After doing a quick Google search for the definition of a waterproof hiking boot, we found things like “impervious to water,” “a garment, especially a coat, that keeps out water,” and “rendered impervious to water by some special process, as coating or treating with rubber.” We also saw what others call pseudo synonyms like water-repellent and water-resistant.

You’ll see those terms (waterproof, water-repellent, and water resistant) thrown around a lot if you browse a hiking boot catalog or walk through a store aisle, but what’s really the difference? We asked our Technical Consultant – aka GORE-TEX® hiking boot expert – Jonathan Swegle, and this was his answer:

“There are no agreed upon footwear industry standards for water-repellent, water-resistant, or waterproof footwear. What I can say is that the GORE-TEX® Brand logo is only placed on a garment or footwear after meeting a firm product specification for waterproofness and breathability, which varies depending on the product end use and category.”

So, the terms are thrown around interchangeably, but not with the GORE-TEX® Brand. If you see our tag on anything, it means one thing: that product is backed by our GUARANTEED TO KEEP YOU DRY® promise.

With a little bit of help from Jonathan we’ll walk through how the GORE-TEX® membrane and footwear came to be, how it’s been used so far, and what’s in store for the future.

The GORE-TEX® Membrane: Where did it come from?

Back in 1969, Bob Gore found himself in the lab trying to heat polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), traditionally used in hookup wires and coaxial cables. Instead of slowly stretching the heated material, Gore, out of frustration, applied a sudden, accelerated yank to the material. Cue the birth of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) soon to be known as the GORE-TEX® membrane.

The rest is history, as ePTFE was found to have low water absorption and good weathering properties. 1976 marked GORE-TEX® fabric receiving its first commercial order, but it wasn’t until 1982 that the GORE-TEX® membrane was used in a hiking boot. There’s some debate within Gore on who used the GORE-TEX® membrane in hiking boots first, but it was either Kastinger or Hartjes. Since then, we’ve been working to keep explorers dry from head to toe.

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