SwimRun is a very interesting sport in terms of the extra gear that you are allowed to use during races. The current rules state that you must get from the start to the finish as quickly as possible using only equipment that you can carry all the way to the end, i.e you must finish with eveything you started out with! Wearing of a wetsuit is optional, and that any flotation device should not exceed 100 x 60 cm, but really your imagination is the only other restriction! You can buy equipment or make your own.

Most popular is the use of hand paddles, pull boys and fins. Some athletes use tow lines and carry bags or tow floats. Some choose to keep it as simple as possible and take as little as they can. Whatever equipment you choose to use while you SwimRun, it is important to train with it and get slick at managing it during transitions when you are wet and tired.

To help you decide what equipment to use, below is a list of common gear used for Swim Run:


The wearing of wetsuits is optional for the Friendly City Swim Run. Any swimming (Tri) wetsuit will do so long as you can move freely enough in it to run and it will keep you warm enough on long swims. Wetsuit will give you an advantage in the water but a disadvantage out the water so weigh up your options



The trainers you wear for The Friendly City SwimRun not only need to be comfortable for the long distances running that you’ll be doing in your race but also need to be suitable for use in the water. Make sure they are a snug fit so they don’t come off when swimming and that they don’t soak up much water and drain well.

Make sure you wear your trainers in properly before the race day to avoid blisters! When your feet get the wet the skin softens and makes them more prone to soreness and rubbing. Start by running short distances with wet feet and build up – they soon toughen up! 


Goggles are essential to avoid getting water in your eyes. You will need to have clear vision for sighting in open water. Goggles come in all shapes and sizes so try lots on and select a pair that fits your face well. Test them well in open water before hand – there is nothing more irritating than leaky goggles! Sprays are available that help coat the inside of the goggles and help to prevent them misting up. It might be worth having a couple of pairs at the ready with different lenses. On dull days clear lenses will be best but on bright sunny days a tinted or polarised pair will help stop glare from the water. Some participants carry a second pair of spare goggles incase they lose them whilst running. Think about how you are going to carry them if you take them off your head to run.

Swim cap

Caps are made of either latex or silicone – latex is thinner and can be more comfortable but can rip easily and some people are allergic to the rubber. Silicone of stronger and thicker and generally more popular – the choice is yours! You can get some in different sizes so its worth trying a few out to make sure you don’t end up having to wear one for the day that is too tight on your head or that leaks and keeps riding up. If the water is really cold you can wear two caps or try a neoprene cap instead. Go for bright colours such as red, pink, orange or yellow as these are easier to see in the water making you more visible to boats etc.


Cold water in the ears can be quite uncomfortable and irritate the balance nerve, making you dizzy and disorientated during the swim. A pair of earplugs often solves the problem. Good ones can be fitted to your individual ear shapes to give a really good seal. If you won’t want to wear them when running, think about how you will carry them.

Hand paddles

Many people use hand paddles for SwimRun. These add some extra power to your strokes by increasing the ‘catch’ are of your hand. There are loads of different paddles on the market, but you’ll need some that have straps to hold it on your hand or they can easily come off and be lost in open water. You’ll also need to think about how you are going to carry them on your runs and practice your transitions.

If you decide to use paddles you must train with them a lot! Using paddles takes good technique and puts a lot of strain on your shoulders and back muscles. You need to build up the strength to be able to use them over long distances. If you don’t you will soon find you get very tired and worse you can injure yourself!.



The use of fins/flippers is allowed in SwimRun. Fins can not exceed 15cm. The fins are measured from the toe to the end of the fin 

Pull buoy for SwimRun

A pull buoy customised for SwimRun with a thick elastic leg loop to keep it in place.

Pull buoy

SwimRun rules state that you can use any flotation aids so long as they are no bigger than 100 cm x 60 cm – imagination is your only other limit! Most people just use a pull buoy.

If you decide to swim wearing your trainers rather than carry them you might want to consider using pull buoy. This float, which you hold between your legs instead of kicking, gives you extra buoyancy and allows you to save your legs during the swims. You’ll appreciate this when it is time to run! Using a pull buoy is generally why people decide to use the hand paddles as the extra propulsion makes up for the loss of the power from the kick. Pull buoys come in different shapes and sizes – what you use depends really on how much lift you need in your legs. For example, if you have a short wetsuit and heavy trainers you’ll need a bigger float.

Remember that you are going to have to carry the float during the runs so for hands free usage you can customise the pull buoy so you can attach it to your leg. Pierce it and insert rubber or elastic straps to make a loop that you can wear around your leg. Test it well in the water and running before a race – if it’s too tight it will be uncomfortable and restrict the blood flow, to loose and it will twist around and drop down at inconvenient times! I used a thick elastic band on mine and used Black Witch wetsuit glue to give the inside surface of the band a rubbery coat to help it stick in place! 


Swim Bouy

Swim Bouys are a brightly coloured, inflatable device that is tethered around your waist, increasing your visibility to other water users and, providing bouyant support if you need to rest or wait for assistance. Swim bouy can also be used to pull your equipment along in the school

Most of the time you don’t even notice you are wearing a swim bouy but if you are towing a lot of weight or are swimming into strong wind it can cause some drag. If you swim with the wind it can blow over your back or head and get in the way of your stroke. If you plan to use one during your SwimRun event make sure you have practiced using it and if you are going to store kit it in. Think about how you are going to manage it whilst running and practice your transitions with it.


Bag/hydration pack

Having a small bag or pack can be useful for carrying equipmemt during an event. Practice swimming with the bag/pack you intend to use to make sure it is not too heavy or restrictive to swim in. Close fitting bags made from free draining mesh fabrics often work best. 



You’re only one swim away from a good mood