Thinking about trying swimrun for the first time, and wondering if you really need to splash out on a new suit? Well, in short, we would say yes.
Okay, you can do a race in an old tri wetsuit cut down above the knees (and possibly arms too), but it’ll likely be uncomfortable to run in and lack many of the features that specialist swimrun suits do. These include a front zip for flexibility, extra buoyancy in the legs and torso, stretchy nylon panels in the underarms and groin for easier running and pockets for all your essential kit (you have to carry a whistle, map, compass and bandage in swimrun).
The good news? As the sport has grown in popularity so have the number of suits available. Most brands now offer a range of prices and specs, we found entry-level ones from as little as £125 online (by Wiggle’s own Dhb brand) and if that’s still too spendy, there’s bound to be someone in your local tri club who can lend you one for your first adventure.
In this test we’ve focussed on new- release suits that come in between £250 and £450, so are ideal if you’re looking for an upgrade, or are already sure that this is the sport for you. For this money we’d be looking for well-thought out features, excellent fit and flexibility, speed and adaptability for different conditions. Let the swimrunning begin!
How we tested the swimrun wetsuits
We tested these suits during a number of hot weeks in the British summer, performing multiple loops around our local lake and wooded run trails. We considered warmth and buoyancy in the swim, flexibility and comfort in the run, and also what additional features, such as removable sleeves, an easy-to-peel-off top and storage pockets, are included.
2XU Pro Swim Run
Fit is key with any wetsuit, but especially with one you have to run in too. The 2XU size chart initially had us in a medium but, after experiencing a lot of water ingress, we sized down to a small.
We loved the 8mm upper leg inserts that, combined with stretchy leg backs, gives good buoyancy but not at the expense of run mobility. The arms are 1.5mm and felt plenty flexible enough for swimming, and there are cut guides with rubber grippers if you choose to remove them. After sizing down we did find we had to unzip on longer runs or the suit felt restrictive across the body, but that snugness was welcome for warmth.
Like the Zone3 it has a large, zipped rear pocket and you get a quality whistle in a breast pocket. It’s a stylish-looking suit, although for partner-visibility and safety we wish 2XU had opted for a brighter colour and not this girlie mauve (men’s in red).
Verdict: Sizing down gave us a better overall experience. quality suit with some nice design features
Named after ÖtillÖ World Champs winner Adriel Young, it’s evident that Huub’s top-end suit is designed with speed in mind. Where other brands focus on warmth and buoyancy, this suit has been stripped back to give as lightweight and breathable an experience as possible (albeit in a wetsuit!) with the thinnest, most supple legs we’ve seen on a swimrun suit, a very flexible top and stretchy, breathable V-panel down the back. It’s possibly the most comfortable swimrun suit we’ve found to run in, while those legs feel barely-there.
All this comes at the cost of buoyancy but, as Huub recognise, most swimrunners will add a pull buoy anyway to facilitate lift in the legs. Added features include removable sleeves, a zip-pull whistle and large internal pockets. It looks very smart on too, though if you feel the cold you might want to think twice for chillier races.
Verdict: luxury suit that faster swimrunners looking for marginal gains will love for its innovation
Head MyBoost Pro
Head were one of the original swimrun innovators and they’ve raised their game again for 2019 with the newly-designed MyBoost Pro – and it shows. The suit fits perfectly and true to the size guide. In the swim it kept us buoyant (although you have the option of adding more buoyancy inserts into clever internal pockets if you need them) and was the suit on test with the least water ingress on the neck.
Here you get a full front zip, but Head have added a small third-length zip on the back of the neck to add flexibility and to make removal easier, which is a neat touch. Stretchy panels are perfectly placed to make running easier and neoprene cuffs on the arms and legs keep them snugly in place. Added features include a whistle on the zip, a large zipped rear pocket large enough for all our essential kit and a tow-loop on the front for linking to your partner in the swim.
Verdict: the most expensive on test but a suit that would perform superbly in most race conditions
If the kit side of swimrun scares you, then Zone3 have thought of everything with this suit, including multiple pockets, 8mm neoprene calf guards (not shown) a seperate whistle and even a compass.
We liked the cut and feel of this suit as well – the women-specific fit was both snug enough to feel good, yet with enough flexibility to make running comfy. The legs feature a half stretchy-half neoprene design, which feels light and easy to run in and sleeves are one-piece, but with cut guides if you choose to snip them off.
The suit was warm enough for most race conditions with 5mm in the body, but we did experience a trickle of water between the shoulder blades and down the neck. Finally, we loved the striking, colourful design and the multiple pockets with two internal, one big rear zippy pocket and a small front tuck pocket.
Verdict: this suit offers many reassuring features and extras to make your race day easier
Aqua Sphere Limitless
Kudos to Aqua Sphere for choosing a visibility-friendly bright colour, but the pink-for-girls (men get neon yellow) seems a lazy choice. Size-wise this suit came up very small and was the only one on test where we had to size up to a large (in others we were a small or medium) and probably because of this, we did see water ingress on the sleeves when not using the detachable full-length ones.
This is also the only suit on test to feature a full-length front and back zip, which makes cabbing down easy but probably isn’t needed. It’s comfy yet warm to run in, with stretchy panels giving flexibility, while two Velcro-closure pockets inside the front of the suit allow storage.
We would’ve liked a zippy external pocket as well, but for £100 less than the others on test we can do without it, as this suit offers good overall value for money.
Verdict: great value for money, and a good option for swimrun newbies. warm and comfortable