New Gore-Tex® Surround waterproof & breathable technology for footwear; the sole that breathes

Waterproof and breathable membranes for mountain and outdoor footwear have, until recently, had a weak point; the sole. Between 30 to 40 per cent of lower limb perspiration is produced in the soles of the feet, and therefore, keeping them dry and comfortable is not easy.

Brand image - how it works.
Sweating, in general is uncomfortable, but when your feet sweat there are added problems, such as blisters and rubbing. Sweat often makes your feet and socks slip around inside your boots, especially when hiking or trekking, which not only causes discomfort, but can also put your safety at risk.

This spring, Gore-Tex, the renowned brand of waterproof & breathable membranes, has to launched a new footwear technology. called Gore-Tex® Surround. This membrane completely surrounds the foot, allowing it to breathe underneath, through the sole.

Bestard Galaxy, is one of the boots we've used to test Gore-Tex® Surround technology.
How does it work?
Like previous models, this boot has a Gore-Tex® membrane, but in this case it completely surrounds the foot, like a sock. And it's underneath where you can see the main innovation: an open-cell “spacer”, that dries the moisture that has been wicked away from your skin, by the membrane.

And here is where a second innovation lies: on the lower sides of the boot is a lightweight, fine mesh-like fabric that speeds up the wicking process to the outer surface of the boot.
We cut this boot in half and the open-cell “spacer” under the sole can be seen clearly.

Gore-Tex® Surround system open-cell “spacer” midsole.
This next photo is very interesting as it shows the white Gore-Tex “sock” together with the fine, almost mesh-like textile outer fabric which helps wick away moisture from the open-cell “spacer” and rest of the foot.

Gore-Tex membrane and mesh-like textile sides for enhanced wicking.
Summary: moisture is wicked away from your feet to the open-cell “spacer”, which is ventilated by the side mesh-like inserts. According to Gore, this notably increases comfort and minimizes blistering and rubbing.

This has a double advantage: on one hand, perspiration is wicked away from your skin more quickly and on the other, it dries faster.

Pros & Cons:
The pros are evident: 30 to 40% of perspiration, which was previously difficult to eliminate, is now wicked away more easily, helping to keep your feet dry for greater comfort.

However, the need for the side mesh inserts for ventilation means that these inserts are not as durable and offer less protection than in similar footwear.

For hiking and low mountaineering, this problem is solved by covering the membrane with a protective rubber or textile grid – this varies depending on the manufacturer. But for alpine boots, this protection just isn't enough. For this reason, the Gore-Tex® Surround system is mainly designed for hiking and low to mid mountain use and not for technical boots. In the following image we can see how the finer textile fabric is covered by an protective textile grid.

Outer protection of the Gore-Tex® Surround system for the Bestard Galaxy boot. On this model you can see a simple textile guard to protect the membrane and inner spacer.
In use
These are just our first impressions, and not an in-depth test, as we were unfortunately unable to use the two items (Bestard Galaxy & Cosmos) for long enough, or in adequate conditions (summer).

We have been able to use them in a suitable environment, on 2 trips to the mountains and in non-technical, 3-season conditions with one of the models on one foot and an earlier Bestard model, provided by the manufacturer, on the other, which was made with the classic Gore-Tex membrane.

We hoped to be able to notice a difference between both boots, but this turned out not to be such a great idea: due to the air chamber and the different soles, one foot was noticeably higher than the other, which caused a slight limp and soon became uncomfortable. We tried adding a thicker insole to the classic boot, but this made the boot too tight.

The Bestard Cosmos in use.
Although the weather conditions weren't ideal (cold, rain and snow), we have to say that when we took off the boots at the end of the day, our foot and sock in the Gore-Tex Surround boot were drier. The result is logical, as the wicking capacity is so much greater, but again, this is only a first impression as the conditions were not the most favourable and the other foot was compressed more than it should have been. So we're going to focus on the technology for now and will hopefully be able to carry out a more thorough test in the future.

When we first saw how this system works we had our doubts as to whether water would get into the midsole spacer, in wet weather. But after trying out the boots in wet conditions, it became clear that this wasn't an issue.

What we've seen, during our walks, is a positive secondary effect of the Gore-Tex® Surround system: comfort is even greater because the spacer absorbs impact and acts as extra cushioning, in the same way as the air heels of some running shoes. At the end of the day's activity, we noticed that the soles of our feet had suffered less than with normal boots.

La Sportiva Synthesis, fast approach shoes with Gore-Tex® Surround technology

Leave a comment

Be the first to comment on this article.