Historically, there have been few specific swimrun shoes on the market except for Salomon, Salming or Vivobarefoot. In general, people tend to use the shoes they normally wear for regular trail running and on occasion shoes for harder surfaces like tarmac or compact gravel roads. It is for this reason we see most of the brands popular with runners being represented. However, as swimrun grows in popularity, we are seeing brands crossing over from sports such as OCR, orienteering or sky running, marketing shoes with preferable traits such as grip or low water absorption, now also targeting swimrunners.
Given the sheer size and numerous running shoes available on the market, this year’s swimrun shoe test focused on those new to the swimrun market, and what was provided by brands for testing.
Key features of a swimrun shoe
A good swimrun shoe is supportive, lightweight, doesn’t absorb or retain water and offers good grip on slippery ground. Toe box protection and an appropriate lacing system are also preferable features. It is important to recognise that individual comfort and personal brand favourites play a key role in swimrun shoe choice.
In April of this year, representatives of World of Swimrun (WoS), Swimrun France (SR-F) and Swimrun Germany (SR-G), GoSwimrun Poland, Swimruncoach UK and towards the end SwimRun Cheers from Italy met at Lago D’Orta in northern Italy. On a 2-kilometer round, which included two swimming tracks and a hilly running track with a variety of surfaces, the shoes were “put through their paces” by all testers. The Swimrun shoes were also weighed in pairs both dry and wet.
Dynafit Feline Up Pro
The shoe is specifically designed for vertical running. “Precise, light and aggressive” – this is how Dynafit describes its purebred mountain sprinter, as the “Ferrari among the Alpine running shoes”. Low weight, perfect Vibram grip and enough flexibility. The Feline Vertical Pro shoe is for short to medium length mountain running competitions, which go steeply over rock and stone uphill. The integrated carbon layer in the midsole should guarantee protection against pointed stones and provide stability and surefootedness. The test team found this shoe had great grip, had good lace storage, good drainage and good ankle stability. Whilst some found it difficult to get on initially, they found fit improved over time. Both wet and dry it is one of the lighter shoes in the test and was one of the favourites of the test team. This was also the most expensive shoe tested
Dynafit Feline SL
The Feline SL is just like its sibling intended for trail running, preferably in sky racing. It’s designed for steep, rocky, muddy and scree terrain and to adapt with the varying terrain. It features Vibram soles and a sensitive fit system with a memory foam foot bed and a quick lacing system. The test team found this shoe to have a good fit and was easy to lace with good lace storage. It offered good ankle stability, but some found it hard to put on and that it felt heavy and had poor drainage.
Hoka One One Evo Jawz
The Evo jawz really catches your eyes at first glance. This off-road shoe offers stability and protection without impacting on the fabrics flexibility when running. With woven rip-stop it’s designed for harsh conditions, durability and fit security. The midsole features proflytm for balance and propulsion and the Vibram sole features 6 mm multidirectional lugs for grip on varying terrain. The test team found this shoe was very flexible, offered great off-road grip and good drainage. It was the lightest shoe in the test and another favourite among the team. Improvements could be made to the laces to ensure they stayed done up on the swims and runs. This was also the lightest shoe in the test.
Inov8 Trail Roc 270
Completely redesigned, the Trail Roc 270 is the lightest model in the Trail Roc series. This is a shoe destined for fast running over hard and rocky trails. It now features more protection, support, and comfort compared to older models. Its improved grip and cushioned midsole with lightweight upper mesh leaves little room for going slow in difficult hard and rocky trails. The test team found this shoe had great grip and good water drainage. They had mixed views on the fit and most felt the laces would need improvement to stay done up for swimrun. This was the shoe standing out the most in the test given its red strong colour making it clearly visible in the water when swimming.
Inov-8 Mudclaw G260
For years, the inov-8 Mudclaw has been a flagship trail shoes in addition to the X-talon series previously popular among swimrunners. Broad, aggressive studs characterise the sole with maximum grip, extremely robust and durable, proven in other tests. Additional robustness comes from the upper mesh being reinforced with Kevlar: bringing strength and breathability. The shoe is a purebred trail shoe. The range of application is wide – from soft, squishy to rough trackless terrain. The 8mm studs dig almost into any surface, are thanks to the graph flexible and yet resistant. The slim cut of the shoe ensures a perfect fit on the foot and is still surprisingly comfortable. The 4mm blasting are direct and allow the feet the perception of the soil and ground. The test team found this shoe had great grip for technical off road running wet or dry and a narrower fit than its relative, the Trail Roc 270. Testers felt that improvements could be made in how well it drained and lace storage.
Inov-8 Mudclaw 275
It is almost a classic: the Mudclaw 275 shines in the ranks of the British brand for a long time as a figurehead for grip. Now it has been reworked and the result shows a more aggressive shoe. The lugs are wide and triangular in their basic structure. New are the grooves, which should prevent a hydroplaning effect even on wet surfaces with an 8mm depth bite into any softer ground. The sole is very flexible, making running on difficult terrain possible. The fairly small heel drop of 4mm puts the runner stable on the ground. The test team found this shoe had excellent grip and good water drainage. Although the Mudclaw G260 is the more “fancy” shoe, we would rather choose this simpler variant of the Mudclaw for swimrun given that it is also cheaper and lighter after having been submerged in the water.
The Sparta is a new to market swimrun shoe with a multi-purpose function also targeting OCR, trail, and orienteering. It is robust yet light featuring a grippy outsole useful for both soft and hard terrain. The forefoot is wrapped to improve resilience, paired with a hardy bumper and an expansive toe box. It’s a cushioned and protected shoe with durable water-resistant upper and holed slim tongue and non-absorbent inner material intended to drain during running. The innersole can be removed to dry out. The test team enjoyed testing a brand-new shoe brand and were aware there were specific guidelines on allowing time to wear the shoes in. The test team found this shoe to have a wider fitting than most on test, great for wider feet. Yet for some in the team not used to a wider fit, the shoe felt a bit uncomfortable when wet and running technical downhill. The wider fit however is preferable in warmer conditions when the feet tend to swell up or when going longer distances. The high ankle material felt uncomfortable and compared to other shoes in the test, they did not drain as well, however easily adjusted with a couple of holes. An additional improvement could be somewhere to tuck in laces. This was the cheapest shoe tested and a great option for a variety of swimrunners or swimrun races.
Saucony Switchback ISO
Saucony throws the Switchback ISO on the market – a light, flexible trail shoe. The BOA lacing system in combination with the proven ISOFOIT system enables a very good, individually adjustable fit. The fine tuning ensures a secure fit while running. The shoe should cling to the foot thanks to this combination like a second skin. The outsole has a denser and a softer edge profile for optimum traction in the centre. The small blast of 4mm gives a pure and direct running pleasure. The BOA system works perfectly even when wet. The shoe sits significantly wider and softer than the other models mentioned here, but can be adjusted quickly and easily at any time thanks to the screw cap. In grip on wet stone, the Switchback cannot keep up with the models of VJ, Dynafit or inov-8, but its sole is perfect for less technical trail running tracks. The drainage properties are absolutely good. The test team found this shoe to have a wider fitting than most on test and the soft upper was comfortable and allowed good drainage. The lacing system to our surprise was easy to use and allowed testers to get an individual secure fit each time. The team felt that the grip was more suited to non-technical terrain and slippery on wet hard flat rock.
Last year’s test winner returns this year with a new and improved model, the Irock3. This new version comes featured with more toe box protection, a leaner fit lock for tight fit and anti-slip laces. The shoe is cushioned in both the heel and front and the Schoeller Keprotec material forms itself around the foot even when wet and keeps the shoe lightweight. This shoe is also targeting orienteering, trail running och OCR and with great success already. The test team found this shoe had superb grip especially on technical surfaces. It is lightweight but could benefit from improved drainage. This year’s model allows for a little bit more room in terms of fit and the improved protection around the toe box is a welcome addition. All in all, this is another but somewhat expensive favourite shoe to swimrun in, especially for those looking for superior grip and in challenging wet technical conditions.
We also want to extend a big thank you to all manufacturers helping us by providing equipment for our test.
Don’t forget to double check with last year’s tests as many of these shoes are still available on the market. You can find the 2018 test here and the 2017 test here. If you want to read up on more overall preferable characteristics of a swimrun shoe you can check out the free book on swimrun available for download here or any of our technical reviews which can be found here.
Good luck swimrunning.
/The WoS Team