Lightweight waterproof hiking boots are your gateway to enjoying that next adventure. The expertise of various brands in creating outdoor footwear will surely take you to more miles that you will enjoy. The current trend is moving away from bulky gear and going toward light and nimble boots. This innovation pushed outdoor brands to develop hiking boots that are both waterproof and lightweight.
The science behind lightweight waterproof hiking boots
Creating watertight hiking boots that are lightweight requires a formula that will benefit users at most. The increasing demand for this type of footwear impelled shoe manufacturers to continuously improve and create innovations that work best with the human anatomy, for an enhanced outdoor experience.
Use of lightweight materials
Nowadays, numerous brands create lightweight yet durable boots. These new offerings are their response to the growing needs of hikers, on and off the trail. Hiking or backpacking boots that are lightweight yet supportive enough are becoming more popular. So, how do manufacturers do it?
Upper. The part of your boot that shields your foot against harsh outdoor obstacles is the upper. Knowing the type of material used in the exterior will help you understand its performance.
To keep a boot lightweight, brand’s engineers often use synthetic and mesh for its upper. A combination of these materials is quite common too. Hiking boots with a leather upper, on the other hand, usually includes mesh vents to cut off weight. This design also enhances its flexibility. Plenty of boots also come with toe caps which are either synthetic or leather to amplify its durability and protection.
Midsole. The element responsible for underfoot cushioning and rebound is the midsole. It absorbs shock from ground impacts, provides an extra layer of protection against sharp rocks and cushions each step for comfort. Depending on the boot’s style and use, manufacturers use varying foam thicknesses and technologies.
Two of the most common materials used for the midsole are EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) and PU (polyurethane). The former boasts of lightness, and the latter renders long-lasting cushioning.
Working together with the midsole is the boot’s support system. A few models come with a nylon shank, a lightweight yet sturdy piece which stabilizes each step. Some brands come up with their own system—Salomon, for example, developed their proprietary Advanced Chassis—which boosts users performance in every outdoor experience.
Outsole. Connecting you to the ground is the outsole. This material often has the heftiest weight among the features incorporated into your boots. However, with the desire to develop lightweight hiking boots, a lot of footwear brands develop their outsoles to ensure reliable performance. Others have partnered with Vibram, a popular Italian company, to create exclusive soles using different outdoor compounds and innovative lug geometry.
Incorporation of waterproofing technologies
You may be wondering, “Are there really lightweight waterproof boots?” It is a known fact that adding an extra layer of membrane adds up to the boot’s overall weight. However, companies have strived to create and develop membranes that would not weigh the user’s foot down. Here are some of the known waterproofing technologies:
Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is the most popular waterproofing brand that is used not only in footwear but also in apparel and other industries. Its membrane uses billions of microscopic pores that allow the shoe to breathe and prevent water intrusion. Manufacturers who partner with Gore-Tex are subjected to the stringent company regulations to ensure that the quality of their products is maintained. The Gore-Tex Surround technology is just one of their innovations that boasts of lightness, waterproofing, and breathability. They also offer insulated linings as well as ones that have optimized breathability.
M Select Dry. M Select Dry is a technology owned by Merrell which is often incorporated into their boots. It is designed to keep you dry and to wick away moisture from your foot. It is a waterproof-slash-breathable feature that will enable you to perform comfortably in harsh outdoor conditions and everyday use.
Keen.Dry. To expand the audience of their footwear, Keen has developed their own waterproofing technology, the Keen.Dry. It includes a watertight layer while ensuring that it remains breathable. A key feature that sets it apart from other water-impermeable barriers is the antimicrobial treatment. It is treated with Cleansport NXT odor control.
eVent. It is a fabric used in many outdoor garments. This technology is designed to “let the sweat out,” hence it’s called the dry system. The membrane uses a Direct Venting mechanism which provides a higher level of breathability and are quicker to dry than other available products.
OutDry. If you are familiar with Columbia products, you may have already encountered the OutDry technology. What makes it different from the waterproofing features mentioned is that it is a one-piece patented construction method that creates a watertight barrier. This impenetrable layer is heat-bonded directly to the fabric leaving no seams, eliminating the need for seam-sealing operations.
Qualities to look for in a pair of lightweight waterproof hiking boots
Since you are looking for a pair of lightweight waterproof hiking boots, it would be wise to know the waterproofing technologies available and how outdoorsy people react to them. If you are interested in Gore-Tex-lined boots, you may want to know the different variants they offer and the science behind them.
When you are on the hunt for a new pair of outdoor boots, you will see a lot of models and brands offering breathable footwear. This factor is subjective and if you have a particular brand in mind, do not hesitate to try it out. You may look for non-leather boots that include breathable mesh vents and linings.
The materials used in your boots make all the difference in their weight. Do they have a mesh upper? Do you need leather hiking boots? Are the lugs on the outsole rugged enough for your next adventure? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself before getting yourself a pair.
There are a lot of brands offering a sneaker-like feel but with the sturdiness of a backpacking boot. You should not sacrifice support when you go for lightweight and waterproof footwear. Try the boot on; observe the ankle support. Also, check if it has enough underfoot support.
Leather boots are often regarded as the most durable type of footwear. However, if you don’t like their extra weight, going for a mesh and synthetic or part leather, part mesh upper is your way to go. Scrutinize the overlays, check the heel and toe caps, feel the mudguard. These are some of the features that help enhance your boot’s defense against the rugged outdoors.
Lightweight waterproof hiking boots often employ not-so-aggressive outsoles. Nevertheless, footwear companies are now developing soles that offer optimal ground adherence through the compounds used and placement of the lugs. Go for a pair of boots that won’t let you slip whichever direction you go.
Fit and comfort
These two factors often go together as ill-fitting boots surely won’t be able to give you a comfortable ride. When you order online, make sure to visit your local retailer to get a feel of them first. Loose boots will result in slippage, heightening the chance of developing blisters. Very tight boots, on the other hand, may cause extreme fatigue and stress to your foot.
A common characteristic found in lightweight waterproof hiking boots is its flexibility. Due to the materials used, it does not hinder movement, enhancing your ankle’s range of motion. Underfoot, lightweight units offer an amount of flex for a smoother ride.
Some of the best lightweight waterproof hiking boots for men and women
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
This mid-top version of the sought-after Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX hiking shoe, is one of the best lightweight waterproof hiking boots. Its upper combines PU-coated leather, softshell and textile which shave off a lot of weight. With a Gore-Tex laminate and Contagrip outsole, hiker’s performance on and off the trails is optimized.
Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid
Weighing at less than 500 g per shoe, the Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid owes its protective build to its part leather, part breathable mesh upper. It employs Keen.Dry for waterproofing. Cushioning and traction come from a compression-molded EVA midsole and All Terrain rubber outsole, respectively.
Adidas Terrex Swift R2 Mid GTX
The mid-height variant of the well-liked Adidas men’s and women’s Terrex Swift R2 GTX is a boot designed for outdoor lovers who want to go fast and light on the trails. The ripstop fabric used in its upper yields a hardwearing outer while the Gore-Tex membrane takes care of weather protection. Its combi-lacing system maximizes fit customization. The Adidas-owned Traxion outsole makes it bite into most types of terrain.
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof
This Columbia product has an upper made of a combination of suede, mesh and PU-coated leather. It has a waterproof seam-sealed construction which will protect your foot from getting wet. An EVA midsole grants lightweight cushioning and the brand-owned Omni-Grip outsole yields ground adherence.
15 best lightweight waterproof hiking boots
Merrell Ontario Mid Waterproof
Under Armour Verge 2.0 Mid GTX
Merrell Ontario 85 Mid Waterproof
Salomon OUTline Mid GTX
Columbia SH/FT Outdry Mid
La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof
Danner Explorer 650
Merrell Zion Mid Waterproof
Merrell Moab FST 2 Mid Waterproof
Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Adidas Terrex Swift R2 Mid GTX
Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX
Vasque Breeze LT 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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