For most use-cases, running shoes cannot be truly waterproof by themselves – even with a Gore-Tex lining.
Yes, they can resist water in varying degrees but the low-cut design of shoe uppers cannot completely prevent moisture from entering. Water from the occasional splash can access the interiors through the heel collar. And the same lining which keeps the water out will also restrict it from draining.
Think of a running shoe as a rain jacket without a hood. The jacket will work to a certain extent, but only half as effectively as one with a cap attached to its body.
Even your pair of socks will wick moisture, and the dampness will eventually find its way in. On a side note, wearing a pair of waterproof socks is one way to keep your feet dry. We even wrote a guide on such a product.
Wearing a waterproof gaiter or a bottom over a shoe will greatly improve your chances of staying dry. But then, you need cooler temperatures to be doing that.
So are waterproof running shoes useless then? Why spend the extra cash if there’s no guarantee of staying dry?
Not exactly. A waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex is like a water-delay timer. If you were to get caught in the occasional rain shower during your runs, a GTX lining will keep your feet dry for longer. It’s the difference between your feet getting soaked in 5 minutes versus staying dry for up to an hour.
Unless you’re running a half-marathon or longer, a waterproof running shoe repels dampness for the entire duration of the run. Of course, we’re not talking thunderstorm-grade rain here – in which case you should be indoors binge-watching Netflix instead of being wet and miserable.
A waterproof shoe also does a much better job at protecting you from puddle splashes than open-meshed footwear.
Some trail running routes involves jumping over small water streams or channels, and the occasional misstep doesn’t have to soak your feet.
If you’re dealing with muddy trails, waterproofing is a godsend. The upper keeps the moisture from seeping in. Many Gore-Tex lined shoes have protective overlays and also use mesh materials with a closed structure. This design prevents the upper from getting dirty as well.
There’s an added benefit of a waterproof shoe. It acts as a wind-blocker and keeps the insides toasty during colder months. So if you’re preparing to run in the October rains, rest assured that waterproof footwear also does well at thermal insulation.
Now that we’ve built a case for waterproof shoes, what kind should you buy? It depends where you intend to run. If it’s off-road, then the answer is obvious; buy trail running shoes with a Gore-Tex membrane.
There are road running Gore-Tex equipped shoes too, and we cover that in the first list that follows. There aren’t as many choices as we would have liked, but some of the popular neutral daily trainers are sold with waterproofing. These are dependable shoes and will work for a lot of runners.
We know the reason behind the slim pickings. Adding Gore-Tex to an upper will add $10-20 in cost, so one can imagine what that does to the retail price – and the profit margin.
Trail running footwear is a completely different beast. You’re spoilt for choices here; most companies sell GTX-lined trail shoes. If you’re looking for great value, adidas makes a clean sweep. It’s the only premium brand to sell many waterproof trail shoes between $110 and $130.
Another good thing about adidas is that it offers soft-road models, shoes which can be used for both on and off the asphalt. So if you don’t like the road-going options, adidas shoes like the Terrex Two are an alternative.
At the time of writing this guide, Nike does not sell GTX shoes; the only model we see is a tactical boot. Nike usually releases its water-repellent and reflectivity-rich ‘Shield’ collection in Fall, but just know that those shoes are not waterproof. The upper will bead water but that’s about it.
Category 1: Waterproof road running shoes
1) Asics GT-1000 8 GTX
This is the only stability running shoe in this guide, and a fairly mild one at that. The firm medial post is small and doesn’t alter the compression dynamics of the midsole.
Along with the waterproof Gore-Tex lined upper, the GT-1000 also comes boxed with a lugged outsole. At a retail price of $110, the GT-1000 offers the best value in this category. Available in Men’s and Women’s colors.
2) Brooks Ghost 12 GTX
Brooks’s popular neutral running shoe is also sold with a waterproof upholstery but at a hefty upcharge. You pay $160 retail for the Gore-Tex version of the Ghost 12.
But if you want a comfortable road shoe which keeps your feet dry, the Ghost 12 is a decent pick. If you’re not fussy about which Ghost edition you’re buying, the Ghost 11 GTX sells for $10 less than the 12.
3. New Balance 880V9 GTX
In our opinion, New Balance strikes a good balance between retail price and Gore-Tex waterproofing here. The 880V9 GTX retails for $140, which is halfway between the GT-1000 and the Ghost 12 GTX.
And except for the small Gore-Tex label, it’s hard to tell the difference from the outside. The 880V9 is also available in a wide.
Category 2: Waterproof trail running shoes
1) adidas Terrex Agravic XT GTX
Not only do you get waterproofing here, but the Terrex Agravic also has all that’s required of a performance trail running shoe.
The Gore-Tex shell is surrounded by a layered exterior in a bootie form, and the tough Urethane overlays act as a protective barrier. The Boost cushioning makes the ride easy on the feet while the wide-spaced Continental rubber lugs grip without trapping mud.
The plain vanilla back retails at $170 while the color-pop treatment charges $30 more.
Also see: The Skychaser LT GTX.
2) adidas Terrex CMTK GTX
Are you kidding? This robustly-built, Gore-Tex lined trail running shoe retails for $110. With Gore-Tex waterproofing, no less. The gusset upper made of a closed mesh and Urethane overlays keeps the water and debris out while making the interiors comfortable.
A Continental rubber outsole is used for traction as well as protection from the small rocks and roots on the trail. The fancy color sells for $150 – a $40 upcharge over the tonal black edition as pictured.
Also see: The adidas Tracerocker GTX.
3) adidas Terrex Two GTX
Though it’s marketed as a trail shoe, the Terrex Two is a soft-roader at best. The fewer number of lacing rows means that the forefoot is roomy for regular road runs but not secure enough for demanding trail runs.
Thus, this waterproof shoe is best used on flat, packed trails and gravel roads. And for regular road-running in waterproof comfort, of course.
4) Brooks Cascadia 14 GTX
The Cascadia has been a Brooks staple for well over a decade, and also sells in a GTX version for both genders.
This isn’t a shoe you’d use on technical trails, but it’s good enough for the average off-road excursion under wet conditions.
5) New Balance Summit KOM GTX
This is a speed trail shoe with a waterproof upper, so know what you’re buying. A stiff forefoot ‘rock-stop’ plate adds a protective barrier from the pokey stuff on the trails, and a firm RevLite EVA cushioning builds its speed persona. The outsole uses a Vibram Megagrip compound for wet-surface traction.
The Summit KOM’s Gore-Tex upper is narrow-fitting for a secure grip over uneven surfaces of challenging technical trails.
6) Saucony Excursion TR12 GTX
The Excursion TR12 GTX’s $100 retail price makes it the best value of the bunch. What you get in return is a basic yet waterproof running shoe for use on non-technical trails.
The upper fit runs true-to-size, and the midsole has enough cushioning comfort during outdoor runs.
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