10 Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes in 2021

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
10 Best Waterproof Hiking Shoes in 2021

Some hikes are ruined with even light rain or morning dew. Not to mention rain showers. Your feet get soaked, cold, even blisters appear. That’s where waterproof hiking shoes enter the scene.

To help you get the best shoe on the market, we have tested more than 80 pairs of waterproof hiking shoes. Are you buying one for backpacking, speed hiking, or some moderate day hikes? We’ve got a top pick for each of these categories.

And if you want to learn more about the levels of waterproofing or why Gore-Tex is so popular, scroll to our guide below the top picks.

How we review waterproof hiking shoes 

  • We gathered and read reviews from 234 experts and 25,309 users 
  • We eliminated spam and added more weight to the reviews of proven experts 
  • Thanks to our CoreScore, we’ve created a collection of more than 130 waterproof hiking shoes 
  • This collection can be sorted by popularity, ratings, discounts

Best overall

We can’t say this intensely enough: The X Ultra 4 GTX from Salomon is the real deal!

Wearing this waterproof hiker through puddles and shallow creaks was fun. Not a single drop was let in by the shoe’s GTX-lined upper. We even stood in a flooded section of the trail for about five whole minutes, and nothing—our feet came out completely moisture-free!

Comfort (on day one) was in great supply in the X Ultra 4 GTX in our entire escapade as well. Out of the 100-something climbing shoes we’ve tested, we are through-the-roof positive that this watertight wonder is the absolute best.

There is no competing with its genius of an outsole either. Whether on loam, mud, or loose soil, its Contagrip lugs planted our feet in full force.

“A pair of trail runners” is how we would describe the X Ultra 4 GTX in the lightness category (it’s less than 400 g a shoe).

Its combination of incredible stability and support was also among the highlights of our trail adventures. Gnarly roots and uneven terrain didn’t faze this beast. Indeed, we felt like we were walking on level terrain in the X Ultra 4 GTX. Get one now!

See our full review and facts

Do you hate getting drenched on your hikes? Fight back with the La Sportiva Spire GTX!

At first, we were kinda skeptical about its GTX-lined semi-mesh upper. We shouldn’t have doubted this bad boy, as we didn’t get wet feet through this shallow stream we traipsed through. We used it in the rain for 10 minutes, give or take, and the Spire GTX blocked every drop!

Equally impressive as its no-leak shell is the Spire GTX’s satisfyingly plush interior. We didn’t feel the need to break it in pre-hike; it was mighty comfy right from the get-go. Its fantastic breathability contributed to its overall supply of comfort if we might add.

Similar to our top pick (the X Ultra 4 GTX), the La Sportiva Spire GTX is quite the force of nature in the areas of support and stability, as well. We were particularly floored by how much footing we’ve secured on this extremely rocky part of the trail. Our legs didn’t get tired throughout our journey!

If there’s one criticism we can pin on the Spire GTX, it would have to be its high asking price. Still, if this is available to you and our top pick is not, grab it. You won’t regret it!

See our full review and facts

Best for backpacking

Fantastic! The Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is what we highly recommend for multi-day outings in wet conditions.

On the comfort front, we really have nothing bad to say about this waterproof shoe. We didn’t have time to break this in, but it turned out we didn’t need to—it was amazingly comfy right from the start. Props to its plush-but-supportive midsole, too; we experienced no pain whatsoever after a full day of hiking with a loaded pack!

Now, about its toothy outsole, we can confidently say that the Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite GTX is a force to be reckoned with. Out of the tons of trail kicks we’ve tested, we find this trekking shoe the stickiest, especially on rocky terrain.

The breathable Mountain Trainer Lite GTX also wowed us with its lightness. At no more than 900 g a pair, the shoe made us feel as if we were in some fancy sneakers most of the time.

While not a climbing shoe, the Mountain Trainer Lite GTX helped us ascend low elevations with great confidence. Tiptoeing on it was very convincing, even while our backpacks were fully loaded!

See our full review and facts

The OUTward GTX is something you need to have in your backpacking arsenal.

Its sticking prowess impressed us greatly, especially on moist slopes. We trampled on sandy and rocky terrain, too, and the OUTward GTX gripped its way like a real champ.

We couldn’t find the time to break in this Salomon offering, but we didn’t have to—it was mighty plush on day one. On this front, we have to give its springy midsole major props. It pampered our feet non-stop as if we weren’t carrying a loaded pack!

Now, the Salomon OUTward GTX is very sturdy. Its plush mid-top collar gave us more than enough support and helped us cross rugged terrain safely.

As for its waterproofing, the OUTward GTX kept our tootsies moisture-free throughout our trekking escapades. Its mid-height ankle cuff also held back water valiantly when we had to cross some three-inch-deep creek.

It’s virtually as light as our top pick, too, giving us the boost we needed over level terrain and inclines alike.

As a bonus, the OUTward GTX is about $10 cheaper than our top pick. We just wish it’s just as breathable.

See our full review and facts

Best for speed hiking

If moving fast in wet conditions is what you are after, you can’t go wrong with the Salomon OUTline GTX!

Let’s get lightness out of the way first. At about 700 g a pair, the OUTline GTX felt like a pair of plush sneakers or tennis shoes on our tootsies.

In the area of comfort, the Salomon OUTline GTX pampered our feet practically on day one. Its GTX-lined upper didn’t give us any blisters, whether or not we had socks on. We also didn’t encounter any hotspots in it. Amazing!

Now, how about the OUTline GTX’s waterproofing, you might ask? Exceptional! You see, moisture didn’t get inside the shoe during the entirety of our speedy journey. Through wet grass, we noticed that the droplets just beaded off it. Yup, this speed hiker is watertight.

All its magnificence in waterproofing is fine and all, but let’s not leave out the shoe’s ability to keep stuffiness in check. Indeed, throughout our fast hikes, its interior remained well-ventilated. With that, we can proudly say the OUTline GTX is among the most breathable Gore-Tex kicks out there.

We are confident that you will also be stunned wearing this, so buy a pair quick!

See our full review and facts

Adidas is not alien to speed, and with the Terrex Swift R2 GTX, we were able to complete our trail adventures at record speeds minus the drench.

Lighter than our top pick by a hair, the Terrex Swift R2 GTX gave us the confidence to go further. It’s true—we breezed across moderately rugged terrain quicker than ever in this Adidas hiker.

We want to give credit where credit is due: The Terrex Swift R2 GTX is watertight! Moisture couldn’t invade this bad boy, and striding past several puddles didn’t give us wet feet. Do note, however, that water can still get in if the stream or creek you are planning to traipse through is more than three inches deep!

Comfort-wise, the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX is remarkable, and on day one at that. We used it right away, and the feeling we got in it was like wearing a broken-in pair. The main highlights in this regard are the shoe’s plush heel and no-pinch toe box.

Its midsole could be cushier, but past that, we have no complaints. Go get your own Terrex Swift R2 GTX now!

See our full review and facts

Best comfort

Wow! Merrell has knocked it out of the park once again with the Moab 2 GTX!

Let’s talk about its supply of comfort first and foremost. The Moab 2 GTX is instantly comfortable. The padding, the liner, the conforming fit—they all worked together to pamper our feet on day one. And before we forget, the shoe’s stock footbed contributed greatly to all the plushness present in this hiker!

We love its sturdy leather shell. We got tons of midfoot support out of it. The shoe’s midsole also gave us a secure platform over roots and pointy rocks.

Virtually, the star of the show in the Moab 2 GTX is its Gore-Tex liner. Inside the shoe’s leather-slash-mesh upper, our tootsies stayed dry. We tested this Merrell hiker several times where puddles were aplenty, and not a single drop wound up inside the shoe!

Oh, the Moab 2 GTX’s sole unit made us instant Merrell believers. On it, we felt like we were simply gliding on level terrain with its moderately rockered heel and toe zones.

See our full review and facts

Do you wish to hike confidently and rack up more miles than before? Then gear up with the KEEN Targhee II.

Through mud and muck, the Targhee II stood by us without letting up. Not a single droplet seeped inside it, leaving our pampered feet fresh and moisture-free.

As for comfort, the Targhee II gave us a ton. Its sufficiently padded interior and plush footbed did their job well. That said, we had to spend some time to fully break in this KEEN hiker.

Indestructible is how we would describe the Targhee II (or maybe even tank-like) on the longevity front. After several long hikes, we found only shallow dents and light smudges on its upper. Yes, its leather shell can take a serious beating like a horse!

The KEEN Targhee II also impressed us with its aggressively lugged outsole. On mud and gravel, whether going uphill or downhill, the shoe in question kept our feet planted. We then took it to the city and used it on wet pavement—no slippage at all!

If you are a fan of KEEN and wet conditions drive you nuts, reached out for this!

See our full review and facts

Best budget shoe

Oh, the Columbia Crestwood! What can we say? This hiking shoe, at $80 a pop, is a must-buy!

For its price, the Crestwood is hard to say no to. What we mean is, not a lot of hiking shoes that provide water protection are as affordable as this Columbia offering. Speaking of waterproofing, what it got is great. Its hybrid of an upper kept our feet dry through wet grass and shallow puddles.

Now, when it comes to durability, the Crestwood is nothing to be sneezed at. After making our way across root-filled tracks and rocky sidehills, its upper remained dent-less. We give its leather overlays extra props in this regard!

The Crestwood didn’t fail to amaze us in the comfort department, either. We dare say that it’s the perfect companion on light hikes and a plush substitute for everyday walking sneakers.

Another impressive thing about the Columbia Crestwood is its toe cap. Made of rubber, this tough bumper protected our toes from bumpy hazards (think camouflaged gnarly roots and half-sunk rocks).

As for its grip level, the Crestwood offered much. Its treaded outsole kept us surefooted on well-maintained trails and city pavements alike.

See our full review and facts

A hiking shoe imbued with a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, at no more than $100? Yes!

The budget-priced OUTbound GTX is, without a doubt, among the most affordable Gore-Tex hikers on the market. That said, we are as floored about its asking price as about its waterproofing. Muddy creeks and puddles didn’t deter us—we powered through them without a single seepage.

Speaking of muscling our way across rough terrain, the OUTbound GTX kept our arches supported magnificently. The uneven parts of the trail, at first, made us feel unsure, but the shoe helped us remain on our feet.

At roughly 300 g per shoe, the OUTbound GTX got us going further and with greater agility. Featherweight would be the perfect description for this Salomon bad boy!

As far as comfiness is concerned, the Salomon OUTbound GTX made us happy, BUT not right away. Yes, this hiking shoe requires a break-in period (about a full week of short hikes we’d say). From there, though, pure comfort is yours.

The OUTbound GTX is also quite breathable. We hiked for half a day in the sun, and our tootsies didn’t break a sweat!

See our full review and facts

Features of waterproof hiking shoes 

Waterproof hiking shoes are, as their name suggests, hiking shoes with an additional feature: being waterproof. These features set waterproof shoes apart from the rest: 

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  1. Waterproof. They should keep your feet dry by keeping water on the outer side. This is accomplished by using special fabrics or membranes that guarantee a certain level of waterproofness. You should always look for a “Waterproof” sign or check online for the waterproof levels of the materials used. 
  2. Breathable. Hiking shoes can be both waterproof and breathable. This is not only a good-to-have, but a must. This is possible because completely waterproof hiking shoes don’t exist. If they did, you wouldn’t want to use them because they would not be breathable AT ALL. This feature helps the sweat to leave the shoe, so you can say goodbye to the wet, sweaty feet. 
  3. Waterproof hiking shoes cost and weigh more than the non-waterproof hiking shoes. This is because waterproof technologies are involved. These technologies might add some weight to the shoe, so brands try really hard to make the shoes both waterproof and light as much as possible. It comes with a price, literally. 

On average, waterproof hiking shoes cost $34 more and weigh 39g more than non-waterproof hiking shoes.

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However, if this is your first time shopping for hiking shoes, there are recommended steps to go through, to ensure you’ve found the best possible fit. 

4 things to pay attention to when buying hiking shoes 

If you’re looking for your first hiking shoe, this chapter is for you and it will guide you to the process of finding your perfect fit. Also, if you want to learn more about hiking shoes, we’ve covered them in great detail in our guide on hiking shoes

  • Duration of your hiking trip

Water hiking shoes aren’t made for long multi-day hiking trips with heavy backpacks and demanding terrain. However, you can use them on your short hikes - whether it’s a 200meter creek crossing or canyon-exploring that lasts a whole day. Keep in mind that, the longer the water hike, the better support you need. This means you should look for more stability features and cushioning. 

  • Weight of your backpack

Same rule applies as for the duration of your hiking trip. We bring heavier backpacks on longer hikes. Water hiking shoes aren’t meant to support you in these adventures completely, only up to a degree. That’s why, if possible, change your hiking shoes, use the regular ones while you’re on (dry) land. If you know you’ll be carrying a heavier backpack, look for stability features and cushioning. Read specifications of the midsole and check if they allow for the type of adventure you’ve been planning.

  • Your arch type

Depending on your arch type, your feet might need different stability features. High arches usually ask for neutral shoes, medium arches ask for neutral or stability shoes, and low arches (flat feet) ask for motion control shoes. We’ve covered this in-depth in the next chapter.

  • How the shoe fits

To make sure you choose the good-fitting shoe, follow these steps:
1. Go shopping in the afternoon. Your feet are swollen then, which happens regularly on hikes
2. Try the shoe on and check for pressure points. The shoe should feel snug, but not restricting.
3. Use the ramp and walk up and down. Crossing water is rarely monotonous, usually the terrain is dynamic with a lot of obstacles, ups and downs. Your heel should not rise more than a ¼ of an inch. Your toes should not hit the front of the shoe when going downhill. 

Arch type and stability features 

The type of your arch matters because it offers guidelines for choosing the adequate shoe type. Whether it’s a neutral, stability, or motion control shoe - they all offer different stability features that your feet need when hiking. 

Shoe wear test 

Things you can do: look at your used hiking shoes and compare how the outsoles have been worn with the “Shoe wear” section below. 

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If you’re overpronating, you can look for overpronation hiking shoes. If you’re a neutral pronator or a supinator, browse through the neutral hiking shoes database. 

Wet test 

There is also another way to discover your arch type and it’s called a wet test. 

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You should: wet the sole of your foot (ideally both of them, one at a time), then stand on a piece of paper while allowing the moisture from your feet to sink into the paper, and step off. Look at your footprint and compare it to the ones shown below.  

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If you feel your feet need more attention, consult a podiatrist. They look at your barefoot movement, pronation, tibia rotation, and heel deviation to get the complete picture of your feet. 

Waterproof membrane limits 

When you’re looking for waterproof hiking shoes, you can see which membrane was used to make them waterproof. Every membrane is described with a hydrostatic head, measured in millimeters. It’s a measure of how waterproof a fabric is. Below you can see how the hydrostatic head changes with weather conditions the membrane is made for. 

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What this number actually tells us is how high you can fill a tube with inner dimensions of 1’’x1’’ with water when put over a piece of certain fabric, before water begins to leak through. The higher the number in mm, the more waterproof the fabric. 

Additionally, these fabrics won’t last forever in given conditions. Sometimes it’s minutes before you feel them soaking in, sometimes hours. 

Waterproof, water-repellent, and water-resistant: explanation 

You decided to buy waterproof hiking shoes. This comparison was created for you to completely understand other notes (water-resistant and water-repellent) you might see in shoe specifications. Maybe you even realize water-repellent hiking shoes will do the job for your planned hiking adventures. 

  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

GORE-TEX membrane testing process

The most commonly used membrane in waterproof hiking shoes is, by far, Gore-Tex membrane. Their hiking-shoe testing seems bulletproof. Only shoes that pass all 4 tests are cleared for production. 

1. The walking simulator 

Hiking shoes are placed on realistic foot forms and put in a water bath. There, they need to endure for up to hundreds of hundreds of steps. Shoe passes the test if moisture sensors on the foot form don’t register moisture. 

2. The centrifugal tester 

Waterproof footwear is filled with water and spun at high speeds. This forces water through even the smallest of holes which reveals leaks. Shoe doesn’t pass the test if leaks are discovered.

3. The wicking test 

Materials in the upper must be non-wicking so that water can’t be transported into the shoe or boot over the GORE-TEX lining. Everything is tested: from the leather and foam to stitching and laces. 

4. The comfort test 

This test measures the breathability of the whole hiking shoe construction, from the lining through to the outer material, ensuring that everything works together to deliver climate comfort for all intended activities.

How to clean waterproof hiking shoes 

Always check the label for washing instructions. These are general advice: 

  1. If possible, remove the insole. You can wash it separately. 
  2. Shake out rocks, dirt, debris out of your shoe.  
  3. Wash the exterior of your shoe with lukewarm water and a cloth or brush. 
  4. Let the shoe dry naturally. 
  5. If the shoe got wet on the inside, you can use convection-style boot dryers (if approved by the manufacturer) or place old newspapers inside and change them occasionally. They will soak in the moisture. 
  6. Don’t use spray coatings on your hiking shoes, unless advised by the manufacturer. The market is filled with shoe coatings that come in spray cans and offer a protective water repellent coating on the surface of the shoes. Make sure to consult the manufacturer before using these, because they might make your shoes less breathable. 

Which shoes will always keep my feet dry? 

Even with waterproof hiking shoes, your feet might get wet. You can submerge your shoes into a stream or a river, or rain showers can be so heavy that the waterproof membrane can’t hold the water outside anymore. Additionally, you can also wet your feet when water gets there from the inside: thanks to rain or water sliding down the trouser legs or skin on your legs.

How do I prevent water from entering my shoes?

Gaiters can be a life-saver! The chances of water appearing in your shoe from the inside (rain trickles down your legs) are greater in hiking shoes than hiking boots. That’s why you can buy waterproof gaiters as well - they are lightweight and packable so you won’t feel them in your backpack but will treasure them once they are needed. 

Author
Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic

Whether it's a vertical kilometre or an ultra, climbing in the Alps or exploring local mountains, Jovana uses every opportunity to trade walls and concrete for forests and trails. She logs at least 10h/week on trails, with no off-season, and 4x more on research on running and running shoes. With a background in physics and engineering management, she prefers her running spiced with data.