3 Best Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Jovana Subic
Jovana Subic on
3 Best Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Shoes
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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 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 tonnes 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 analysed 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

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 calliper 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
  • Stabilising
  • Incredibly supportive
  • Propelling

Cons

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

Yes, they really exist: lightweight waterproof hiking shoes

If you’re here, you’re into something very specific. First, not any hiking shoes but waterproof. Second, not just waterproof but also lightweight. What does it mean?

merrell-moab-speed-gtx-goretex2.JPG

It means that these shoes are: 

  • Waterproof, obviously
  • Lightweight, which means they are great for speed hiking and not just day hiking. It also means that they can make your feet feel less tired because they don’t feel bottom-heavy

In our database, we consider hiking shoes lightweight when they weigh less than 14.1oz or 400g. With that in mind, here are the best-rated waterproof lightweight hiking shoes: 

To get a clear picture why this group of shoes is so specific, let’s look at the average weights of other groups (at the moment of writing this review, March 2024): 

  • Average weight of all hiking shoes: 13.3 oz | 377.6g
  • Average weight of lightweight hiking shoes: 11.7 oz | 332.7g
  • Average weight of all waterproof hiking shoes: 14.3 oz | 406.9g
  • Average weight of lightweight waterproof hiking shoes: 12.8 oz | 362.8g

Why you should trust us with these measurements? We buy all the shoes in men’s US 9 and weigh them on the same scale. 

Measuring the weight of different hiking shoes on a scale in RunRepeat lab

Measuring the weight of hiking shoes in RunRepeat lab

We also thoroughly test the shoes on our test hikes which involve puddles, rain, wet ground, and streams. 

Basically, everything that is needed to properly test a waterproof hiking shoe. 

Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX lab test

Waterproof hiking shoe cut in half 

How to spot waterproof hiking shoes

The most popular waterproof membrane used in hiking shoes and hiking apparel is Gore-Tex. It’s easy to spot on hiking shoes because the logo is always included on the upper. 

GTX logo on hiking shoes

Gore-Tex logo on hiking shoe uppers

Of course, that’s not the only waterproof material on the market and many brands go on to develop and trademark their own waterproof technologies. Still, it is easy to spot as the shoe name, shoe box, and/or the shoe upper clearly specify it is the waterproof hiking shoe. 

Waterproof membranes logos on hiking shoes

Logos of different waterproof membranes found in hiking footwear

Levels of waterproofness: what you should now

First, it’s important to understand that in the world of waterproof hiking shoes, you should not settle for water-repellent or water-resistant. Here’s what to expect when comparing the 3: 

  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

With that behind us, let’s dive into the different levels of waterproofness. The measure we’re interested in is called hydrostatic head. It is measured in millimetres and it basically tells us how much water (in millimetres) we can pour into the 1’’x1’’ tube that’s placed over a piece of material before any leakage through the material happens. 

Now, it’s easy to understand the specifications that come with waterproof membranes: 

Hydrostatic-head-vs.-weather-conditions.png

Beware: Waterproof means not breathable

Even though the manufacturer of Gore-Tex claims the membrane is breathable, after all the wear tests and lab tests, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not. 

We examine every upper under the microscope. And here’s what non-waterproof uppers look like vs. waterproof ones. Waterproof ones have a very tight structure and fibres are overlapping. Non-waterproof uppers are more loose and, even when they don’t have literal ventilation holes, the air passes through.

Breathable vs not breathable uppers in hiking shoes

(Up) Uppers on hiking shoes that scored the best on the breathability test (5/5) and (down) uppers that scored the worst (1/5)

Once we've cut the shoe in half, we're able to examine everything in great detail. Here, it's easy to see the Gore-Tex fabric (white one) that is usually laminated to the "main" upper material (leather, suede, mesh):

In our lab, we also have a smoke machine that we use to pump the smoke into the shoe and analyse where the smoke comes out and at which pace. Based on what we see, we assign a rating of 1-5 for breathability to each shoe. 1 for the least breathable, 5 for the most breathable. 

Sometimes, some smoke is able to pass through and then we’re able to rate the shoe with ⅖ for breathability. 

Nail the grip you need for the hike

Waterproof hiking shoes are needed for hiking in wet weather. That means that the surface gets slippery.

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

Here, we differentiate: 

  • Hard slippery surfaces, like rocks. We recommend around-the-average lugs here (~4 mm) and softer rubber. While it wears down sooner, especially when used on hard surfaces, it is usually stickier which is an imperative on wet slick surfaces.
  • Soft wet surfaces, like slush, mud, snow. In this case, we recommend lugs that are at least 4 mm deep. Mud is a rather specific case where we recommend one more feature: lugs that are further apart from each other. This allows easier mud shedding. 

When it comes to the grip, in our lab we perform 2 measurements. First, we measure the thickness of the lugs. We use a digital calliper to do this. 

Thickness of lugs measurements in hiking shoes

Using a digital calliper to measure the depth of the lugs in hiking shoes

Then, we use a shore C durometer to measure the hardness of the outsole rubber. The result is always a number on a 0-100 scale and higher numbers mean harder rubber. Lower numbers, softer outsoles. 

merrell-moab-speed-gtx-durometer-outsole.JPG

Outsole hardness measurement: using a HC durometer 

Equipped with these nuances, you can now have a look at lightweight waterproof hiking shoes that have deep lugs and softer outsoles. 

Gusseted tongue: what is it and why you should look for it

Tongues can be free (not attached to the sides of the shoe), semi-free (semi-gusseted, attached to 1 side) and fully gusseted. Fully gusseted tongue is attached to both sides of the shoe, on the inside, just below the eyelets. 

hoka-anacapa-low-gtx-gusset.JPG

Fully gusseted tongue on a hiking shoe

Different gussets in running shoes 1) fully gusseted 2) semi-gusseted 3) not gusseted (free)

This type of tongue is the only one that helps keep water out because there’s that extra connection and material between the tongue and the sides. That’s why we always note down what type of tongue each hiking shoe has and you can find that in our reviews. 

Water CAN still get inside your shoes

While the waterproof membranes are great at keeping the water outside, it still can end up in your shoes when: 

  • The water slides down your legs or trousers directly into your shoes
  • You step into the water that is deeper than your shoes can protect you 

When this happens, due to the non-breathability of waterproof shoes, there’s almost no way for the shoes and your feet and socks to dry out on their own as you hike further. That can happen only if the rain has stopped and you have very breathable shoes (mesh upper). 

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

To prevent this from happening, consider getting waterproof (usually GTX) knee-high gaiters. They are great at keeping the water outside and it also means you get to wash them from the mud and dirt and not your trousers and socks as well. 

Durability of lightweight waterproof hiking shoes

Lightweight hiking shoes are usually associated with less rugged and, therefore, less durable hiking shoes. When it comes to waterproofing, it’s really important to have the upper that lasts and is not easily ripped apart. 

When doing tests in our shoe lab, we test the durability of 3 shoe parts: toebox, outsole, and heel counter. 

When testing the durability of the upper, we press our Dremel on the toebox and check the damage it has made. Then, we visually assess it and give it a 1-5 rating, where 1 is the least durable. 

Different upper durability test results in hiking shoes

Hiking shoe that scored 5/5 in toe box durability (the most durable) on the left and a hiking shoe that scored 1 (the least durable) on the right

Then, we move on to the heel counter. Again, we use our Dremel and press it against the inner side. We do this to simulate what happens after a while because, for some hikers, this is the part that wears out the soonest. Again, we rate it on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the most durable. 

Teva Grandview GTX Low Heel padding durability

The damage on the heel counter made on our durability test

Last but not least, we press our Dremel against the outsole. Then, we use a digital tyre tread depth gauge to measure the depth of the dent the Dremel has made. The deeper the dent (more millimetres), the less durable the outsole is. All these tests are standardised, meaning that we always apply the same force and do it in the same time intervals. 

Dent on the outsole Dremel results

Different depths of dents made by our Dremel when testing the durability of the outsole

Stability is a priority in wet weather!

Stable hiking shoes tend to have a wide base. This means that the midsole is wider than the upper. Such hiking shoe construction allows for a secure, planted feel, which is a must in slippery terrain. High, narrow bases that make us feel wobbly in them are a no-go. 

When it comes to lateral stability, we always test this when hiking and comment on it in our reviews. 

Measuring the width of the base is something we do in our lab. With a calliper, we measure both the forefoot width and the heel width of the base of the hiking shoe. The wider the base, the more stable the shoe feels. 

Width of the midsole measurement

Using a digital calliper to measure the forefoot width and the heel width of the hiking shoe base (midsole)

Here, we prioritise the width at the heel because it is where we first land while hiking (unlike running, where runners who land on the forefoot would prioritise that part of the shoe). 

How to make sure that your hiking shoe fits right

This section usually comes at the top of the guide but when things get as specific as a) lightweight b) waterproof hiking shoes, you might already be very familiar with finding the right fit in hiking shoes. 

Just in case, here’s a reminder on how to go about it: 

  1. Best to go shoe shopping in the afternoon or in the evening. It’s when our feet swell a bit, and swelling happens on the hikes as well, so best to match that condition. 
  2. Try the new hiking shoes in the hiking socks you usually use. The same goes for orthotics. Don’t forget to bring them with you. 
  3. Once the shoe is on and laced up, sense if there are any hot spots. We’re aiming for the perfect fit, and hikers love being able to stuff a thumb behind the back of the heel. 
  4. Walk up and down the ramp. Most specialised outdoor shops have it. They can also be covered with different materials: artificial grass, huge rocks, etc. Test the shoes on them all. There should be no foot sliding inside the shoes or heel slipping. 

And finally, keep in mind that some hiking shoes need to be broken in. Do it gradually. 

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.