One of the most interesting technology advances in the realm of fabrics and textiles is Gore-Tex . Gore-Tex fabric is fairly amazing. It is meant to be breathable and waterproof at the same time. Gore-Tex is used in a variety of products – from ski gloves to waders to coats to shoes. Indeed, Gore-Tex is very popular in hiking shoes and boots . This is due to the fact that it can help keep your feet dry in a variety of situations.
The Technology Behind Gore-Tex
Gore-Tex is a revolutionary fabric with proprietary technology.However, there are some basics as to how it works. Gore-Tex is comprised of three layers: an outer fabric, a Gore-Tex membrane and an inner liner. Each of these layers contributes to the qualities of a windproof and waterproof fabric that is ideal for outdoor use. The secret, as you may guess, is in the Gore-Tex membrane. Yes, the outer fabric and the inner liner are durable and breathable (they have to be in order to keep Gore-Tex from becoming unduly uncomfortable), but the
Gore-Tex membrane is made on a microscopic level.
Using technology that allows for things to be constructed on a micro level, the membrane consists of pores. The Gore-Tex Web site points out that each pore used in the membrane is 20,000 times smaller than a water drop. One thing that Gore-Tex can’t save you from, though, is what happens when you get to a point where the water does get in. I learned this the hard way. When I was hiking, I had to wade into water that went half way up my calf.
Now the Gore-Tex in my hiking shoes kept my toes dry, but there wasn’t a “seal” to keep the water from getting in through the tops of my shoes. And, the water did seep down from the top. The main downside is that once water gets in, it stays in for a while.
Even with that one drawback, I still really like Gore-Tex shoes (and I got some Gore-Tex-lined snow boots recently as well). They protect my feet from most instances of getting wet, and the insulation keeps them warm. The fabric is breathable, so it doesn’t trap too much sweat in my shoe. And, even when I am wading in water, my feet don’t get nearly as wet as they did when I had hiking shoes without the Gore-Tex.
There are other waterproof shoes that don’t use Gore-Tex. However, many of them don’t have the same technology that allows for a breathable fabric. A lot of the time you either get the breathability of mesh – and wet feet – or you have to give up the breathability to keep your feet dry. And if it’s hot, giving up that breathability can eventually lead to uncomfortable feet as the sweat is trapped by your waterproof hiking shoes. Gore-Tex is by no means perfect. Water can find its way in, and the fabric isn’t as breathable as mesh. But Gore-Tex does combine the best of both worlds, allowing for a shoe that is reasonably comfortable.