Are Waterproof Boots Really Waterproof?

The image features a person walking in water wearing the Thatcher Women's Waterproof Sneakerboots in Toffee.

Good-quality waterproof boots come in handy if you’re going hiking, working outdoors, or just live in an area with wet weather. But will they really protect your feet from getting wet in the rain and on muddy trails? The short answer is that it depends. Certain features are important for a boot or sneaker to be truly waterproof.   

What Makes a Waterproof Boot Waterproof

When we say “waterproof,” we mean it. The sneakerboots in our men’s and women’s waterproof collections can be submerged in 3 inches or more of water and your feet will stay dry. We achieve this through a number of important features. 

Internal Waterproof Membrane

One of the most important features to look for in a waterproof boot is the membrane. This is a bootie within your boot—another barrier between your feet and the elements. There are different types of waterproof membranes, with GORE-TEX, eVent®, and Hydroguard® being among the most well-known. 

The image shows a sketch of the internal waterproof membrane that goes inside all waterproof Forsake boots.

The Hydroguard® internal membrane we use in our Forsake waterproof sneakerboot collection is designed to be both waterproof and breathable, which helps prevent feet from getting clammy or cold. This barrier is sandwiched between the leather upper and the boot lining. It contains billions of microscopic pores that allow the water vapor from your feet to escape but are too small to let water droplets pass through. This is key to staying dry and comfortable. 

Waterproof-Grade Materials

We primarily use leather in our waterproof sneakerboot collection, because it’s naturally durable. To make sure that it can really stand up to the elements, we also pre-treat it with a waterproof seal, which serves as the first line of defense against rain, snow, and slush. This also helps protect the leather from moisture damage and give your sneakerboots a longer lifespan. 

Gusseted Tongue

With regular old sneakers or boots, the tongue is attached to the rest of the upper only at the bottom. This creates a relatively large opening on both sides of the tongue, making soaked socks an unpleasant reality. A gusseted tongue is a game changer for wet conditions, as it is sewn to the upper along its sides and bottom. This means that your feet will be protected from water splashing across the front of your sneakerboots.

The image shows a sketch of the gusseted tongue technology on some of our Forsake styles with no openings to prevent water coming in.

Taped Seams

For the kind of waterproof protection that gives you the confidence to walk through puddles, you’ll also want to make sure the seams are taped, or fully sealed. Our Forsake all-weather sneakerboots include a thin layer of waterproof tape across all outer seams to protect your feet from water. Otherwise, moisture could seep in through the tiny holes created by the stitching. 

How to Choose Waterproof Boots

In addition to checking out the waterproof features before you buy new all-weather boots, there are a couple other considerations. In wet and icy conditions, having an outsole that provides good traction will keep you steady on your feet even on slick surfaces. Grippy rubber with lugs is the best combination. We design our patented Peak-to-Pavement® outsole with discrete lugs, so you get the sleek look of a sneaker paired with the directional grooves typically found on hiking boots. 

The image shows a man walking on a snowy trail, wearing the Phil Mid Men's Waterproof Sneakerboots in Mocha.

Materials are another thing to think about when searching for the best waterproof boots for your needs. Plastic, rubber, and leather are all common options. Stiff plastic and rubber boots can provide good protection from the elements because they’re impermeable, but that also has some downsides. 

For example, these materials don’t breathe, so while wet weather is kept out, your sweat is kept in. This means that overtime, your feet may get wet and clammy, and that moisture can make your feet feel cold. Another con to plastic and rubber waterproof boots is that they are stiff and sometimes crack, ultimately reducing their lifespan. 

We’re fans of waterproof-grade leather, because it’s both durable and pliant on top of being breathable. Overall, we think it makes for more comfortable waterproof boots. 

Curious about cleaning and caring for waterproof leather boots? A few simple steps will keep your boots looking fresh for the long term. 


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