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Are waterproof shoes breathable? Yes, to a certain extend

When it comes to waterproof shoes, a common question that arises is whether they are breathable. While designed to keep feet dry in wet conditions, the concern is whether waterproof shoes allow proper airflow to prevent overheating and excessive sweat.

In this guide, we will explore the factors affecting the breathability of waterproof shoes, and how manufacturers make waterproof footwear.

How breathable are waterproof shoes?

Most waterproof shoes are designed with a focus on breathability. They ensure proper airflow and prevent overheating and excessive sweat.

The breathability of waterproof shoes can vary depending on several factors. These include the specific materials used, the design of the shoe, and the activities for which they are intended.

Some waterproof shoes may prioritize breathability more than others, sacrificing a certain degree of water protection. Shoes designed for extremely wet conditions may prioritize waterproofing over breathability.

How is breathability assessed in waterproof shoes?

The breathability of a material is measured by how many grams (g) of water vapor can permeate through one square meter (m2) of the material from the inside to the outside within a span of 24 hours.

It can be classified as poor, average, good, or excellent, depending on the amount of water they allow to pass.

You can find this information on the footwear label.

Typically, as the waterproof rating of your footwear increases, the breathability level tends to decrease.

As the temperature rises, you may feel hot and uncomfortable after a while.

When you aim to keep moisture out by using waterproof materials, it also means you are trapping some moisture inside. Waterproof shoes don’t offer the same level of breathability as non-waterproof footwear.

How do manufacturers achieve breathability in waterproof shoes?

To create breathable waterproof shoes, manufacturers use a multi-layer approach. The outer layer of the shoe is typically made of waterproof materials like GORE-TEX that act as a barrier against moisture.

The inner layer comprises a soft fabric membrane with tiny pores that allow water vapor to escape. At the same time, it prevents larger water droplets from entering.

This mechanism reduces reducing sweat buildup and ensures that your feet remain dry and comfortable.

By combining these layers, manufacturers achieve the optimal balance of waterproofing and breathability in shoes.

Waterproof shoes and breathability

Waterproof shoes and breathability have traditionally been considered opposing features. Thanks to advancements in footwear technology, waterproof shoes offer varying degrees of breathability.

Waterproof shoes prevent water from penetrating the shoe through specialized membranes or coatings. These materials are highly effective at repelling moisture.

However, they can limit the airflow within the shoe. As a result, some waterproof shoes may be less breathable compared to their non-waterproof counterparts.


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