Rethinking Waterproof Gear: The Benefits of Breathable Trail Shoes

Waterproof hiking shoes may seem ideal, but they trap moisture inside. Here's why breathable trail runners that dry quickly are better for healthy feet.

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

Man standing on top of a peak showing off his trail runners
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When you begin looking at shoes for your hike, most, like myself, will think that they want waterproof shoes to help keep the water from getting inside the shoes and making your feet soaked.

This is not the way you want shoes for most hiking seasons. Crazy right? So, are the Altra Lone Peak trail runners waterproof?

The Altra’s Lone Peak zero drop series of trail running shoes are not waterproof. The trail shoe is made out of a breathable mesh-like fabric, which allows the water to leave and enter the shoe, which allows for much faster drying and better use while on the trail.

Why would you want your trail runners not to be waterproof? You may be wondering. Well, much has to do with why waterproofing is so helpful in other cases.

Waterproofing is to help keep you dry and water from getting inside your gear. The issue is it is just as bad at letting it out afterward.

Do I Need Waterproof Hiking Shoes

While many hikers will start with some fancy high-end waterproof shoes to protect their feet from the moisture outside, almost all will abandon them when they reach the first gear store they can find on the trail.

This is due to the issues waterproofing has on your feet, how it impacts your shoes, and their ability to get dry.

You see, for all the benefits of stopping water from getting in, the same waterproofing prevents the moisture from being able to leave!

This means you end up with wet and soggy feet, which lasts, in some cases, all day long. This causes your feet to start breaking down, and they get wrinkly, and then you need to consider trench foot due to over-saturation.

Not how anyone wants their hike to end!

Drawbacks to Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Unlike a jacket or other outer gear, you will expect not to need to get wet internally.

When you hike, you will eventually either get rained on very hard and soak your shoes or the more common result of needing to cross a stream or river.

When you purchase waterproof gear, the whole reason is the barrier waterproofing provides to be water repellent and to stop water from getting within the material.

When your shoes get wet when waterproof, they will stop that same liquid from leaving them, leading to a much longer time of your feet being in the moisture-rich environment, which can lead to a host of foot care issues.

People have often said that they got their waterproof shoes wet, then they got to camp, and they are still wet.

They then place them near a fire to try to dry them, and they are still wet or at least damp in the morning.

This is a breeding ground for diseases also.

Why You Want Non-Waterproof Trail Runners or Hiking Shoes

Unlike waterproof shoes, most trail runners, like Altra shoes, are focused on being good at breathing and letting water and moisture in general in but equally back out of the footwear.

This helps them dry out much faster and more efficiently than other waterproof footwear like waterproof hiking boots.

This helps to care for your feet by allowing them to breathe and dry out as the shoes are drying out. This is also why many bring camp shoes.

This means your feet can dry out on the trail after the water crossing, not be soaked when you get to camp, and may still be wet in the morning when you must start again.

Final Thoughts on Are Altra Lone Peak Waterproof

When discussing waterproof vs non-waterproof hiking shoes, most people associate waterproof with “better” gear for hiking, which is more than likely accurate for many parts of your gear.

The real downside for trail runners, if they are waterproof, is that they won’t dry as fast, leading to soggy feet and issues with your feet.

It would be best if you instead wanted your trail runners to be light and very open to the air to drain out fast any water taken on but also to help accelerate your drying process.

This is the part that is hampered by waterproofing. It is meant to keep water out, but when it is let in, it stops from leaving.

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