Do Waterproof Hiking Boots Make Your Feet Sweet?


For decades retailers have been drilling into our heads the importance of waterproof hiking boots. We all know just how uncomfortable soaking wet socks can be. Your feet look like they went through hell after a long hike.

They end up sore, swollen, pruny and covered in blisters. So wouldn’t waterproof boots help reduce moisture buildup? Or do they just trap in sweat?

Do Waterproof Hiking Boots Make Your Feet Sweat?

Waterproof hiking boots have been around longer than I have. Throughout my life I’ve went through more pairs than I can possibly count. Unfortunately, that also means I’ve had to deal with athletes foot, ingrown toenails and hikers toe.

I still have a few pairs of hiking boots that occasionally work their way into the rotation, but I’ve mostly switched to trail runners and plain old athletic shoes. The main reason I made the switch was to reduce sweat.

Even though most companies claim their waterproof hiking boots won’t cause sweaty feet, they definitely do. The problem isn’t that they make your feet sweat more it’s that even with ventilation your feet can’t properly dry. Waterproofing materials like Goretex keep sweat in just like they keep water out.

That doesn’t mean that you should ditch waterproof hiking boots altogether. They’re great in colder weather up to about 55°. They’ll keep your feet warm and you really won’t have to worry about sweat.

Stick to Merino Wool and Synthetic Socks

My feet seem to sweat like crazy while other people can get by with cheap cotton socks from the dollar store. Even if your boots don’t sweat a lot they will sweat in waterproof hiking boots.

Just ditch your cotton socks and by a few pairs of really good hiking socks. They cost a few bucks more per pair, but they’re so much better than cotton.

Cotton absorbs sweat like crazy and never dries back out. Merino wool blends are by far the best option witch synthetic close behind.

Merino wool socks are extremely comfortable, antimicrobial, dry fast, stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and they won’t rub when they end up getting wet. Your feet will be way more comfortable and even if they do sweat it’s not going to bother you.

I really like Darn Tough Hiking Socks which use a really durable Merino Wool. They can be pricey, but I can almost guarantee your feet won’t sweat. You won’t have to worry about blisters or your socks slipping or bunching up. Just put them on and you’ll be good for the rest of the day.

Do Hiking Boots Need To Be Waterproof?

No hiking boots don’t need to be waterproof. Lots of people hiking in trail runners, tennis shoes and even sandals. You just need to find a shoe that’s comfortable and warm enough for the weather.

I’ve even found that my feet stay drier in shoes that don’t have any waterproofing. This minimilizes the amount of puddling in the shoe and lets them air/dry out quickly.

Modern trail running shoes and trail shoes usually have nice open mesh fabric tops that dry out fast. I really like Merrell and Salomon Trail Runners, but they can be pricey. If you’re on a budget look stick to New Balance, Adidas, etc.

Waterproof Boots Don’t Keep Your Feet Dry

Honestly, waterproof boots might help in a light drizzle, but they really don’t keep your feet dry. They just don’t work all that well.

Rain still runs down your pant legs and goes up over the sides. Your shoes/socks will still get wet, and your feet still sweat. Wearing lightweight well ventilated shoes, airing out your feet and bringing extra socks is a much better approach.

In very wet conditions your feet are going to get wet. You just have to learn to live with it and air your feet out when you take breaks. If you can’t keep your feet dry, your next step is minimizing injury caused by wet socks.

What Can I Wear Instead of Hiking Boots?

There’s definitely a time and place for waterproof hiking boots, but most of the time they aren’t necessary. Unless your doing extremely technical work, you can basically wear whatever you want. Any high quality pair of shoes will work as long as they’re comfortable to walk in.

I personally prefer Merrell Trail Runners. They’re lightweight and seem like they’re going to last forever. Remember that since you won’t be wearing them everyday they should last for years. Spend the extra money on quality trail runners today so you’re not tempted to buy another pair a year from now.

A Few Different Shoe Options:
  • Trail Runners
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Tennis Shoes
  • Hiking Sandals
  • Approach Shoes

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