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Waterproof vs Non Waterproof Hiking Boots: A Guide to Buying the Right Pair

Waterproof vs Non Waterproof Hiking Boots

Arguably, hiking is one of the most challenging outdoor activities. And surprisingly, many people look forward to hiking trips for the sheer joy of seeing the outdoors even if it means spending hours of walking under the sun or on snowy grounds and even navigating difficult terrains. With that said, hikers find it wise to invest in a good pair of boots. However, some are torn on what boots to buy as they weigh the pros and cons of waterproof vs non waterproof hiking boots.

How To Choose Hiking Boots

There are plenty of hiking boots with different features on the market. Unfortunately, the many choices overwhelm the consumers and made them confused on which to purchase. If you are among them, then this post can help you determine the factors to consider before spending some bucks on a pair of boots.


For starters, buyers have to think about their comfort. The design and features will determine whether a pair of hiking boots would be comfortable or not.

  • Footwork

One can start by looking at the cushion and support of the footwork. Some hiking boots have cushioned midsole or an additional shank for extra comfort. These are ideal for prolonged wearing.

  • Style

Choosing the style of the boots is part of determining which pair would be most comfortable for the user. Boots, after all, come in different styles.

The light hiking shoes, which seem to be a bulkier version of running shoes, are often used for day hiking and long-distance hiking that has a relatively smooth terrain.

The mountaineering boots are perfect for the glacial trails, rocky territory or snowy paths. These are designed to carry heavy loads and can weather against the most challenging terrains.

The backpacking boots are more versatile as they can be used on and off the hiking trails. These boots have a stiff sole and are often durable which can help hikers navigate a variety of hiking conditions.


When buying a pair of hiking boots, one also has to consider their preferred cuts. This is particularly important since choosing the wrong cut for the trail can cause injuries like rolled ankles.

  • Low-cut

The low-cut boots, which is highly similar to the looks and design of the running shoes, are suitable for some casual and light hiking. It is wrong to buy low-cut boots for difficult terrains as this cut can make hikers more vulnerable to ankle injuries.

  • Mid-cut

The mid-cut boots provide more support for the ankles than the low-cut boots while the high-cut boots offer the most balance as well as ankle support.

  • High-cut

The high-cut boots are best for those going on more adventurous and danger-filled terrains.


The materials used for the hiking boots matter, too. In fact, choosing the right material is necessary as one might feel discomfort, hot and cramped when the wrong ones are selected.

There are different materials used for the boots like split-grain leather, synthetics, and full-grain leather. Each comes with their pros and cons.

  • Synthetic leather

The synthetic leather is often in polyester and nylon. It is light and dries faster when wet and easy to break-in. However, their water resistance leaves much to be desired.

  • Split-grain leather

The split-grain leather is usually made from some synthetics and has quite breathable materials. Unfortunately, they are not as durable nor as water-resistant as the full grain leather.

  • Full-grain leather

Boots made from full-grain leather have many great qualities, which is why most mountaineering shoes are made from this material. It is highly durable and perfect for hiking unsteady and rigorous terrains. However, this leather is quite heavy and not as breathable as the others.

Other Considerations

Material and comfort levels are just some of the many factors one has to consider. There are other things to think about like traction.

  • Traction

Traction pertains to the grip of the hiking boots’ underside. One has to check the lugs and grooves of the footwear to know whether they are perfect for the trail to be hiked. The more rugged boots are the ones with the deeper grooves and aggressive lugs.

Waterproof vs Non Waterproof Hiking Boots

Experienced hikers would say that it is best to buy the non-waterproof ones in most weather conditions. This is because when it’s the dry season, waterproof boots tend to trap the excessive heat and sweat.

Additionally, the waterproofing mechanism of most boots fails more often than not. This means that the users will have to wear wet boots for most of the trip even if they have already made some effort to dry the footwear as the waterproof boots dry more slowly when wet.

So, when is the best time to wear waterproof boots then? The only time one should opt for the waterproof boots is during the winter season or when hikers would navigate snowy terrains. Experts would contend that this footwear should be chosen when the temperature is already below freezing or when the ground one has to walk on is already covered in three to four inches of dry snow, or snow that has zero or small water content.

Waterproof to Some Extent

Wearing waterproof boots or shoes does not necessarily mean that the footwear will never get wet. Again, there are some instances where this mechanism will fail.

For one, melting snowpacks often cause wet-out, which means that liquid will seep through the fabric of the shoes either through broken seams or the shoes’ membrane. Another is when traversing deep overflows of water or open creeks. Water may enter the footwear through its top portion when winter rain occurs, which happens rarely.

However, these don’t mean that waterproof boots or shoes are of less importance. The battle between waterproof vs non waterproof hiking boots is not a get-one-or-the-other thing. As discussed above, the right choice will depend on the season and the kind of terrain one will traverse.

Remember that wet shoes and feet in cold weather becomes a liability as one loses some extreme amount of body heat. Meanwhile, too much heat trap in the boots during warm weather is not ideal either. The goal is to wear dry shoes and keep your feet dry—from sweat or water, not just for the comfort of the hiker but for safety purposes, too.

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