How To Pick Waterproof Shoes For Any Outdoor Activity

Whether you're snowshoeing or trail running, here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right waterproof footwear.
Rain is a fact of life when you’re playing outside, and if you don’t want it to spoil your fun, you need to know how to stay dry. One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is to invest in a pair of high-quality waterproof shoes. But what type should you look for? And what qualities should you consider?

What type of waterproof shoe is best for me?

Gone are the days when waterproof footwear was restricted to those giant rubber galoshes you see kids splashing around in mud puddles with. In today’s world, waterproof shoes are considerably more versatile. They come in a wide range of styles, all of which are made with varying materials for different activities. Some, for example, are constructed with thicker, stiffer rubber or leather, while others are designed with more flexible knits and mesh.

There are four main types of shoes for wet weather: rain boots, hiking boots, hiking shoes, and running sneakers. Certain styles are designed to be tough and rugged with fully waterproof features, while others are more water-resistant so they can provide extra stretch and breathability. There is also a wide variety of insulation options.

Given this spectrum, it’s helpful to ask yourself two key questions before deciding on waterproof footwear:

    1. What am I doing? Before buying new shoes, think about what you’ll be doing in them the most. Will you be hiking or backpacking? Trail running or urban jogging? Snowshoeing or winter trekking? Depending on the activity type, you may prefer boots over shoes (there’s a difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes) and the type of material may make a difference too. Snow-based activities are often better with thicker boots, for instance, while hiking shoes or trail sneakers often perform better on wet terrain.
    2. How cold is it? Temperature plays a huge factor in the type of footwear you select as well. The colder it is, the more insulation you’ll want, so think carefully about the climate you’ll be in and what kind of weather elements you’ll be facing. If you're hiking in the snow, for example, you’ll want a warm, heavily insulated boot, whereas a trek through a warm wet rainforest might be better with a thinner, more breathable knit shoe.
There are three main types of waterproof footwear technology, each of which work differently and are best suited for different types of weather and activities.
    1. OutDry™ (for Heavy Rain and Snow): If you’ll be outside in the rugged elements in medium to heavy rain or snow, this extra-strong waterproof technology will provide all the protection you’ll need to stay fully dry and comfortable. A waterproof breathable material is heat-molded directly to the outer fabric to create a one-piece barrier that leaves no gaps or seams for water intrusion.
    2. Omni-Tech™ (for Medium Rain and Snow): For lighter to medium rain and snow, this technology offers a multilayered waterproof breathable barrier. The multilayered waterproof breathable construction allows excess moisture to escape through the layers.
    3. Omni-Shield™ (for Light Rain and Moisture): If your adventures will involve lighter rain and moisture, this technology offers a water-repelling finish on the outside of the shoe. The finish repels moisture, preventing it from being absorbed into the outer fabric (or leather), allows maximum flex and breathability, and reduces stains.

What else should I consider?

In addition to waterproof features, there are several other factors to consider when picking out wet-weather shoes:

    • Traction: Reliable traction is always important, but when you’re picking out waterproof shoes, it’s extra critical since you’re more likely to be contending with slick conditions such as rain, ice, slush, and snow.
    • Cushioning: Whether you’re hiking, running, snowshoeing, or participating in other outdoor activities, you want to be comfortable. Look for shoes with good shock absorption and ample cushioning.
    • Sweat Management: No one likes sticky, stinky feet, so odour management is important too. Features such as moisture-wicking fabrics and liners will help manage internal moisture and transport it to the outer layer of fabric where it can dry more quickly.
Now that you know everything there is to know about waterproof footwear,
check out these options from Columbia Sportswear.