Gore-Tex is the leading waterproof technology in the clothing industry. So what makes Gore-Tex so exceptional and when does Gore-Tex not live up to expectations? We investigate.
As the rain lashes against the office on a dark and dreary day in November, we can only be thankful that our walking shoes and winter jackets have Gore-Tex in them to keep out the wind and rain while being relatively lightweight and breathable.
Often, the sign of a great product is wether or not it has a Gore-Tex membrane. Although many excellent products comfortably make do with out it, Gore-Tex has become a well known brand name that inspires confidence for a customer to part with their spending money and stand out in the rain without complaint.
How Gore-Tex Works
The Gore-Tex membrane is a specially developed layer made up of billions of microscopic pores. Each of these pores is smaller than a partical of water, but larger than a particle of moisture. Therefore, water may not enter through the membrane, because water particals are too large. However, smaller particals of moisture are able to leave the shoe, through the larger pores in the Gore-Tex membrane.
The end result is a waterproof layer that’s highly breathable by allowing excess heat and moisture to leave the shoe, keeping your feet cool, dry and comfortable.
This is perfectly fine for hats, jackets, gloves and trousers, but unfortunately, this is where the abilities of Gore-Tex shoes become a little hazy. Because the Gore-Tex brand has a guarantee to keep you dry, this has caused a misconception that you can practically go swimming in a pair of Gore-Tex shoes.
It’s an extreme example, but when a multi-sport shoe that’s mostly made of mesh fabric is submerged in a stream, water is going to eventually leak through and into your socks.
However, this doesn’t mean that the mesh fabric which utilises a Gore-Tex membrane isn’t perfectly suited to protecting your feet from splashes of water and everyday moisture from grass, mud, leaves and other wet things you may encounter outdoors. It’s just not 100% waterproof and nor should it be due to the gaps in the various layers of breathable mesh. The Gore-Tex is merely there to offer some extra protection against getting your feet wet when it’s raining. So a little common sense is in order.
If you’re going to go walking in torrential rain and splashing through streams, then some full blown Gore-Tex boots are undoubtedly a better choice. It’s probably best to stay away from the breathable mesh boots, resembling trainers, which have become increasingly popular in recent years and stick to traditional walking boots.
Brasher and Salomon are two excellent outdoor brands that make fully enclosed walking and hiking boots. Either made with full grain leather or a very dense Water resistant textile, these products use the Gore-Tex membrane to enhance their already excellent water resistance, making them 100% waterproof.
It’s a well known fact that any waterproof treatment reduces the breathability of a boot or shoe and Gore-Tex is no exception. So when someone says Gore-Tex is breathable, this is true. It’s just not as breathable as a shoe without Gore-Tex. This is probably why Gore-Tex multi-sport shoes typically feature so much mesh ventilation. But for when it’s freezing cold and breathability isn’t so much of an issue, or your boots and clothing having moisture wicking inner linings, this is a small price to pay for the extra waterproof protection.
While there are many other types of waterproof protection available from Hi-Tec’s own Ion-Mask treatment to eVent linings, Gore-Tex is consistently the technology of choice for all sorts of outdoors enthusiasts.