Next to wetsuits, the shoes are very important and the 2nd most expensive equipment you will buy for swimrun. Regardless of which shoe you opt for, it should fit your foot, feel comfortable, provide a good grip and support your running technique. You will find shoes for all kinds of environments and terrain like tarmac, trails, gravel roads, rocky and beach conditions and so forth. But since you’ll swim with them on (most of us do) it’s also important that the material of the shoe doesn’t retain too much water and that it drains any excessive water quickly when you start to run. Apart from this, there are several other features that are of importance but most related to individual preference like how much the shoe weighs, how much drop it has, if it offers any support/cushioning and, last but not least, how much they cost.
In April this year, swimrunners from World of Swimrun (WoS), Swimrun France (SR-F), Swimrun Germany (SR-G) and GoSwimrun Poland teamed up in Hvar, Croatia for the annual international and independent swimrun equipment test. For 3 days, the team tested and debated 7 different type of swimrun shoes.
Each shoe was tested by the crew in real-life swimrun conditions. All feedback was individually noted down, and each shoes capacity and features were discussed in length within the team.
Our test is not exhaustive as there are other shoes that works just fine for swimrunning, but we have focused on new shoes coming out in the recent year and of interest for the swimrun community. Please find our results below.
VJ is a Finnish shoe company founded in 1981, focused on developing footwear for top orienteers and demanding circumstances. They’re obviously pretty good at what they do since the Irock became OCR world champion in both 2014 and 2015. New to the swimrun market, we expect many swimrunners to pick-up on this shoe given its suitable swimrun characteristics. VJ Sports claim to have the best grip in the world and we tend to agree. The Irock 2 is a lightweight trail running shoe with soft cushioning in both the heel and the forefoot. It provides a steady grip thanks to the outsole studs made from butyl rubber and feature Schoeller-Keprotec material that adapts to your foot as snuggly as a sock, guaranteeing the shoes to stay light even when wet. This shoe quickly became one of the testing team’s favourite. Despite its “stiff” and “plastic-ly” look, it was surprisingly comfortable in both wet and dry. The shoes provide near perfect grip on both dry and wet surface and offer solid all-round protection to the feet when running in rough terrain. Going fast in these shoes in technical difficult terrain as well as flat surface is therefore no problem. Despite being scrutinized in detail, the testing team couldn’t find anything that wasn’t to our liking. One thing that could be developed further however is the speed the shoes drains water away when starting to run after a swim, something easily fixed by yourself by making small holes.
Merrell is a popular shoe brand that has been around for three decades. Now they have launched their All Out Crush Tough Mudder, which is a tough durable and breathable trail running shoe. It comes with traditional lace closure, abrasion-resistant TPU film, protective toe cap, breathable and draining mesh lining. The midsole is made from a unifly integrated EVA foot bed that absorbs the shock impact from rocks and obstacles, with a trail protect pad offering underfoot protection from rocks and sticks on the trail. The outsole features pinwheel lugs that offer 360-degree traction and release mud for an easy clean up these trial shoes will provide sufficient grip when needed most. This is a shoe that fits the all-round swimrunner that doesn’t have specific requirements to drop or fore-foot running. The cushion provides a comfortable feel on technical terrain and the shoe is rather easy to swimrun with, releasing water quickly after starting to run. It has a wider toe-box which allows for more space compared to narrow-type shoes.
Salming Running, who launched one of the world’s first dedicated swimrun shoes back in 2016, is back with a completely new swimrun shoe, the OT Comp (Off-Trail Competition). The lug design (rubber) studs) is developed together with Michelin and constructed for maximum grip, with a small difference in height, designed to allow for maximum ground penetration. The upper lightweight mesh body allows for good water drainage and breathability. The side areas exposed to the wear and tear of rugged terrain has an added RocShield reinforcement areas. The rubber used in the OT Comp outsole is Michelins OCX – Extreme Outdoor Compound – which features an extreme adherence on wet slippery surfaces due to its special sticky compound. Running with these shoes felt very nice and you can tell that Salming has drawn from their experience with the predecessor. It provides a really good grip on both wet and dry and feels very protected in rough terrain. It releases water fast when running and it feels comfortable during the swims. The bright colour sole also provides good visibility for the team mate behind to navigate, when swimming in the water. We like this shoe a lot and it’s a really good upgrade from the last version.
Inov-8 has been a popular shoe in the swimrun community for a long time and we’ve seen many different models being used over the years. Last year they were among our test favourites and now they’re out with the new X-Talon 210, a lightweight, flexible running shoe designed for racing at high speed, over soft and extreme terrain. It features their new “Sticky Grip” rubber outsole, with 8 mm studs aimed at providing better grip than its predecessor. Last year Inov-8 was one of our test winner and they didn’t let us down this year either. The shoe provides a really good fit, especially in the wet and is comfortable around the foot. The grip is near perfect in wet and dry and is almost on par with the Irock 2. The material retains very little water, is breathable and releases water quickly when running after a swim. And they feel really good to swim with. Another upside with the flexibility is that you can easily fold them under the wetsuit if you want to swim without shoes during longer stages. If you’re not used to running in technical terrain, they can provide a feeling of being a bit unprotected. But this sense of ‘freedom’ you get in this type of light-weight shoe also provides a feeling of being closer to the terrain when running, i.e. that you ‘feel the terrain’, which in turn enhances your running technique and ability to run safe. This is another favourite of the testing team.
Well. This was quite a surprise for the testing team. This Amphibious shoe allows for natural movement in terrain, and in and out of water. It’s light, thin and flexible and as close to being barefoot as you will get, however with protection. It has perforations in the durable ’Mega grip’ sole to allow water to move quickly through the shoe for quick drying. On the inside a silicone print within the lining prevents added internal slippage. Its swimrun characteristics is undeniable. The provide nearly zero resistance in the water when swimming. It virtually takes in and retains no water. They don’t have any lacing to worry about and no inner slide. If you get a good fit, they will feel like having a pair of protected socks on. This however can be the challenge for many, as running in this type of shoe puts real pressure on your running technique and you really need to master fore-foot running to get the most out as they provide no type of cushioning. Running longer races with this type, in technical terrain, will require you to train a lot, to get your body, feet and legs used to it, adapt your running technique accordingly, and to avoid injuries or traumas from landing wrongly on hard objects on the trail. But mastering this, this shoe will become a really good swimrun option. It had the lowest weight, performed best in the water and were the cheapest of all shoes tested. Surely, we’ll see more of these in shorter and less technical terrain-like swimrun races in the future. You can also wash them in the machine.
This is another shoe from the VJ Sports company, which focuses on trail running and sprint orienteering where more and more swimrunners have started to use them in competition. The outsole is made from 100% butyl rubber and provides a really good grip despite the lesser usage of studs compare to the Irock 2. Both heel and forefoot are cushioned, and the upper non-stretch material provides stability, comfort and protection. They tend to fit more narrow feet in general why it became a bit difficult for all in the test team to get a proper fit. But overall the provide a good feeling when running in both wet and dry and really good grip. After swimming they tend to retain a bit more water than the other shoes tested and was also the heaviest just after the swim test.
The Vivobarefoot ÖtillÖ Edition is a shoe aimed for release later in 2018 or early 2019. It’s a follow-up on last year’s shoe with this new model featuring a higher mesh around the ankle. This minimalist shoe fits the advanced runner as it puts pressure on your running technique. With a wide toe-box it can take some time for a beginner to get used to this type of shoe and feeling as there will be some sliding around if the shoe doesn’t fit 100%. It has a tight fit with drainage zones. The mesh is water repellent and breathes well. When swimming the upper and new mesh tended to stick out when stretching out the foot, catching water (comparable to a large tongue in other shoes). The grip was good in the technical dry terrain but in wet we had to caution ourselves given the tendency of the shoe to slip at times. It was the heaviest shoe in the test and among the heaviest after swimming and the 500-meter run. We think this shoe is good for shorter non-technical swimrun racing and its bright sole makes it easy for the team mate to navigate behind.
Don’t forget that there are plenty of good swimrun shoes on the market, apart from the ones we have tested. Therefore, we recommend that you read our 2017 test, as many of these shoes are available also in 2018 and mostly are the same shoes but with new colours.
<<< Read it here: 2017 swimrun shoe test >>>
We want to thank all manufacturers that helped us by providing equipment for our test:
|VJ Sports||Merrell||Vibram fivefingers|