Are running shoes waterproof?

As the nights draw in and the weather becomes decidedly more inclement, the question of winter gear raises its ugly head. One of the main problems for runners to solve is how to stay dry. The implications of the weather on the kit we run in is obvious in the most part – you can pick up a waterproof running jacket and a visor pretty cheaply. But when it comes to running shoes, the question of whether they are waterproof, and just how waterproof they really are is more complex…

One of the worst feelings, when you are out running, is being soaked to the skin within minutes, it’s uncomfortable and can, in extreme cases, have medical implications too. Choose the right running shoes to stay drier for longer and have a more enjoyable run. In this article, we will give you a few tips on what to look out for, the technology used when waterproofing shoes and some accessories that might help.

running shoes

What is waterproof?

If you get a great pair of trainers that claim to be waterproof are your feet going to be totally dry at the end of a run?

We’re afraid it’s more complicated than that. Having a pair of trainers that are described as waterproof does not guarantee that your feet will stay perfectly dry. There are a number of reasons why…

Firstly, your shoes are just part of the equation when it comes to dry feet. Water running down your legs into your socks then your shoes is a big factor. No matter how waterproof your shoe is, water can still seep in by running down your body. Not a problem in a shower when your legs may avoid the worst of the rain, a bigger problem in a downpour, persistent rain or when your feet are submerged.

Second, whilst water may be repelled when it hits your shoe, if your shoes are not well fitted, water will find a way to seep in, through the back of your heel or underneath the tongue. Shoes that have waterproof features and that are well fitted are much more effective than waterproofing alone. If you had to choose between a well fitted trainer without waterproofing and an ill-fitted one with waterproof features, we’d recommend choosing the well fitted trainer every time.

Why does it matter?

The amount that waterproofing matters will likely depend on the type of runner you are. If you rarely venture from the roads and don’t head out when it’s pouring down, looking for waterproof trainers won’t matter too much. Yet, if you are a trail runner, needing to run through streams, bogs or rivers, through puddles that cover the trail and any mud that you encounter, having shoes that protect your feet means you will stay drier and warmer for longer. If you are out for a long run, keeping your feet dry in the early stages will aid your comfort and will likely lead to better performance too.

The key thing to remember is that a waterproof running shoe won’t keep you entirely dry – it will enable you to withstand the usual moisture that might seep into your shoe from falling rain or from an occasional splash. If you anticipate that your feet will be submerged in water for a prolonged period, on a wet and boggy trail run for example, then your feet will still be wet, just not quite as much.

As we mentioned before, in extreme cases where your feet become drenched you can end up getting some very uncomfortable conditions such as trench foot, resulting from your foot being submerged in water for too long. It’s rare but also avoidable in most cases and keeping your feet dry is a sure fire way to avoid it.

The Waterproof Technology: GoreTex

You may have heard of GoreTex before. It is a patented, waterproof and flexible fabric that is used when making many different water-repellent and waterproof items.

It has become popular among running shoe manufacturers as a way to waterproof shoes in a lightweight but effective way. One of the things we would recommend looking out for if you are searching for a waterproof running shoe is a GoreTex layer. Many manufacturers use GoreTex on many of their trail shoes and a quick look at shows that they use the patented material.

GoreTex have their own range of products, from jackets to footwear and gloves. Their website details their commitment to thorough testing of their technology and to sustainability too so you can be sure that you are buying a reliable and responsible product when you see the GoreTex logo.

Other features to look out for

So, you’ve decided on a good quality running shoe which will help keep your feet dry from any falling rain but how can you go about protecting against the run-off from your shorts? 

We’d recommend investing in a good pair of running socks to help with this. Socks that are made of a material that gets heavy when soaked through are going to hold you back. Waterproof running socks do come at a premium but many seasoned runners swear by them when running in the wet, through puddles and in falling rain. Again, we’d recommend buying a pair that are well fitted to you as, the more baggy the sock is, the more water it is likely to retain.

In the most extreme cases, where you know that you are in for a drenching, you may want to consider adding a running gaiter to your kit list to ensure that your feet stay dry. The gaiter sits on top of your running shoes, stopping water from entering into the shoe at your ankle and making sure that the water simply runs off without you even noticing. Gaiters are extremely effective at keeping you dry and at keeping debris out of your shoes.

We hope you find this blog post useful when choosing your next pair of running shoes to help keep your feet dry and warm. Although you can never be 100% waterproof, buying a pair of running shoes with a GoreTex layer and one or more of the accessories we have highlighted will go a long way to improving your running comfort when the going is wet!

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