A common question we get asked by newbies to the sport of swimrun is, “Do you really swim in your shoes?”
And, the answer is yes!
Shoes are essential for any swimrun race.
1. There are no transitions
In swimrun, there are no transitions, which means you can’t take your shoes on and off like you can in other sports such as triathlon and aquathons.
Whatever gear you start with, you must finish with, meaning you must wear your shoes throughout both the swim and run legs.
2. Safety for water entries and exits
A lot of water entries and exits for the swim legs of races are over slippery and sometimes sharp rocks, boat ramps and unknown underwater surfaces.
Meaning if you aren’t wearing your shoes you can end up seriously injuring yourself from either slipping or tripping over the rocks because shoes help you get a great grip even when wet.
These surfaces can also be rough, which can cut and rip your feet up if your feet aren’t protected from wearing shoes.
3. Running safety on mixed terrain
The run legs of most swimrun events take place on roads, paths and national park trails which take you over many different terrains, including; rocks, sharp stones, bitumen, gravel, sand and concrete.
These terrains can be slippery, sharp and painful if you run over them barefoot.
Wearing shoes during a swimrun event will help protect your feet on the run legs ensuring you don’t get anything stuck in your feet, injure them or fall over.
Choosing a swimrun shoe
There are multiple different shoes that are suitable to wear throughout swimrun races, but at the end of the day it comes down to the individual and whatever you are most comfortable running and swimming in.
When choosing a shoe suitable for your swimrun journey keep the following tips in mind:
- A style that drains quickly and does not carry a lot of water once you are out of the swim leg and into the run is a primary consideration. Look for shoes that have a bit of mesh fabric to assist with drainage.
- Choose a pair that is lightweight, that doesn’t weigh your feet down on land because they will most definitely weigh your feet down once you hit the water.
- You want your shoes to be a snug fit, so they don’t come off when swimming. Having a snug fit also means the shoe won’t soak in as much water during the swim legs and slip off your foot during the run legs.
- Ensure your shoes have a good grip because most surfaces along swimrun courses are wet, slippery and rocky. If your shoes have a good grip, you lessen your chances of slipping over throughout the race.
- Like all your other gear, make sure you get used to and practice in your shoes before race day to avoid blisters and ensure they are conformable for those long-run legs. Try out different types of socks and think about taping your feet where the rub points are.
Altering your swimrun shoes
Many swimrunners alter their swimrun shoes to make them more suitable and comfortable for swimrun.
Here are the most popular ways to alter your swimrun shoes:
- Change out the standard laces to triathlon-style elasticated laces. These laces are lighter, more flexible and easier to swim and run in. They are also great if you get sand or dirt in your shoe and need to quickly slip it off mid-run to empty it because they make it easier to slip on and off.
- Drill holes in your shoes for better drainage. While most shoes have good drainage, some like to keep water sitting in the bottom, which can make for an uncomfortable start to your run leg. A common tip a lot of swimrunners use is drilling small holes into the sole of the shoe. Drill a total of four small holes into your shoe, two in the sole under the ball of your foot and then two on each side of the shoe where the sole meets the upper section of the shoe, one by the big toe and the other by the little toe. These holes should be so small you can barely see them, but they do make a difference. If you make your holes too big, you will allow for sand and dirt to enter your shoe and you don’t want that.
Types of Swimrun shoes to choose from
- Standard trail running shoes: These are a great place to start because they are usually light with a good grip pattern on the sole, making them great for both running and swimming.
- Old trainers: Are also great shoes because you are comfortable in them and you don’t have to worry that they are going to get wet and dirty.
- Specific swimrun shoes: There are plenty of brands out there these days that make specifically designed shoes for swimrun. Brands such as; Merrell, Salomon, Inov-8 Talon, Vivobarefoot and Salming are all popular brands among swimrunners.
Overall, when picking a swimrun shoe you want to make sure they are light, drain well, have plenty of grip, and most of all that they are comfortable for you to both run and swim in.
Don’t forget, you’re more likely to find the right shoe for you with trial and error. You might go through a few shoes before you find the perfect one that fits your foot just right, but once you have the perfect show for you, you’ll get more performance and enjoyment out of swimrun.
Countering the drag from wearing shoes
If you struggle with swimming in shoes try wearing a pull buoy or neoprene calf socks. This can help alleviate some of the drag and sinking feeling you are likely to encounter.