Find the Best Waterproof Trail Runners: Buyer’s Tips

Waterproof Trail Runners: Close-up image of Adidas Terrex waterproof trail runners

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Hitting the trails in wet conditions? Waterproof trail runners are the answer to keep your feet dry and comfortable.

This guide will help you choose the right pair for your next outdoor adventure, so you can focus on the journey ahead without worrying about soggy socks.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Waterproof trail runners use membranes like Gore-Tex to keep feet dry on wet trails while allowing moisture to escape, preventing blisters and discomfort.
  • When choosing, look for durable outsoles with good wet traction, proper cushioning/drop, and features like gusseted tongues.
  • Get waterproof for rain, stream crossings, overnight hikes. Non-waterproof better for hot weather.

Waterproof Trail Runners Explained

Imagine you’re on a picturesque hiking trail, surrounded by nature’s beauty, when suddenly, rain pours down. Your once-promising hike now feels soggy and uncomfortable. That’s where waterproof trail runners come in, and here’s why they matter for hikers:

  1. Dry Feet: Waterproof trail runners keep your feet dry, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors without discomfort.
  2. Blister-Free Experience: These shoes prevent waterlogging, ensuring your hike remains comfortable and blister-free.
  3. Versatile for All Weather: Waterproof trail runners handle wet and muddy trails, giving you the grip and confidence regardless of the weather.
  4. Durability and Protection: Their sturdy build shields your feet on challenging terrains, keeping your hike safe and injury-free, even if you occasionally misstep or encounter rocky areas.

The Revolution in Shoes: Waterproof Membranes

So what enabled the rise of waterproof trail runners? It’s the waterproof membrane—an added layer with unique properties that prevent soaking.

Let’s delve into the details to understand why this tech is a game-changer:

  1. Trusted Protection: Brands like Gore-Tex have a reputation for effective waterproof membranes that keep water out while allowing moisture to escape, ensuring dry and breathable feet during intense hikes. For example, Gore-Tex technology is widely used across the industry, ensuring that you always have the necessary protection, even if the shoe is manufactured by a different brand.
  2. Lightweight Comfort: Gone are the days when waterproof meant heavy and bulky. Modern trail runners, equipped with technologies like Gore-Tex “Invisible Fit,” offer lightweight and pliable options. This means that quality waterproof trail runners typically weigh around 8-14 oz (250-400g) per shoe. You get the protection without sacrificing the comfort or flexibility of a standard trail runner.

How to Choose the Perfect Pair

Waterproof Trail Runners: Adidas Terrex being worn on a muddy trail

We always recommend finding the lightest pair that fits you well. This ensures your feet stay comfortable even after a long day.

Now, let’s delve into the details, starting with the most crucial aspects:

Traction and Outsole Design

When you’re out on the trail, sure-footedness is key. Look for:

  1. Materials for Durability: When choosing your next pair, pay attention to the materials used in the outsole. Quality rubber compounds (like Vibram®) are your best bet for durability. A robust outsole will resist wear and tear, ensuring your trail runners last longer and remain reliable on rugged terrain.
  2. Wet Surface Friendliness: Hiking often involves wet surfaces, like streams and dewy grass. Choose trail runners with outsoles designed for traction in damp conditions, featuring water-shedding channels or hydrophobic materials for improved grip.
  3. Specialized Designs: Some trail runners are specifically designed for hiking and include specialized outsole designs. Look for models with features like soft Pwrtac lugs or similar materials that excel in providing traction on rugged hiking trails if you plan to tackle extra challenging terrain.

Other Things to Look For

If you want to delve deeper into the details, there are additional features that can make your decision-making process easier:

  1. Cushioning: Some trail runners offer excessive cushioning, creating a floating sensation as you walk. However, lower cushioning provides more feedback. We prefer low to medium options to avoid ankle twisting.
  2. The Right Drop: Drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and forefront midsole cushioning, often related to the amount of cushioning. Choose a drop similar to your regular running shoes for comfort. If you don’t have athletic shoes, check your casual shoes, which typically have a moderate heel-to-toe drop (around 0.16-0.31 inches or 4-8mm).
  3. Gusseted Tongues: A helpful feature to prevent small pebbles and stones from entering your shoes, eliminating the frustration of having to stop and remove them.
  4. Closures: If you prefer not to use traditional laces, consider shoes with the BOA® Fit System, which uses a dial for secure fastening. We love laces because of their simplicity.
  5. Protection: If you plan to tackle rugged trails, choose trail runners with toe guards and hidden plates for underfoot protection from roots and rocks. Keep in mind, these features add weight to the shoe.

When to Choose Waterproof Trail Runners

It’s not always wise to choose waterproof trail runners. In many cases, waterproof trail-running shoes are unnecessary.

They can trap water, causing your feet to overheat and sweat. That’s why many trail runners prefer highly breathable, non-waterproof shoes.

Consider waterproof trail runners when:

  • Hiking in rainy or wet conditions.
  • Facing stream crossings or wet grass.
  • Exploring cold and damp environments.
  • Embarking on extended hikes or overnight treks.
  • Hiking through early morning dew.

Opt for non-waterproof trail runners when:

  • Hiking in hot and sunny weather.
  • Needing fast-drying footwear.
  • Engaging in high-intensity activities.
  • Prioritizing personal comfort and breathability.


In this post, we’ve delved into waterproof trail runners, guiding you to find the ideal pair for dry and comfortable hikes, whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a beginner.

We’ve also addressed the question of whether you truly need waterproof ones or if a non-waterproof option might be more suitable.

With all this knowledge, you’re ready to select your next pair. So, gear up, hit the trails, and enjoy your hikes with confidence.

Seeking ultralight waterproof trail runners? Explore our TOP 5 guide for the lightest choices for men and women.


Is it worth getting waterproof trail running shoes?

Whether waterproof trail running shoes are worth it depends on the conditions you encounter. They excel in wet or rainy weather, providing comfort and foot protection. These versatile shoes are suitable for various outdoor activities. However, personal preference also plays a role, as some hikers prioritize breathability and lightweight options in warm conditions. Ultimately, if you frequently hike in wet or unpredictable weather, waterproof trail running shoes are a valuable investment, but it’s essential to consider your specific needs and preferences.

Is GORE-TEX 100% waterproof?

GORE-TEX is highly waterproof, but it’s not 100% waterproof. It effectively keeps water out under normal conditions, but in extremely wet or prolonged exposure to water, there’s a minimal chance of moisture getting through. It’s a reliable choice for most outdoor activities, but it’s important to use proper care and maintenance to ensure its performance over time.

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Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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