Published Jun 22, 2022 1:07 PM
Waterproof boots should keep your feet dry by protecting you from rain, snow, puddles, or streams. Not all waterproof boots on the market will fit this bill, as many are only water-resistant so it’s important to know how to tell the difference while shopping.
Although there are a variety of activities that may require waterproof boots, we focus on outdoor activities related to hunting and hiking for this review. Get to know what makes a boot waterproof and how to choose the best waterproof boots for your individual outdoor needs.
Things to Consider Before Buying Waterproof Boots
Since so much of our shopping is done online these days, it is hard to know how waterproof a pair of boots will actually be before buying them. Catchy marketing campaigns and fake online reviews give consumers a lot to sift through. That’s why we always recommend identifying a few key considerations before you even start shopping.
The reason you’re looking for waterproof boots and how you plan to use them will significantly influence the actual boots you buy. For instance, waterproof hiking boots you use in the summer and shoulder seasons differ from waterproof boots you use during the winter. The same can be said for waterproof work boots or ones you can slip on to work in the garden or walk the dog.
Identifying the intended use will help you narrow down the options relatively quickly. While we review a variety of boots in our gear coverage, this article will focus on boots meant for outdoor purposes like hiking, not necessarily for casual wear or work environments. Check out our roundup on the best steel-toe boots if you’re looking for work boot options.
When shopping for waterproof boots, it is easy to miss the actual level of water resistance. When a boot is waterproof, it is made from a material that will not let water penetrate it. Most of the time, this looks like a liner on the inside of the boot made from a waterproof material like Gore-Tex or neoprene. If a boot is waterproof without a liner, it is likely made from a material like rubber.
Water-resistant boots are made from synthetic materials or leather and have a treatment to repel water. Usually, the water-resistant coatings repel most water so long as they are not submerged for an extended period. The functional downfall of the waterproof coating is that it wears off over time and needs to be reapplied.
Fully waterproof boots will not be very breathable, whereas water-resistant boots tend to allow more airflow and may work for warmer environments. Knowing how waterproof a pair of boots is come down to the materials and brand. Since there isn’t an industry standard to help consumers tell how waterproof a boot is before buying, we need to rely on labels and understanding materials.
Labels should havve a product description and explain their function. Most outdoor boots utilize similar materials like Gore-Tex, Omni-Tech, Primaloft, ClimaProof, or OutDry. Some brands develop and apply their waterproof materials or coatings and will use less familiar labels. When reading product descriptions, make sure you understand what the function of the materials and labels listed are.
Knowing the materials can help you choose a boot more likely to keep water away from your feet. No matter the material, they won’t be entirely waterproof unless it is something like rubber or they utilize a waterproof technology or liner.
Common materials used for boots include:
- Leather: It can be made waterproof with coatings or wax, but the leather itself is not a naturally waterproof material because of its breathability. The type of leather also influences the waterproofing ability. For instance, nubuck leather is more absorbent than other types of leather and will need more maintenance to keep water out.
- Suede: Often used for more casual wear, suede is not a waterproof material. It is even less waterproof than untreated leather, and you should avoid wearing them in wet conditions. Most suede boots can get water stains on them, causing discoloration that is hard to remove. A waterproof coating is recommended for this reason.
- Synthetics: Other than leather, synthetics are among the most common materials for outdoor boots. This may include types of artificial leather but usually refers to textiles like polyester or nylon. Natural fibers are sometimes used for footwear, but it is not as common and even less common in a waterproof boot design. Textiles use a liner, fabric backing, or a coating to make them waterproof.
The materials can be waterproof, but if you need a boot for trudging through water and mud without being phased, look for rubber and neoprene boots. They won’t require an additional liner or coating to be effective, but they are not the most comfortable for walking long distances.
Since the breathability of the boot is greatly influenced by the materials and whether they are waterproof, you may choose to use a quick-drying water-resistant boot. These boots will be more breathable, lightweight, and should keep your feet relatively dry depending on the conditions.
- Weight: 2.9 lbs
- Boot Type: midweight
- Best Use: backpacking
Why It Made The Cut: The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex boots are waterproof hiking boots that carry you over any terrain, even in the wettest weather conditions.
- Excellent traction in rocky terrain
- Stable and supportive
- Top quality waterproof design
- High price
- Heavy compared to other options
If you are looking for a hiking boot that will withstand even the wettest weather conditions while packing a heavy load, the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex is a perfect choice. A top performer in the waterproof category along with other hiking boot essentials like stability and traction.
These boots will ensure your feet stay dry when hiking in the rain and they can even be worn through puddles or shallow creek crossings. The Gore-Tex waterproof design along with a 6-inch flood height gives you ample protection from moisture.
The only major downfall (other than the high price) is that they are not very breathable. Since they excel in water resistance, their breathability does not make them suitable for all climates and they won’t dry very fast if the interior gets wet. So, if you are prone to sweaty feet and plan to hike somewhere really hot, opt for a more breathable boot. Overall, the functionality of these boots and their superior waterproofing make them not only the best waterproof boot choice, but are our pick for the best hiking boots of 2022.
Best for Fishing
- Weight: 3.2 lbs
- Boot Type: Ankle
- Best Use: Fishing, boating
Why It Made The Cut: The Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boots are classic fishing boots made from rubber to ensure your feet stay dry and you have plenty of traction.
- 100% waterproof
- All day comfort
- Easy slip on design
- Excellent traction
- For recreational purposes, not a commercial boot
- Durability is questionable for daily use
A brand known and loved by many avid anglers, the Xtratuf Ankle Deck Boots are our top pick for the best waterproof fishing boots. Xtratuf has a long history of keeping anglers’ feet dry, even in commercial settings. Please note that these ankle boots are not made from the same rubber material as their commercial boots, making them slightly less durable. We recommend getting one of their deck boots designed for commercial use if you work in the fishing industry or plan to wear these daily.
The primary selling point for these boots is that they are 100% waterproof due to their use of rubber materials. They have a slip-proof sole, making them an excellent choice for fishing, especially when you’re aboard a boat. Being ankle height, and with the addition of the ankle loops, these are easy to slip on and off. So, even if you aren’t fishing, these can be great to have on hand for rainy days or muddy yard work. The lining is breathable, allowing them to dry out quickly if water enters from the top and improve the comfort for extended wear.
Best for Men
- Weight: 2.9 lbs
- Boot Type: midweight
- Best Use: hiking, hunting
Why It Made The Cut: The Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX is a functional hiking boot with ample stability and unbeatable water resistance.
- Great stability
- Comfortable for long treks
- Durable construction
- Lacing system
Also ranked in our best waterproof boots for men, the Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX has a durable construction and enough water resistance to get you through even the wettest of treks. Although they weigh close to 3lbs, they are a reasonable weight for the class and the features provided.
The waterproofing surprisingly doesn’t take too much away in terms of breathability. They still won’t be as breathable as non-waterproof boot designs, but the moisture-wicking footbed decreases the buildup of moisture inside the shoe. Designed utilizing Nubuck leather, Cordura nylon, and a Vibram rubber sole, they have excellent durability and shock absorption as you hike.
To ensure quality water resistance, these shoes utilize a Gore-Tex lining. With this lining and that additional water-resistant coating on the upper, there should be minimal issues with rain, puddle, or even crossing shallow creeks and streams. The upper leather portion of the boot will need maintenance and re-waterproofing periodically to ensure the best results.
Best for Women
- Weight: 320g
- Boot Type: lightweight
- Best Use: hiking, backpacking
Why It Made The Cut: The Tecnica MAGMA S MID GTX is a lightweight waterproof boot option that provides all day comfort right out of the box.
- Versatile design
- Unbeatable traction
- Surprisingly waterproof
- Takes a while to dry
- Laces feel flimsy
New for 2022, the Tecnica MAGMA S MID GTX is our top pick for women’s waterproof boots. Utilizing aspects of their ski boot designs, these boots are ready to go right out of the box. With no break-in time, they’re comfortable enough to wear all day. The lightweight design makes you forget you’re even wearing hiking boots while still providing the necessary protection, stability, and traction while on the trail.
The waterproofing of these boots is impressive. There is no question that the Gore-Tex liner does its job. You can wear these through tall wet grasses, mud, in the rain, and even canoe camping with minimal issue. To put these boots to the waterproof test, I wore them on a four-day canoe trip in the rain, while paddling, in camp, and portaging. Surprisingly, my feet even stayed dry when I stepped in and out of the water while loading and unloading the canoe. The only time moisture reached the boot’s interior was when paddling in a sudden and heavy downpour. Since the water could enter the top of the boot and soak the tongue, the interior was able to get wet.
Luckily, they were dry enough that I could wear them the next day. For how light and breathable the boots are, I did expect them to dry a little bit faster, though. They run true to size, but the toe box is somewhat narrow and may not work well for women with wide feet or feet prone to swelling. Despite having moderately wide feet, though, I felt no discomfort while wearing these for extended periods.
Overall, these boots are easily among the best waterproof boots I’ve tested. The traction keeps you steady even on slippery surfaces, they have a stylish design, and they’re so comfortable you’ll forget you’re wearing boots. Since these are a newly released design, I can’t speak confidently on durability, but I will update as more miles have been added to these boots.
- Weight: 2.25 lbs
- Boot Type: Lightweight
- Best Use: Day hiking, short backpacking trips
Why It Made The Cut: The Merrel Moab 2 Mid WP is a classic hiking boot providing all the necessary features, including a reliable waterproof design.
- Improved design
- Great for wide feet
- Durability is questionable
- Does not work for long distance or heavy loads
The Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a reliable waterproof boot on a budget. These boots hold up well in most weather conditions but should stick to maintained trails. While there is a decent level of comfort and traction, they will not perform well on rocky terrain or slippery rocks.
Merrell is a long-trusted hiking brand, and this is one of their most popular shoes because of the comfort and accessibility in price. These boots work quite well for hikers with wider feet and are an excellent choice for new hikers or someone that only hikes a few times a year.
The waterproof membrane not only protects your feet from moisture but also dries quickly and is breathable enough to prevent any buildup of sweat. The improved design did help increase the breathability as previous models didn’t perform as well. Overall, this is a decent hiking boot, and it is popular for a good reason. It has a functional and comfortable design, but be aware that it isn’t meant for heavy loads or long distances. We recommend this boot for day hikers or those that only utilize their hiking boots a few times a year. Otherwise, these can be a good starter boot with the intention of replacing them within a year.
How We Made Our Picks
Although we all have our personal preferences regarding boots, a few things will be the same across the board: we want our feet to stay dry. With waterproof boots, we not only took into account the things discussed in the “things to consider before buying” section, but we evaluated the options with a distinct focus on:
- Sustainability: the materials used, company sustainability practices, transparency reports, longevity, and boot repairability were all considered.
- Intended Use: for each category, the intended activity is a primary focus, along with the waterproof capacities.
- Durability: how long the boot will last as well as how long the waterproofing will be effective. If the company had repair policies or outlined maintenance required was a plus.
Other factors that played a role in our top picks included personal experience with products, brand and product research, verified customer reviews or reports, and general customer service of the brand.
How much do waterproof boots cost?
How much waterproof boots cost usually depends on the effectiveness of the waterproofing and the overall quality of the shoe. While this won’t always be the case, and for some brands, you are truly paying for the name, waterproof boots can range in price from $50-300+ in price.
Are waterproof boots really waterproof?
Not all waterproof boots are really waterproof. Some of them are only water-resistant. The materials and type of waterproofing will determine whether or not the boot is fully waterproof or not. Most waterproof hiking boots can have an element of waterproofing but will not be impervious to moisture fully. Materials like rubber, PVC, and gore-tex are waterproof and frequently used in shoe construction.
What’s the difference between waterproof and water-resistant boots?
Waterproof and water-resistant boots differ in how much water they repel or how much moisture they can keep away from your feet. Fully waterproof boots should, in theory, be unaffected by water or moisture. In contrast, water-resistant boots will only repel and prevent a certain level of moisture from entering the interior of the boot. The differences that determine which one the boot is will generally lie within the boot materials and construction.
How long do waterproof boots last?
How long waterproof boots last depends on the quality of the boot materials and construction and the frequency and type of use. For most hiking boots, you should be able to get at least 500 miles out of them, but higher quality boots will take you closer to 1000+ miles. How long boots stay, waterproof depends on if they rely on a coating or a material. If a material like rubber makes them waterproof, then they should last the boot’s life so long as they don’t get a rip or puncture. If they rely on a coating, you can expect them to stay waterproof for a year or two before needing to reapply a new one.
Are waterproof boots good for snow?
Waterproof boots can be good for snow if they are also for cold weather. Winter hiking boots will have insulation to help your body retain heat within the boot and waterproof material or coating.
Should you use mink oil on waterproof boots?
You can use mink oil on waterproof boots if they are industrial leather boots. Most leather hiking boots utilize dry-tanned leather, and mink oil may over soften it, reducing the overall support and weakening the material.
The best waterproof boots are the ones that keep your feet dry and fit your other needs. There are a variety of boot styles available, and no matter the activity, chances are you can find a waterproof boot. Most of the boots we listed are suitable for outdoor activities. Still, you can also find waterproof work boots, casual boots, and more on the market with similar quality and durability. Check out our other boot reviews for more information about different boot styles.