To many people, a waterproof shoe means a high tech hiking shoe that keeps water on the outside of your shoe where it belongs, while also wicking moisture away from your skin to keep you feet dry and help avoid blisters. To others, a waterproof shoe might mean a completely different thing, used for a much different purpose. Consider these three categories when making a selection—waterproof hiking shoes, water shoes and waterproof overshoes.

Waterproof Hiking Shoes

These waterproof hiking shoes have a lugged outsole for good traction on wet trails. Merrell

Waterproof hiking shoes are a miracle of modern technology. Basically low-top hiking boots, they keep water out while at the same time wicking moisture away from your feet. That’s a true win-win situation. Waterproof hiking shoes generally have uppers of full-grain, split-grain or nubuck leather, or some mix of synthetic materials. The key to all is that they feature uppers with a GoreTex or some other waterproof, breathable membrane to keep the water out. If they don’t have such a membrane, they’re not really going to be waterproof, and you’re not really going to be satisfied. Good waterproof hiking shoes also have EVA or polyeurathane midsoles, strong arch supports and outsoles with gripping lug patterns. Fit is critical to your selection of the right pair of waterproof hiking shoes. You’ll seldom see a happy hiker with a pair of ill-fitted shoes.

Water Shoes

L-RUN Athletic Hiking Water Shoes
The upper on these athletic water shoes is made with breathable lightweight fabric for fast draining and cross ventilation. L-RUN

This category ranges from high-tech water/hiking shoes to the ubiquitous croc you see so many people wearing while lounging at the lake or working around their boat docks. In truth, the two have very little in common except for both being good footwear in wet areas. Most budget water shoes are simply made to slip on your feet to protect them from rocks, glass and other things you might step on. Whether soft- or hardsided, if they’re comfortable enough for you to wear, they’ll do the job. More technical type water/hiking shoes are great for canoing and other activities where they protect your feet nicely, then dry quickly when no longer in the water. Many higher end models are even made with sturdy arches and adequate outsoles for occasional short hikes or other treks.

Waterproof Shoe Covers

LEGELITE Reusable Silicone Waterproof Shoe Covers
These waterproof shoe covers are made of silicon rubber to keep your feet dry when walking on wet sidewalks. LEGELITE

While nature lovers like nothing more than being in the wilderness pursuing their favority outdoor activity, most end up having to go to work more often than not. After all, how else can they afford to go fishing, hunting or hiking? Truth is, wet feet can plaque you going to work just as much as going to your next campsite. And sitting in your office with cold, soaked feet isn’t any more fun than doing the same in a deer stand or duck blind. Waterproof shoe covers, or overshoes, are just the tool for keeping your best set of dress shoes dry when getting from your vehicle to an important client meeting. They are also available in tall models for those wanting to protect the hem of their trousers and their dress boots.