There has been an influx of waterproof shoes coming to the market in the travel world lately. Is that a good thing?
Well, if you’re walking through Thailand during the rainy season and a massive rain shower hits, it might seem like a good idea to have a waterproof shoe.
Great, your feet didn’t get wet… but at what cost?
To understand that question, we’re going to have to take a look at how waterproof shoes actually work.
We take our travel gear seriously at Alibi Supply Co. and we wouldn’t wear waterproof shoes because they aren’t breathable, don’t dry quickly, are hot, and most likely are not 100% waterproof.
These shoes that aren't 100% waterproof are really water-resistant and lead to a whole host of other problems. We think water-resistant shoes are even worse than waterproof shoes.
Basically, if you're a traveler, there are a handful of other shoe properties that should be way more important to you such as breathability, odor-reduction, and versatility.
Don't buy shoes just because they are waterproof.
Some waterproof shoes are completely waterproof. It certainly is possible.
If a shoe company is also promising that the shoe is breathable, then you should run in the other direction.
You will either have a hot foot or a wet foot because it isn’t possible to have a breathable and waterproof shoe.
The best analogy for this situation is for you to picture someone trying to make their face waterproof.
They can wrap their head in plastic wrap and we could dump a bucket of water on their head and their face won't get wet.
The problem is they won't be able to breathe and they will die in a little while.
Waterproof means that the material of the shoe will keep out 100% of the water that’s thrown at it.
Just remember, there is a giant hole where you stick your foot into the shoe. That means that water can still manage to get in through the foot sized hole. The thing is, once your foot is in there it will be kind of hard for the water to get out.
You will end up with a soggy foot.
Shoes are made waterproof by having a 100% seal around the entire shoe. This means that water can’t get in or out.
This is done through different layers of the shoe called the upper and the lining.
There are sprays that fill in the gaps that are common in shoes to accomplish the same goal. These sprays need to replaced regularly and are made up of dangerous chemicals. We generally try to stay away from dangerous chemicals.
There are main categories of shoes in terms of how waterproof a shoe can be. They are waterproof, water-resistant, and shoes with no waterproofing.
Today, we’re going to mainly focus on waterproof shoes.
If you fill a bucket of water, the hope would be that no water comes out of the bottom of the bucket. Most people would say the bucket isn’t working correctly if water does come out of the bottom. I would venture to say that those people would be correct.
Let me ask you a simple question. What has to happen to make sure no water leaks out of the bucket?
If you couldn't figure out the answer, don't worry too much, we'll tell you.
First of all, there can’t be any holes in the bucket. Pretty simple stuff. The second big answer here is that there has to be a perfect seal between the bottom of the bucket and the sides.
If both of those things are accomplished, water will only be able to get in and out from the top of the bucket
The exact same thing has to happen on a shoe to make it waterproof. It isn’t complicated and if makes it easier to just think about buckets then, by all means, go for it.
No water should be able to get through the outside of the shoe to make your foot wet. If no water can get through the material that makes up the shoe, it is considered waterproof.
The positives of waterproof shoes are as follows:
That’s a pretty big positive and would be the main reason someone would wear waterproof shoes.
We do have an issue though. Shoe companies that sell waterproof shoes don’t talk about the negatives of waterproof shoes.
Why would they? You probably wouldn’t want to buy their product.
The negatives of waterproof shoes are just as important as that one positive.
Alright, you have your new waterproof shoes, you're wearing them, you’re rocking them.
It starts raining. You're thinking it's no big deal. You have waterproof shoes on.
You step in a puddle, the puddle is no match for you.
You stepped in the puddle and your shoe handled the water like a champ. No holes or leaks in the shoe.
However, you did get water in your shoe from the top, there happens to be a big hole there because you need somewhere to stick your foot when putting the shoe on.
Now what? Water is getting in your shoe.
You have a wet sock and there is water sloshing around your shoe. The same waterproof material that keeps water out is just as good as keeping water in.
It is exactly like the bucket I mentioned earlier. A waterproof shoe is basically just a bucket with your foot in it. The buckets goal is to keep water in but your shoe's goal is to keep water out. It doesn't make much sense seeing as how they both are receptacles with large holes at the top.
You’ll have to take off your shoe and dump it out. Your foot will be wet the rest of the day and your sock will not be drying while you wear your shoe.
The reason for that is because, in order for your socks to dry, air needs to be all up on them. Waterproof shoes aren’t breathable so, just like water, no air will be getting in.
If you skipped over our FAQs, I don't blame you, FAQs are kind of boring. If you didn't skip our FAQs, thank you but here is one concept that needs to be covered again.
Let's say that you were told that on any given day, a masked man could run up to you and splash a bunch of water on your face. You are told that the probability of this happening on any given day is around 5%.
You now face a problem. How will you protect yourself from this water-flinging mystery person? Well, what would happen if you took some plastic wrap and wrapped it around your face?
If someone threw a bucket of water at you, your face wouldn’t get wet. A slight problem would arise though.
You've sealed off your face. No water can get in but sadly nothing else can get in either. Air can't get through a material with no holes just like water.
You won't even be able to exhale because air can't get out either. Also, you'll have slobber all over your face because water won't be able to escape the plastic wrap either.
There you'll be, on the ground, suffocating with slobber all over your face.
Basically, you've suffocated to protect yourself from the slight chance that a man will splash water on your face.
Wearing waterproof shoes to protect your feet from the slight chance of getting wet is almost exactly the same as the situation I just outlined.
If the shoe you're wearing is completely waterproof, your feet may stay dry but they will suffocate.
A foot's version of suffocating and dying is getting extremely hot and sweaty. Air won't get in to let them breathe and sweat won't get out.
Your feet will be extremely uncomfortable and at the end of the day, you will be shunned by your travel companions due to the absurd odor coming off of your toes.
Your foot will be incredibly hot in a waterproof shoe. Imagine wearing one in Southeast Asia and sweating as normal people tend to do in 100-degree heat with a metric ton of humidity engulfing you.
I actually can’t think of a worse quality in a shoe.
This is where you have to take the marketing message of a waterproof shoe with a grain of salt. It’s literally impossible to have a 100% waterproof shoe that is also breathable. Any marketing message from a shoe company that says otherwise is just lying to you. You will either have a wet foot or a hot foot.
This is a big problem with these waterproof shoes on the market now. They say they are a completely waterproof shoe that is breathable because of some new technology. This isn’t true and it isn’t possible. It's just marketing.
That’s why it’s important to understand why water-resistant or weather-resistant shoes are bad as well. A lot of shoes masquerading as waterproof shoes are actually water-resistant.
Not having any protection for your feet against water when traveling may seem counterintuitive but the negatives outweigh not getting your feet wet.
There is no way to have a waterproof shoe that allows for breathability, quick-drying capabilities, odor reduction, and a way to get water out of your shoe.
A non-waterproof shoe means your feet will be able to breathe, your shoes will be able to dry if they are the right material, and water won’t get stuck in your shoe.
I prefer to use a shoe that isn’t waterproof. I opt for one that dries extremely quickly, is super breathable, and has odor reducing qualities.
I highly recommend staying away from waterproof and water-resistant shoes. They bring much more trouble than they’re worth. If you are doing heavy hiking where you need waterproof boots then you’ll want to opt for hiking boots. Experimenting with waterproof or water-resistant shoes will just bring you sadness.