing wet ever got inside.

Speaking of wet-weather hikes, the OUTline Mid GTX gave us more than enough purchase on mud and wet mulch.

See our full review and facts

Yes, you’re looking at a sporty mid-top boot that can turn the tables around in the rain in the Innox Pro GTX Mid!

Heavier by a thin hair than the OUTline Mid GTX (around 450 g per kick), the Innox Pro GTX Mid kept our strides boosted on the trail. The area we tested it on was a combination of well-tended tracks and rocky patches. The boot’s rockered design made flat-terrain negotiations a breeze!

Equally convincing is the hiker’s A-grade waterproofing. Even though the Innox Pro GTX Mid is a fantastic alternative for speed hiking, we took our sweet time with it just to check its ability to keep water at bay. And we weren’t let down by this kick. It earned our “watertight” seal of approval!

But you might ask: Does the Innox Pro GTX Mid live up to the hype grip-wise? Absolutely! We stand behind its proprietary outsole for granting us slip-free passage on mulchy terrain and mud. It also helped us stay surefooted on rocky paths, whether wet or dry.

Yes, the Innox Pro GTX Mid is a great alternative, and it can keep you as agile as you want, albeit for a considerably hefty price.

See our full review and facts

Best budget boot

$80. Yes, eighty dollars is the MSRP of the Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof. If this Columbia offering is not affordable enough for you, we don’t know what is!

Giving its name justice, the Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof does, indeed, give extraordinary water protection. Through lightly muddy waters, the boot kept everything on the inside free of moisture. Not one drop also got in when we stood in some puddle for roughly 7 minutes.

This budget-friendliest waterproof hiker comes with sticky lugs, too. From slippery and wet hillsides to stony tracks, the Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof granted us wowing grip. Slick low-level slabs and mossy roots also didn’t stand a chance against its tooth-like studs (a.k.a. lugs)!

While its main highlight is its eye-popping, grin-widening price, the Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof’s extraordinary comfort level should not be overlooked. Fresh from the box, we used this affordable must-buy and came away impressed with its default plushness! Extra props go to its blister-preventive heel zone.

The boot’s low price is complemented with lightness, too. Yes, the Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof deserves a spot in our lightest bunch by being no heavier than 900 g per pair.

See our full review and facts

Having a limited budget is no reason for you to spend the entire rainy season indoors. Well, not when you can get your hands on the Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof!

With an MSRP of $110, this Timberland adventuring kick is, without a doubt, among the most affordable-yet-tough watertight hiking boots out there. Perhaps having a proprietary waterproof membrane really does pay off in the end.

Speaking of waterproofing, the boot’s Timber-Dry membrane made our rainy-day trips fun rather than an “oh, we must find a place to stay” experience. After completing our journey, a creek and several puddles behind our backs, our feet came out of the Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof fresh and dry!

Straight from the Timbs box, the Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof felt mighty plush. This means that we cowboyed the trail in this affordable hiker without feeling the need to break it in. And the result? Well, let’s just say that the waterproof Mt. Maddsen Mid gave us no blisters nor hotspots!

And its arch zone? Exceptional! Yes, we got abundant medial support out of it, making us true believers of the Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof right then and there.

We probably wouldn’t recommend the boot in regular width to those with stouter feet, though.

See our full review and facts

The best waterproof hiking boots: Are they REALLY waterproof?

Reality check: There is no such thing as a hiking boot that can completely block water. 

Yes, the best waterproof boots are more than enough to protect your feet from various wet conditions such as rain, sleet, snow, or bodies of water encountered along the trail. However, your feet aren’t totally shielded from water. Here are ways water can enter your waterproof hikers:

  • During pouring rain, water will trickle down into your boots no matter how tight you lace it up. Quick fix: Wear gaiters or waterproof pants over the shoes
  • Water will enter through the boot’s opening if you completely submerge your boot in a stream or lake.
  • The waterproofing feature of your boots does not last forever and deteriorates over time (the well-liked Gore-Tex included).  

The difference between waterproof, water-repellent, and water-resistant boots

You want boots that can protect your feet from water but then you encounter terms like waterproof, water-resistant, water-repellent. Is there a difference?

The answer is YES. To help you understand each one, here’s a quick rundown of their differences.

  Water-resistant Water-repellent Waterproof
General characteristics a tightly woven fabric that is naturally capable of resisting water upon contact fabric treated with durable water-repellent (DWR) or hydrophobic chemicals -fabric treated with DWR
-have waterproofing membranes like Gore-Tex and OutDry
-have seam-sealed construction for extra protection
Water protection level low water protection moderate water protection high water protection
Water pressure resistance 0-5000 mm (no pressure or moisture) 6000-10000 mm (light pressure) 10000-20000 mm (high to very high pressure)
Weather conditions best used in light rain shower and dry snow light rain and average snow moderate to heavy rain and average to wet snow

Disadvantages of wearing waterproof hiking boots

When it comes to repelling water, waterproof boots indeed stand out. However, the high degree of water protection and the versatility that these shoes offer come with a price. 

Apart from having a higher price tag, here are other traits that make waterproof hiking boots inferior when compared to non-waterproof boots or even water-resistant and water-repellent boots.

Disadvantages of wearing waterproof hiking boots.png

Best time to use/not to use waterproof boots

Considering all its pros and cons, we can say that waterproof boots are not your all-around-type of footwear for hiking. Yes, it is versatile as it can adapt to various terrains and weather conditions but it has its limits. You’ll find below which activities, climates, and terrains waterproof hiking boots are best used/not used in:

Pro tip: If you prefer to go fast and light, then lightweight hikers will be your ideal choice. Quick-drying and breathable shoes like those made for water hiking are worth considering if your adventure entails a lot of river crossing. Trail-centric sandals may also be up your alley especially if your planning to traverse the desert trails in Utah or California.

Best time to use_NOT to use waterproof hiking boots.png

What is Gore-Tex?

Gore-Tex is undoubtedly the oldest and most popular when it comes to waterproofing tech. Gore-Tex membranes contain small pores that stop the entry of water droplets while allowing moisture to escape.

Compared to other technologies like Merrell’s M-Select Dry, Columbia’s OutDry, and Keen’s Keen.Dry, Gore-Tex is said to be the most effective. You will also find this used by sought-after brands like Salomon and Merrell. However, this will cost more than those made with brand-exclusive waterproofing membranes. 

Bonus Topic: 4-step guide to waterproofing your boots

Want waterproof boots but your budget doesn’t allow it (even after checking out the cheapest waterproof boots)? Or maybe you’d rather go with your regular boots but you’re worried about getting your feet wet? Don’t fret. You can actually turn these into water-repellent ones using waterproofing treatments or sprays.

Take note, however, that smearing waterproof treatment solutions on a boot can decrease its breathability. It does not also last long. But, if you’re just planning to go on a day hike then consider this a great alternative. 

Choose the right waterproofing treatment. When choosing a treatment, make sure to read the labels carefully. There are treatments designed specifically for fabric, leather, nubuck, and suede boots. Also, check your boots’ care instructions. Some discourage the use of wax-, oil-, and grease-based treatments because of its negative effects on the shoe’s breathability.

Clean your boots thoroughly. To ensure full coverage, your boots should be dirt- and muck-free. That’s why it’s ideal to apply the treatment after cleaning the boots. 

Prior to cleaning, remove the laces. You can use a soft brush and cleaner to scrub off the mud and dirt. Ensure to clean every nook and cranny including the folds of the tongue. After that, rinse well.  

Read and follow the waterproofing product’s application instructions. Some treatments will ask you to apply the treatment when the boots are dry. Others will require the boots to be fully soaked in water. To ensure a successful waterproofing treatment, following the instructions is a must.

Dry the boots in a well-ventilated area. Leave your boots to dry in an airy area with low humidity. For quick drying, you can use a fan or stuff old newspapers into the boots. Don’t forget to replace the wet paper inside with dry ones. 

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Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran 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 analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.