Whether you’re strolling down a small local trail or questing up a mountain in a National Park, a great pair of hiking boots can protect your feet and ensure you’ve got plenty of traction. But if you live in a wetter climate (like the Pacific Northwest), consider waterproofing, too. And with the start of fall, many areas will begin to see more precipitation. Even if it’s not actively raining on you, you could still come across puddles, patches of mud, and the occasional creek crossing.

To help you stay comfortable and dry, we tested the newest and most innovative waterproof hiking boots on the market. Here are the top performers.


What Makes Them Waterproof?

Walker Steps In Puddle, UK
Tim Graham

Hearing “waterproof boots” may bring to mind the yellow rain slicker-clad Gorton’s Fisherman. But today’s models don’t rely on thick heavy rubber to repel precipitation—rather, they have high-tech membranes. These are thin, porous films of plastic polymer like Gore-Tex’s expanded polytetrafluoroethylene. It has 9 billion pores per square inch, each 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet. But the genius of such membranes is that, while the pores are too small for liquid water to pass through, they’re large enough for water vapor. That means water from rain and puddles can’t get in, while evaporating moisture from inside your boot, like sweat, can escape. In theory that's great, though these membranes are breathable, a common complaint is that they don’t vent well, which can make for sweaty feet on hot days and during intense hikes. As such, it’s safe to only get waterproof boots if you think you'll often be walking through cool or wet environments. Prefer to hike on sunny, warm days? Well then go without the membrane. Although there are different models of membranes, some with slightly different thicknesses and waterproofing levels than others, most are similar constructions. While Gore-Tex is in some of these boots, other brand's have their own proprietary membranes like Merrell’s M Select Dry, Keen.Dry, and Oboz’s B.Dry.


How We Tested

We hiked in these boots in five National Parks—Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Rainer, and Olympic—and National Forests across the West, state parks, and under-the-radar local trails. That involved everything from strolling along soft mulch paths and running down rocky, rooted singletrack to walking sun-baked, dusty dirt roads and scrambling up rain-slicked routes. We also stomped through puddles, mud, and streams.

After field testing, we quantitatively tested the boots’ waterproofing, putting 75 grams of white rice into each one, then soaked the boots in water up to the top of the forefoot for 10 minutes. We then emptied and weighed the rice to see how much water it had absorbed. In the end, none of the boots had let any water in.


―EDITORS' CHOICE―

Merrell Zion Mid Waterproof

A running shoe-inspired boot that’s comfortable and capable

Height: Mid | Weight: 1 lb. 13 oz. | Upper: Mesh and Leather | Membrane: M Select Dry

5
5

Merrell
Zion Mid Waterproof
$150.00
SHOP NOW
rei.com

  • Comfortable
  • Great styling

  • Not best for heavy loads

It’s tough for a hiking boot to look cool, but the Zion manages with its sharp, sneaker-like styling. Though don’t let the good looks fool you—this boot has real outdoor chops. The Vibram Megagrip sole afforded supreme traction, and the supple and flexible molded-EVA midsole kept our feet feeling light, as if we were wearing nothing more than running shoes. We even found ourselves stepping into a light jog while going downhill. Yet the Zion still has the support of a traditional boot: the high cuff lent confidence, even on trails in the Tetons strewn with loose, basketball-size rocks.

We did find the Zion a tad hot, especially in the toe box where leather and rubber give increased protection but limit venting. Though we were willing to overlook it because the boot sloughed off all the water we stomped through. The upper was easy to tie to the perfect tightness, and, even when loose, the gusseted tongue kept trail debris out. Though the sneaker-esque construction and forgiving fit of the upper might not be best for heavy loads or weak ankles.


―BEST FOR TREKKING―

Mammut Ducan Knit High GTX

A supremely supportive boot for when you’re carrying heavy loads

Height: High | Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz. | Upper: 3D-Knit Textile | Membrane: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort

4.5
5
Mammut
Ducan Knit High GTX
$249.00
SHOP NOW
amazon.com

  • Comfortable upper
  • Easy-to-adjust laces
  • Solid grip

  • Made our feet sweat profusely

The Ducan Knit High is unlike any other boot in our test. Rather than padded leather around the ankle, it has a sock-like, synthetic, 3D-knit textile upper with Gore-Tex Extended Comfort (a new Gore membrane that’s incorporated into a single layer of the boot itself, keeping it lighter and cooler, rather than a standard membrane that’s layered between other boot materials). That 3D-knit fabric fits to your foot much better than traditional leather or padded fabric. Pus, it ventilates well, is supportive even when not tied tightly, and won’t dig into your leg if you’re side-stepping. We love the eyelets, too—as they continue down the boot toward the toes, they track toward the outside edge, like you’d see in a soccer cleat. This helped lock the ball of our foot in by not pulling the sides of the boot together over the toes, but pulling the top of the boot itself down onto our toes to secure them evenly.

The Vibram Flextron outsole afforded great grip, allowing us to navigate slippery and rocky Pacific Northwest trails confidently. However, on an particularly sweaty hike with 3,000 feet of elevation gain over two miles, we found our socks soaked when we reached the top. While the ventilation could have been better, the ability to dial in the fit of the boot, combined with Mammut’s liberal use of breathable tech fabrics, meant we only noticed minor hot spots on the pinky toes on the descent, even with the sweat-drenched socks.


―MOST SECURE―

Danner Trail 2650 Mid GTX

A rock solid fit from heel to toe

Height: Mid | Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz. | Upper: Suede and Textile | Membrane: Gore-Tex

4.5
5
Danner
Trail 2650 Mid GTX
$179.95
SHOP NOW
amazon.com

  • Locks the heel in place
  • Great grip

  • Relatively low top isn’t great for heavy loads

When you slip your foot into the Danner 2650, make sure you’re comfortable, because as soon as the laces are tied, your foot’s not going to slide around in there. And we mean that in a good way. The security starts with Danner’s odd-looking EXO Heel system—a patch of exterior rubber that looks like a random piece of plastic slapped on the back of the boot as an afterthought. But it helps cup and cradle your heel, locking it in place. And since it’s on the outside of the boot, you won’t feel any rubbing or discomfort from the hefty construction. The superb fit continues with the laces—at each individual eyelet, we could pull to our desired tightness, and the lace would stay in place, even if eyelets next to each other were cinched more or less tightly. That’s thanks to the wavy, textured lace, which also stayed knotted better than the other boots’ laces.

The thin upper around the ankle didn’t dig into our skin, though you may want more support if you’re carrying a heavier load. The Vibram Megagrip outsole grips and flexes well without being soft—we only slipped once a 45-degree hill covered in loose, dry gravel. A near winner for best overall boot, the Trail 2650 also managed temperature well thanks to perforated vents in the leather. Though we found the boot lacking in arch support, making for some sore feet after a 12-mile day.


―LIGHTEST―

La Sportiva Pyramid GTX

Ultra light weight belies this boot’s level of support

Height: Mid | Weight: 1 lb. 0.5 oz. | Upper: Nubuck Leather | Membrane: Gore-Tex Surround

4
5
La Sportiva
Pyramid GTX
$189.00
SHOP NOW
rei.com

  • Supremely light
  • Ventilates and grips well

  • Stiff upper
  • Have to pull laces extremely hard to tighten enough

The Pyramid GTX is a supremely capable shoe, mixing traditional styling with modern construction. The nubuck leather upper is durable but incorporates nano cell mesh and channels within the boot’s Gore-Tex Surround membrane to get air to your foot while maintaining waterproofing. That temperature management is effective, and our feet were comfortable even on warm days. The Vibram XS Trek outsole provided great grip, even as we hiked up dry, loose, rocky trails in the National Forests of Montana. And the La Sportiva Impact Brake system—a set of grooves running across the width of the heel—bit into the ground and increased stopping power so we could stride downhill without losing our footing. We especially loved how the eyelets are built right into the leather upper, which prevents the lace loop of one boot catching on an eyelet of the other as you step. Our one hang up: The upper was a bit stiff, requiring us to tie the boots up tighter than we’d prefer in order to prevent dirt and pebbles from finding their way in.


―BEST CONSTRUCTION―

Salomon Outback 500 GTX

A light boot with high-tech fabrics to keep it tough

Height: High | Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz. | Upper: Cordura | Membrane: Gore-Tex

4.5
5
Salomon
Outback 500 GTX
$209.95
SHOP NOW
amazon.com

  • Lightweight
  • Ample cushioning
  • Laces don't loosen

  • Stiff upper can dig in uncomfortably

The Outback GTX weighs barely over a pound. And yet Salomon accomplished that low weight not by paring the boot down to a glorified trail runner, but by sticking to classic design and utilizing light materials. Burly-but-feathery Cordura and EnergyCell, a lightweight and cushy EVA foam, made this one of the most supportive boots in the test. One of our hikers with a chronic heel problem found the Outback protected his foot more than any other boot, even as he ran down exposed granite, which the boot’s Contragrip MD outsole gripped well. And kudos to Salomon for including smart features, like an eyelet at the base of the ankle that pinches the lace so it doesn’t loosen during your hike. This also means that you can have a loose fit around the toes while keeping the boot tighter around the ankle, or vice versa.

Temperature management is great as well, even with the gusseted tongue, thanks to the boot’s thin build. The Outback feels stiff and plasticky at first but breaks in quickly, with the exception of the ankle, which dug in as we side-stepped. We also found these boots run about a half size big, so order down.


―OTHER GREAT OPTIONS―


Keen Explore Mid

An affordable, entry-level boot with great grip

Height: High | Weight: 2 lb. 1 oz. | Upper: Performance Mesh with TPU | Membrane: Keen.Dry

3.5
5
KEEN
Explore Mid
$134.95
SHOP NOW
rei.com

  • Affordable
  • Locks the heel in

  • Heavy
  • Short laces
  • Stiff

Even though the Explore Mid weighs more than two pounds, it feels light on the foot, making it a great entry-level option. And our testers were even able to comfortably run across flat sections of the trail as they hustled to make it back to the car before sundown. This boot didn’t have the softest midsole we tested. (We also found the Keen.All-Terrain outsole and toe box a bit stiff, which led to some slipping.) Another drawback was the length of the lacesW when it was fed all the way through the eyelets, there was hardly any left to actually tie or tighten the boot. Even so, we hiked eight miles comfortably with no hot spots or blisters, and the Explore handled whatever the weather brought. Ventilation was great thanks to the mesh uppers overlaid with thermoplastic polyurethane for durability. And call us superficial, but we also like the pop of colors, which add a bit of character.


Vasque Breeze LT GTX

Comfortable sneaker styling with all-mountain chops

Height: Mid | Weight: 1 lb. 11 oz. | Upper: Abrasion-Resistant Mesh | Membrane: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort

4
5
Vasque
Breeze LT Mid GTX
$169.95
SHOP NOW
rei.com

  • Looks sharp
  • Comfortable
  • Sure-footed grip

  • A touch warm

The Breeze LT GTX is a sharp-looking boot. While it was comfortable on the trail, it’d also be a great for wet-weather urban commuting thanks to its low-profile, sneaker-like design. It felt tight and stiff around the ankle at first, but the boot broke in nicely after only a few minutes of hiking, so don’t get spooked when you try it on. Same goes for the insole, which feels boxy but takes no time to soften up and form to your foot. On a warm day, however, we did find this to be one of the hottest boots. It wasn’t enough to induce sweating, just slightly warmer than we’d like. Vibram Litebase—a construction that includes 40 to 50 percent less rubber than other Vibram outsoles without lessening the size or thickness of the lugs—and Megagrip meant confident footing, even as we stepped on stones submerged three- to four-inches deep in a creek. And the Breeze felt surprisingly light and nimble, not weighing down our feet as we strode.


Oboz Bridger Mid

A leather boot for quite literally knocking around

Height: Mid | Weight: 2 lb. 6 oz. | Upper: Nubuck Leather | Membrane: BDry

3.5
5
Oboz
Bridger Mid
$180.00
SHOP NOW
rei.com

  • Tough rubberized outsole
  • Durable leather upper

  • Heavy
  • Traps warmth
  • Slippery sole

The Bridger Mid’s calling card is it hardiness: It has a great leather and rubber construction that protects you even as you bang into roots and other trail debris. The toe cap has a large swath of rubber that extends almost up to the laces, and the heel is similarly protected. It felt like we could stumble blind-folded down a rocky trail and not hurt ourselves. These burly chunks of rubber do contribute to the boot’s relatively high weight, though. And take Oboz’s Granite Peak outsole; while thick and durable, it’s stiff. This meant not only did the boot not flex much, but the rubber was so hard we could actually feel rocks through it when we stepped on them, as the sole didn't conform around them. It also contributed to the lack of soft rubbery grip, so we slipped on some exposed rocks and roots. All of these protective materials also made this a fairly warm boot, and we found our feet sweating even on the cooler days.


Lowa Renegade GTX

A heavy-duty boot for hauling heavy loads

Height: High | Weight: 2 lb. 7 oz. | Upper: Nubuck Leather | Membrane: Gore-Tex

4
5
Lowa
Renegade GTX Mid
$239.95
SHOP NOW
zappos.com

  • Supportive

  • Too warm for hot weather
  • Slipped on wet terrain

Meant for serious hikes and heavy loads, the Renegade has a durable nubuck upper. But we found it took some real tugging on the laces to get it to tighten and fit our foot. Once in place though, it wasn’t going anywhere. That stiffness was present in the midsole, too, with its full-length stabilizing shank and a layered frame. (That means the sole acts like a bucket seat for your foot, wrapping up around the side to keep it in place within the shoe, even on inclined trails or sloping paths.) While helpful when we were shouldering heavy loads, it also aided when we were unencumbered by a pack on rough trails that required scrambling and large step downs. Though we did notice some slipping of the Vibram EVO sole on wet branches. This is more boot than most weekend warriors will need, but it will serve you well pounding down rocky trails with a bunch of gear on your back.