5 Best Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Shoes in 2024
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 over 50 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.
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When we look at hiking shoes, two of the most critical characteristics we are curious about are the weight of the shoe and the shoes waterproofing. Whenever possible, we try to look for shoes with the best of both worlds.
They are lightweight, prevent foot fatigue, and have some sort of waterproofing (or repellency) to prevent feet from becoming completely soaked. Keep reading if these factors always land at the top of your list also you won’t be disappointed.
What makes hiking shoes lightweight?
Hiking shoes continue to impress us. They seem to get lighter and lighter while still possessing key characteristics such as reliable durability, sticky traction, and cushioning. And in the case of the shoes in this article, waterproofing. All of these contribute to their high-end performance.
Hiking shoe manufacturers like Salomon and Hoka can make lightweight hiking shoes with the help of innovative materials. In the past, leather was the go-to material. It dominated the hiking market. Leather has many attractive qualities, but being lightweight is not one of them.
Nowadays, synthetic materials like nylon, mesh, thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and even kevlar make hiking shoes weigh less without sacrificing function.
Improvements in the insole, midsole, and outsole technologies of hiking shoes have also contributed to the overall weight loss of hiking shoes. For example, modern lightweight hiking shoes use an ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam in the midsole to provide shock absorption with less weight.
Lastly, hiking shoes are more lightweight than before because of their low-cut cuff. The hiking shoes in this article range from 10 ounces to 15 ounces. On the other hand, hiking boots with high-top cuffs can weigh well over 17 ounces.
Advantages of lightweight hiking shoes
There are many advantages to wearing lightweight hiking shoes. The first of which is how they feel on your feet. Lighter shoes decrease foot fatigue because the muscles in your legs and feet don’t have to pick up as much weight every time you make a step. With less weight and fatigue, you can go farther and faster.
Lightweight hiking shoes are also more sensitive and flexible. Greater sensitivity enhances the ground feel you experience on the trail. As a result, you get better feedback from the terrain and can feel all the subtle nuances beneath your feet.
Another advantage of light hiking shoes is their softer cushioning. This is especially critical for bumpy and rocky terrain. In most cases, lightweight hiking shoes rely on EVA foam in the midsole for weight-saving and cushioning.
Waterproof vs. water-resistant vs. water-repellent
As you spend time shopping for lightweight waterproof hiking shoes, we are confident you have run into phrases like “water-resistant” and “water-repellent” along the way. Let’s clear up the differences between these three categories.
Hiking shoes are waterproof when they incorporate an additional membrane on the shoe’s interior. In most cases, shoe manufacturers use Gore-Tex as their fabric of choice. The waterproof membrane is sewn into the shoe like a bootie, preventing water from soaking through the shoe’s upper.
Water-resistant hiking shoes
Water-resistant shoes do not have a waterproof membrane on the shoe’s interior. Therefore, they are not considered waterproof. Instead, water-resistant shoes rely on the natural water-resistant properties of the materials in the shoe’s exterior to repel moisture. Water-resistant shoes can only expel small amounts of moisture, not all moisture.
For example, leather is a naturally water-resistant material. Therefore, leather will keep out water from light rainfall. However, leather will begin to soak in water over time or in a torrential downpour.
Water-repellent hiking shoes
Last is water-repellent. Hiking shoes in this category do not have a waterproof membrane in the shoe’s interior. Instead, water-repellent shoes use a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating on the shoe’s exterior to repel water.
The DWR prevents water from soaking into the shoes. So when water comes into contact with the DWR, it beads up and rolls off the shoe instead of soaking in.
Most waterproof and water-resistant hiking shoes have a DWT treatment on the exterior. However, not all water-repellent shoes are waterproof or use naturally water-resistant materials, hence the need for a DWR.
Lightweight waterproof hiking shoes with Gore-Tex
Gore-Tex is the industry-leading waterproof fabric for waterproof footwear. Not every shoe manufacturer will use Gore-Tex. There are other effective waterproof membranes. However, over the years, waterproof shoes have become synonymous with Gore-Tex.
Despite other waterproof fabrics on the market, Gore-Tex continues to outperform and be a fan favourite.
- Every single square inch of Gore-Tex fabric has 9 billion pores.
- Each pore is 20x smaller than a water droplet, which is why Gore-Tex is waterproof.
- However, the pores in Gore-Tex fabric are also 700x bigger than a water vapour molecule, which is why Gore-Tex is breathable.
After the Gore-tex fabric is chosen to make a hiking shoe, it is bonded with other high-performance textiles to create a laminate. In the case of footwear, the laminate is then used to make a bootie sewn into the shoe. In other contexts, the Gore-Tex laminate is used to make jackets, pants, and gloves.
Gore-Tex laminate inside a shoe
In many days, Gore-Tex is the “perfect” fabric. It prevents water from entering yet is breathable enough to let moisture evaporate from the inside. How could there possibly be any drawbacks? Let us explain.
Drawbacks of Gore-Tex
If you look at Gore-Tex waterproof hiking shoes through a critical lens, you will find some drawbacks. However, we must admit, in most cases, the pros of Gore-tex easily outweigh the cons.
First, Gore-Tex makes hiking shoes heavier. The extra material on the shoe’s interior will increase the shoe's overall weight. For example, the Gore-Tex Salomon Ultra X 4 weighs 13.3 oz (378g). On the other hand, the non-waterproof Ultra X 4 weighs 12.5 oz (355g).
The second drawback of waterproof Gore-Tex waterproof hiking shoes is that they are more expensive. In most cases, the price difference between a Gore-tex waterproof shoe and a non-waterproof shoe is between £20 and £40.
Lastly, waterproof Gore-Tex hiking shoes dry out slower than non-waterproof shoes. This is because the Gore-Tex membrane can trap water inside the shoe if water inundates the interior from spilling over the shoe's cuff.
This is only something to work about in very wet conditions, for example, during a water crossing. However, it is worth mentioning that non-waterproof hiking shoes dry out faster due to the lack of a Gore-Tex membrane.
Gore-Tex is not the only waterproof fabric
Despite Gore-Tex being the industry leader in waterproof technology, they are not the only player. Many hiking shoe manufacturers use other waterproof fabrics in their hiking shoes to attain the industry’s waterproof standard.
For example, Keen footwear utilises the Keen Dry technology to create footwear that repels water while also letting moisture evaporate from the inside.
The ideal scenario for lightweight waterproof hiking shoes
You may disagree with this, but not all hiking shoes need to be waterproof. If you are using waterproof hiking shoes in scenarios when they are not 100% necessary, you may be missing out on wearing hiking shoes better suited for the job.
That’s why investing in waterproof shoes for certain scenarios is important.
Waterproof shoes are perfect for prolonged exposure to cold climates and wet terrain. They are ideal for climates and terrain where moisture from mud, snow, rain, or groundwater is a consistent and unavoidable obstacle.
For example, waterproof hiking shoes are perfect for day-long or multi-day adventures when the forecast looks wet and you predict prolonged exposure to precipitation.
However, if the forecast calls for dry and sunny weather, you may be better off with nonwaterproof shoes. This is because nonwaterproof shoes tend to breathe better. Breathability and ventilation will prevent your feet from overheating.
Nonwaterproof shoes will also dry out quicker. So, for example, nonwaterproof shoes may be better suited for the occasional creek crossing in dry weather because they can dry out faster, whereas Gore-Tex waterproof shoes may trap water inside.
These characteristics are more important for dry weather.
Frequently asked questions
What does GTX stand for?
GTX is the abbreviation for Gore-Tex. When GTX is included in the name or description of the shoe or is on the shoe itself, that signifies that the shoe uses a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and not some other proprietary technology.
Do all waterproof shoes come with a DWR?
Yes, a DWR treatment is always the first line of defence for waterproof shoes. The DWR creates an invisible and impermeable layer on the shoe’s exterior that makes water bead up and roll off instead of soaking into the shoe.
On the other hand, not all water-repellent or water-resistant shoes that use a DWR coating are considered waterproof. To be dubbed waterproof, the shoe must incorporate a waterproof membrane, be it Gore-Tex or a different type of material.
Are waterproof hiking shoes 100% waterproof?
We would like to answer yes to this question. Unfortunately, however, waterproof hiking shoes are not 100% waterproof. The reason is that no hiking shoe, even those with Gore-tex membranes, can prevent water from entering the shoe above the cuff, for example, when you step through deep water or mud.
For extra protection, you can attach gaiters to your shoes. Gaiters are garments that attach to your shoes and protect your lower leg and ankle. You may also consider wearing high-top hiking boots instead of shoes for extra protection in wet terrain.