SwimRun Shoes

SwimRun shoes are essential for any SwimRun race; you WILL need some ! They are an essential part of the gear you need, because the running sections can take you over all sorts of terrain, from pebble beaches to rocky shorelines, over sharp stones on mountain trails, up and down steep slopes. You need shoes that give great grip in the wet, are comfortable, and will protect your feet.

To find out which shoe Michael Lemmel - (Ötillö Race Director) - uses, read on!

But there are quite a few suitable shoes for you to choose. And more are coming out each year as shoe manufacturers bring out their own SwimRun designs.  For now, we are using Salming "Elements" trail shoes.

These are basically normal trail running shoes that are also recommended for SwimRun. They have a ridged, grippy outer sole, a stiff inner sole to insulate our feet from sharp objects on the trail, and a mesh upper to allow water to drain out after each swim leg.

SwimRun Shoes

We are using the Salming Elements Trail shoes.

But we have made some adjustments!  First of all, we didn’t like the standard laces, so we switched over to triathlon-style elasticated laces. Much more convenient to adjust, and more flexible. I just LOVE elasticated laces, and I have put them into ALL of my running shoes;

But in the SwimRun shoes they work brilliantly, making the whole upper part of the shoes more flexible and more comfortable over LONG events. (5 - 7 hours.) Elasticated laces also make the shoes easier and quicker to get on and off.

Then we drilled some holes in the shoes to get even better drainage!  The standard mesh uppers allow water to drain out, but rather slowly. When you're climbing out of a swim leg onto a rocky shore to start the next run, you want the water in your shoes to drain as FAST AS POSSIBLE.

A common "SwimRun Hack" is to drill some holes into the shoes, to let the water out. BUT THESE HOLES MUST BE SMALL, otherwise grit and sand may get into the shoe.

Drilling a hole in the yellow sole of a SwimRun Shoe.Drilling some holes in my latest swimrun shoes
Close up of drain holes in the yellow sole of a SwimRun Shoe.The result - 2 holes in the sole to allow water to escape better.

I drilled a total of FOUR small holes in my shoes. You can barely see them, but they make a definite difference! Two holes in the sole, right under the ball of the foot,  and an additional hole on each side of the upper, right where the upper meets the sole, one by the big toe and one by the little toe. Again, it’s important to keep these holes small, so that grit doesn’t get into the shoe. 

HOWEVER, even if you DO get some grit or sand in your shoes, the elastic laces make it a cinch to take the shoe off quickly, clean out, and re-fit.

You can find a good deal on the Salming Elements men's trail shoes at Amazon.

The Salming Element's women's shoe that Mogsy runs in can be found HERE.

Another shoe manufacturer that has a big presence, especially at all Ötillö events, is VIVOBAREFOOT. We have not tried these shoes ourselves yet, so we don’t know what they are like. They look similar to the Vibram Five Fingers that some runners use for road events, but with more protection in the sole.

Let's look at the 2 shoes from VIVOBAREFOOT that have appeared in 2020 that have changed the game.

VIVOBAREFOOT  Swimrun Shoes - Update

Already the VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Swimrun Trail Running shoe is proving a very popular buy.  See our short review below on this shoe and you can CLICK HERE for further details on the women's shoe and a great price to purchase.  CLICK HERE for the men's latest shoe!

VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Swimrun Trail Shoe

A black Vivobarefoot Primus swimrun shoe in close up.

The VIVOBAREFOOT Primus Swimrun FG is a specialist 'firm ground' trail running shoe and is ideal for the sport of Swimrun. It is a minimalist shoe designed for 'no sock' wear and to resemble barefoot running.

This shoe is not only designed for endurance on land and in the sea, it is also very sustainable with the mesh being made from recycled plastic bottles - this drains super quickly and minimizes water weight.  VIVOBAREFOOT liaised with ÖtillÖ, the founders of Swimrun, to create their Swimrun series of shoes.  The main features of the Primus Swimrun Trail Shoe are:

  • Unrestricted foot freedom due to the foot-shaped construction
  • Recycled water repellent Mesh to minimize water weight
  • Neoprene ankle sock - creates ankle mobility and keeps out grit
  • Quick drain zones - to pump out water as you run
  • Good rock grip due to the Firm Ground sole with low-profile lugs
  • Bright orange color - good visibility in water
  • Wide toe box
  • As with all VIVOBAREFOOT shoes, it is a vegan product made using animal-free materials

For the best price  check out this Amazon link.

 Reviewers have said:

"I've researched the concept of minimalist shoes and am a believer in the "barefoot" craze. I tend to reflect on most things and in how they pertain to their evolutionary development. These shoes, and the VIVOBAREFOOT boots have treated me well. I love that they don't retain water when they get wet. They stay light and well-fitting in all conditions".


Back in June 2020 VIVOBAREFOOT announced their latest shoe, the Tempest. How does this shoe position itself against the Primus from earlier in 2020?   The Primus is essentially a trail shoe that is suitable for SwimRun, because it is light and drains water well. But the Tempest is a dedicated amphibious shoe designed specifically for SwimRun. If you combine the Tempest with the ultimate suit from ARK, you will have the best combination possible!

VIVOBAREFOOT are so confident that you will like this shoe that they have introduced a 100 day trial period. If you don't like the shoe, you can return it inside 100 days of purchase for a full refund. Now THAT'S confidence in your product! What makes the Tempest so good?

It's actually called the ESC Tempest, where ESC stands for Extreme Survival Collection. It has a super-sticky sole developed with tyre company Michelin, to give you excellent grip and traction on slippery rocks.

It also features elastic laces and a quick-adjusting toggle. We recommended triathlon-style elastic laces in our first reviews of SwimRun shoes back in 2018 - it looks like the big companies are catching up!

The uppers have a very larger mesh design to allow water to drain super-fast on exit from a swim section. The upper "sock" section is made from recycled PET, so it's environmentally friendly. Also, the mid sole is very buoyant, so the shoes help to keep your feet high in the water during swimming.

The Tempest is extremely flexible and soft, providing the best comfort possible for long events. It looks like VIVOBAREFOOT have re-invented the SwimRun shoe!

Interestingly, Ötillö Race Director Michael Lemmel uses the Tempest shoe with a good wool sock, according to his social media post on the Swimrun UK forum.

To get the best deal check out Amazon deals.

New SwimRun Shoes Required!

In December 2018 we entered the Isles of Scilly SwimRun World Series event in June 2019.  Serious training had begun and we both decided we were in need of new shoes!

Having done many training sessions and 3 big SwimRun events plus a trail marathon our shoes are feeling very 'low' and 'worn' underfoot - so we are researching the best SwimRun shoes on the market at the moment.

Mogsy did try her general trail shoes - HOKA's trail shoes but they were VERY heavy on leaving the water and didn't allow water to drain out at all well.  This just shows that it's best to have shoes that have all the characteristics mentioned above to not only allow great grip on the trails but essential drainage when you exit the swim sections.

Best SwimRun Shoes

Initial research in December 2018 showed that the Salming shoes we had been wearing were still 'up there' with the best and they brought out a new model. Richard bought a pair of the new Salming OT Comp off-road shoes. These were really comfortable, but the sole did not feel as stiff as the old Salming Elements. Richard could feel stones underfoot, which was not the case when the Elements were brand new. Nevertheless, the new OT Comp shoes worked well, and had very good grip.

Mogsy  got another pair of the original Salming Elements shoes - and the degree of protection against sharp stones is much better than with the OT Comp model. As a result, Richard decided to go back to the Elements shoes too. His OT Comp shoes felt TOO thin on the sole - he could feel all the stones and sharp edges under foot on a trail run.  And with an injured toe, he needed more protection, not less!

In June 2022, Mogsy got a new set of Salming Elements 3 shoes - brilliant!

SO, our recommendation? We do not recommend the OT Comp model.

We recommend the Elements 3 shoe, NOT the Elements 2 .

Salming Elements 3 swimrun shoes in black and orange, sitting on the shoe box on a table.Mogsy's new Salming Elements 3 shoes!

SwimRun Socks

Don't forget another important piece of equipment - your socks!! It's essential to wear socks that will prevent blisters and will dry quickly.  We have a page dedicated to SwimRun Socks - read it HERE.

SwimRun Shoe Reviews

We are currently reviewing other SwimRun shoes that our readers have been using and recommended!

Merrell Men's Glove 6 Trail Shoe

Very popular with our readers and on the SwimRun Facebook Forums the main features of the Merrell Glove 6 Trail Shoe are:

  • A minimalist shoe for maximum performance
  • Classed as a 'barefoot' shoe with a sock-like feel
  • Breathable upper mesh allowing air to come in and faster to dry
  • They claim shoe odour is reduced due to antimicrobial agents - if any readers can confirm this, Contact Us to let us know!
  • Traditional adjustable laces
  • Offer stability in wet and dry trail conditions due to the Vibram Outsole Design
  • An additional TrailProtect Pad for more support on tricky off-road terrain

Update - August 2021 - the new 6 version appears to have a narrower toe box which may or may not suit some runners.

Sizewise, many runners have gone down half a size from their usual running shoe size, when ordering these shoes.  This was especially with narrower feet.  The version 5 of the shoe seems a good fit for those runners with wider feet.

Reviewers have said:

"The grip from the soles is frankly amazing - gritty downhills, muddy bogs, stony lanes even rock scrambling are all catered for. Never slipped or had my confidence tested - these trail runners perform."

"They drain while you run, keeping your feet comfortable and they tend to dry out quicker as there is less material."

For the BEST PRICE on the men's Merrell Trail Shoe CLICK HERE

For the BEST PRICE on the women's Merrell Trail Shoe CLICK HERE


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Hoka one one  
Light and good grip

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