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wilderness_seeker 08-28-2014 03:25 AM

WHY do we need Goretex in leather boots?
I've been on the hunt for new hiking boots all summer long. I've been after two things actually:

1) Full leather hiking boots
2) Lighter hiking shoes

(So please don't let this be a debate about boots vs shoes, because I have my uses for both, and I am having an equally difficult time finding shoes that fit and don't hurt, and boots that fit and don't hurt).

I've been to MEC, Valhalla, REI, 3 Vets, and AJ Brooks, plus a few running-oriented stores; I've spent many hours and many days, tried on everything, sent clerks running back and forth, bought and returned several. I finally found the one pair of leather boots in Vancouver that kind of, sort of fit, as long as I change the insole, buy a whack of Dr. Scholl's products to grip, modify, hold down, cushion, etc etc etc., and learn a variety of new lacing techniques.

I am trying to convey that I don't have the luxury of saying, "Oh, I want this feature, but not that feature (ie goretex-lined)" because I just have to grab what fits and be grateful I'm not barefoot due to the lack of availability of something shaped for my foot.

Thus I am forced to accept goretex in my leather boots, even though I don't want it, because it's next to impossible to find them without, and even if I did, it would greatly narrow down the selection fit-wise.

My new boots are Meindl, as were my last two pairs. The difference is that these new ones have a goretex lining; they all do now. They are SOOOOOO uncomfortably hot!!! Feels as though my feet are in a furnace.

My question is WHY??? My last two pairs of Meindl boots were completely waterproof without the goretex. I waxed them of course, but my feet stayed completely dry as I waded through shallow streams, hiked in deep mud and sloshed through puddly intertidal zones on the West Coast Trail, snowshoed and went out in all kinds of weather. Other people had wet feet; mine were completely dry. And my feet were warm enough but not hot.

Also, the waterproofness and breathability of Goretex, even if its presence were warranted, cannot possibly last the lifetime of a leather boot that lasts a decade or more. Ever had a Goretex jacket that stayed waterproof for 12 years? Me neither. And jackets are easier to keep clean.

Now it seems non-Goretex leather boots are all but phased out, gone the way of the dodo bird.

I asked at one outdoor store why this is, and the response was that the Goretex liner protects the leather on the inside of the boot, which would otherwise become brittle and crack from the salt in your sweat. I call BS on this one, since I've never had that problem before. He said you can counteract the excessive sweat you produce with a Goretex liner using special socks. I say you can do one better and get rid of the Goretex. I did buy the socks and I like them, but they don't make your feet less hot.

I asked at another store and was told "marketing." Seems the general population is so impressed by the Goretex name that the boot manufacturers put it in because a boot without it just won't sell. "Oooh, has Goretex, must be good."

I find the latter explanation more plausible, though frustrating. I wrote to Meindl to implore them to return to making boots without Goretex, and said if they did I'd be first in line to buy. I never heard back.

jeffweichel 08-28-2014 07:43 AM

I worked in outdoor retail for a very long time. Trust me, it's the latter. I've had so many customers who only wanted Goretex because "it's the only way my boot will be waterproof". No amount of reasoning, experience or logic could convince them otherwise. Not to poopoo GT or anything (I still use their products) but you have a sound point about its redundancy in leather boots. Having GT a in boot or shoe will tend to raise the base price by at least $40-60 (often more), whereas for that amount you could buy a whole ton of cleaning and sealing products (and not have such hot feet too). I have never seen a boot come back on warranty due to issues with the inside leather wearing out for reasons that one guy listed, but I've seen plenty come back because they were sopping wet on the inside of a GT liner. To be fair, this is usually due to:
a) the boot/shoe being super old and worn
b) any kind of separation of the shoe's upper from the sole. GT liners don't extend to the footbed, so the only thing protecting you there is the glue holding the upper and midsole together. This often wears out at the toe box.
c) people not realizing how much their feet sweat in the summer with a GT boot on (gross).

May your feet find happiness.


Sodbuster 08-28-2014 09:08 AM

My newest pair of full leather boots are Lowa Baffin - leather lined, no gortex. My other Lowa boots (Tibet) have goretex and are hotter. I found wearing a liner sock helped with the sweat related issues.

I don't see the point of gortex in a full leather boot either. For one thing (I don't think was mentioned yet) is to get a gortex jacket to work after a while you wash and dry it to reactivate... can't do that with a boot!

guntis 08-28-2014 09:19 AM

My old Lowa boots were non-goretex too. Fantastic boot. Hope the company will still be making them when I go to replace my footwear.

Arnold 08-28-2014 10:50 AM

You can't honestly expect a hiking shoe/boot to last 12 years?! You'd be lucky if it lasts 3 years. I bought new full leather Zamberlan's this summer, and I'm wondering if they'll last me more than 2 years. They're pretty beat up and cut up just after a few months. And I wash them and cream them after each use. I could care less how long the goretex in them lasts, as the boot itself won't last more than a few years.

As for why we need goretex in there, I was asking myself same question. Maybe when leather is cut, you get a 2nd layer of protection? Not sure. But seriously, I don't find them that hot. I don't expect any hiking shoe/boot to stay cool in a 40C degrees weather, hiking uphill.

icevixen 08-28-2014 10:51 AM


quote:Originally posted by jeffweichel
I worked in outdoor retail for a very long time. Trust me, it's the latter.
I've worked in outdoor retail for a very long time too and I agree with Jeff. It's all marketing marketing marketing. 20+ years ago when I first started selling boots, you could easily find non-GTX leather boots. And now, it's what people ask for. Most people have a hard time seeing a leather boot as waterproofable. Boot manufacturers don't make non-GTX anymore [with rare exceptions] because they just don't sell. It's bizarre.

tu 08-28-2014 11:16 AM

On MEC, if you want to list out the full-leather boots with no Gore-Tex, you select the "Not waterproof" filter.

Yes, they're spec'ed "Waterproof: NO". And one wonders why they don't sell, except to those who know.

icevixen 08-28-2014 11:45 AM


quote:Originally posted by tu

On MEC, if you want to list out the full-leather boots with no Gore-Tex, you select the "Not waterproof" filter.

Yes, they're spec'ed "Waterproof: NO". And one wonders why they don't sell, except to those who know.
'Waterproof' infers a guarantee. They cannot be guaranteed waterproof, nor are the boot manufacturers calling them or marketing them as a waterproof boot. Ideally there would be a spec called "Waterproof: Yes, IF you take care of them properly"...

swebster 08-28-2014 12:00 PM

I love my gore tex hiking boots. My previous leather boots would leak after a day on the snow no matter how I treated them... with gore tex, the problem is gone like magic! Of course they leak a bit now that they are years old, but it still isn't as bad as my other boots. My feet don't feel particularly hot.... I've used them in hot deserts too.

Of course, choice is always good, since everyone's tastes (and feet) are different.

Rachelo 08-28-2014 12:34 PM


quote:Originally posted by Sodbuster

I don't see the point of gortex in a full leather boot either. For one thing (I don't think was mentioned yet) is to get a gortex jacket to work after a while you wash and dry it to reactivate... can't do that with a boot!
While washing is necessary so the goretex isn't filled with crap, the heat drying is to activate the DWR coating, not the goretex. So that part wouldn't be an issue with the boot, since the outside is treated differently.

Sodbuster 08-28-2014 12:55 PM

^ ok, so it has a different coating or way of functioning then. I still think its a flawed system in a leather boot over the long haul.

Rachelo 08-28-2014 01:09 PM

^Oh yes, I didn't mean that as general support for the idea.

It sees like some people do like it, so I'm not *opposed*, but I do think it's a real problem that it's now in *every* leather boot and you can't get boots without.

wilderness_seeker 08-28-2014 01:41 PM


quote:Originally posted by Arnold

You can't honestly expect a hiking shoe/boot to last 12 years?!
It's not what I expected; it's what I GOT out of the first Meindls. Heavy use, too. Mind you, I had them re-soled at some point; it was expensive but worth it as those boots were a perfect fit.

The second pair I've had for 7 years and they are still in pretty good shape; they were OK but never quite as good a fit as the first ones and this year I began to experience painful toe-bang on the descents, so I thought my feet must have changed a bit, hence my search for new ones.

Lowa look like nice boots but very narrow in the toes. Meindl seems to be the only brand that has enough room in the toes without making them huge in the heel. And then only a few of their wider models fit me. So that narrows down my choices to boot, and that boot has a Goretex liner. So I took it, because as someone who has suffered through multi-day trails in poorly fitting boots (that felt fine during the testing phase) I know that fit is THE most important thing. But the Goretex in them is massively redundant, as, like I said, I was able to wade through streams in my old ones.

gbarron 09-01-2014 10:00 AM

I doubt the value of both GT liners and leather boots themselves for hiking/backpacking.

In the first place, even nominally "waterproof" leather boots will take in water if the water is over 15 cm deep. So dry-footed stream hopping must be restricted to very shallow streams. And leather boot users can confirm that leather boots, once wet, take an inordinately long time to dry out.

Second, leather boots often have thicker soles, thereby elevating the foot above the ground, increasing lateral torque on the foot and the likelihood of a twisted ankle in rough terrain. And leather boots reduce nimbleness, since they don't allow for the the foot to feel terrain and adapt to rough ground.

Third, it's my suspicion that leather boots are harder to fit than off the shelf runners and therefore create more blisters. But I wonder if this is anyone else's experience?

Fourth, I'm deeply suspicious of the oft-heard mantra that boots offer more ankle support. If the boots are higher than the ankle and rigid - like a downhill ski boot - I suspect this could be true. But such a boot would be very uncomfortable to hike in. Hiking boots that barely reach the ankle and are flexible seem to me to offer very little protection. But I'll defer to expert research on this question.

Fifth, the overwhelming consensus of long-distance thru-hikers (especially in the US) is that runners are far superior to boots. Many thru-hikers start long trails with boots, and quickly switch to runners (and much lighter packs). A subjective reaction to be sure, but it's unclear to me why this successful strategy on for tackling 2000+km trails won't work on the shorter trails that most of us do most of the time.

Sixth, there seems to be some truth to the adage that a pound on the feet equals five on the back. This blog summarizes the research.


Obviously, a tired hiker is more susceptible to stumbling on the trail and to injury.

I don't, of course, anticipate that these considerations will alter anyone's allegiance to leather boots.

DISCLAIMER: My background is 30 years of mountaineering including climbing trips to Peru, Alaska, Mexico's volcanoes, Rainier, Whitney, and the Yukon. I'm on my fifth pair of mountain boots (3 prs. plastic, 1 leather, 1 synthetic). So I'm firmly convinced of the value of solid mountain boots on steep, technical ground, especially when it's cold, icy, and/or snowy. But I'm not sure this approach is relevant to hiking. On approach hikes burdened with a pack filled with heavy mountaineering gear and on trails steeper and more rugged than the typical backpacking trail, I tried to use runners wherever possible.

Since returning to backpacking, I've hiked exclusively in trail running shoes. I cover 25-35 km/day with an overnight pack. My shoes weigh 210 g each, offer adequate protection from rocks, and are decidedly non-waterproof. But they are comfortable, light, and dry very quickly.

Of course, YMMV.

Arnold 09-01-2014 12:33 PM

This kind of resembles someone saying "you can drive off road on street tires, there's no need for beefy, off road tires". Sure you can, to a point, until you get flats left and right, or get stuck. They didn't make an aggressive, beefy tire just for looks (although some buy them just for that reason). Same with beefy hiking boots. They have their purpose and they are far more superior on rough, techincal terrain than day hikers or your trail runners ever be. You can tolerate the pain from foot bending and rock poking and banging all day long, but I'd rather not suffer.

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