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I was reading a recent answer and found this statement

for the great majority of users, Gore-Tex boot liners fail anyway, and sooner rather than later if any real mileage is being covered. In fact, most experienced users tend to avoid Gore-Tex boots.

I have a 10+ year old pair of leather red wings boots with Gore-Tex linning. I wore them enough that the tread is pretty much gone, and never noticed a leak. But I am not walking through much water with them anymore. I also put mink oil on the leather occasionally.

How long is Gore-Tex lining in boots effective? Is it distance or age that causes it to fail sooner? Do most experienced users really try to avoid Gore-Tex lining in boots?

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    TBH, there are a lot of gore tex haters out there and they just don't like it (especially in boots). I've never ever known a gore tex lined boot to fail – user2766 Jun 2 '17 at 13:52
  • most experienced users tend to avoid Gore-Tex boots and what do they pick instead? – stijn Jun 2 '17 at 18:53
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    I am not a gore tex hater, I use and like garments with gore-tex extensively. However I consider gore tex in heavy boots useless: What good is a breathable water-proofing layer when there is non-breathable leather on the in- and outside? I have gore-tex boots, and my feet are always sweaty after use. I bought them for lack of better judgment at a price premium over identical boots with "classical" waterproofing. That obviously does not apply to "lighter" shoes with light/breathable fabrics around the gore tex layer. – imsodin Jun 3 '17 at 9:28
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    Most Gore tex boots have a material outer, I'd definitely avoid a leather boot with a gore tex liner, that does seem pointless – user2766 Jun 5 '17 at 15:08
  • @imsodin: leather is actually quite breathable if treated correctly... And in my experience leather boots are a lot sturdier than fabric ones. – fgysin reinstate Monica Jun 7 '17 at 11:14
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There are a lot of variables here so you won't get a hard-and-fast response.

It will depend on the stiffness and construction of the boot, your usage, the amount that you sweat, the terrain and the weather.

Those who dislike Gore-Tex boots find that:

  • Under heavy use the membrane degrades and fails, often within weeks.
  • Breathability is compromised and sweat builds up inside the boot. Your feet can sweat over half a pint (280ml) per day so for many this is a significant issue
  • If the boot gets wet it takes significantly longer to dry.

In threads like this where experienced walkers gather, the general view is negative, though some users do find it works for them.

The downsides seem to apply with particular force to lightweight boots and shoes - I've met many people on the trail who were less than delighted with their lightweight GT footwear. But if you are using conventional leather boots, it's harder to see what Gore-Tex offers compared to traditional waterproof dressings.

My only personal experience was picking up a pair or GT trail shoes in a sale and they seemed to give the worst of all worlds - after the first few hours they let water in but didn't let it drain out. But then I walk off-trail on Dartmoor, which is as bad as it gets underfoot, so your experience may vary.

I would say that in general it's casual users who seem to like GT boots, while walkers who push their equipment are less enthused. In tough environments like Dartmoor and Scotland I've certainly met far more critics than fans.

For any particular boot you may be able to glean something from the reviews. If you can afford to take a punt, try it and see if it works for you. If funds are tight you might be safer buying something more traditional - that way you know what you're getting.

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    You nailed it in the second to last paragraph. I love my Goretex walking shoes for 'light waterproofing', unlike other fabric shoes, keeps my feet dry walking the dog across paddocks of wet grass. Otherwise its either a light weight "feet wet, water in water out" shoe, or for dry feet quality leather boots. – user5330 Jun 5 '17 at 23:04
  • Also off trail on Dartmoor I've found mine to be no worse than traditional leather boots, which also let water in if you step in something too deep (above the level of the tongue sides). In the dry, the breathability is nice to have even if it's not really enough. I haven't experienced failure of the membrane in any offshore I've owned, including one on which I wore out the soles. – Chris H Jun 24 '17 at 12:08
  • Being one who tends to wet their boots from the inside, I found that textile lining (I don't think the GT membrane did anything useful - but I found only textile/GT lining or leather lining boots, no outer leather + "normal" textile lining) lasted much longer than the leather lining boots I had before. And I found the textile/GT ones much easier to dry than sweat-soaked leather lining boots. Note that I'm not talking about waterproofing from outside: outside is anyways leather which does just fine if properly waxed. Also waxing/greasing the leather lining of a boot isn't easy... – cbeleites supports Monica Dec 27 '18 at 1:55
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I have to completely agree with your quote. Essentially in all GoreTex shoes I ever owned, from hiking boots to essentially everyday leather sneakers, the membrane degraded over very short time (at most within a year or two).

I don't think it is possible to make any general statements though. The degradation obviously depends on how the shoes are used, so various factors like

  • difficult terrain,
  • heavy load (person and/or pack weight),
  • distance travelled

will all negatively influence how your membrane holds up and thus directly and negatively impact the water-resistance of your shoes.

A further important point for me is also that there is nothing the wearer can do - or anyone, really - if the GoreTex membrane starts to degrade. Especially in shoes where the water-resistance relies mainly/only on the GoreTex layer, such as in lightweight fabric trekking shoes. Once the GoreTex layer is faulty the shoe just leaks, and that is that.

OTOH I have used my last pair of quality full leather boots for 10 years and north of 1500km of hiking, at least half of it in difficult terrain and with a heavy (15kg+ load). The leather degrades 'gracefully' when treated correctly, and the water-resistance of a leather boot is always directly influenced by how you treat it. Even on very old leather boots water-resistance can be regained/improved by correct treatment (e.g. using bees wax).

  • As a sidenote, there is actually something the wearer can do when the liner is gone. Wear GoreTex socks. They are expensive, but if the fit is good, you don't even notice them there. I used them in summer boots for an entire winter snowshoeing (had forgotten my winter boots far from home and couldn't retrieve them until summer). My feet were never wet even when the boots were waterlogged in spring corn snow. – Gabriel C. Nov 22 '18 at 14:51
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I have never had a pair of GTX boots or shoes where the lining lasted the length of the boot tread. Sometimes it is shorter and sometimes it is about the time I am thinking of replacing them. Sometimes it is a small leak in one shoe and sometimes it is major problem.

And GTX shoes are much hotter and don't dry well overnight if they get overtopped during a hike.

I decided that what I dislike most is the idea of wet feet rather than the actuality of them. So a with pair of highly breathable shoes and the right socks, I don't have any foot problems with wet feet. Many people seem to like wool socks, but I like 100% synthetic material. Synthetics are cool and dry quickly.

  • Yes - my approach to socks has evolved from the conventional merino to very thin Coolmax synthetic liners. You can carry a number of pairs for the same weight as one pair of looped merino and layer them. They dry much faster, and you can usually have at least one pair dry to use against the skin in the morning. And by reducing the layers you can create space for including inserts such as rock plates for gnarly paths, or impact absorbing insoles for road walking. – Tullochgorum Jun 14 '17 at 7:32
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Boot Fitter Here.

I can tell you that Gore-Tex can and will keep your feet dry and last the lifetime of the boot, if:

  1. the Gore-Tex was intact at point of sale, and
  2. the boot fits properly.

But here is the thing: 99.9% of people wear boots that don't fit them properly, even if they are the right size.

If the boot is in any way not fitting properly, as you walk the boot will crease in places it is not supposed to, thus placing pressure on the membrane and pinching it.

There is a lot that goes into making a boot fit well, and it is rare for anyone to have a pair fit them without much adjustment. The most basic ways to check the fit are:

  1. Make sure you have more or less a thumb width of space in front of your longest toe.

  2. Press down on the bottom lace; you should feel no space between the boot and your foot. Any space here will cause the boot to crease while you walk and very quickly damage not just the Gore-Tex but also the boot, causing both seams and leather to split over time.

Most boots have way too much volume for the average foot, and if you're wearing the wrong thickness socks, the fit will be worse.

To improve the fit, add volume reducers/extra insoles, wear thicker socks, and/or add liner socks.

  • Might be ok in some circumstances, but sounds like an annoyance to deal with. Also is not reasonable in all circumstances since adding/removing layers should be done for reasons other than fitting. If I am locked in to a certain usage of socks how am I supposed to regulate my temperature better? Adding and removing layers should be an available option for thermal regulation. So, even if your answer is true, I just essentially heard "The real problem with Gore-Tex is that you have to use them just right, and 'just right' interferes with other necessities, so they aren't worth it." – Loduwijk Nov 20 '18 at 18:40
  • Example: In my area, the recent temperatures have been fluctuating between 20 to 40F (-6 to 4C), and it will only be getting colder. But for now, the snow has been coming and going, leaving days with where the snow melted yesterday so the walk way is clear, but it is wet, but today is back down below freezing... so I have normal socks, thick thermal socks, and I'm alternating between the 3 possible configurations (normal-only, thick-only, thick over normal) depending the temp and my activity level. It sounds like a "proper" use of Gore-Tex boot would not allow that. Am I correct? – Loduwijk Nov 20 '18 at 18:45
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    I was a boot fitter for a good few years, and I'm also a very heavy hiker (bushwhacks, acidic marsh water, etc.). I completely disagree with your answer. It's not only the creasing that damages the lining but a myriad of other factors that, in the field, means practically all boots lose their waterproofness. – Gabriel C. Nov 21 '18 at 18:01

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