Witness shoemaker Hi-Tec's, er, high-tech answer to making waterproof shoes more breathable. The Problem: Trail-running and hiking shoes with a waterproof-breathable membrane (think Gore-Tex or eVent) struggle to let out trapped heat and moisture. The (Potential) Solution: Hi-Tec's new Ion-Mask waterproofing technology, which was first developed for the British military, will be available only in the V-Lite Altitude Ultra hiking boot, starting this fall ($120; hi-tec.com).
How It Works Boots are inserted into a vacuum chamber, a.k.a. the ionizer, along with a hydrophobic, Teflon-like chemical (1). The plasma-filled tube is electrified via ultraviolet lights (2), vapor-izing the chemical (3), which permanently binds to the fibers of the shoe, creating a water barrier (4) only a few molecules thick. The barrier allows air and vapor to pass through as easily as if the fibers were untreated. The process can be used with any material, from leather to mesh. You Saw It Here First Hi-Tec has exclusive rights on the treatment until 2009, at which point we expect to see it in other companies' clothing and footwear.