Do Your Trail Running Shoes Need To Be Waterproof

When I first started trail running I often wondered if I needed to buy waterproof trail shoes as I often found that my feet would get wet in certain conditions.

But then I questioned if this was really necessary as you don’t see lots of trail shoes for sale that are actually waterproof. With this thought in mind I decided that I needed to do some research on the subject and think about my own experience out on the trails.

Do trail running shoes need to be waterproof? No, trail running shoes do not need to be waterproof. In fact, if you get water into one of these shoes it will often stay there and cause cold feet and blisters in worst cases. You should consider a shoe that drains and dries quickly.

So as you can see, you definitely don’t need a waterproof trail running shoe in most cases. But let’s look in a little more detail and when you might, and also the best type of shoe for your needs.

What Is Good About A Waterproof Shoe

Like with any equipment, it’s only as good as the usage you intend for it. So if your intention is to keep your feet dry or warm in certain situations then a waterproof show will have it’s benefits.

However, don’t get caught up in the idea that a waterproof shoe is required for very wet conditions, because unfortunately that just isn’t the case as silly as that might sound right now.

Here are the main benefits of a waterproof shoe.

They Are Waterproof

That’s right, in most cases the benefit of a waterproof shoe is that they are indeed waterproof. However, this isn’t always a good thing…

Indeed they keep water out, but they will also keep water in which will bring its own issues along the line.

  • The issue with the water staying in the shoe is that they will become heavy and therefor you will tire much sooner than you would with lighter shoes.
  • If it’s a cold day and your feet get wet, then eventually they are going to get cold as well. With the lack of drainage on a waterproof shoe, there is nowhere for the excess water to go.
  • On a hot day, where the shoe isn’t very breathable, your feet will likely sweat which will in turn raise the chances of getting blisters.

When To Wear A Waterproof Shoe

From my own experience with my waterproof shoes, the best time to wear a shoe like this is when you are running in snow or the ground is cold and damp.

By doing this the chances of actually getting water inside the shoe are minimal, but the shoe will keep your feet warm during your run.

When Not To Wear A Waterproof Shoe

There are two main times that I would advise not to wear a waterproof shoe and again, this has been through my own trial and error.

  • If it’s warm and dry outside a waterproof shoe will not allow your feet to breath correctly and they will begin to sweat. Wet feet will cause friction and will likely end up with you having to deal with blisters at some point on your run.
  • Very wet conditions are also a no no. I have been on a few runs where I have started out quite dry, but no matter how hard you try, at some point your feet will become wet – there’s just no stopping it from happening.

Are Waterproof Shoes Guaranteed To Work

The simple answer is no, waterproof shoes aren’t guaranteed to work. Some will eventually start to soak up the water, as similar to running jackets, the material will only put up with so much water.

The other reason waterproof shoes aren’t guaranteed to work is the fact that if the water can’t get through the shoe, it will often get over it.

So if you are running over a terrain that might have deep puddles, rivers, streams, long grass, etc. then expect water to get in from the top of the shoe.

If you need that protection then a boot would be required.

However, there is the option of wearing gaiters which could offer some form of protection from long grass and water being splashed above the shoe.

What Is The Best Type Of Shoe To Use

Truth be known, in my own experience, I tend to use shoes to fit the environment I am running in. But I have learnt this by trying various shoes over the years.

Now, I will say that I do in fact own a pair of Altra Lone Peak waterproof shoes and they are fantastic. I predominantly use them when I’m going to run fairly hard packed trails with little chance of getting them soaking wet.

So if it has been raining and there are puddles, mud, and wet grass, then these will be my shoe of choice without a doubt.

I am also perfectly happy wearing them in very cold and windy conditions because if you have ever worn a pair of thin mesh shoes on a day like this then you know what I’m talking about.

However, with that said, in most conditions the best choice in my opinion is to wear a shoe that is breathable, quick drying, and drains well for most conditions.

I have been on many trail marathons where the conditions have been quite variable, as well as the terrain.

I remember one particular race doing the Snowdonia trail marathon where we ran from road, to hard packed trail, marshland, slate, and mountainous terrain.

In the marsh areas my feet were soaking wet and muddy, but because I had the right shoes on they were quickly drying on the other sections.

The shoes I wore on that day were Columbia Bajada III trail shoesOpens in a new tab. which you can view the latest Amazon prices here.

It was strange because I only stumbled across these shoes in a review I had read and thought I would give them a try – I’m so glad I did. Excellent cushioning, very breathable, dry quickly, and great for long distances.

My Recommended Shoe Of Choice

I guess at this point you probably know what my choice of shoes are, but honestly I don’t say this lightly. I have worn many, many shoes for my trail runs and these are by far the best.

Altra Lone Peak (Waterproof & Non-Waterproof)Opens in a new tab.

pair of altra lone peak zero drop trail shoes

Altra’s have been my shoe of choice for a number of years now and the Lone Peak in particular is a fantastic all-round shoe in my opinion.

The main reason I bought them originally was because I have quite a wide foot – as these have a wide toe-box they are perfect for a comfortable run.

They are also a zero drop shoe, meaning I run more naturally in them which suites me well.

Finally, they are great for multiple terrains from hard-packed to rocky. I guess you could say they are a great all-rounder.

Honorable Mentions

Although the Lone Peak is a great shoe, I do have other shoes that I have really liked over the years, and some I am still wearing today. Here’s the list.

In Summary…

In this post we have established that not all trail shoes are waterproof and in fact, a waterproof shoe is not great for all eventualities.

Wear them when it’s cold, snowing, or fairly wet on the ground, but avoid in heavy water or wet areas as they will leave your feet wet and cold.

Always consider a shoe that is breathable, hard-wearing, drains well, and dries quickly for most of your runs.


Hey! Mark here. Welcome to my blog. At the age of 47 I was a 212lb unhealthy mess. At the age of 50, I had run an 86 mile trail ultramarathon and converted to a Plant-Based Diet. I had turned my life around in 3 years. This blog is set up for those of you who want to make that change and I'm here to help.

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