Waterproof Or Non-Waterproof Trail Running Shoes?

Do I Need Waterproof Trail Running Shoes? What Are The Best For Me?

Deciding whether waterproof trail shoes are worth spending your hard-earned money on is one of those subjects that is very controversial, as can be seen from the various articles/reviews across the net. Some websites say you need to have a waterproof trail shoe and some tell you to avoid them. The same is true when you speak to off road runners and walkers themselves. In this article I discuss the pros and cons so you can get an idea whether a waterproof version is ideal for you. And of course, what you are going to be doing in the shoes has a lot to do with your choice.

They are waterproof. Obvious I know, but on those wet cold mornings when you’re jogging over the fields of wet grass or it just won’t stop hammering it down, it’s a real plus. There are hardened runners that will tell you that a good wool running sock and a trail shoe with a mesh upper that lets the water out will do just as well.

Whether getting wet and hoping to retain some warmth whilst letting the water make its way out is right for you all depends on where your comfort level lies and how cold your feet get.

They are windproof. On a cold winter’s day, particularly if you are running in high and exposed places, having a windproof shoe keeps your feet warmer. In extreme conditions this can prevent chill blains and frost nip. It’s worth mentioning that in these conditions a gaiter is also a must have, as it seals the gap between your running tights and the shoes, which makes your feet and ankles much warmer. It also stops laces from getting untied by bracken or heather, which is even more of a pain on a cold day when you’re getting tired, without having to retie your laces!

They are warmer. Even the most breathable waterproof uppers don’t breathe as well as a mesh upper, so these are going to stay warmer. This is a good thing on a cold day.

They are mud and debris proof. In a waterproof trail shoe you don’t get bits of grit coming through the upper (non-waterproof usually have mesh with plenty of gaps), which wear holes in your socks and turn them manky!

They are waterproof. Yep, a pro and a con! Waterproofing means that if water gets in over the top of the cuff, it doesn’t come out very easily at all. If water does get in and stay, it gives you less of a positive feel for the ground, makes your shoes heavier and the skin of your feet softer which can lead to blistering. Part of this problem can be prevented by a good water-resistant gaiter, as this will shed water and is effective in long wet grass or mud. However, if you are definitely crossing streams and rivers , a mesh shoe with a good wool sock might be a better option, even in the winter.

If your feet have room to move in your shoes, spreading on impact and you’re working them hard, you should keep warm in most cases. However, if you are out for a long, slow Sunday run on a cold day with a chance of rain, then waterproof is the snugger option.

They are windproof. When the temperature is getting above 10°C, in our opinion, for all but those that really feel the chill in their feet, waterproof trail shoes will be a bit too warm. Even if the wind is blowing hard. If you tend to get sweaty feet, you have an increased chance of blistering in this type of shoe.

They are warmer. As mentioned above, waterproof trail shoes can be a bit too warm in mild conditions. There are a few exceptions to this though; Inov-8’s Parkclaw 275 GTX is made from Gore-Tex’s Invisible Fit technology. When they first came on the market we had Chris at Northern Runner test run in a pair, as he typically dislikes Gore-Tex shoes because they make his feet sweat.

Read Chris’s review here: tinyurl.com/ycr8r926

In summary Chris thought that the Gore-Tex used in the Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 GTX was almost a breathable as a mesh upper. Even in the warm summer that we have had, Chris has continued to enjoy running in the Parkclaw 275 GTX.
They are mud and debris proof. The minor draw back with this can be that if some debris comes in over the top of the shoe then it is not going to get out! With a mesh upper there is a chance it cane escape.

Really then, waterproof trail shoes are best used mainly in colder, wintery conditions, particularly by those who feel chilly in the feet, where you make the most of the benefits they offer.

Below are a few options split into different types of trail running.
N.B. GTX means Gore-Tex

Road to Trail (you’re route features some road running to get to your favourite spot)
Inov-8 Parkclaw 275 GTX
Topo Hydroventure

Mixed Trail (Less road on your journey)
Altra Lone Peak 4 RSM Waterproof
Topo Hydroventure
Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX

Soft Mud
La Sportiva Tempesta

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