The weather is acting up, and you need weather-appropriate boots. Waterproof boots obviously add water protection to a boot, but what about warmth? Are waterproof boots insulated for warmth also?
Not all waterproof boots are insulated. While some boots are designed to provide both features, it’s important to understand that just because a boot is waterproof does not mean it is also insulated. Boots that also have insulation will be labeled as “waterproof insulated boots”. If you see a boot that is just listed as waterproof (and doesn’t mention insulation), it is probably safe to assume that boot does not have added insulation for warmth.
This chart summarizes the key differences between waterproof boots, insulated boots, and waterproof insulated boots:
|Waterproof Boots||Insulated Boots||Waterproof Insulated Boots|
|Purpose||Keep feet dry||Keep feet warm||Keep feet dry and warm|
|Design||Waterproof liner||Synthetic insulation||Waterproof liner and synthetic insulation|
|Use||Wet or damp conditions||Cold weather conditions||Wet or damp and cold weather conditions|
|Warmth||Provides minimal extra warmth||Provides warmth||Provides warmth|
|Insulation level||N/A||200-400G for most conditions, 600G+ for extreme cold or low activity level||Typically 400G, but can vary|
|Labeling||Labeled as waterproof||Labeled as insulated||Labeled as waterproof and insulated|
Waterproof vs Insulated Boots
What are Waterproof Boots?
Waterproof boots are designed to keep your feet dry in wet or damp conditions. These boots typically use waterproof liners (like Gore-Tex) which create a breathable barrier that keeps water out while allowing sweat and vapor to escape. Waterproof boots are ideal for hiking, camping, and outdoor work where your feet may be exposed to water or moisture.
It is important to understand that some boots will try to trick you by saying they use “waterproof leather”, but the boots don’t actually have a waterproof liner. This means the leather itself has been sprayed to repel water, but the boot has not inner membrane to keep water out. You can learn more by visiting my article that discusses what makes boots waterproof.
What are Insulated Boots?
Insulated boots are designed to keep your feet warm in cold weather conditions. These boots typically use synthetic insulation (like 3M Thinsulate) that is lightweight and non-bulky but still very effective at trapping heat.
I wrote a lengthy article about the different types of boot insulation in case you want to do a deep dive. Insulated boots are ideal for winter work where warmth is a priority.
Can Waterproof Boots be Insulated?
While not all waterproof boots are insulated, some are designed to provide both waterproofing and insulation. These boots are typically labeled as “waterproof insulated boots” and are ideal for activities where your feet may be exposed to both water and cold temperatures.
The amount of insulation used will greatly affect the warmth of a boot. The most popular amount of insulation is 400G, which will warm enough for *most* work situations. For low-activity work in extreme weather (or high country camping) 600G+ will be needed.
Are Waterproof Boots Hotter Than Normal Boots?
No, waterproof boots are not designed to be warmer than normal boots. That the standard, simple answer.
The more complex answer is, yes, there is usually a tiny bit more warmth in waterproof boots versus normal, non-waterproof boots. That’s because the waterproof boots do have the waterproof membrane (also called a “bootie”) which adds a very thin extra layer inside the boot.
Now, it is important to remember that these waterproof membranes are designed to be breathable so the wearer doesn’t sweat out of the boot. That said, whenever you add a layer there is at least a small amount of heat retention even if the layer is designed to be breathable.
Because of that, waterproof boots often add a tiny bit of warmth. Do not expect the warmth to be enough to allow the boots to be used in cold winter conditions.
The more important thing to consider is if you are working in dry, summer heat, you wouldn’t want to use a waterproof boot (because that waterproof membrane may retain a small amount of extra heat).
The main takeaway is while waterproof boots are an essential piece of gear for outdoor activities, they do not provide warmth on their own. It’s important to choose the right type of boot for your needs and the conditions you’ll be facing to ensure your feet stay comfortable and protected.
When to Use Waterproof Boots vs Insulated Boots
If you’re going to be spending time in wet or damp conditions, waterproof boots are obviously the best choice. These boots will keep your feet dry and comfortable, even in the wettest conditions.
If you’re going to be spending time in cold weather conditions, insulated boots are the best choice. These boots will keep your feet warm and comfortable, even in the coldest temperatures.
Remember, the weight of insulation will greatly affect the warmth of the boot. For most winter conditions, 200-400G will be best. If you are in more extreme cold, or have a low activity level on the job (meaning you are sitting in place operating equipment), you may need to opt for 600G or higher.
The main takeaway is do not expect all waterproof boots to be insulated. However, if you need your boot to be both waterproof and insulated, there are plenty of options that offer both. Just make sure the boot is labeled as being both waterproof and insulated.
A waterproof insulated boot would have a product description that both explained the type of waterproof membrane used (for example, maybe it says ‘Gore-Tex Waterproof Membrane’) and the type of insulation used (for example, maybe it says ‘400G of 3M Thinsulate Insulation’).