"Waterproof footwear is a MUST whether it's boots or shoes" If you're walking through tall wet grass consistently, or you plan to traverse directly through every puddle you encounter, yes. Otherwise, it's overkill. I spend A LOT of my freetime walking outside over here, even in the rain and through pastureland and woods, and I can tell you that I've only had my footwear soaked through once, when I had to jump in a stream to get my dog out of it. Now, if it's a matter of protecting the leather, that's a different story. But except for the most extreme conditions, your feet are likely to stay dry.
"the rain in France isn't like our drizzly Pacific NW rain. I was in Paris a month ago, and one morning started with the crazy "turn your umbrella inside out" type of wind & downpour rain" What you experienced was not typical. Away from the coast in northern France, and most of Germany, rain usually falls rather gently. Heavy rain storms are the exception, not the rule. The only areas of Germany where I've regularly encountered heavy storms are in the Alps and the northern coast.