It is a dilemma that is as old as history; getting boots that are both breathable and waterproof.
Because let’s face it, we all want a taste of both worlds. Waterproof boots enable you to work or walk even in the most drenched of places. You can also go to work while it is raining without the fear that your feet are going to soak in the rainwater.
Breathable boots on the other hand enable your feet to breathe, remain cool and feel comfortable no matter how torrid hot the weather might be outside. If you have clammy sweaty feet like mine, you will definitely need a meshwork interior to keep your feet dry, won’t you?
It is however never that easy to find boots that are both breathable and waterproof.
At most times, people have to enjoy one as they trade off the other.
Most waterproof boots are like polythene papers. Have you ever worn well-sealed polythene papers on your feet? Well if you walk into a puddle of water with them, they will seal out the water not allowing any to get in. On the other hand, your feet are not able to breathe and so the sweat is sealed in. Hikers will tell you that sweat is not a good thing when sealed inside since it easily causes blisters on your feet.
Fortunately, boots are not polythene papers and so you will get a good boot that balances between the two; waterproofness and breathability.
To hit this balance, it all boils down to the material of the upper part of your boot as well as the inner lining.
Synthetic material like rubber or nylon is never breathable but you can be assured of its waterproofness. In fact, you can literally stand in a puddle of water for hours without them letting in any drop of the murky water touch your feet. You can also walk through potholes filled with water like a little kid without a worry that your feet will get wet.
On the other hand, though, your feet will be sweaty since no water vapour can escape from inside. This is not very comfortable because when you eventually reach home, your feet will be smelly plus you will have to clean the interior of the boot to get rid of the sweat.
The waterproofness and breathability of leather material differs with its type and thickness. It could be full-grain, top-grain or split-grain. If the leather is too thick, it will be waterproof but not breathable and vice versa. If waterproof, you will need to do some maintenance so that it remains like that.
Boots made of fabric are non-waterproof but on the other hand, they are the most breathable shoes that your feet could ever wish for.
How to waterproof your breathable boots
Even the most waterproof of boots will not remain like so for long. You just need to hike or work with it for some time and it will give in to wear and tear that create small pores that will allow water in.
Waterproof boots can however be maintained as so through the following ways:
The use of wax to waterproof membranes is as old as history. Today, it is however not that popular because well, it is time consuming and such a painstaking job. Waxing makes your boot waterproof while at the same time not compromising on its breathability.
2. Adding a waterproof liner inside
Some waterproof liners can be added inside the boot just on top of your feet to keep you dry. It is however not a very good technology since it makes the boot heavier.
3. Adding oils and creams to your boot
There are some oils and creams applied to your boot to keep them water-resistant while at the same time keeping their breathability property intact. You will however have to keep reapplying these mediums time after time.
4. Use of spray-on waterproof
You can find some spray-ons that keep your leather boots waterproof. You will however have to buy a large stock of the same to regularly apply on your boots to continue keeping them water-resistant.
When is the right time to waterproof your boots?
When a drop of water comes to the surface of a water-proofed boot, it should roll out and fall to the ground. If it however smears and spreads on the boot, then you are having a waterproofing problem. It is high time that you waxed or sprayed on that boot.
After a hike, your boot might also get muddy and dirty, once you clean them up, you need to redo your waterproofing.
How to water-proof your boot
Once you have cleaned up your boots and they are dry, you need to apply your waterproofing medium.
Use the spray on a small part of the boot to test how good the spray-on works. The waterproofing spray might darken your leather a little bit. If it pleases you, go ahead and apply to the entire boot.
Downsides of waterproof boots
- They take longer to dry
When a waterproof leather boot finally gets wet, because it will do at one time, it takes ages to dry. For a non-waterproof boot, the material is meshy with lots of air space so that even when it gets wet, drying is easy peasy. For the waterproof boot on the other hand, since the materials are tightly compacted, it takes longer to let go of the water particles.
2. They are costly to maintain
For your non-waterproof boots, maybe you will not need to do much to maintain them. A little wash here and repair at the cobblers and you are good to go. For a waterproof boot on the other hand, you will have to keep buying spray-ons and spending lots of time waxing them up. But it pays off, doesn’t it?
3. You will have to compromise on the breathability of your feet
Let’s be honest here, if you find a boot that is 100% waterproof, then you can be assured that it is also 100% non-breathable. Take the case of rubber gumboots. They are fully waterproof but when you are getting your feet from inside, they are clammy with sweat, right? Yes, because the synthetic material used to make these boots is tightly compacted so that there is no breathing space.