Waterproof vs Water Resistant Boots: What’s the Difference?


Is there anything worse than getting your feet (or socks) wet when you walk around outside? At Vionic, it’s definitely one of our least favorite sensations. That’s why when the cold season hits, we’re always prepared with what to wear on a rainy day. And we can help you prepare, too—starting with your shoes.

If you live anywhere that gets even remotely rainy—or will be spending time in a wet climate —booties for women are the name of the game. You’ve probably even heard of waterproof and water-resistant shoes. Buying a pair of water resistance shoes might be your first line of defense against soggy, wet feet. But what’s the difference between waterproof and water resistant shoes, and which is better for wet weather?

The team at Vionic is seasoned in all-weather footwear, and we’re here to dive headfirst into the waterproof vs. water resistant debate. Here’s what you need to know.

Waterproof or Water Resistant Boots?

So, is water resistant fabric the same as waterproof? While a lot of people use the terms interchangeably, they’re actually not the same thing, especially when they make contact on wet surfaces. When comparing water resistant vs. waterproof boots, there are a few important distinctions to make.

The main difference between water resistant and waterproof material is that the latter is unaffected by water, whereas the former merely resists moisture. A lot of times, the work boot is made out of water resistant material. Also, water-resistant products only resist moisture to a certain degree. Take sunscreen, for example. Lathering on a water-resistant SPF formula might keep you protected while you sweat a little bit. However, if you go for a swim, you’ll have to reapply sunscreen as soon as you get out because it’s not waterproof.

Generally speaking, the same goes for a water resistant boot. Theoretically, you could wear waterproof footwear and be over-protected from a light drizzle, but it doesn’t go both ways. A water-resistant pair will hold up under a light rainfall, and yet that doesn’t mean you can also wear them while jumping in puddles. To help you take the proper steps with purchasing durable water repellent footwear, we’ve broken down water-resistant and waterproof boots in more detail below.

Water-Resistant Boots



Water-resistant boots are meant to be worn outdoors in mild to moderate rainfall and sometimes, light snowfall. They typically have thick rubber outsoles and leather, suede, faux leather, or canvas uppers, which are treated to repel water and prevent water penetration. Most winter boot trends tend to one or all of these materials.

To label a pair of shoes as water-resistant, they’ll usually have to undergo “hydrostatic head” testing. This type of test measures the pressure of exerted liquids. Water is forced through the shoe material to see how much pressure it can endure before leaking. Whether it’s snow boots, a hiking boot, or a trendy ankle bootie, a water-resistant boot should be able to tolerate 200 millimeters of water pressure.

You can wear a water-resistant winter boot for a wide range of activities, like walking, hiking, yard work, or running errands. As long as your feet won’t be submerged in water for more than a few seconds, the sky’s the limit. While a water resistant boot is designed to withstand a little water exposure, they’re not like classic rubber galoshes, so it’s best to side-step puddles if you can help it.

What About Water Resistant Shoes?

Another label you might see on shoes (and other products) is “durable water repellent.” This type of boot will be very similar to a water-resistant pair. In fact, water-repellency is a characteristic of water-resistance. Water-repellent (AKA hydrophobic) products quite literally repel water exposure on contact. That being said, most hydrophobic footwear will usually just be labeled as water-resistant.

Waterproof Boots

Definitionally speaking, a waterproof boot should be able to be completely submerged without water getting inside. Unlike water-resistant shoes, which are treated to repel moisture, waterproof boots are typically made of inherently impermeable materials, like our seam-sealed waterproof shoes for women made from high-quality leather or nylon. These are the kind of footwear that’s ideal for wet weather.

You’ll often see rain boots, muck boots, duck boot, and other waterproof shoes with rubber outsoles and rubber, neoprene, or polyurethane uppers which are each an example of waterproof material. These non-porous waterproof materials are relatively stiff and tend to be less comfortable than canvas, suede, or leather boots. However, waterproof boots are usually lined with softer materials. A waterproof hiking boot or snow boot will most likely have insulation as well.

Compared to water-resistant shoes, which can bear 200 millimeters of pressure, waterproof footwear should be able to resist 1,000 millimeters or more of water pressure. The idea is with this kind of water protection you can trudge through puddles, deep snow, shallow stream, or other wet conditions without worrying about getting your feet wet or damaging your boots.


Why It’s Hard to Find Footwear That’s Actually Waterproof

Though there are lots of water-resistant boots on the market, it can be tough to find shoes that are actually waterproof. Why? Since it’s nearly impossible for brands to assure that shoes are completely waterproof, most can’t be marketed as such. And although you might not plan to go swimming in a pair of waterproof boots, this mostly has to do with what a brand can legally claim in its fine print.

For instance, some smartphones are waterproof in that they can survive 13 feet underwater for as long as 30 minutes. This promise of underwater survival would be the phone manufacturer’s waterproof guarantee or water resistant rating. If your phone incurred damage after being underwater for 31 minutes, it wouldn’t be backed by the guarantee.

With boots, brands have to make lofty promises to guarantee (and thus label) them as waterproof. This can be not only extremely tricky but also risky, as they may lose money if they aren’t able to back up their claims. Though waterproof fabric and waterproof leather might be hard to come by, waterproof spray can be helpful for preventing water damage, as long as you apply it regularly.

Weather-Resistant Shoes for Women from Vionic

At Vionic, we believe your feet shouldn’t have to get wet just because of a little rain. You can’t predict the weather, but you do have some control over your wardrobe. If rainy days are on the horizon, why not make a splash in a pair of women’s weather-resistant shoes from Vionic?

We carry water-resistant ankle boots, heeled boots, and booties, as well as lace-up and slip-on sneakers with non-slip soles. Each innovative style is made from high-quality materials and features fashion-forward designs. In other words, you can look good and stay dry, rain or shine.

We treat the uppers of our weather-resistant shoes with a reliable coating that helps them hold up against inclement weather. And the durable rubber outsoles are designed to withstand wet environments and still provide breathability. Whether you need fancy footwear for a rainy evening out on the town, casual kicks for a football game, or something in between, we’ve got a weather-resistant pair that’s up for the job. And for an added layer of protection, you can always apply a high-quality waterproofing spray.

Stay Comfy and Dry

Whether you pick water-resistant or weather-resistant (or vice versa), you should also be mindful of how boots should fit. The footwear enthusiasts at Vionic are sticklers for comfort and support. That’s why all of our men’s and women’s shoes are embedded with Vio-Motion Support technology. These integrated and completely hidden orthotics offer unbeatable stability, arch support, and cushioning. Plus, the water-resistant fabric, suede, and smooth leather we use are implemented into designs that focus on breathability. You can really feel the difference when you strut your stuff in our shoes.

Whether you need a pair of shoes to wear out, or to wear to work and that will protect your shoes from unwanted spills, browse weather-resistant boots and slip resistant work shoes from Vionic today.



1. “Water-resistant vs Water-repellent vs Waterproof: What’s the Difference?”. HZO.https://www.hzo.com/blog/waterresistant-waterrepellent-waterproof-whats-difference/
2. Rumen Manev. “Yes, there is a Difference between Water repellent, Water resistant and Waterproof”. Medium. Jul 28, 2018.
3. Mandy Zee. “8 Unstoppable Waterproof Sprays for Shoes”. Oct 8, 2021. https://www.whowhatwear.com/waterproof-sprays-for-shoes

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