Besides the wetsuits shoes are the most important item in swimrunning. First of all they have to fit and to be comfortable for you. Furthermore it is interesting how the shoes work on different grounds – stone, forest trails and narrow paths – both dry and wet. As you’re going to swim with it (most of us will do so) it’s also a question of draining the water and performing in swimming. Still there’s no perfect swimrun shoe as well there is no one and only perfect running shoe. But some points are to check out: weight, draining. Maybe you‘ll miss the „classical“ running shoe with more drop and stability but they are all trail running shoes which are mostly neutral with less drop. In swimrunning it‘s all about weight, so less is more when you have to swim your shoe. Cushioning or stability isn’t such important cause the individual running sections in many races are no longer than 8 to 12k.
At the end of March, World of Swimrun (WoS), Swimrun France (SR-F) and Swimrun Germany (SR-G) teamed up in France for the 1st ever international swimrun equipment test. During 4 days, among many items, the team tested and debated 10 different models of shoes. Contrary to normal calm condition in the rugged and steep terrain of Calanque de Sormiou, Marseille, the test was conducted in rain, storm-winds, huge waves, strong currents and sun. Less tarmac roads and indeed no treadmill.
Each gear item was tested by the crew and given a score of 1 (poor) to 5 (best) and if there were specific characteristics or features worth noticing, a com-ment was written down during the test. We tested in alphabetical order: Brooks Puregrit 4, Icebug Acceleritas RB9X and Zeal 3 RB9X, inov-8 Roclite 290 and X-Talon 200, LaSportiva Bushido and Helios SR, Merrell Avalaunch Tough Mudder, Salming Elements, Salomon S-Lab XA Amphib and Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Soft Ground. There is no completeness in our test, for sure there are a lot more of shoes which are quite perfect for swimrunning.
Lightweight trail running shoe with soft cushioning. On the top in comfort as long it’s dry. We miss some grip on wet rocks. When becoming wet the shoe becomes heavy and the fitting get lost.
Icebug Acceleritas 5 RB9X
Test winner together with the inov-8 X-talon 200. The Acceleritas is a very flexible, dynamic shoe with a really great performance on wet rocks due to the special RB9X sole. Developed for swimrunning he combines grip, lightweight and drainage. You will miss any cushioning so we don’t see it on long runs especially not on tarmac. The Accerleritas is one of the tested shoe which you maybe can fold and put in your suit if you want to.
Icebug Zeal 3 RB9X
The Zeal is designed for OCR. It’s grip is as the Acceleritas great on both terrains dry and wet. The protection for the feet on both sides is a little bit hard and stiff so we miss some flexibility. And also draining the water becomes less.
inov-8 Roclite 290
The Roclite is a very comfortable trail running shoe with the inov-8 grip. We do like its performance on the trails. But it’s definitely not a swimrunning shoe. In water it becomes heavy and the fit get lost if it’s wet. There are other shoes from inov-8 which are much better usable in swimrunning.
Here is our second winner! The X-Talon 200 combined the famous inov-8 grip with a good water draining. Its leak is as the Acceleritas’ less comfort on tarmac roads. It is not as direct as the Icebug so it’s more recommendable for longer runs. So called „standard fit“ makes it more comfortable for wider feet.
Another famous trail running shoe. Its playground is more the rough trails of the Alps. The outer sole is quite hard and stiff which provides a good grip on rocks but let miss some flexibility. Great trail running shoe but not perfect for swimrunning.
LaSportiva Helios SR
Lightweight, good grip on most terrains and very comfortable due to its thicker outer sole. It takes second place together with the Salomon Amphib. Maybe a bit more difficult for wider feet due to its more narrow „italian“ cut.
Merrell Avalaunch Tough Mudder
Just another shoe designed for OCR. The Avalaunch is more flexible and lighter than the Icebug Zeal. It was the surprise in the test. The short neoprene gaiter fits perfect and protects the laces but on longer runs it’s getting quite warm in it.
Good grip, good water draining. The shoes came up in 2016 as one of the first special swimrun shoes ever. There were no modifications on the shoe since. In our test it is average in most points.
Salomon S-Lab XA Amphib
The most expensive shoe in our test. Good grip as expected in a Salomon shoe, very light and direct like a minimalistic shoe should be. It provides the best water draining and one of the best swim performances.. Also one of the shoes you can fold to put it in your wetsuit.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Soft Ground
Vivobarefoot got partner with ÖtillÖ and improved their shoe. In our test we did have the older model which is not really balanced. A lightweight minimalist with a thick, heavy sole. Perfect foldable due to a great flexibility. But we also don’t want to recommend it for longer runs. And you should be used to zero drop.
Most swimrunners never would put out their shoes for swimming. Although it is proved by good swimmers that you can go faster without shoes. But where to put them in? To carry a bag behind you is an option in training but not in racing. So the only possibility is to store the shoes somewhere inside the suit. Most seen is the variation to put it to the backside under the zip. Even seldom to place the shoes at the upper legs.
It’s on you to try what works better for you – loosing some time cause swimming with shoes is slower or loosing time in pulling them on and off. And think of getting out of the water barefoot – not always a good option.
Does my beloved trail running shoes work in swimrunning?
Why not – there’s no completeness in our test. First go out and find out if your shoes are still okay for you when they’re wet. You needn’t to go for a swim at once, it’s enough to do some steps in a river or a small stream to get them really wet. Then go for a run: are they still fitting? Did they become much more heavier? If everything is okay next step will be trying to swim with them.
And don’t be scared about blisters. It’s not really a problem when everything fits together – you, water, shoes and socks (!). Socks will protect you from small stones or sand you’ll finde nearly everywhere on the banks of rivers or lakes or on the beach. In socks we recommend at least a light compression which make them fit well even when they’re becoming wet. Low ones or high ones – that depends on your preference.
Do yourself a favour ! Go out and try this fantastic sport !!!! Go swimrunning.
Yours The team of WoS, SwimRun France & SwimRun Germany
We want to thank all manufacturers that helped us by providing equipment for our test:
|AquaShpere||Icebug||Rando Running Marseille|
We also want to extend a BIG thank you to www.randorunning.com for helping us with the logistics, Fix parents for housing the testing team, and last but not least, all you swimrunners who have followed us over the weekend, liked what we do and asked us so many intelligent questions. And don’t forget to test the wetsuit in real life swim-run conditions, since it will align itself properly only when you hit the water.