If you’re looking for a fun, great way to get active, then there’s nothing better than a good hike. Hiking is a great way to spend time in nature, do a little exploring and burn some calories. However, if you’re planning on hiking during the rainy season, then you need to wear the best waterproof hiking boots, which will help keep your feet warm and dry, allowing you to stay out longer and reach those fitness goals. Finding the right hiking boots can be somewhat of a challenge, since there are so many types and styles to choose from. Because of this, I’ve put together this in-depth buyer’s guide that explores all the important features to look for in your next pair of hiking boots, which styles will work the best based on your hiking goals and terrain type, and which pairs are currently crushing the competition. I’ve tested out many of the leading styles, narrowing it down to eight pairs that will meet the needs of the amateur hiker and the serious long-distance hiker alike. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes every model, their best features, and their rating.
Waterproof Hiking Boots Comparison Chart
Timberland Men’s White Ledge Hiking Boots
These best-selling hiking boots by Timberland are made out of one hundred percent leather and feature a thick rubber sole with a heavy tread for improved traction. The leather uppers are completely waterproof. For added protection, the seams also have waterproof protection. For secure and faster lacing, the boots are equipped with speed lace hardware that’s fully rustproof. Additionally, there are also hooks placed at the top of the boot, for more secure lacing. These boots are definitely trail-ready and come loaded with all the features you need in a boot that will keep your feet warm and dry in wet weather conditions. However, these boots struggle when it comes to breathability, due to the leather and waterproof seams. This makes the boots a poor choice for hotter temperatures and humid conditions.
- Made out of 100% leather
- Waterproof seams
- Padded collar
- Speed lace hardware
- Thick rubber sole
- Dual density removable footbed
- Not recommended for humid conditions or hotter temperatures
These Timberlands are comfortable, feature a wide footbed and are made out of durable rubber and one hundred percent leather. The waterproof seams combined with the waterproof uppers will allow you to easily navigate wet terrain, cross a shallow stream, and handle rainy conditions, while your feet remain nice and dry. The lack of breathability is the biggest drawback, however, for people who live in rainy parts of the country and those who are used to harsh winter conditions, these boots will be a total lifesaver.
Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus Ii Hiking Boot
The Newton Ridge Plus li is a popular pair of men’s hiking boots that earned high marks for comfort and durability. These boots are made out of one hundred percent suede leather and feature a synthetic sole and a shaft that measures in at four and a half inches from the arch. These boots offer the type of lightweight design that helps to minimize wearer fatigue. Additionally, the high-traction grip outsole allows the wearer to tackle even the most challenging terrain, even in wet weather conditions. The suede is completely waterproof, so the feet will remain warm and dry when crossing a shallow stream or hiking during a downpour. The lace-up closure system makes putting these boots on and taking them off fast and easy, while allowing the wearer to achieve a tight secure fit.
- 100% suede leather
- Synthetic sole
- High-traction grip outsole
- Not breathable
The boots come with metal hardware and a waterproof seam sealed design that improves the boot’s durability and wearer comfort. These boots can easily handle puddles, mud, rain, and more. The multi-terrain traction system consists of a specially formulated tread design that improves the wearer’s footing on challenging terrain such as snow and ice. These are essentially all-terrain boots, but because of their waterproof level, you may find that they’re not very breathable and can cause the feet to sweat in humid conditions and in hotter weather. For the fall, spring, and winter months, these boots will be invaluable, but for warmer climates, you’ll find that you’ll need to opt for boots that offer better airflow.
Foxelli Men’s Hiking Boots
These suede hiking boots are completely waterproof and earned a high breathability rating, thanks to the mesh panel inserts. These boots feature a waterproof membrane that seals out moisture and keeps the feet warm and dry, even in harsh weather conditions. The gusseted tongue and breathable mesh collar provide the type of airflow you need to prevent sweating. The boots themselves are lightweight and heavily padded, with a thicker tongue and collar that provides superior cushioning around the ankle region. The removable insoles are made out of a soft foam that provides quality protection and relief for the feet and ankles at all times. The midsoles have shock absorbing power, which is essential for hikers who normally travel over challenging terrain.
- Heavily padded
- Long break-in period
These hiking boots offer excellent durability and support. They’re designed to handle any type of terrain you may encounter and offer top of the line stability. The lightweight design is meant to minimize wearer fatigue, for longer hikes without foot and ankle soreness. Their breathability is a huge plus, since many pairs of waterproof hiking boots scored low in the breathability area. This makes these boots very versatile and allows you to wear them in a variety of temperatures, terrain types, and weather conditions.
Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Boot
This pair of waterproof boots are made out of a combination of suede, full grain leather, and mesh. The shoes come equipped with a protective rubber toe cap and a contoured EVA footbed, for ultimate comfort and durability, the closed-cell tongue is made out of thick foam and designed to keep both debris and moisture out. The air cushion in the heel will add stability, while absorbing shock. While waterproof, these boots are also breathable, thanks to the mesh lining found throughout the design.
- Provides excellent traction
- Boots run half a size small
These versatile, durable waterproof boots can handle daily wear, wet terrain, and both low and high temperatures. The boots are designed to keep the wearer’s feet nice and warm, provide ultimate traction on snow, ice, wet grass, mud, and rocky trails, and will keep the feet comfortable and supported.
KEEN Men’s Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Boot
These hiking boots by Keen are made out of 100% nubuck leather and have a shaft that measures 2.5-inches from the arch, with a heel that’s measures in at 1.5-inches. The boots come with a waterproof membrane that’s breathable and designed to keep the feet comfortable and dry. The leather has been treated with a special PFC-water repellent, which is a much safer option than the standard harsh waterproof chemicals normally used. In terms of traction, the thick rubber outsole delivers a superior grip in all types of environments. The soles are also non-marking and will not leave scuff marks on floors. The external support shank, combined with the mid-cut design of the boots will add much-needed ankle support and improved balance.
- Made out of 100% nubuck leather
- Boots run half a size small
These hiking boots feature a low-profile upper that promotes wearer comfort, a durable, breathable design, and excellent waterproofing thanks to the waterproof membrane and the protective coating. The design of the boots naturally molds to the contours of the wearer’s foot, while providing excellent arch support. While these boots can easily handle rugged terrain, their higher level of comfort and support also make them an excellent choice for daily use.
NORTIV 8 Men’s Hiking Winter Snow Boots
These suede and rubber hiking boots are waterproof and perfect for winter use. The boot opening measures in at thirteen inches, making it easy to get in and out of the boots quickly. The outsole is made out of thick rubber, complete with multi-directional lugs that are designed to provide superior traction on a variety of terrain types. The waterproof shell bottom and the Thermolite insulation will keep the wearer warm and dry, in temperatures as low as -25-degrees. The EVA footbed is supportive and heavily cushioned, allowing you to wear the boots all day long in total comfort.
- Thermolite insulation
- EVA footbed
- Multi-directional lugs
- Thick tongue makes the boots difficult to lace up
These winter waterproof boots are perfect for a variety of terrain types, but because of their high level of insulation, they should not be used in warmer weather. The boots themselves are comfortable, supportive, and designed to handle freezing temperatures and wet terrain, easily.
Mishansha Winter Hiking Boots
These faux leather and faux fur waterproof boots feature a high-top design, complete with an elastic lacing system. On top of the boot, you’ll find a toe cap that has been enhanced with TPR materials, designed to protect the feet from falling debris and dangerous terrain. The interior of the boots is covered with thick faux fur that’s designed to keep the feet warm, even in freezing temperatures. The EVA midsole is flexible and sturdy, as is the anti-skid TPR outsole that provides plenty of cushioned support and is designed to handle plenty of wear and tear that comes with handling rugged terrain. These waterproof boots are a great buy for the hiker on a budget and are comfortable enough to wear daily, during the winter months when the feet need more protection from the elements.
- Faux fur and faux leather
- High-top design for increased support and protection
- Elastic lacing system
- TPR toe cap
- Insoles need an upgrade
These boots are perfect for your everyday winter wear, but they’ll also be invaluable on a long hike through the backcountry, on wet terrain, ice, and snow. These boots are supportive, durable, and can keep the wearers feet dry and toasty, even in freezing temperatures.
Xero Shoes Xcursion Lightweight Hiking Boots
These shoes are made out of synthetic materials and designed with a low-profile look. These boots are fully waterproof, so they can handle heavy downpours, puddles, and wet terrain. The wider than average toe box allows the feet to spread and the toes to relax, promoting all day use. For proper posture, the boots come with a non-elevated heel that’s very low to the ground. The heel design can also help to improve agility and balance. The boots themselves are very light and come equipped with a dual-chevron tread that will improve grip on wet and rugged terrain. The rubber soles have a very flexible design, so the boots will allow the feet to flex, move, and bend the way they are meant to.
- Covered by a 5,000-mile sole warranty
- Dual-chevron tread
- Feel True flexible sole
- Insulation causes feet to sweat
- Boots must be thoroughly dried out or they will hold onto odors
These fully waterproof hiking boots are lightweight, offer a natural fit and won’t hinder you movements as you climb or walk over challenging terrain. The Feel True rubber soles are very flexible. Combined with the dual-chevron tread, these boots provide better than average grip and comfort, in boots that feel more like sneakers.
Waterproof Hiking Boots Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the right boots for your next hiking adventure can depend on seasonal factors and terrain type. Are you planning on hiking on your next vacation? Are you planning on only wearing your boots on well-maintained trails, or long forgotten trails in the backcountry? Rocky ridgelines? Will your path lead you in and out of water? Can you anticipate a hike during a downpour? Your favorite trails may be wet and soggy, or you may need a more rugged tread on the outsole for underfoot protection and improved traction.
This guide will cover all the different features to search for based on where and when you hike, so you’ll be perfectly prepared for your next hiking adventure, wherever it may take you.
Do I Need Waterproof Hiking Boots?
There’s definitely a time and a place for waterproof boots, often in cold, damp weather or any type of terrain that’s snowy or muddy, such as shallow stream crossings or winter hikes. Day trips in wet climates can also call for waterproof boots. You can also wear your waterproof boots in areas that are prone to daily showers or colder places where you know you won’t be working up a sweat. Basically, while non-waterproof footwear tends to excel in climates that are very dry, waterproof boots will perform better in moderate snow and rain.
Are Waterproof Hiking Boots Worth it?
- Waterproof hiking boots usually come equipped with a water-repelling membrane that’s made by Gore-Tex or another company. The membrane is sandwiched between layers of synthetic or leather material. In most cases, you’ll want this type of extra barrier to protect your feet on the trail, however, it’s often a tradeoff for breathability.
- Boots that are waterproof will not breathe as easily as boots with a non-waterproof design. Non-waterproof boots are often made with more breathable mesh liners and ventilated uppers, both of which will allow sweat to escape easily. Imagine you’re wearing a plastic bag during a hike. While the bag will keep the water from seeping it, it’s also going to become noticeably sweaty and damp on the inside. If you plan on hiking all day, in humid hot conditions, then your feet are going to feel the same. However, waterproof membranes made out of Gore Tex are designed to allow moisture to escape and work to ventilate from the inside out. These boots will also work reasonably well in mild and cold temperatures, but you may find that they tend to run hot when the temperature climbs.
- Boots that are waterproof will cost more and weigh more than boots that are not waterproof.
- So, just how effective are these types of hiking boots? Unfortunately, there’s no boot that’s going to be one hundred percent waterproof. Why? Because in order for a boot to provide total waterproofness, the fabric would have to sacrifice all breathability. As an example, those rubber rain boots you wore as a kid kept your feet bone dry as you jumped in puddles, but once you started to sweat, your feet probably became pretty wet anyway because of it, making the boots uncomfortable to wear for long.
- Hiking footwear is more breathable to prevent this; however, this means that it has to sacrifice some of the boot’s waterproofing ability. Basically, hiking boots that are waterproof will do their job in wet weather, for a period of time. However, grime, sand, dirt, and other types of debris can damage the delicate waterproof membrane and compromise its ability to keep the feet dry from the inside and outside. The best way to keep your boots as waterproof as possible is to stay on top of cleaning them, however, that’s not always going to be an option when you’re hiking through the backcountry.
Whether or not waterproof hiking boots are worth it is totally up to the hiker. These boots definitely have their pros and cons, but if you often find yourself in wet conditions, they may just be worth that higher price tag. Now, let’s take a look at the important features these boots have to offer and how to choose a pair that will meet your hiking needs.
Height will be an important consideration when you’re shopping for a new pair of boots. While the waterproof liners will do a great job of keeping wetness out, there’s really nothing to prevent water from coming in over the top of the boots if you’re wading through a stream or creek. Boots that have higher ankles can help, but they will still be vulnerable to splashes in the event you lose your footing.
If your boots get wet unexpectedly, will waterproof boots dry faster compared to non-waterproof boots? Non-waterproof boots use fabric with larger pores that allow air to flow through easier and faster, which will speed up the drying process. Since most waterproof boots allow for minimal airflow, the material is likely to remain in the fabric once it makes its way into the liner. Boots that have been bogged down with moisture will feel heavier and can cause foot irritation such as blisters. In terms of a faster drying time, non-waterproof boots are the clear winner.
Consider how much weight you carry on a long hike. This will help you determine how much support and cushioning you need. If you’re someone who only carries some water, a few snacks, and a spare change of clothes, then you can easily get away with minimal support and cushioning. If you hike for several miles a day on a trip and carry a heavier load, then you’ll need to look for a pair of boots that offer a solid amount of support and a stiffer design.
Hiking Boot Styles
Hiking boots can be split into a couple of categories: high-top and mid-cut. Keep in mind, the higher the cut, the more ankle support, stability, and protection the boots provide when you’re carrying a heavier load. It’s also true that boots that are taller are usually heavier than a pair that reaches the ankle. Heavy-duty boots begin transitioning into more technical mountaineering and trekking territory, as well as winter applications.
The type of material your boots are made out of will have an impact on your boot’s breathability, durability, and weight. Basically, for hiking boots, you’ll have a choice of mesh, synthetic, leather, or some combination.
Boots that are made out of all-leather aren’t as common as they used to be, but you can still find boots that are made entirely out of leather. These boots offer a higher level of durability and will mold to the wearers foot over time, becoming softer as they age. Many hikers find that the soles wear out much faster than the uppers.
Synthetic materials are more commonly used these days. This can include synthetic leather, polyester, and nylon. Synthetics are considered very versatile and dry faster and are much lighter than leather. Boots that are made out of synthetic materials are also very durable and comfortable.
Mesh is very breathable, which is essential in warmer weather. This type of material allows air to move in and out of the boots constantly, which makes them a great choice in hot weather. Boots that are made mainly out of mesh are not quite as durable as boots made out of synthetics or leather. In fact, you’ll commonly find boots made out of a combination of mesh and synthetics, which will make the boots both breathable and durable.
Breathability Versus Waterproof
Of course, when you’re shopping for boots, you have to make the choice between breathability and their waterproof level. Many hikers claim that waterproof hiking boots don’t perform as well in hotter weather. With older, traditional waterproof barriers, moisture had no way to escape from inside the boot, which leads to sweat build-up that makes the boots very uncomfortable to wear for long. Additionally, if water somehow managed to sneak its way inside the boot, it would take a long time for the boots to dry out.
Fortunately, waterproof technology has changed for the better thanks to modern advancements in the types of materials used and the design. Some models will come equipped with waterproof membranes that offer a high level of protection with varying degrees of breathability that are designed to keep the wearer comfortable in a variety of temperatures.
Major strides have been made to create footwear that’s both breathable and waterproof, however, no boot is a jack of all trades and can perform equally well in every situation. You’ll have to choose footwear that offers a balance of features that suit your comfort preferences and needs. If you don’t mind a little water in your shoes and want boots that are quick drying, go with a pair that’s made out of fast drying synthetic materials.
In reality, at some point in your adventure, your feet have a good chance of getting wet. But if you’re planning on heading through the backcountry, then boots that offer more waterproof protection than breathability will be ideal. There will be times when you have to cross shallow or fairly deep creeks and streams, or you may get caught in the occasional downpour. Breathability will be compromised with boots that focus more on waterproofing, so you’ll need to plan on bringing along more pairs of socks and swap them out when your feet become too sweaty.
Water-Repellent Versus Water-Resistant Versus Waterproof
Shopping for waterproof hiking boots can be confusing. Why? Because you’ll come across many different terms including waterproof, water-resistant, and water-repellent. These terms can be used interchangeably at times, but there are differences between these labels. If you’re not sure whether or not the boots you want to buy offer the topmost protection against water seeping into your boots, take a look at what the boots are made out of. Anything that comes with a Gore-Tex membrane will offer the best protection. Any type of in-house waterproof technology can be questionable. Boots that are labeled as water-resistant are usually a step down from boots that are labeled as waterproof. While water-resistant boots can resist a light level of moisture, they can’t handle submersion (think puddles) or hiking in a heavy downpour.
Many boots that are labeled as water-repellent usually only feature a type of surface coating treatment that works to repel light moisture upon impact, but this coating tends to wear off over time and can’t handle tough weather conditions.
The insole of a boot is the piece that rests on the sole of your feet. These are either flexible and soft or more rigid. Some feature better ventilation than others, but most will do a good job of wicking away moisture to keep your socks and feet dry. Most types of insoles are removable, so you can take them out based on preference. You can also take them out for washing or replace them with a set of orthotic inserts for improved comfort.
This portion of the boot is what will determine the flexibility and stiffness of the boot and it’s also where most of the boot’s cushioning comes from. The design of the midsole will often consist of EVA or PU. Some boots will have midsoles that are made out of a combination of the two materials. PU is more desirable since it’s durable and very supportive. Most boots will integrate both materials for a more comfortable and supportive hike.
This is where the boot meets the road. Outsoles are available in a variety of rubber compounds. Softer compounds will offer more flex but they also tend to wear out faster, while a harder outsole will be more durable and rigid. Rubber that’s sticky can easily grip rock and there are even some types of rubber that do a better job of gripping cold ground. The sole pattern of the boot will have lugs that face a variety of directions, all of which are designed to help the wearer grip as they walk.
Shanks are a layer of metal or plastic that’s placed between the outsole and midsole and it protects the bottom of the wearer’s feet. Shanks can extend half the sole or some may extend the full length. Boots are made stiffer the longer the shank.
Boots that don’t fit right can result in injury or discomfort, so it’s crucial that you choose the right size of boot.
What you wear on your feet during a hike can make or break the experience. Boots can compromise or enhance your hiking performance. The boots you choose should not fit too tight or loose. Instead, they should fit snug.
How comfortable a pair of hiking boots are can depend on the fit, however, the shoes must also have ample padding and the right shape. To find the right boots, I’ve compiled a list of the important principles of boot ergonomics.
Padding on the tongue should be ample, but the padding should be stiff to prevent the boots from feeling too tight. The stiffer the sole of the boots, the more padding the tongue should have to counteract the torque of a rigid sole. Unfortunately, many lower priced boots tend to skimp on tongue padding, which can make the boots uncomfortable to wear for uphill and downhill hikes.
Internal ankle padding is critical for the hiker’s comfort since the ankle lacks padding in terms of fatty layers and it folds and flexes thousands of times a day. Search for a boot that offers a secure fit around the ankle and heel to eliminate excess movement and look for thick padding on each side of the joint to reduce chafing.
Most blisters will occur on or around the heel because of boots that are not properly broken in. Blisters can also develop because of the stiffness of the leather, before the material has had a chance to soften.
Choosing Boots Based on Terrain Type
Choose your boots based on the type of terrain you’ll hike and the load you expect to carry. Since added pounds and ounces on your feet can take their toil in terms of energy, opt for the lightest boots possible.
When you’re hiking on a well-maintained trail, go for mid-cut hiking boots. These boots often offer a great combination of leather and synthetics and a waterproof liner. Shoes made for this type of trail hiking often have stiffer soles and offer a higher level of stability, in addition to better traction compared to basic walking or running shoes. However, if you’re planning on hiking over rocky terrain, you’ll want to avoid this style of hiking boot.
If aggressive day hiking is your thing, then you’ll want to go with high-top hiking boots. Choose a pair made out of leather or synthetics, or split-grain leather. Some models will come with breathable waterproof liners, while others may be too porous. Look for tapered plastic midsoles and half-length shanks.
If you’re hiking off-trail through the backcountry, then you’ll appreciate boots that are above the ankle, and offer a rigid sole for top of the line stability. The big drawback for these highly durable boots is their lengthy break in time, which requires the heel and sole cups to soften up a little. These boots should offer superior waterproofing and top of the line durability and should be made out of all leather with minimal seams.
Boots designed for mountaineering will feature excellent traction, full-grain leather uppers, fewer seams, and good insulation. The boots will rise above the ankles. They will also come equipped with stiff nylon midsoles and full-length shanks. These boots are often too rigid for full-stride hiking.
Common Boot Problems
- Even if you’ve found the perfect pair of boots, at some point, you’re likely to experience some discomfort. If the fit of the boots is great overall, but there’s too much interior volume can be a problem, especially if the wearer has narrow feet. This will cause them to compensate by cinching the laces too tightly. This can result in painful pressure that can cause numbness on the instep. To fix this issue, you can purchase felt pads with adhesive backing and attach them on the inside of the tongue. This will allow the foot to be positioned more comfortably and provides more cushion to the instep.
- When you’re breaking in all-leather heavy-duty boots, once the soles finally begin to flex, the stiff leather uppers will crease and can cut into the toes. This is common during the break in period. To prevent this, wear the boots on as many short strolls and hikes around the home and neighborhood as possible, before you wear them on a long hiking trip.
- Tender soles are another common problem and one that usually occurs when you combine traveling several miles a day with a heavy pack. The balls of the feet will take the brunt of the load. This is caused by the pressure of thousands of steps on a hard surface, combined with insufficient insole padding. The situation becomes severe when the nerve that runs the length of the sole becomes enlarged, causing a burning or tingling sensation in the toes. Most boots lack sufficient sole padding. So, what’s the solution? Fortunately, you can find a wide variety of replacement insoles available. These insoles offer different thicknesses to choose from.
- Blisters can take down even the most experienced hiker, especially during the rainy season when the feet soften. Blisters are basically the body’s natural response to friction. Blisters found on the heel indicate that the heel cup is too wide, while blisters on the top of the toes indicate that the boots are too long, causing the boots to flex in front of the foot’s natural flex point at the ball. If you continue to experience blisters even after a reasonable break in period and you’re wearing socks that don’t have coarse weaves or bulky toe seams, and you’ve worn thin liners made out of polypropylene under your synthetic or wool socks in order to minimize friction, then you may need to purchase a footbed to replace the boot’s original insole. Footbeds will support the feet in a neutral position preventing it from collapsing and contorting inside the boot.
- If you have chronic blisters, then you may need custom orthotics which you can get a prescription for from a podiatrist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should Hiking Boots be Waterproof?
Whether you’re dealing with light showers or a downpour, waterproof boots can keep your feet comfortable and dry. This will be very important, especially if your hike takes place during the winter months since frostbite can be a serious concern. Additionally, wet feet can be a recipe for severe blisters.
Are Hiking Shoes or Boots Better?
Hiking shoes are more flexible and softer compared to hiking boots. They also aren’t as tricky to fit and you won’t have to deal with a breaking in period. However, they’re not suitable for wet conditions and don’t offer the same level of durability or cushioning from tough terrain.
How Long Should Hiking Boots Last?
A top of the line pair of hiking boots can easily last five hundred up to one thousand miles. However, the total mileage a pair of boots can handle will depend on other factors such as weather conditions and terrain type.
How do You Know When to Replace Hiking Boots?
Some boot manufacturers recommend that people replace their boots every three to six months. Some recommend replacing the boots after three hundred to five hundred miles. This milestone may be more accurate, depending on the type of hiking a person does and the conditions in which they hike.
Can You Wear Hiking Shoes Every Day?
Hiking boots are designed to handle almost all types of weather conditions. When a person wears these boots, they often feel like they can walk all day in them. Depending on how comfortable the boots are, it’s totally possible to wear hiking boots on a daily basis and can be a better option than high heeled shoes, dress shoes, or another type of shoe or boot that doesn’t provide adequate support.
When you’re shopping for the best waterproof hiking boots, consider the type of climate and terrain you’ll be hiking in. If you’re heading into extreme conditions such as a river-ridden environment, winter hiking, or a hot dry desert, then boots that offer this type of protection are a must. In the end, the decision concerning the level of protection needed is often a matter of personal preference. If you’re new to hiking and have a big trip coming up, doing research on where you’re headed and talking to your hiking buddies can give you a better idea of what level of protection you need and what you can expect in terms of climate and terrain conditions.