Running shoes 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 could get inside through the heel collar. And the same lining that keeps the water out will also slow the draining process.
Think of a Gore-Tex running shoe as 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.
Your 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 over a shoe will greatly improve your chances of staying dry. However, 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?
A waterproof membrane is like a water delay timer. If you were to get caught in the occasional rain shower during your runs, 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 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 a Television show instead of being wet and miserable.
A waterproof shoe also does a much better job of protection against 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. Thus, waterproof footwear is also good at thermal insulation for runs during a rainy winter.
(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 and Saucony Peregrine even come with gaiter attachment points.
Road running shoes with a Gore-Tex upper are covered in the first part 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 dependable shoes will work for most runners.
Here, Asics does well. However, we removed the Asics Cumulus 22 GTX and GT-1000 9 GTX for now, but the updated versions should return in the Fall/Winter season of 2021.
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 both on and off the asphalt.
Adidas trail footwear used to have a near-monopoly on this guide, but other brands like Asics and Saucony have caught up. Nike is relatively inconsistent with its Gore-Tex equipped products.
Category 1: Waterproof road running shoes
1) Asics GT-2000 9 GTX
The GT-2000 9 is the middle ground between the GT-1000 9 (the V10 is out now) and Kayano 28.
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.
The GTX variant of the GT-2000 has a more aggressive outsole than the standard road model. The water-proof lining also makes the interior warmer and snugger.
Besides the waterproof GTX version, the GT-2000 9 is also available in a mind-boggling number of variants. There’s a trail version, reflective ‘Lite-show’ variant, 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 comfortable mild-support running shoe, then it’s hard to go wrong with the GT-2000 9 GTX.
2) Brooks Ghost 13 GTX
The Ghost’s well-rounded ride and fit character has made it a regular – and popular – fixture within Brooks’s running line.
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 have a positive influence 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 is worth the $30 premium in retail price.
When it comes to price-value, Adidas and Asics show everyone how Gore-Tex running shoes are done.
3) Asics Pulse 12 GTX
The Pulse 12 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 rearfoot Gel window provide basic cushioning. The ride experience isn’t exhilarating but if you’re looking for a waterproof shoe for everyday wear, 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.
The road version of the Pulse 13 has just been released, but Asics doesn’t sell the waterproof variant yet.
4) 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 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 with a layered exterior in a bootie form, and the tough Urethane reinforcements act as a protective barrier.
The EVA foam cushioning makes trail runs go easy on the feet whereas the wide-spaced Continental rubber lugs grip while keeping clogging to a minimum.
2) adidas Terrex Agravic TR Gore-Tex
Since we first published this guide, adidas has been consistent with its entry-level waterproof shoe offerings. The last edition of this article featured the Terrex Two Gore-Tex; this time, it’s the Terrex Agravic TR GTX.
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 an EVA-blend midsole and aggressive outsole lugs for cushioning protection and grip on the trails. There’s no rock plate, but in lieu, one gets a relatively flexible forefoot.
The Gore-Tex fitted upper uses an old-school design, relying on thick, stitched panels to reinforce the exteriors. The wide midfoot straps allow the laces to be cinched quickly.
3) Saucony Peregrine 11 Gore-Tex
Rock plate? Check. Grippy PwrTrack outsole? Check. Midsole comfort? Yes. Waterproof? Yes, of course.
That’s the Saucony Peregrine 11 Gore-Tex for you. Last year, Saucony’s popular trail running shoe dropped the ISOFIT panel for the V10 and embraced an upper with fused, protective overlays.
The V11 is much like the V10. The midsole hasn’t changed, so there’s no difference in the ride quality.
There are minor updates on the upper that do not alter the secure fit character. The Achilles dip is a bit softer due to the redesigned heel collar. Good bits like the gaiter attachment points are carried over from the previous model.
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.
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 for the Brooks brand is.
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 gaiter attachment points on the heel and front; this potentially boosts the waterproof capabilities of the Cascadia 15 Gore-Tex when an overshoe is used.
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
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 insulation when the air turns cold. The Gore-Tex lining inside means 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 firm cushioning complements 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) Nike Pegasus Trail 2 Gore-Tex
Except for the waterproof Gore-Tex lining, the Nike Pegasus Trail 2 Gore-Tex is nearly identical to the road model (The Pegasus Trail 3 has just been released though).
The second edition of the Pegasus trail adopts a more outdoors-oriented design stance. Be it the more aggressive outsole lug design with the rubber toe cap or heavily-layered upper, the Trail 2 Gore-Tex is closer to being a serious trail running shoe than the ‘soft roader’ Pegasus 36 Trail.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the Pegasus Trail 2 Gore-Tex’s waterproofing capabilities will be compromised if moisture enters through the collar or tongue opening. All ‘waterproof’ shoes that lack an ankle-high gaiter are splash-proof at best.
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 a 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.