Into every life a little rain must fall, but you don’t have to walk around with waterlogged shoes. To make sure rain doesn’t put a damper on your day, we tested nine pairs of waterproof shoes from brands like Allbirds, Sorel and Geox for their waterproofness, construction and fit. Our favorite pairs stood up to puddles, spills and downpours to prevent leaks and keep our feet comfortable and dry.
Best waterproof shoes overall: Geox New Aneko B Abx Woman ($175; geox.com)
The Geox New Aneko B Abx combines function and fit to offer a fully waterproof sneaker that’s also breathable and incredibly comfortable. The shoe passed our rainfall, puddle and spill tests while keeping our socks dry and wicking away sweat from our feet.
From a light rainfall to a deep puddle and even a direct spill, the brand’s patented Amphibiox waterproof breathable membrane was impermeable in every test situation, and the shoe required no drying time before it was ready to wear again, even after a good soaking. The waterproof membrane extends to the top of the nylon and leather upper to prevent liquids from leaking in through the eyelets, and the shoe’s high top line protected our ankle socks from splashes.
Inside the shoe, the waterproof breathable membrane (which, like similar designs, absorbs and expels the water vapor from sweat without letting in fatter water droplets from the outside, promoting breathability and thermoregulation) did its job well and kept our feet from overheating.
The Italian-made sneakers were a bit stiff out of the box, but it’s worth the effort of breaking them in. After a couple of wears, the upper relaxed a little, and the plush cushioning and rubber sole provided plenty of support. The style comes in half sizes, and although the brand recommends that you buy a half size smaller, our tester(s) found going a half size up was the best way to get a great fit.
Best waterproof walking shoes: On Cloud Waterproof ($149.99; on-running.com)
The first thing most people notice about the Cloud Waterproof is its unconventional CloudTec outsole. Turns out the cushioning abrasion pods aren’t just good for minimizing muscle fatigue — they also provide extra traction in wet conditions and create more space between puddles and the outsole, minimizing the risk of splashback.
In every test, liquid droplets rolled off the On membrane like water off a duck’s back. The lightweight shoe proved versatile enough to wear for any activity, from strenuous exercise to a casual walk with the dog. What the upper materials and hard midsole lack in stretch and breathability they make up for in durability, making them a great choice for anyone who’s frequently outdoors in inclement weather.
While the slip-on speed lacing system provided a snug fit, the first few attempts to get our foot into the shoe were a bit of a struggle, even with the heel loop that can be used for leverage. The shoe runs long and narrow, so the Swiss-made brand recommends buying a full size up in their waterproof models.
Best lightweight waterproof shoes: Vessi Women’s Everyday Move ($140; vessi.com)
Made with Dyma-tex material — a waterproofing technology woven directly into a synthetic knit rather than a laminated waterproof breathable membrane like some other manufacturers use — the Everyday is also coated with a water-repellent material to make sure feet are shielded from any type of precipitation, including snow and slush.
The shoe’s elasticized collar creates a sock-like fit at the ankle, which helped prevent water from saturating our actual socks during rain and puddle tests. While our feet stayed dry, the upper material did absorb some water during testing and needed a little time to fully dry out before the next wear. The Canadian brand says its antimicrobial insole helps keep the shoe from developing a funky smell over time, which is a good thing, considering that the shoe was not as breathable as the Geox, and our feet got a bit sweaty during testing.
Since it’s marketed as a “lifestyle” shoe, the Everyday Move has relatively low arch support and is not as supportive as some of the other shoes we tested. Still, it’s as comfortable as a pair of (outdoor) slippers and has a lot of give, which is ideal if you have wide feet or won’t be performing any strenuous activity. We typically wear a half size, so rounding up to the next full size ensured we got the right fit.
What you need to know about waterproof shoes
There’s a reason why there’s a dearth of waterproof sneakers on the market. It’s a promise that’s not easy to live up to.
If you’re shopping for shoes that will protect your feet from the elements, you’ve likely seen three terms: water-repellent, water-resistant and waterproof. Shoes that are water-resistant or water-repellent (terms that differ slightly in meaning but are often used interchangeably) offer a lower level of protection that will keep some water from permeating through to your feet but are not considered impermeable. If you’re just dashing through a light drizzle to get from the car to Costco, they’ll probably do the trick. If you plan to be outside for extended periods of time or still want to take a run even when it’s pouring rain, a waterproof shoe is the way to go.
If you’ve ever worn a pair of rain boots, you probably know that footwear made from waterproof material can get hot, causing your feet to perspire and trapping the sweat inside. The best waterproof sneakers are made from microporous materials (the most common are waterproof breathable membranes, like Gore’s Gore-Tex, that can be laminated to other materials in clothing and footwear construction) that allow internal water vapor to escape so that you can move around without your feet getting wet from the inside.
While Gore-Tex is the grandaddy of waterproof fabric, many footwear brands have developed their own proprietary waterproof materials and treatments, from similar waterproof breathable materials to coatings. A coating applied to fabric generally becomes less effective as it wears off over time, so sneakers with some combination of both a waterproof material and a waterproof coating usually provide the best protection from the elements.
Beyond the issue of fabric, shoe construction is also something that can affect waterproofness. Even if your feet are not fully submerged, when you walk in puddles, your heels kick up water that lands on the tops of your shoes, where liquid can still get in through the eyelets — used to reinforce the fabric around the laces — if they’re not sufficiently covered by the tongue of the shoe.
It’s also important to remember that any shoe you buy will already have a pretty sizable hole in it — the opening where your foot is inserted. Shoes with a lower top line (often called the collar when describing athletic shoes) will leave more of the fabric of your socks exposed to water, which is important considering that once your socks get saturated, it’s game over. Even the best waterproof shoe is unlikely to drain well once water has found its way inside.
How we tested
We simulated rainy day conditions using an ordinary garden hose, frolicked on a child’s splash pad to mimic the act of walking through puddles and took each pair into the kitchen to put them to the spill test.
- Simulated rainfall: Since weather is unpredictable, we created rain using a backyard garden hose, setting the nozzle to shower and pointing it skyward to simulate moderate rainfall. The shoes that performed best were also tested against a heavier hose setting to test their performance in a downpour.
- Puddles: A child’s splash pad served as our puddle so that we could see how each pair of waterproof shoes performed in standing water, including how well they protected our socks from splashes.
- Spills: During our tests with rain and puddles, we discovered that the most vulnerable parts of a waterproof shoe are the area over the toes and around the laces, where water can seep in through the eyelets. Our spill test showed how well the tops of the shoes held up to spilled water dripping off a kitchen counter.
Other shoes we tested
Ara Lila Gore-Tex Waterproof Sneaker ($229.95; nordstrom.com)
Of all the sneakers we tested, these stylish kicks were the most comfortable right out of the box. They passed our puddle and spill tests, but a small amount of water seeped in through the eyelets under heavy rain conditions.
Allbirds Women’s Wool Runner Mizzles ($135; allbirds.com)
Although the shoe proved effective against water in light rain, shallow puddles and minor spills, any substantial amount of liquid that made contact with the vamp around the laces seeped in through the eyelets. This was one of the most uncomfortable shoes in the testing group, even after repeated wear.
Sorel Out N About Plus Lace Sneaker ($100; zappos.com and sorel.com)
The Out N About passed all our tests with flying colors. Water beaded off the canvas, and the shoes could be reworn immediately after testing, as only laces held water. Unfortunately, the sneaker provides very little arch support, much like Converse or Vans, and are not the most comfortable for walking long distances.
Ecco Soft 7 GTX Tie Sneaker ($179.95; zappos.com)
The GTX technology upper was very effective at repelling water, but the shoe’s low collar meant socks got saturated with the splashback created from walking through deep puddles. The brand doesn’t offer half sizes, and neither of the size options we tried was the right fit.
Blondo Karen Waterproof Sneaker ($84, originally $95; zappos.com)
Though the slip-on style was convenient, the shoe’s low collar meant water had easy access to socks. Still, the snug fit kept the inside of the shoe from getting wet.