A stupid Gore-Tex question?

6:19 p.m. on November 2, 2017 (EDT)
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While hiking Eastman Mountain in the heavy rain last Sunday, my feet got soaked on the flooded trail during the descent. I mean, SOAKED, I sounded like Squidward from Spongebob when I walked. I was wearing my Lowa Camino GTX that have maybe 45-50 trail miles on them, and figured it was just from my socks wicking water from my wet pants (I wasn’t wearing rain pants) but at the end of the hike I realized my pants weren’t THAT wet. 

I dried the boots on my Peet shoe dryer, which took over 12 hours until I couldn’t feel any more dampness inside. Last night I filled my kitchen sink with water and held the boots down (they float) for 15 minutes, and sure enough they were starting to get wet inside. So I used the REI online live help to see about exchanging them since I’m pretty sure I just got a pair made on Monday or Friday, and was told that it can be expected that they’d leak there since the tongue is stitched on there. “But the Gore-Tex membrane should keep my feet dry even if the boots leak at the stitching, right?” The CSR told me I could return or exchange them as long as I had a receipt, which I plan on doing this Sunday. 

Now, for the stupid question part: was the CSR right about it being normal? I have to say absolutely not based on my own experience with Gore-Tex, which started about 30 years ago with a pair of Danner “Ft Lewis” boots that young PFC Smith spent a significant portion of his $300ish bi-weekly beer & pizza money on (I think he ate a lot of meals in the mess hall till the next payday) and went on to include quite a few other pairs of Gore-Tex boots, parkas, trousers, gloves, socks (Sealskinz, great with jungle boots & wool socks in the Rheinland-Pfalz winter), and a couple bivy sacks, none of which ever leaked on me no matter how wet they got. 

7:08 a.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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I'm not sure I even understand her explanation. So she's saying because there's a gusted tongue that the stitch holes are making it leak? Ive never seen these particular boots but based off a quick Google search look like they're well made and should not leak (anywhere). I own multiple boots with a gusted tongue and a gore tex membrane and they don't leak. I'd be interested to see what would happen if you contacted REI again to speak with a different customer service rep, this one sounds like they may be making it up on the spot. If not them, I'd be interested to heat what Lowa says, because they certainly tout them as waterproof.

7:29 a.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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If the stitching pierced the membrane in anyway and nothing is done by the manufacturer to seal that, flawed part, it will leak. Same as my waders for fly fishing.  If those stitched seams on the waders were never sealed with seam tape, they would leak.

9:32 a.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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I can’t feel any stitching that penetrates into the lining, which was my first thought since the water does seem to seep through in the toe area. I’ll give another pair a try, the boots are so incredibly comfortable it’d almost be worth it to keep them and just apply waterproofing before every hike. Well, not really, a $300 pair of Gore-Tex boots that‘s advertised as being waterproof had better not start leaking after only 4 or 5 moderate hikes. I’ve had my Fugitives for over 3 years, best the hell out of them hiking and snowshoeing, and they don’t leak.  

1:03 p.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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After wearing several GTX boots, I decided NO MORE!!! I found every GTX boot I got over several years to get soaking wet, especially in hot dry weather. The reason is very simple - the GTX traps your foot sweat. If the GTX is doing its "waterproof" duty, the sweat cannot vent out of the boot.

OTOH, I know people who swear by their GTX boots and say they stay totally dry when hiking through a stream on hot or cold days.

And OTH2, I have no problems with my plastic ski boots getting wet inside from sweat. With the ski boots, I wear tall wicking liner socks which seem to wick the moisture out just fine.

YMMV!

1:15 p.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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whatever the pros and cons are of getting boots with a waterproof/breathable membrane, one 'pro' should be that they keep moisture from penetrating the boot. I have never had a new pair of membrane boots leak. For me, it usually takes a year or eighteen months of use for the membrane to fail somehow. Every boot has stitching; not all boots leak through the stitches.

hopefully, this was a manufacturing problem, not a design defect. who would want gtx boots that leak every time they get really wet?

1:51 p.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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I am starting to think Bill knows a lot of stuff. 

2:23 p.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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What Bill said. When conditions get good and wet, nothing will keep you dry, and when conditions are dry GTX or anything else that isn't highly permeable just traps moisture.

3:32 p.m. on November 3, 2017 (EDT)
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See, I’ve never had a problem with Gore-Tex boots leaking or trapping excessive foot sweat before. In Korea and Georgia, both places known for heat & humidity, they kept my feet almost as dry as jungle boots did while being much more comfortable on road marches. If water came over the tops, though, you could count on them taking 2 days of wear to dry out. Even now, after a day of wearing my heavy, insulated, waterproof (not breathable steel toes at work, if I wore my Fugitives to work my sweaty feet are almost dry when I get home after a 1/2 hour drive. Maybe the way the rest of me sweats doesn’t leave much moisture to come out through my feet?

Anyway, I exchanged them today and I’ll see how this pair works out. Only 1 out of 43 reviews mentioned them leaking so hopefully I just got a pair that QC missed. 

7:50 a.m. on November 4, 2017 (EDT)
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I'm hoping you got a lemon as well...concur with others above that those boots are too new to leak. The issues with Goretex etc are holding in moisture but usually not letting it in through seams. Hope this pair is better.

6:14 p.m. on November 4, 2017 (EDT)
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Me too, I’m 99.9999% certain they will be. I hiked Chocorua again today, this time to its Middle Sister subpeak, and really wanted to wear them but they’re obviously not broken in. So the 3+ year old Fugitives made the trip instead, and didn’t leak a drop. 

10:04 p.m. on November 4, 2017 (EDT)
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any snow on the tops in NH yet? i hiked in the Shenandoahs Monday, and there was snow and ice on top (3200 feet elevation), left over from a storm the night before.

6:16 a.m. on November 5, 2017 (EST)
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There was ice on north & west-facing parts of the trail, but no snow yet. I’m looking forward to snowshoeing some of these mountains! I have to get crampons, too. 

6:20 p.m. on November 6, 2017 (EST)
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I have had hit or miss luck on if a gtx boot will leak. Even if they are waterproof on day one, every mile you put on them increases the probability for a leak. The Hoka boots I tested for Trailspace a year or two ago are a perfect example. Waterproof on day one, but by the end of the testing one boot was leaking very badly, and the other one was leaking slowly.

A properly treated leather boot is a much better option IMO. Goretex isn't known for its ability to take a beating unless its constructed in a layered system. But when it comes to footwear, goretex isn't impressive at all for the long term. Maybe if the boots are reserved ONLY for hiking etc so that they see limited mileage perhaps they will last you several years. The 400ish miles I put on these Hokas was over 3 months or so.

Video exert from that review

10:55 a.m. on November 7, 2017 (EST)
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I quit boots five years ago but it's also hit or miss for me with GTX footwear. I've been using the Vasque Breeze lately (reviewed here) and I don't bother to send them back when they leak. I use them because they fit and are comfortable but if they offered a non GTX I would switch to that.

8:00 p.m. on November 7, 2017 (EST)
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I guess I’ve just had such good experiences with Gore-Tex in everything that this is a shock to the system LOL. The Danners I bought back in 87 or 88 were still going strong and waterproof as the day I bought them in 99 or 00, and if some damn mice hadn’t chewed the hell out of them in the attic I‘d have probably gotten another 5 years or so out of them. It cost a lot less to have them resoled on post than it did at the local cobblers up here.

If this pair starts leaking I’m going to keep them because they’re really comfortable and have great traction & support, and just waterproof the hell out of them. 

3:17 a.m. on November 8, 2017 (EST)
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I'm with Bill S on this one, and furthermore think the effectiveness of WPMs in footwear is limited to preventing your boots from flooding on stream crossings.

Ed

April 7, 2020
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