Gear Guy

Are boots lined with Gore-Tex less breathable?

Which boot liner is better: leather or Gore-Tex? Personally, I've never had any Gore-Tex-lined shoes, but shop assistants keep raving about them. Some of my friends aren't so enthusiastic, though, complaining about getting sweaty feet on warm summer days. (I'm talking here about the "middle" category of mountain boots, like the Lowa Baffin.) Gerhard Innsbruck, Austria

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That’s an interesting question. On the one hand, an in-built Gore-Tex “bootie” enhances waterproofness, ensuring your feet stay drier. Additionally, the boot will also dry out more quickly because its inner lining may be less wet after a damp day on the trail. On the other hand, the bootie adds $15 to $25 to the cost of the boot, inhibits breathability, and makes the boot warmer, which may be an issue on warm days.

So, I’m somewhat conflicted on the topic. I generally prefer a well-made boot that uses one-piece leather construction, a design that’s inherently water resistant, especially when the boot is well cared for and treated with a waterproofing agent like Nikwax. Better still is a boot with a true leather lining, something that’s rare these days. Granted, this isn’t to do with waterproofing but the boot’s fit—a leather lining molds itself to the wearer’s foot for a custom fit. Most boots today use Cambrelle, a fabric that works very well because it’s comfortable right out of the box. The Baffin ($230;, though, employs leather lining.

Having said that, I think that in areas where wet weather and minor stream crossings are a given, the Gore-Tex lining probably makes some sense. And some fine boots use it at a reasonable price—L.L. Bean’s Cresta Leather Hikers, which have a Gore-Tex bootie, sell for the eminently reasonable price of $169.