Boots with or without a membrane? Gore-Tex, Te-Por, Sympatex
We often get the question whether it is better to buy tactical boots with a membrane or without a membrane. Most people know very well that the membrane protects the footwear from getting wet, and that it slightly increases the price. A much smaller part, however, knows about the possible consequences of her presence. Therefore, we will try to present you briefly all the pros and cons of footwear with an integrated waterproof layer.
In this article, we will answer the following questions:
- What is the membrane in shoes
- What types of membranes in shoes are available on the market
- How the membrane works in shoes
- What are the negatives of having a membrane in your footwear
- Shoes with or without a membrane - a brief summary
Membrane in a tactical shoe - what is it?
The membrane is an additional layer of material with specific properties that allow to limit the soaking of the footwear, while maintaining the possibility of vapor evacuation from its interior. As we know, non-breathable footwear, for example, all kinds of galoshes have excellent waterproof properties, however, the complete lack of vapor extraction from the inside completely prevents them from being used as footwear for longer walking. It makes no difference whether the inside of the shoe comes from the outside or from our body. In both cases, it will cause abrasions, hygiene problems and also accelerate defrosting at low temperatures.
As we already mentioned, the membrane is an additional layer of material in the structure of the shoe. Depending on the manufacturer, it is made of different polymer materials, but basically most membranes have one thing in common - they are delicate. However, this is not a significant drawback, looking at the commonly used solution - laminate formation.
Laminate is a combination of the membrane with the outer material, which allows, first of all, mechanical protection of the waterproof layer, and secondly, supports the vapor removal process. From the bottom, the membrane is secured with a lining, with the same purpose as the top layer. In the case of winter footwear, between the layers we can also find insulation.
And here we have important attention for you regarding the care of the outer layer. First of all, what is obvious - always carry out the shoe maintenance process in accordance with the instructions provided by the manufacturer. This will prevent contamination and thus loss of properties by the membrane. Secondly - we sometimes meet with voices in forums and comments that the outer DWR coating applied to the shoes does not make sense, because it wears off quickly when moving in the field.
This is false - in fact, the surface of the DWR coating is susceptible to abrasion, and it does not have such a visible effect as, for example, on softshell jackets covered with it. However, it should be remembered that this type of impregnation is primarily aimed at improving water conduction in the outer material, and not protecting the entire shoe against getting wet - that's what the membrane is for. So how does it work? Let's start by distinguishing between the types of membranes.
Types of membranes in shoes - Gore-Tex, Sympatex, Te-Por
We have two basic types of membranes which are differentiated in terms of design and operation. Microporous membranes, such as the most recognizable Gore-Tex, are materials whose structure has microscopic holes that let the steam pass through and limit the ingress of water. As you know, water has a specific chemical structure - two hydrogen atoms combined with one oxygen.
Depending on the state of aggregation, different types of bonds occur between the molecules. In the case of a liquid state, we can observe hydrogen bonds that connect the entire network of molecules together, creating a larger structure. The structure therefore cannot penetrate the pores because it is too large. In the gaseous state, which is precisely the vapor, the bonds between the molecules do not occur, so they can easily escape through the pores.
The second type of membrane, here, for example, the Te-Por, is based on the properties of certain chemical compounds having hydrophilic - that is, water-binding, and hydrophobic - water-repellent regions. In this case, the water soaks into the surface of the membrane and is released to the outside. As in the previous case, nothing happens without a reason. The mechanism responsible for the movement of water is not some magic force, but diffusion, i.e. the phenomenon of spreading particles over an empty area.
How membrane works?
Therefore, for its operation, we need a center in which there will be excess steam - the inside of the shoe - and one in which there will be insufficient steam - the environment. It is therefore worth remembering that the outer layer stands on the border of the membrane and its surroundings. If it gets wet, it will limit the effectiveness of the membrane, and thus, it will make our shoes wet inside. It is therefore worth renewing the DWR coating regularly for maximum performance of our membrane.
The main difference in the operation of the membranes in question is the presence of pores. Like any opening, the pores can become clogged and the effectiveness of the membrane will be limited. Gore-Tex should be properly looked after - regularly maintained so that the salts contained in our sweat do not seal the pores draining water. For all types of membranes, also remember that they should not be cleaned with detergents. Special cleaning and washing agents dedicated to this type of clothing and footwear will guarantee us safety and maintain effectiveness for many years.
Pros and cons of shoes with a membrane
The advantages of shoes with a membrane cannot be denied. In many cases, watertightness is an invaluable feature, from increasing the comfort of our journey to protecting us from serious medical consequences. However, it is worth remembering about minor inconveniences that should be considered when buying this type of footwear. First of all, always take into account the conditions in which we will typically use shoes.
Winter trip to the forest or to the mountains - the membrane will definitely prove its usefulness. Do you like walking in swamps and wetlands? Gore-Tex or Te-Por as much as possible. But if your tourism is based on moving between closely located mountain huts on vacation, you should definitely consider footwear without a membrane.
Firstly, because you will probably use its functionality very rarely, and it is, however, an additional layer of material in the footwear. Not only additional, but also made of relatively tight, synthetic material that will never have the same performance in terms of breathability as, for example, full leather shoes.
Knowing, therefore, that you will only use shoes in the summer, and you are not going on terribly long trekking, during which various weather changes may occur, we encourage you to choose shoes that offer uninterrupted breathability. At high ambient temperatures or in the vicinity of a fire, they will dry out very quickly, and with normal use, they will simply be more comfortable.
Which shoes to choose? With or without a membrane?
So - choose shoes with Gore-Tex, Te-Por, Sympatex etc. in case you know that you will use their potential. Footwear with a membrane will not matter much if you are only "summer" tourists, and the same model without an additional layer will do much better. Winters, muds, frequent rains - we highly recommend the use of membranes. And finally: take care of shoes with a membrane - clogged pores will make the shoe behave like a galosh, while a mechanically damaged one will simply let water through, which, as you know, will follow the line of least resistance.AP