Three Things To Consider When Buying Waterproof Boots

A good pair of waterproof boots will keep your feet dry even in the wettest, nastiest conditions.

Close up of dirty rubber boots
Waterproof boots come in different shapes and types designed for use in different situations.James Coleman via Unsplash

Waterproof boots come in all shapes and sizes, made with different materials and for different activities. There are times when waterproof boots will be the only thing that can keep your feet dry, and therefore warm, so not having a pair will guarantee misery. Other times, they’re not absolutely necessary, but having a pair can make life just a little easier and more comfortable. With the many types of waterproof boots available, your job, if you choose to accept it, is to determine what boots are best for you. To make a good selection when shopping for waterproof boots, consider three important factors—the activity for which you will use them, temperature outside and how they fit.

Activity

Tingley waterproof rubber boot
This classic tall rubber boots gives 100% protection even in extremely wet, mucky conditions.Amazon

Thirty years ago, just about the only truly waterproof boots available were the tall, nearly knee-high rubber boots that weren't always the most comfortable boots around. If you are going to be wading a muddy pond bank or working cattle in a wet, nasty cow lot, those are likely still the perfect boot for you. But if you're going to be going on a long hike, upland bird hunting in wet weather or other outdoor activities that require lots of steps, other waterproof boots will suit you better. Waterproof hiking/backpacking/hunting boots typically have leather or synthetic uppers with waterproof membranes of Gore-Tex or a similar material. The great thing about these boots is that material not only keeps water out, but also allows moisture in the form of perspiration to escape. These will keep your feet dry in just about any activity except those where you spend lots of time in standing water or mud higher than the top of the boots.

Temperature

Ever waterproof boots
This waterproof leather work boot is insulated to keep your feet both dry and warm in cold, wet weather.Amazon

The waterproof boots you need depend not only on what activity you'll be participating in, but also what the temperature will be. Any boot with insulation will make your feet extremely hot in summer conditions. For activities that need waterproof hiking type boots in the summertime or other warm times of the year, look for one with no or very little insulation. For tall rubber boots, it likely won't matter, though. Since they are not at all breathable, they often result in sweaty feet anyway, and that can be uncomfortable or even miserable. In winter, look for insulated versions of both tall rubber boots and hiking/backpacking/hunting boots. In really cold, wet weather, keeping your feet warm isn't an easy chore, but additional insulation will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

Fit

Nortiv waterproof hiking boot with rubber toe cap
This hiking boot features water-resistant uppers with a protective rubber toe cap.Amazon

Fit will vary for the type of boot you choose, but it is a very important consideration. Fact is, nobody has ever loved an ill-fitting pair of boots of any kind, especially if they plan to use them for lots of walking. In a nutshell, hiking/backpacking/hunting types boots should fit snugly everywhere, tightly nowhere and provide you with room to wiggle your toes. When choosing the right size for you, always consider whether you will be wearing them with an aftermarket insole and how thick your socks will be. These factors will make a difference on whether your boots fit you correctly. For tall rubber boots, brace yourself: They likely will never fit all that great or be very comfortable if you plan to walk long distances in them. They're also heavy, and since they don't "breathe," will cause your feet to sweat in warm weather or if you are exerting yourself. But they are good at their sole purpose—keeping your feet dry.