GORE-TEX® has been in running shoes since the 1970s, but the current generation of GTX® shoes are not your Father’s GORE-TEX® running shoes. Heck, they’re not even your older cousin’s GORE-TEX® running shoes! Today’s GORE-TEX® running shoes are light and flexible, provide climate-controlled running comfort under all weather conditions, and are offered in customized designs in some of the most popular running brands and styles including the Saucony Ride, Brooks Ghost, Brooks Adrenaline, ASICS Cumulus, ASICS GT 1000, and Saucony Xodus. I learned this and a lot more during my recent trip to W. L. Gore and Associates with fellow Run Bloggers Jason and Kate.
The three of us are members of Team GORE-TEX® and Team Gore Running Wear® for the upcoming GORE-TEX® Philadelphia Marathon. Gore Associate Cynthia hosted us for our visit to W. L. Gore plants in Delaware and Maryland last Friday to learn firsthand about the Gore Running products we’re using to train for the race.
It was an amazing day and I’m excited to tell you about it. I’ll talk about GORE-TEX® shoes in this post and I’ll cover Gore Running Wear® in later posts. Our first stop was the Elk Creek Plant where Gore Associate Kirk showed us how GORE-TEX® is designed into running shoes. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about GORE-TEX®.
Did You Know How GORE-TEX® Technology Actually Works and Why it is Unique?
GORE-TEX® is unique because it does not allow liquid water to penetrate, but it allows water vapor to escape. How does GORE-TEX® pull off this magic trick? The GORE-TEX® membrane has over nine billion pores per square inch. The pores are 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet, but 700 times larger than a water vapor molecule. This means that GORE-TEX® running shoes can be designed to push out as much sweat and heat as possible while still providing 100% guaranteed waterproof protection. GORE-TEX® is unique because it is breathable, yet remains impenetrable by water.
I was surprised when I ran through wet grass in my new Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes; I did not get the wet saturated-sock feeling I’m used to after a few strides through thick wet grass. The grass was very wet, and I saw the water drops on my shoes, but my feet stayed completely dry. I’m looking forward to running in the rain with these shoes.
Keeping water out is only half the battle in controlling the micro-climate around our feet. We were all amazed when we learned exactly how much our feet sweat when we’re running. Each foot can produce 250 milliliters of sweat during a full day of running. That means that during a four-hour marathon, our feet alone can produce over eight ounces of sweat! The unique breathable GORE-TEX® membrane allows our feet to breathe, preventing them from getting too hot, while letting the sweat vapor escape.
GORE-TEX® is in Many of the Most Popular Running Shoe Models
I was impressed by the wide selection of top shoe models that offer a GORE-TEX® option (they have GTX® in the shoe’s name). The current crop of running shoe brands with GORE-TEX® includes Asics, Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, inov-8, La Sportiva, Salomon, Scott, and The North Face. Most of these shoemakers offer multiple GTX® models and there are choices in the neutral, stability, and trail running categories. Check them out at:
GORE-TEX® Running Shoes are Light and Flexible
The new GORE-TEX® running shoes are lightweight and flexible and still provide the maximum protection we expect from GORE-TEX®. I had no idea that the addition of GORE-TEX® adds less than an ounce to a shoe. The picture below shows the GORE-TEX® liner in the Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes I’m running in now. The inside of the shoes are soft and flexible, provide a glove-like feel, and keep my feet nice and dry.
GORE-TEX® Running Shoes are Custom-Designed for each Application
Kirk explained how Gore works with shoe manufacturers to customize the integration of GORE-TEX® into each shoe’s unique design. Gore works in collaboration with the shoe companies to ensure that every aspect of making a shoe waterproof is taken into account. Gore specifies how seams must be sealed, and they require that the laces and threads used in a GORE-TEX® shoe do not wick moisture into the shoe.
One of the most interesting parts of our visit was our trip to the Gore Shoe Lab where we saw how prototype shoes are flex-tested to prove out each new shoe’s design. Gore Associate Donna is demonstrating the Mechanical Boot Flex Test in the picture below:
In this test, shoes are placed on electronically-instrumented foot forms that each contain a dozen sensors to detect leakage into the shoe. The shoe is immersed in water and flexed repeatedly for up to 200,000 times. Any leak is immediately detected. If the shoe leaks, the shoe manufacturer must modify the design and then resubmit the shoe for further testing. Here’s a video of the test:
To demonstrate how the sensors work, Donna simulated a failure. Sure enough, the sensor display turned red as you can see in the picture below:
This test ensures that each custom GORE-TEX® shoe design is waterproof and stays that way for the lifetime of the shoe.
All GORE-TEX® Shoes Require the Same Standard Factory Testing from Every Shoe Manufacturer
Once a GORE-TEX® Running Shoe is in production, Gore requires manufacturers to test shoes at the factory using patented Gore test equipment. The Leak Test Machine is used to test 100% of GORE-TEX® Booties before they are installed in shoes. The Centrifuge Test is performed on selected samples of finished shoes during production. During this test, shoes are filled with water and then spun at 30g to check for leaks.
GORE Doesn’t Make the Shoe but they Still Guarantee the Shoe
You heard it right. They guarantee other companies’ products. It goes back to Gore’s commitment to “fitness-for-use.” Every Gore associate we met during our visit spoke about fitness-for-use. Gore is not satisfied just to sell a material. They do not consider a job completed until the end-user is 100% satisfied with the product, even if Gore only provides an ingredient in that product. And they have been backing up that commitment with their GORE-TEX® “Guaranteed to Keep You Dry” promise since 1989.
The Perfect End to a Great Day
Near the end of the day we stopped at the W. L. Gore Retail Store at the Barksdale Site and checked out all of the cool GORE-TEX® products. That’s when I got my new pair of Saucony Ride 7 GTX® shoes and I’ve already taken them for a spin or two. I’ll post again with a report on the shoes once I’ve logged a few miles in the rain.
We finished with a tour of the Gore Capabilities Center with Gore Associate Paul, who gave us an overview of Gore materials and products including cables, medical implants, guitar strings, filters, military fabrics, fire and safety fabrics, Gore Bike Wear®, and of course, Gore Running Wear®. Gore products have even been to the moon. It’s pretty cool to know that there’s over a half-century of science and innovation behind my GORE-TEX® running shoes and I’m looking forward to training and racing in them.
You can check out my Gore Running teammates at: