This is a fact that everyone must know. Running shoes, by themselves, cannot be truly waterproof – 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 that keeps the water out also restricts the draining process.
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 waterproof shroud.
Your socks may 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 for that.
So are waterproof running shoes useless then? Why spend the extra cash if there’s no guarantee of staying dry?
Think of a waterproof membrane as a water-delay timer. If you were to get caught in the occasional rain shower during your runs, a Gore-Tex 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 about 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 of protecting you from puddle splashes than open-meshed footwear.
Some trail running routes involve jumping over small water streams, and the occasional misstep doesn’t have to soak your feet.
If you’re dealing with muddy trails, waterproofing is a very useful feature to have. The upper keeps the moisture from seeping in. 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 upper.
There’s an added benefit of a waterproof running shoe. The upper acts as a wind-blocker and keeps the insides toasty during the colder months. So if you’re preparing to run in the winter rains, rest assured that waterproof footwear is also good at thermal insulation.
(Related read: The best winter running shoes.)
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. Some shoes like the Brooks Cascadia even come with gaiter attachment points.
There are road running Gore-Tex equipped shoes too, and we cover that in the first half of this guide. 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. Here, Asics leads the pack with many models spanning multiple categories and price-bands.
Trail running shoes are an entirely different beast. You’re spoiled for choices here; most companies sell GTX-lined trail shoes. If you’re looking for great value, adidas is a good place to find it. The other positive aspect of adidas is that it offers soft-road models, shoes that can be used for both on and off the asphalt.
Adidas trail footwear had a near-monopoly on this guide last year, but other brands like Asics, New Balance, and Saucony are catching up. At the time of writing, Nike does not sell a running shoe with a Gore-Tex membrane. The closest one gets is the ‘Shield’ version of the Pegasus 37, but that shoe is water-repellant and not water-proof.
The previous edition of this curated list was missing a Hoka model, but that’s now taken of care of; the Hoka Challenger GTX is here.
Category 1: Waterproof road running shoes
1) Asics Cumulus 22 GTX
The standard road version of the Cumulus 22 is an excellent neutral trainer for daily runs. But that model doesn’t cut it when it rains, so it’s good to have the Cumulus’s waterproof avatar when that happens.
It’s worth mentioning that the Cumulus 22 GTX isn’t just about the waterproofing. This is a near-winterized version of the road model, and that means the outsole and upper is designed with the colder months in mind.
In functional terms, that translates into an outsole with a more aggressive lug pattern. This gives the GTX Cumulus an edge over the road Cumulus in the traction department.
The GTX upper isn’t the same either as the road version either. The upper has a thicker mesh with a reinforced toe-cap and heel. Even the lacing panel is stitched over. As expected, the waterproof version has a narrower upper fit than the road model.
There’s only a $10 retail price difference between the road and waterproof version. If you ask us, that’s darned good value.
2) Asics Pulse 12 GTX
This is Asics’s entry-level running shoe with a waterproof Membrane. Other than that, this shoe is as basic as it gets, albeit in a good way. Though the construction is very straightforward, all the functional bits are exactly where they need to be.
An EVA midsole and a rearfoot Gel window provide basic cushioning. The ride experience isn’t fancy but if you’re looking for a waterproof road-running shoe for everyday use, then the Pulse 12 GTX offers a lot for its price.
The upper even manages to look good while fitting well. An engineered mesh exterior hides the Gore-Tex lining, whereas protective details like the stitched toe bumper reinforce the upper.
3) Asics GT-1000 9 GTX
There is a cost attached to waterproofing. For the GT-1000, that amount is $20 at full retail. This mild-stability daily trainer with a small medial post has been around for a while, and the Gore-Tex variant is for those who value dry feet during the occasional rain shower.
This is very much a road-going shoe. Unlike the heavily modified Cumulus 22 GTX, most of the GT-1000 9 GTX’s parts are shared with the road model. That being said, there is additional protection on the upper in the form of the welded-on toe-box and thicker midfoot overlays.
We noticed that the 2020 retail price for the GT-1000 9 is $10 extra over the 2019 G-TX model. So if you can find the last year’s model for a much lower price, go for that instead.
4) Asics GT-2000 8 GTX
If the GT-1000 9 is a mild-stability running shoe, then the GT-2000 8 is the half-way point between the GT-1000 9 and the Kayano 27. It has a medial-post molded into the inner midsole for the old-school ‘anti-pronation’ touch, and the simple upper design is functional and well-fitting.
Just like the GT-1000, the 2000 has a more aggressive outsole than the stock model. The water-proof lining also makes the interior warmer and snugger.
Incidentally, the GT-2000 8 is available in a mind-boggling number of variants. There’s a trail version and another knit upper model. There are narrow, wide, and extra-wide sizes available too.
So if your idea of a waterproof daily trainer is a firm stability running shoe, it’s hard to go wrong with the GT-2000. We’ve reviewed the standard model here.
5) Brooks Ghost 13 GTX
The Ghost’s well-rounded ride and fit character has made it a regular fixture within Brooks’s running line, and a popular one at that.
The Ghost 13’s single-density midsole makes the ride smoother than the 12. The upper is comfortable as always; the engineered mesh upper and padded heel/tongue work their magic on the fit and feel.
The same traits work their way into the Gore-Tex version of the Ghost, so it’s an excellent daily trainer to keep the feet dry.
However, we don’t think that the Gore-Tex premium is worth the $30 difference in retail price. When it comes down to price-value, Adidas and Asics shows us how it’s done. And it’s not like that the Ghost 13 GTX is a heavily modified version. In short, we’d pick the waterproof Asics Cumulus 22 instead.
6) New Balance 880V10 GTX
It’s the 880’s turn to become a Fresh Foam convert, and that applies to both the standard and Gore-Tex models. This update gives the ride increased softness and smoothness, something that’s available in the waterproof version too.
The waterproof membrane aside, there’s not much of a feature separation between the summer and waterproof versions. The Gore-Tex 880 has a single-density Fresh foam midsole for everyday cushioning over an outsole that’s partially made of blown rubber for padded landings and transitions.
The GTX version has a slightly thicker upper with reinforced eyelets. But other than that, only the waterproofing is the real functional gap. For $20 extra, of course.
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 roomy fit. The foam and rubber pillar midsole has plenty of comfort for runs and urban exploring.
Several aspects of the shoe could be improved. Long-term waterproofing is sketchy, and the part foam, part rubber outsole isn’t the grippiest.
Also see: On Cloudventure waterproof.
Category 2: Waterproof trail running shoes
1) adidas Terrex Agravic Gore-Tex
Not only do you get waterproofing here, but the Terrex Agravic also has everything that’s required of a performance trail running shoe.
The Gore-Tex inner lining is topped off with a layered exterior in a bootie form, and the tough Urethane reinforcements act as a protective barrier. The EVA foam cushioning makes the ride easy on the feet while the wide-spaced Continental rubber lugs grip while minimizing clogging.
Also see: adidas Terrex Agravic Flow Gore-Tex.
2) adidas Terrex Two GTX
The adidas Terrex Two is available in two variants. One of which happens to be waterproof and has a $20 price premium over the standard model.
Unlike the sleeker Agravic models, the Terrex Two has a more forgiving upper fit that does a better job of accommodating various foot types. That helps, considering that adidas doesn’t sell widths. As a bonus, the upper design looks sleek and uncluttered while being functional. The speed-lacing loops and the last eyelet allow for quick cinching.
If you’re looking for the Boost foam here, you won’t find it. The Terrex Two GTX uses an EVA-blend midsole for cushioning and protection over the trails. There’s no rock plate, but what you get in return is a relatively flexible forefoot.
The Continental rubber lugs have a toned-down profile, so the Terrex Two is targeted at less arduous trail runs instead of technical terrains.
3) Saucony Peregrine 10 GTX
Rock plate? Check. Grippy PwrTrack outsole? Check. Midsole comfort? Yes. Waterproof? Yes, of course.
That’s the Saucony Peregrine 10 GTX for you. Saucony’s popular trail running shoe drops the ISOFIT panel and embraces a waterproof upper with fused, protective overlays.
Waterproofing isn’t the only reason why the Peregrine featured on our guide. It’s also got a 4mm heel to toe drop, something that not many waterproof trail running shoes have.
4) Brooks Cascadia 15 GTX
Just like the Brooks Ghost 13 GTX, you’ll be paying a $30 premium for the waterproof version of the Cascadia. Is it worth it? That depends on how deep your love is for the Brooks brand.
As a standalone shoe, the Brooks Cascadia 15 is a very capable trail running shoe. Apart from the standard trail-worthy features like a rock plate and aggressive outsole lugs made of sticky rubber, the Cascadia has a couple of extras thrown in.
There are attachment points on the heel and the front for a trail gaiter; this potentially boosts the waterproofed-ness of the Cascadia 15 Gore-Tex.
Except for the waterproof lining, the GTX variant is nearly identical to the stock Cascadia. Protective overlays cover much of the upper and act as a barrier against moisture.
The Cascadia also features a unique ‘posting’ system on the midsole that increases its stability. Two pairs of firmer foam parts are wedged in the forefoot and rearfoot for enhanced support.
5) Hoka Challenger Low GTX
Finally. A max-cushioning trail running shoe graces this buyer’s guide, and that too a Hoka.
When we look at the Hoka Challenger Low GTX, we see more than 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. We also see a shoe that’s better suited for winter than the others on this list.
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. Boring can be fun at times.
The said color schemes are the result of using waterproof Nubuck leather that also insulates the foot when the air turns cold. And there is a Gore-Tex lining inside, meaning that 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 cushioning has a firm undertone, and it goes well with the stiff and supportive upper.
The outsole grip is great on the road and mild flat trails, thanks to the colony of waffle-shaped rubber lugs.
6) New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi Trail GTX
The New Balance Arishi Trail has always been a bit of a soft-roader. It’s a comfort-oriented shoe meant for mild trails that also manages to feel agile due to its firm ride and lightweight build.
This is a trail shoe that weighs below 10-ounces, so don’t expect a lot of protection from the pointy rocks or roots. All that separates your foot from the trail is a low-profile Fresh Foam midsole and a thin rubber outsole; a rock plate isn’t going to come to your rescue.
Even the upper is mostly mesh, save for the stitched-over toe bumper and welded reinforcements in the back.
But it’s hard to beat the $90 retail price that buys you a Gore-Tex lined running shoe.
7) Saucony Excursion TR14 GTX
Saucony’s Excursion TR14 GTX is a basic trail running shoe that offers a waterproof fit at a sensible price tag. When we say basic, it means that the Excursion TR14 isn’t meant for anything more than an easy trail run. There’s no rock-plate or special outsole design and materials.
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’s hard to tell the difference. Our gripe is the 30% premium over the non-waterproof Excursion TR14.
This is a nice waterproof trail running shoe, but we’d go with one of the adidas models instead. Or even the New Balance Arishi.