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Should Hiking Boots Be Waterproof? | Advantages & Disadvantages

One of the most important pieces of hiking gear is your footwear, and this matters a lot in making hiking fun or terrible. This is why choosing the best hiking boots for the trail is crucial.

If you hike a lot, the different types of hiking boots should not be news to you, nor should some of their important features be. When it comes to hiking boots, your concerns should be their functionality, how well they protect you on the trail, and if they fit appropriately.

As long as you check those ones, you are good. On the issue of functionality and protection, some people wonder whether hiking boots should be waterproof or not.

What exactly does it mean when hiking boots are waterproof? Basically, they seal moisture out and prevent your feet from getting wet on the trail. And for the boots to do that, you need to be exposed to moisture.

Now, not all hiking trails have water or moisture on them; therefore, you probably do not need waterproof hiking boots here, right? Well, that is part of the debate about whether hiking boots should be waterproof.

How do hiking boots being waterproof help make hiking better, or why does it matter? Read this article to find out.

Should Hiking Boots Be Waterproof?

man wearing waterproof hiking boots through a puddle

Of course, you need waterproof hiking boots on the trail; therefore, the answer is an easy yes. When a pair of hiking boots are waterproof, they are seam-sealed, leaving no room or opening for water to penetrate into your boots.

This could be rain, shallow water, dew, snow, mud, or anything that could make your feet wet and uncomfortable in your hiking boots. If you have never experienced wet feet on the trail before, then you probably have no idea how that feels.

Wet feet make your socks and boots wet, which makes your feet, socks, and boots smell. It gets worse; you could get some foot problems from there, including blisters, athlete’s foot, fungi or bacteria infection, and others.

These are the reasons hiking boots need to be waterproof. What makes hiking boots waterproof, anyway?

Some factors contribute to the waterproof nature of hiking boots. First, the materials used in making the upper In this case, if the upper material is leather, it can prevent water from getting into the boots.

And it varies. Full-grain leather is more waterproof than other leather types that have been altered, like split-grain, nubuck, or suede. However, you should know that leather is waterproof to an extent.

But the problem is that not all hiking boots have full-grain leather uppers; some are even combined with other materials like mesh or synthetic. That’s not the only thing, and besides, manufacturers wanted to ensure that hikers get maximum protection on the trail.

Then, they used a waterproof lining or membrane in their hiking boots. They place this lining between the uppers and the cushioning in the hiking boots.

The lining is usually a form of waterproofing technology that varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, one common and popular one is the Gore-tex membrane.

a pair of waterproof hiking boots

Many popular hiking boot brands use this waterproof technology to prevent water from penetrating. Brands like Merrell, for example, use their own in-house produced waterproof membrane for their hiking boots.

It does not matter which one you use, but they effectively protect your feet from moisture. Apart from the waterproof lining, manufacturers also use water-repellent products, like DWR, on the uppers to reinforce the material’s barrier.

However, this does not last, but hikers can always make up for it by using a waterproofing spray. The other things that make up for the waterproofness are some of the hiking boots’ designs.

Features like gusseted tongues, tall uppers, and more also help to prevent water from getting into hiking boots. When you have all these in place, you can set out on the hiking trails in your boots.

These waterproof hiking boots are most effective for use on wet terrain, like mud or snow. You can also wear them inside the rain while walking through shallow or ankle-deep water.

They are mostly not necessary during hot weather, summer, or hiking situations where you know you are less likely to encounter water or moisture. However, they are good for unforeseen situations where the weather forecast might be wrong and it rains.

The good thing is that you don’t have to lock your waterproof hiking boots somewhere during the summer because the waterproof technology used in them is breathable as well. Therefore, whichever weather condition you wear them in, you can be sure to keep your feet dry on the trail.

If you have doubted in the past whether hiking boots should be waterproof, you have your answer there. You need them on the trail, and they are not very much different from hiking boots that are not.

Benefits Of Waterproof Hiking Boots

Hiking boots should be waterproof for different reasons. If you have used waterproof hiking boots in the past, you would have experienced some of their many benefits.

The following are the reasons hiking boots should be and why they are waterproof:

  • Keep feet dry

waterproof hiking boots for hiking in garden of the gods

One of the reasons hiking boots should be waterproof is because they keep feet dry on the trail. Hikers should never gamble with ensuring that their feet are dry on the trail because wet feet make hiking a mess.

Moisture on your feet can make you get cold feet, making you numb. And that is not all; you could get blisters, fungi or bacteria infections, smelly feet, or other foot problems.

Waterproof hiking boots ensure that water does not get in to make those things happen. When you are exposed to moisture on the trail, your waterproof hiking boots help to ensure that they don’t get to your feet, so you can keep being comfortable in your boots.

  • Suitable for cold weather

hiking boots maintain foot temperature in Joshua Tree in winter

Hiking boots should be waterproof because they are needed in cold weather. For example, you are more likely to enjoy their waterproof features in the rain, snow, or windy conditions.

The hiking boot membrane is usually windproof, so you can enjoy warmth in your hiking boots. Not only that, you can also wear them during hot weather, especially when they are breathable waterproof hiking boots.

Some people think that you don’t necessarily need to wear waterproof hiking boots during the summer because they make your feet hot.

However, they are not a bad choice for hiking boots. For one, they can protect you in case it rains or you have to walk through water puddles on the terrain. Besides, they are not as hot because they are breathable. Therefore, even if you do happen to sweat, the lining can evaporate the moisture in your boots and keep your feet dry.

However, waterproof hiking boots are mostly suitable for cold weather. In this situation, the important thing is to choose the most suitable waterproof hiking boots for the weather.

You could select lightweight, winter, or summer hiking boots to suit the weather or your needs on the trail. Summer and lightweight hiking boots are best for summer hiking.

  • Good for different terrains

terrain for hiking boots

Waterproof hiking boots are good for adventurous hikers who hike on different terrains. If you don’t hike much or are used to hiking on one terrain all the time, you may not see the need for waterproof hiking boots.

However, that also depends on the weather. But the fact remains that waterproof hiking boots are good for different terrains.

They are most functional for terrain like snow, mud, water puddles, or shallow water. Furthermore, on terrains with underbrush where moisture can hide,

Not only that, hiking boots are good for sand, desert hiking, or hiking on plain or rocky terrain. Even though the waterproof features are not necessary for those terrains, they are not completely useless.

  • Makes hiking boots more durable

durable hiking boots for running on rocky terrain

Hiking boots need to be waterproof so that they can last for a long time. Waterproof hiking boots are easy to clean, so they don’t retain dirt that can ruin the material for a long period of time.

In addition, they avoid mildew stains and odors that can mess with the material.

Why Shouldn’t Hiking Boots Be Waterproof?

Of course, waterproof hiking boots are great on the trail and very beneficial. However, there are some drawbacks to the waterproof feature they have.

Those drawbacks and why hiking boots should not be waterproof are:

  • Make hiking boots heavy

heavy hiking boots

Hiking boots are protective and comfortable, but they can be a bit of a problem when they are heavy, and this is what waterproofness does to them. Waterproof hiking boots typically weigh more than non-waterproof hiking boots.

The waterproof membrane added to hiking boots adds some pounds to the hiking boots’ weight. Although they may not be exactly noticeable, or you may not feel them much, they are different.

You are more likely to feel the weight when you add other weight to your back, like your backpack, food, water, and other supplies you need on the trail. When hiking boots are heavy, they use your energy and make you tire easily on the trail.

The energy you should be using to walk miles may instead be used to lift the weight on your feet.But they are not totally that bad, and besides, there are lightweight hiking boots that you can use from time to time.

Unless you are mountaineering or backpacking, you don’t necessarily need to wear heavy hiking boots. Even the “heavy” hiking boots aren’t as heavy as you might think.

The difference between them and non-waterproof hiking boots could be 2 pounds.

  • Adds to hiking boots drying time

dry time for hiking boots

Another drawback to waterproofing hiking boots is that it makes them dry slower than their non-waterproof counterparts. Most non-waterproof hiking boots are made of mesh uppers, and this material dries quickly.

However, waterproof hiking boots have leather uppers that take longer to dry when compared to mesh. They don’t have large enough pores to allow air to penetrate into the boots to dry quickly.

In addition, water settles in the waterproof fabric and stays there for a long time before the boots dry completely.

Therefore, you may not be able to use them almost immediately after you wash them. But the good thing is that you can try different fast-drying methods to ensure your hiking gear dries quickly for use.

  • Waterproofness doesn’t last forever

waterproof hiking boots keep your feet dry through puddles

Some people believe that once your hiking boots are waterproof, they are completely waterproof and will stay that way for as long as you use them.However, that is not always the case.

First, hiking boots cannot totally seal out moisture because some boots are more waterproof than others, depending on which technology is used in them. Some hiking boots can only withstand light rain showers and will crumble when submerged in water.

And for others, their waterproofness is only ankle-high, and water can penetrate from the top. However, you can make up for that by wearing waterproof pants and tucking them into your boots.

Other times, the waterproof repellent can wash off, leaving your feet vulnerable. But you can reinforce that with waterproofing spray or other products that can help seal moisture out.

In addition, the waterproof membrane doesn’t last forever either. For example, dirt, sand, or grime can compromise them and make them vulnerable to moisture after a while.

Therefore, ensure you clean your hiking boots after use so they don’t settle in your boots and ruin them before you can use them for as long as they ought to last.


Of course, hiking boots should be waterproof because you need them on the trail. They are suitable for hiking in all weather conditions and on all terrains.

However, that is not to say you need them in all weather and terrain. You don’t exactly need them during hot weather or on terrain void of moisture.

But you cannot always predict the weather or some terrain, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Waterproof hiking boots will keep your feet dry and protect you from blisters and other uncomfortable situations on the trail.

When wearing hiking boots that are waterproof, the important thing is that you wear the right fit and the perfect socks. Ensure you wear moisture-wicking socks with them so your feet don’t get wet on the trail.

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