Waterproof hiking boots are always a trade-off; you give up some breathability in exchange for keeping water out of your boots. Hiking in a hot climate can turn your feet into a hot, sweaty mess because the waterproofing prevents moisture from evaporating fast enough. Sticking your feet into water that comes up over the top of the boots will not only get water inside but the waterproofing will keep it there and slow the drying-out process.
Waterproofing may sound like a bum deal, but it comes in handy if you do a lot of hiking in a damp climate or on wet terrain. Three of the heavy-duty leather backpacking boots discussed earlier in this report are waterproof: the Asolo TPS 520 GV (*MSRP $290), Asolo Power Matic 200 GV (*MSRP $300) and Lowa Renegade II GTX Mid (*MSRP $220). The fourth leather boot in that category, the Hi-Tec Altitude IV Waterproof (*MSRP $105), is seam-sealed but still needs to be retreated every so often for waterproofing.
If you'd prefer a lighter boot, the Salomon Quest 4D GTX (*MSRP $230), Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX (*MSRP $160) and Keen Targhee II Mid (*MSRP $130) all get high scores. Each draws at least a few complaints of leaks, which in the Salomon Quest 4D's case appear to be partially due to a batch of improperly sealed Gore-Tex liners. The original Vasque Breeze suffered a similar problem, but there isn't enough feedback yet to see how the waterproofing performs on the updated Breeze 2.0.
With the Keen Targhee II Mid, waterproofing failure is just one of many user complaints. Several owners say it has great grip in dry conditions, but next to no traction at all on wet rock or sidewalks. Many say the boot tends to develop a persistent, annoying squeak; its KeenDry liner doesn't seem to be very breathable; and its webbing lace loops tear easily. Yet the Targhee II Mid is still much loved for its comfortable fit and roomy toebox. A number of hikers continue to buy replacement pairs, even though they seem to average only about a year of effective use.
The Salomon Quest 4D GTX and Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX also earn kudos for a comfortable fit. In particular, the Quest 4D gets rave reviews for an adjustable-tension lacing system that lets you establish one tension for laces across your foot and a different tension up your ankle.
The Quest's laces are a little flimsier, reviewers say, but the boot still draws so much praise for its support and excellent traction on all terrain -- including in wet conditions, which is to be expected if you need a waterproof boot -- that it's a top choice in the waterproof category. The Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX is an excellent alternative with a loyal following, but user feedback suggests that the original Breeze doesn't hold up to hard use quite as well as the Salomon Quest 4D GTX.