SwimRun Paddles

SwimRun Paddles are pretty much essential items for most SwimRun events. Having said that, I used webbed neoprene gloves for my first 3 SwimRun events. But after that I changed over to some stiff green paddles with a bigger surface area.

Below is an image of me (Richard) swimming at the Ötillö Engadin event, identifiable by my blue webbed gloves.

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Two Swimrun competitors swimming together at Ötillö Engadin in Switzerland, wearing green tops and caps.My blue webbed neoprene gloves. Image courtesy Jakob Edholm and Ötillö

BUT why use paddles in the first place? This is a "double-edged sword". On the one hand, paddles will increase the surface area of your hand, and so increase the power you can generate when swimming. That means you can go faster!

An underwater photo of a swimrun competitor using hand paddles in shallow water.Underwater shot of swimrun paddles in action!

BUT that increased surface area ALSO means that you have to work a little harder. You will not notice it much during the first swim leg, nor the second . . . BUT after that you will start to tire a little, and by the LAST swim section you will definitely know that you are using SwimRun Paddles! It's an extra effort.

SwimRun Paddles

AND THERE IS ANOTHER DISADVANTAGE - you have to carry the paddles while you are running. In all SwimRun events, you have to cross the finish line with ALL the equipment that you started with. So you can't throw the paddles away mid-race if you get fed up with them!

There are 3 ways of running with your paddles;

  • If your paddles have a wrist strap, you can take your paddles off your fingers and flip them around against the backs of your hands while running.
  • You can take your paddles off entirely, and stuff them down the front of your wetsuit, after unzipping the front of your wetsuit a little.
  • Some swimrunners take their paddles off and loop them through their SwimRun belt, usually at the back. The disadvantage here is that the paddles flap around against your buttocks as you are running!

But what do paddles look like? Here are some photos of my current paddles, from Speedo. I like them because they are not too big - some paddles are huge!

Two green swimrun paddles lying on a black surface.SwimRun Paddles on my kitchen top
Two green SwimRun Paddles lying on a black surface, with a man's hand in the straps of the left one.SwimRun Paddle on my left hand
Side view of a man's hand in the straps of a green swimrun paddleSwimRun Paddle on my left hand
Inside view of a green SwimRun Paddle

I have since replaced the black rubber straps with softer rubber tubing, in a different layout. You can see what I've done in the photos below. The new layout and softer rubber tubing allows me to turn the paddles round quickly when exiting the water, allowing me to use my hands without the paddles falling off.

A green Swimrun paddle with yellow rubber strapsThe new rubber tubing straps
A green swimrun paddle with a man's hand inside the yellow rubber straps.How it works!
A man's hand with a green swimrun paddle flipped around so that only one strap loops around his wrist.Paddles turned around to allow hand use.

You can find a good deal on the Speedo Swimrun paddles HERE on Amazon.

And here are some photos of the swimrun paddles that Mogsy is now using. They are a bit smaller than mine, but easier for her to manage.

Two black swimrun paddles for ladies, against a white background.Mogsy's swimrun paddle
Side view of a black Swimrun paddle for ladiesMogsy's swimrun paddle - right hand
A woman's hand inside the straps of a black swimrun paddle for ladiesMogsy's swimrun paddle

GETTING BACK TO THE "WHY" - how much faster can you go? When I talked to several other experienced swimrunners, they all estimated that they could swim faster by about one minute per 1000 meters. AT LEAST.  So if yo have an event with several swims adding up to 5 kilometers or more, that's a 5 minute difference! MINIMUM! So definitely worth swimming with paddles.

BUT here's my tip; it's more effort to swim with paddles, so you MUST train for it. During your pool sessions (which should be based around speedwork/repetitions), you should wear the paddles for at least 75% of the session.

And in your open water swim sessions, be it lake or sea, you should wear your paddles for the entire swim. It MUST become second nature to swim with paddles!

Here are a couple of links to paddles available on Amazon that have been recommended by our readers:

The latest paddle design is the Ark Carbon Blades. As the name suggests, these are made of carbon fibre, which means they are very stiff, very light (70 grams) and very thin (1mm).

Obviously, lightness is a desirable asset, but we are not sure about the stiffness. Conventional paddles seem plenty stiff enough, and we have concerns about the sharp-edged corners on the Blades inducing cavitation during stroke pull, which would reduce the 'grip' on the water.

I have asked Ark about cavitation issue, but have not seen any evidence that the Carbon Blades are any better or worse than conventional Speedo training paddles, for example.

SO, SwimRun paddles are ESSENTIAL to use, but you have to train with them a LOT beforehand! If you are entering your FIRST swimrun event, DO NOT feel that you HAVE to use paddles, especially in a sprint event - say under 15km (9 miles total). The shorter the event, the less you NEED paddles, and the MORE you need to concentrate on your running!

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