Are Gore-Tex hiking boots really waterproof? This is a question that many outdoor enthusiasts have asked themselves, especially when they are on the hunt for a new pair of outdoor footwear. It is also the same question that experts have tried to prove and debunk at the same time.
A Gore-Tex liner and how it is made
Many people associate breathable or waterproof hiking boots with Gore-Tex. It is, however, a membrane which many outdoor brands have incorporated in their products. It is owned by W.L. Gore Corporation. Their engineers ensure that performance standards of Gore-Tex are always maintained. They have a strict set of rules and require a factory certification for every company that will carry their brand.
The Gore-Tex membrane has more than 1.4 billion microscopic pores per square centimeter. These holes are 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet and 700 times bigger than an evaporated water molecule. This membrane is laminated to high-performance nylon and polyester face fabrics. The latter is coated with Durable Water Repellent or DWR finish to prevent it from absorbing water. The layers combined into one unit is called a Gore-Tex laminate.
Benefits of Gore-Tex hiking boots for men and women
When you go out for a hike, you are never sure of what’s waiting for you on the trails. You may have started with the sun shining brightly, but after a few hours, it is raining heavily. The possibility of you encountering stream crossings or deep puddles is also relatively high. So, what’s with a pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots and why outdoorsy men and women opt to get a pair of it?
Waterproof. It goes without saying that Gore-Tex men’s and women’s hiking boots are waterproof. With their trademarked promise—GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY—you are ready for whatever twists and turns you encounter on the trail. The Gore-Tex membrane’s unique construction is what enables it to perform its job of keeping water out.
Breathable. Thanks to the billions of microscopic cores in the membrane, Gore-Tex hiking boots offer an ample amount of breathability. It does not allow air from the outside to enter, but humidity from inside the boot can escape. This prevents the foot from getting soaked in your own sweat. One of their latest technologies is the Gore-Tex Surround which—as their brand’s designers say—is their most breathable technology to date.
Insulated. Not all Gore-Tex laminate offers a considerable amount of warmth to users. The Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort laminate, for example, is commonly used in winter hiking boots or snow boots as it is optimized to perform in wintry conditions. Some hiking boots carry the Gore-Tex Performance Comfort which only offers modest insulation so users can enjoy an all-season outdoor adventure.
Some types of men's and women's hiking boots that carry Gore-Tex’s technology
Leather hiking boots with Gore-Tex technology
Waterproof leather hiking boots are commonly used for more difficult terrain. Depending on the construction and brand technologies, these heavy-duty hikers might come in a weighty package and require a sufficient break-in time. However, leather hiking boots can also give you the utmost protection and support you need on your hike. If you know how to care and maintain this type of footwear properly, it can last you a lifetime. A popular Gore-Tex hiking boot with a leather upper is the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX.
Gore-Tex-lined lightweight hiking boots
Lightweight hiking boots fill the gap between a sturdy backpacking boot and a featherweight hiking shoe. Many outdoor enthusiasts nowadays prefer this type of footwear as it enables them to log more miles outside without straining their foot. A lot of brands have also come up with models that give a sneaker-like feel yet offers the support of a hiking boot. Most Gore-Tex-lined lightweight hiking boots have an upper that is made of synthetic materials or sometimes, a combo of leather and nylon. Brands are constantly developing their technologies which generally aims to shave off a lot of weight underfoot without sacrificing comfort, support and stability. According to most reviews, Salomon’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX is one of the best lightweight Gore-Tex hiking boots available.
Light hiking boots with Gore-Tex membrane
If you are new to hiking and is not yet fully geared up for an arduous outdoor adventure, a pair of light hiking boots may suit you best. Going on a light hike does not mean wearing flip flops will benefit you the most. Of course, you will still be tackling varying ground conditions, wet trails, and other unexpected obstacles. Wearing hiking boots with a Gore-Tex membrane will help you perform at your best. You will be protected from intrusive trail debris and wet encounters. You will also have the support and stability you need over rugged terrain. The brands Danner and Vasque offer light over-the-ankle boots.
Care and maintenance of your Gore-Tex hiking boots
As you already know, Gore-Tex is a membrane which lines the inside of your hiking boots. So, in terms of caring for the outer (or upper) material, it is best to refer to the instruction of the manufacturer. Faithfully following their guidelines will help extend your boot’s lifespan. Leather boots need constant care if you want to preserve its integrity and look. You can use a soft brush and scrub off debris on the surface. Always dry the boots naturally. Reconditioning is also recommended for this type of footwear.
It is worth knowing that cleaning agents or care products will not damage the Gore-Tex lining. However, Gore-Tex does not recommend using greasy creams, leather oils or any silicone-based products in cleaning your gear. It will not harm the lining, but these materials will hinder breathability. Gore-Tex designers claim that as long as the membrane is intact or not punctured in any way, it will remain waterproof.
Waterproofing Gore-Tex hiking boots
Waterproofing your already watertight hiking boots may seem uncustomary for you. Indeed, your Gore-Tex hiking boots already seal water out; however, most shoes or boots are coated with DWR or Durable Water Repellent finish. Over time and use, this covering tapers off and need reapplication. To fully understand why this step is necessary, its advantages are listed below.
DWR treatment prevents the upper material from absorbing water. Note that the membrane is situated inside the boot, not outside. It helps maintain the performance of the gear regardless of the terrain condition.
It keeps the outer material dry; thus, preventing it from getting waterlogged and becoming heavier.
Reapplying DWR prevents dirt from building up in the upper, preserving its structural integrity. Water will only bead up on its surface and roll down.
Keeping the upper dry prevents moisture from seeping into the fabric, keeping your foot cool and fresh.
The Gore-Tex team recommends using a waterproof treatment spray. It is easy to use; very straightforward and no extra precautions required. They also note that there are a lot of treatment products available and more often than not, they carry the same technology and ingredients.
When waterproof hiking boots are necessary
When getting a new pair of hiking boots, there are a lot of things to consider. One of the most important factors to gauge is if you really need one. Ultimately, determining if you need a waterproof hiking boot depends on your personal preference and type of outdoor adventure.
Trail condition. Always consider the type of terrain and the weather condition. If your hike mostly involves wet, muddy and shallow stream crossings, maybe a Gore-Tex hiking boot will help you. However, if it is in a dry and arid area, it would be best to prioritize breathability over water protection.
An extra feature incorporated in your boots will always add up to its weight. If you are going to hike for long distances under warm climates, this is certainly not the best option for you. A pair of lightweight hiking boots or multi-sport sandals may benefit you more.
What to look for in a pair of men's and women's Gore-Tex hiking boots
There are a lot of outdoor gear manufacturers that partner with Gore-Tex which develop hiking boots that deliver comfort and protection on the trails. Choosing the best one is a bit grinding.
Check the fit. No matter what brand you are looking at, your Gore-Tex hiking boots should fit you well. It should feel a bit snug but not restrictive that you are not able to move, flex and bend your foot. Always observe if it offers ample room for a comfortable toe splay. Check if it holds your heel securely without limiting your movements. Try different lacing techniques with its closure system. Discern if it gives you a hassle-free fit adjustment or if it is too complicated to use.
Comfort. Comfort does not mean getting the most expensive hiking boot out there. Take time to try and check out the different brands offering Gore-Tex hiking boots. If you are comfortable and your feet feel at home, they may be best for you. Remember, the success of your hike is primarily affected by how comfortable you are with your boots.
15 best Gore-Tex hiking boots
Aku Alterra GTX
Under Armour Verge 2.0 Mid GTX
Zamberlan 996 Vioz GTX
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX
Lowa Tibet GTX
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Vasque Breeze III GTX
Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX
Salomon Quest Prime GTX
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Danner Mountain Light II
Salomon Authentic LTR GTX
Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX
Vasque St. Elias GTX
Paul loves adventure. Over the past 20 years, he has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He’s summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races. He has worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater and hunting guide, gear tester, copywriter, and outfitting specialist at places like The National Outdoor Leadership School, No Barriers USA, and Sierra Trading Post. He has been quoted in NYMag, NBCNews, and Business Insider to name a few.
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