Finding the right winter footwear can be a challenge for those who have to deal with inclement weather. Even the most robust of leather boots will eventually let the water in, not to mention the undesirable effects constant rain, snow and sleet can have on natural materials.
The solution is to arm yourself with footwear that’s designed to keep you dry. But we’re not talking Wellingtons. What we have in mind is a new breed of winter footwear that’s designed to deflect the rain and look good while doing it; fully waterproof shoes and boots that balance form with function rather than sacrificing one for the other.
The best waterproof shoes and boots offer all the comfort, versatility and good looks of a casual shoe or sneaker while also offering complete weather defence. They’re the ideal everyday footwear to see you through the colder months in style and comfort, and we’ve supplied you with the information you need to find the right pair for you below.
There are a few things to look at before pulling the proverbial trigger on a pair of waterproof shoes or boots. Things like materials and construction play a major role in how this type of footwear looks and performs, so take the points below into account to determine what sort of waterproof shoe is best suited to your wants and needs.
This is the most important factor when selecting a pair of waterproof shoes or boots. The materials used determine not just how a shoe looks but also how waterproof and breathable it will be. Most types of waterproof footwear work by using a waterproof membrane beneath an outer material, such as nubuck, leather or a synthetic fabric. Its vital to pay attention to what the membrane is made from if you want the best performance.
Gore-Tex is the gold standard where waterproof fabrics are concerned, so any footwear incorporating it is a safe bet. It works by allowing water vapour to escape from the inside, while blocking water droplets from entering from the outside. This means it’s able to be both breathable and completely watertight.
Many brands have their own proprietary standards in terms of waterproof fabrics, such as The North Face’s HyVent or Timberland’s TimberDry. However, many of the same brands also use Gore-Tex in their top-line offerings, simply because it’s the best.
Waterproof boots and shoes can range from simple rubber Chelsea boots to high-performance Gore-Tex sneakers. Think about how you intend to wear them in order to guide your choice.
Brands like Clarks and Timberland make casual waterproof shoes and boots that look exactly the same as their non-waterproof counterparts, making them excellent options in terms of day-to-day use and versatility.
For something a bit more performance focused and sporty, take a look at what the outdoor brands have to offer. Labels like Arc’teryx, Salomon and Hoka One One are still riding the wave of the ongoing gorpcore trend and are producing some great-looking trail shoes that offer comfort and complete weather defence.
Don’t forget to consider features like insulation, sole/tread type, colour and lacing system (or lack thereof) when deciding on the right waterproof shoe or boot.
For wet and icy weather, a thick tread pattern will help you to keep your footing, and dark colours will be less likely to show the dirt. Some brands, like Salomon, offer quick lacing systems that make it easier to readjust the fit with cold fingers. Or you could opt for a slip-on and forgo laces entirely.
The Best Waterproof Shoes And Boots Brands
With a rich alpine heritage, French brand Salomon is no stranger to severe weather. The label has long catered to skiers, trail runners and snowboarders, but more recently has found new followers in the sneaker community thanks to the crossover appeal of models like the Speedcross 4 and the now ubiquitous XT-6.
Sadly, the latter is not currently available in a Gore-Tex version, but there’s still plenty on offer in the way of stylish, sporty, waterproof shoes.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Danner was the first brand to create a fully waterproof hiking boot. The Danner Light launched in 1979, as part of a collaborative project between the brand and the company now known as Gore-Tex and is still in production today.
The Portland Select collection is made up of Danner’s classic silhouettes, many of which, such as the Mountain Light and the Danner Light, feature a full Gore-Tex membrane to seal out bad weather.
Timberland has no shortage of waterproof shoes and boots to offer, but our favourite by far is the iconic 6″ Boot. It’s a lofty style that’s as timeless as it is rugged, loved by everyone from blue-collar workers to hip-hop pioneers. Best of all, it features a waterproof liner that’ll keep your feet nice and dry.
If you’d prefer to go down the Gore-Tex route, there are other styles available that feature a Gore-Tex membrane.
Canadian brand Arc’teryx began by making climbing harnesses in the late 80s and is now regarded by many as one of the best high-performance outdoor gear brands in the world. Waterproof footwear options range from lightweight hiking boots to streamlined trail sneakers, all making use of industry leading Gore-Tex fabric technology.
The North Face
The North Face has been designing outdoor gear since the 1960s. In more recent years, the brand has really lent into creating functional everyday clothing with a focus on style, something which spills over into the TNF’s footwear offering.
Many of the waterproof shoes and boots on offer here take their cues from the great outdoors but are refined for daily life, making them a great compromise for anyone looking for functional footwear that won’t look out of place in the city.
The outdoor-focused arm of Adidas has a proven track record of designing excellent waterproof footwear. The Free Hiker GTX is an extremely popular product that fuses the style and comfort of a sneaker with the support and protection of a hiking boot. It features Adidas’ Boost technology in the sole for cushioning as well as a sock-like fit and a Gore-Tex liner for weather protection.
Given that it’s best known for its traditional suede styles, Clarks might seem like an unlikely purveyor of waterproof footwear. However, the British brand has been working with Gore-Tex for a while now, producing watertight takes on some of its classic silhouettes, including the Wallabee Boot and the Desert Boot.
Another heritage footwear brand from Portland, Oregon, Sorel has been producing some of the finest winter-specific footwear around since the early 60s. The label’s Caribou boots are a firm favourite, offering a seam-sealed waterproof construction, thick insulation and a durable rubber rand that completely locks the water out.
Hoka One One
French running-shoe brand Hoka One One is one of the most unusual crossover success stories of recent years. The label is known for its chunky, almost orthopaedic-looking footwear, often rendered in bold, brash colourways.
Trail runners are a big part of the Hoka’s output, and there are a number of Gore-Tex styles including the Challenger, the Speedgoat and the Kaha – a shoe that enjoyed widespread popularity in recent years thanks to the ongoing gorpcore trend.
British boot brand Hunter is best known for kitting out country folk in wellies, but it also makes some more versatile options suited to urban settings too. We’re big fans of the brand’s rubberised Chelsea boot, which is essentially just a Wellington with the top bit chopped off. Still, it keeps the feet bone dry and looks the part while doing so.