Progress in understanding root growth regulation and adaptation under water-stressed conditions is reviewed, with emphasis on recent advances from transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of maize and soybean primary roots. In both systems, kinematic characterization of the spatial patterns of cell expansion within the root elongation zone showed that at low water potentials, elongation rates are preferentially maintained towards the root apex but are progressively inhibited at more basal locations resulting in a shortened growth zone. This characterization provided an essential foundation for extensive research into the physiological mechanisms of growth regulation in the maize primary root at low water potentials. Recently, these studies were expanded to include transcriptomic and cell wall proteomic analyses of the maize primary root, and a proteomic analysis of total soluble proteins in the soybean primary root. This review focuses on findings related to protection from oxidative damage, the potential roles of increased apoplastic reactive oxygen species in regulation of wall extension properties and other processes, region-specific phenylpropanoid metabolism as related to accumulation of (iso)flavonoids and wall phenolics and amino acid metabolism. The results provide novel insights into the complexity and coordination of the processes involved in root growth at low water potentials.