Running shoes cannot be truly waterproof – even with a Gore-Tex membrane.
Waterproof uppers are usually good at keeping the water out, but the low-cut design of most running shoes cannot completely prevent moisture from entering. Water from the occasional splash gets inside through the heel collar. And the same lining that keeps the water out will also slow the draining process.
A running shoe with a Gore-Tex lining is like a waterproof rain jacket without a hood. The jacket will work to a certain extent, but only half as effectively as one with a waterproof shroud.
Socks are also good at absorbing water, so the dampness will eventually find its way in. As 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.
Using a waterproof gaiter improves the chances of staying dry. However, waterproof gaiters are more comfortable under cooler temperatures because they don’t breathe well.
So are waterproof running shoes useless? Why pay the Gore-Tex premium if there’s no guarantee of staying dry?
A waterproof membrane is like a water delay timer. When caught in the occasional rain, a Gore-Tex lining keeps the feet dry for longer. It’s the difference between the feet getting soaked within 5 minutes versus staying dry for up to an hour.
Unless we’re talking about a half-marathon or longer, a waterproof running shoe repels wetness during the entire run. Of course, we’re not talking about thunderstorm-grade rain here – in which case you should be indoors instead of being wet and miserable.
A waterproof shoe also does a much better job of protecting against splashes when compared to open mesh footwear.
Some trail routes involve jumping over narrow water streams, so the occasional misstep doesn’t have to soak your feet.
Waterproofing is also very useful when running on muddy trails. The upper keeps the moisture away from the foot. Many Gore-Tex lined shoes have protective overlays and use mesh materials with a closed structure. This design prevents the mud from sticking to the shoe.
There’s an added benefit of a waterproof running shoe. The wind-blocking upper keeps the insides toasty during the colder months.
(Related read: The best reflective running shoes.)
Now that we’ve built a case for waterproof shoes, what kind should you buy? That depends on where the runs take place. If it’s off-road, then the answer is obvious; buy trail running shoes with a Gore-Tex membrane. Shoes like the Brooks Cascadia 16 and Saucony Peregrine 11 even feature gaiter attachment points.
Road running shoes with a Gore-Tex upper are covered in the first part of this guide.
Asics dominates this segment, and for a good reason. The Japanese brand sells numerous Gore-Tex equipped running shoes, and they don’t charge an obscene premium for them.
Having said that, it’s worth mentioning that not all Gore-Tex membranes are alike. For example, though Brooks charges $30 extra for its Gore-Tex variant, their shoes use the thinner ‘Invisible Fit’ version of GTX.
On the other hand, most waterproof Asics shoes are only $10 more expensive than the base model. As far as we know, Asics GTX models do not use the Invisible Fit laminate.
Trail running shoes are an entirely different beast. We’re spoiled for choices here, as most companies sell GTX-equipped trail shoes. If you’re looking for great value, adidas is a good place to find it. adidas also offers soft-road models – or shoes that can be used both on and off the asphalt.
Adidas trail footwear used to have a near-monopoly on this guide, but other players like Asics and Saucony have caught up. Nike used to be inconsistent with its Gore-Tex equipped products, but that’s changing quickly. The Gore-Tex version of the Pegasus 3 Trail is available in men’s and women’s versions.
And if you’re wondering why the Nike Pegasus 38 Shield and React Miler Shield do not feature here, that’s because they are merely water-repellent and not waterproof.
Category 1: Waterproof road running shoes
1) Brooks Ghost 14 GTX
The Ghost’s versatile ride and fit character has made it a commercially successful fixture within Brooks’s running line. The changes on the last year’s Ghost 13’s made the ride smoother, and the said improvements carry forward to the Ghost 14.
The Ghost 14 benefits from the same performance upsides. There’s ample cushioning and versatility, be it regular training runs or longer workouts that require a higher level of comfort.
This is a Brooks shoe, so the upper is comfortable and secure. The engineered mesh upper and padded heel/tongue have a positive influence on the fit and feel.
The same traits are built into the Gore-Tex version of the Ghost, so it’s an excellent daily trainer that keeps the feet dry during rains.
2) Asics GT-2000 10 GTX
Within Asics’s stability shoe universe, the GT-2000 10 sits halfway between the GT-1000 10 and Kayano 28.
If you want to know more, our review of the standard GT-2000 10 is here.
It has a medial post (now called Litetruss) molded into the inner midsole for the old-school ‘anti pronation’ touch, and the functional upper is comfortable and fits well.
If your idea of a waterproof daily trainer is a comfortable mild-support running shoe, then it’s hard to go wrong with the GT-2000 10 GTX.
The GTX version of the GT-2000 10 has just been released, so its availability is spotty. In the meanwhile, it’s also worth considering the GT-2000 9 GTX.
3) Asics Cumulus 23 GTX
There’s only a $10 up-charge for the Gore-Tex variant of the Cumulus 23. That’s not bad at all, considering all the extras that the $130 shoe offers.
A waterproof Gore-Tex upper means that the sleeved upper keeps the foot warm during the winter.
The lining keeps the wind out, thus vastly decreasing the wind-chill factor. The Cumulus 23 also has decent levels of reflectivity, so that’s another nice-to-have feature during the darker months.
The interiors are soft and smooth due to the non-sew construction with the padded heel and tongue.
The midsole and outsole are shared with the non-GTX Cumulus. The dual-density Flytefoam midsole is excellent for the daily miles of varying mileages, and doesn’t feel slow while doing it.
4) Asics Pulse 13 GTX
Ok, the Pulse 13 G-TX comes with a $10 price increase over the 12. But it’s not for nothing; the $10 bump is accompanied by several upgrades. The Pulse 12 G-TX was a very basic-looking shoe; the Pulse 13 is anything but.
The newest Pulse 13 GTX leaves the stitched overlays behind. The toe-bumper is fused, and so are the midfoot and heel overlays. Even the mesh looks and feels premium; there’s a new ripstop textile replacing the regular upholstery of the Pulse 12.
Under the new set of clothes is a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane that keeps the moisture out.
The midsole receives a major cosmetic facelift along with minor performance gains. The softer ‘Amplifoam’ EVA midsole with the rearfoot visi-Gel is a significant visual improvement over the 12.
Its $110 retail price makes the Pulse 13 GTX excellent value.
5) adidas Solarglide 4 Gore-Tex
The Gore-Tex version of the Solar Glide 4 could be a sign that waterproof adidas running shoes may soon be available outside of the trail category.
So far, most adidas GTX models are trail running shoes – one of which features on this guide.
However, Gore-Tex variants of their staple road shoes (like the SolarGlide 4 in this instance) used to be a rare sight. Not any more; the waterproof Solarglide 4 is available across both men’s and women’s versions. adidas charges a $20 premium over the road model.
The Solarglide is adidas’s popular neutral trainer that occupies the sweet spot between the softer Solarboost and $100 Supernova. The Solarglide 4 is based on a proven form factor that delivers everyday comfort and durability.
A full-length Boost foam core produces a soft and responsive ride to make long-distance runs less punishing on the feet. A firmer EVA frame under the forefoot improves the stability and transition efficiency during the landings and push-offs.
The narrow upper is warm, comfortable, and highly water-resistant. The fused layers and the closed ripstop mesh act as insulators; the GTX inner shell minimizes water entry.
6) New Balance Fresh Foam 880V11 GTX
The Fresh Foam 880V11 is New Balance’s popular neutral trainer with a wide repertoire of acts.
Except for hyper-quick races and track laps, the 880 is cushioned and supportive enough for most runs – be it routine workouts or distance cruising. A dual-density midsole and plastic heel stabilizer work together for a cushioned and stable ride.
But this variant is special. Under the engineered mesh exterior is a Gore-Tex lining that keeps the water out.
It’s also good at blocking the wind, so the 880V11 GTX is winter-worthy. The Women’s 880V11 is also available in optional wide sizing.
Both the men’s and women’s 880 models are available in Gore-Tex variants.
7) On Cloud Waterproof
This is the waterproof version of the popular On Cloud. Since there are less expensive alternatives, buy this shoe only if you’re a fan of their unique cushioning system and upper fit. The foam and rubber pillar midsole has plenty of comfort for runs and urban adventures.
Several aspects of the shoe could be improved. Long-term waterproofing is sketchy, and the part foam, part rubber outsole isn’t the grippiest.
Having said that, the ON Cloud is worth considering as a waterproof athleisure alternative.
Also see: On Cloudventure waterproof.
Category 2: Waterproof trail running shoes
1) adidas Terrex Agravic TR Gore-Tex
Since we first published this guide, adidas has been consistent with its entry-level waterproof shoe offerings. The Terrex Agravic TR GTX is one of the many waterproof trail shoes from the German brand.
At a retail price of $100, the Terrex Agravic TR Gore-Tex is adidas’s least expensive waterproof shoe. It’s great value too. While the upper and midsole is bereft of high-performance materials like a Continental rubber outsole or Boost foam, the Agravic TR gets its fundamentals right.
This shoe uses a firm EVA foam midsole and aggressive outsole lugs for cushioned protection and a stable grip on the trails. There’s no rock plate, but in lieu, one gets a relatively flexible forefoot.
The Gore-Tex fitted upper uses a classic design, and relies on thick, stitched panels to reinforce the exteriors. The wide midfoot straps allow the laces to be cinched quickly.
2) Brooks Cascadia 16 GTX
Just like the Brooks Ghost 14 GTX, there’s a $30 premium for the waterproof version of the Cascadia. Our detailed trail-tested review is here.
As a standalone shoe, the Brooks Cascadia 16 is a competent trail running shoe that gets comprehensively reworked for 2022. The top-to-bottom redesign of the Cascadia 16 results in numerous performance-related updates.
The rock plate of the 16 is now a ‘ballistic rock shield’ – a flexible material that improves the range of movement. The numerous grooves on the outsole help too.
Rather than a large stiff plate, the articulated structure makes the midsole flexible while protecting the foot from the roots and rocks. A stick ‘Trailtack’ rubber outsole has deep yet widely-spaced lugs that deliver grip with minimal clogging.
There are gaiter attachment points on the heel and front; this potentially amplifies the waterproof capabilities of the Cascadia 16 Gore-Tex.
Except for the waterproof lining and the slightly different upper materials, the functional benefits of the GTX variant are identical to the stock Cascadia.
Protective overlays cover much of the upper and act as a barrier against moisture. The toe-box has an accommodating and comfortable fit profile. The midfoot lockdown could have been better, though.
The Cascadia 16’s midsole uses a tweaked version of Brooks’s DNA Loft foam. The foam stack delivers a stable and comfortable ride over the off-road terrain.
3) Hoka Challenger Low GTX
When we look at the Hoka Challenger Low GTX, we see more than just a trail running shoe. We see a hybrid soft-roader, one that is equally at home on city roads as it is on mild trails. This is also a shoe that’s better suited for winter than all-season use.
And you know why? The all-black or the brown-cream color scheme gives the shoe a very subdued appearance; there’s none of the sporty flashiness at work here.
The said color schemes are the result of using waterproof Nubuck leather that also acts as thermal insulation when the temperatures drop. The Gore-Tex lining helps the feet stay dry when it rains.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Challenger GTX isn’t as soft as the usual Hokas. The firm cushioning complements the stiff and supportive upper. We view a stable ride as a positive attribute on a trail running shoe; the lack of softness is a good thing.
The outsole grip is great on the road and mild flat trails, thanks to the colony of waffle-shaped rubber lugs.
4) Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex
The Pegasus 3 Trail Gore-Tex has the same sole as the V2, as well as a similar outdoor-ready upper. We reviewed the Peg 3 GTX recently.
Be it the aggressive outsole lug design with the rubber toe cap or heavily-layered upper, the Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex is close to being a serious trail running shoe.
We say this because the original Pegasus 36 Trail from a few years ago was a ‘soft roader’ at best. The comparison is relative, of course. The lack of a rock plate and soft midsole limits the Pegasus Trail 3 to non-technical terrain.
It’s worth mentioning that the Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex’s waterproofing capabilities will be compromised if the moisture enters through the heel opening. The soft heel gaiter is not laminated with Gore-Tex.
5) Saucony Peregrine 12 Gore-Tex
Rock plate? Check. Grippy PwrTrack outsole? Check. Midsole comfort? Yes. Waterproof? Yes, of course.
That’s the Saucony Peregrine 12 Gore-Tex for you. Saucony has completely revamped the Peregrine for 2022, all while retaining the core character of this popular trail shoe.
The waterproofing isn’t the only reason why the Peregrine features on our guide. It’s also got a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, something that not many waterproof trail running shoes have.
The firm midsole creates a stable ride over uneven terrain, and a flexible rock-shield protects the foot on uneven terrain. The Peregrine 12 also has a thick insole that’s made entirely of Pwrrun+ – Saucony’s version of adidas Boost foam.
This thick layer of resilient foam contributes to the overall ride comfort without affecting the transition quality.
While both the standard and GTX variants share the same midsole and outsole, the Gore-Tex version gets a waterproof upper with a closed mesh. Helpful bits like the gaiter attachment points improve the Peregrine 12 GTX’s waterproofing capabilities when deployed.
6) Saucony Excursion TR15 GTX
Saucony’s Excursion TR15 GTX is a basic trail running shoe that offers a waterproof fit at an affordable price.
As far as Gore-Tex running shoes go, a $100 MSRP isn’t bad at all. That being said, the Excursion TR15 isn’t what one would classify as high-performance. If it were not for the waterproof Gore-Tex upper, the standard Excursion TR15 is a $70 shoe. So this product is built to a price.
There’re no rock-plate or special outsole materials. The midsole is made of ‘Versarun’ – an EVA foam that Saucony uses in its entry-level products. From a performance standpoint, the Excursion TR15 GTX delivers a firm and supportive cushioning over the trail, and the outsole provides decent traction and protection.
The upper is sturdily built, relying on a combination of stitched and welded layers over a closed mesh. The exterior is nearly identical to the standard trail Excursion TR except for the tighter-knit mesh.
If it were not for the tiny Gore-Tex label on the heel, it would be hard to tell the difference.