A boot that breathes is crucially important in keeping your feet dry – particularly if you spend many hours outdoors or are doing strenuous activities, such as hunting, construction work, and other exciting activities like that. The reason breathability of a boot is so important is that a boot that breathes allows your foots perspiration (also known as water) to escape. The breathability of the boot allows your foot to vent its sweat through the shell of the boot. When it comes to the ability of a boot to “breathe,” there are two excellent types available.
|An Ugg Adirondack II Boot, with shearling insulation|
The first and the most popular type of breathable boots are those made from specialized fabrics that wrap around the insulating layer of the boot. These fabrics, of which gore-tex is by far the most popular, are specifically designed with micro-size pores to allow perspiration from the foot to escape from the inside of the boot while at the same time preventing water from entering the boot from the outside.
The boot is able to vent this moisture while preventing external water from getting inside the boot because external water droplets are significantly larger in size than is water vapor. Thus, internal perspiration from the foot escapes while external moisture is prevented from entering the boot.
Generally, most gore-gex boots consist of leather (or similar type of synthetic creations) and Thinsulate insulation with a thin membrance of gore-tex fabric covering part of the outside of the boot. The Gore-Tex fabric itself never needs to be treated, only cleaned occasionally. However, any exposed leather will occasionally need to be coated with waterproofing treatments and cleaned.
Sorel type boots (or boots that have a leather/fabric upper and a complete rubber lower) do have a problem in terms of breathability. While the lower rubber on the boots works wonders in keeping the boots 100% waterproof and making them super easy to clean (no small consideration in muddy conditions), the lower rubber effectively prevents the foots perspiration from escaping. Happily, there is a way to combat this—by using the proper sock. Read the Importance of the Winter Sock article for more information.
The second type of breathable boot is boots made from shearling (a special kind of fleece), popularized by the craze around Ugg Boots. The inner fleece of the Ugg Boot is a natural breathable material. The fleece not only absorbs the perspiration but also allows the perspiration to escape, too. And similar to more traditional winter boots, the fleece also repels water from entering the boot at the same time.
So which type of breathable boot is best? Both have their benefits and drawbacks. In terms of “pure style” and soft, luxurious comfort, it is tough to beat a boot made from shearling fleece. Shearling boots are soft, wonderful to wear and very warm. However, their drawback is that these boots aren’t something you use to hike up a mountain, wander through deep snow or to play in the mud with. Additionally, shearling fleece isn’t the most durable of objects and will, with lots of use begin to break down. A more traditionally insulated boot (such as one with Thinsulate insulation) with a gore-tex membrane likely will last longer and be able to endure far more punishment.
That all said, Ugg does have some very nice shearling boots that sort of "straddle" the bridge between a waterproof/breathable/attractive shearling boot with the durability found in gore-tex winter boots. The Ugg Adirondack style of boots is a very nice mixture of durability, style and comfort. For those seeking a "middle ground" between pure style and pure style in breathable boots, the Adirondack might be the ticket (if you're a lady).
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