Water Shoes in a Triathlon

Triathlon Event  I’m a 44 year old female runner venturing to compete in my first triathlon.Here’s a dumb question-in the swim portion can you wear water shoes?? your website has proved invaluable!! thanks for the input!!

Lydia from California

Triathlon Event  Hi Lydia,
Thank you for contacting and thank you for the kind words!

Like they say, the only dumb question is the one you never ask. We have never asked a race organizer if they are against the rules, but we’ve never seen anyone wear water shoes while swiming in a triathlon either.

When we think about using water shoes in a race, we personally do not like the idea.  We think the drag caused by the shoes would actually be a liability in the swim, and if you have ever used water shoes on a beach you know they fill up with sand and can be quite annoying.

We wanted to get an official answer for you, though, so we checked the “Official Rules” on the USA Triathlon Website and here’s what we found:

4.4 Wet suits. Each age group participant shall be permitted to wear a wet suit without penalty in any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon up to and including a water temperature of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. When the water temperature is greater than 78 egrees, but less than 84 degrees Fahrenheit, age group participants may wear a wet suit at their own discretion, provided however that articipants who wear a wet suit within this temperature range shall not be eligible for prizes or awards. Age group participants shall not wear wet suits in water temperatures equal to or greater than 84 degrees Fahrenheit. The wetsuit policy for elite athletes shall be determined by the USAT Athletes Advisory Council. The AAC has set the wetsuit maximum temperature for elite/pros at 68 degrees for swim distances less than 3000 meters and 71.6 degrees for distances of 3000 meters or greater.

4.7 Official Equipment. If provided by race management, a swimmer shall wear the proper official swim cap corresponding to his wave. The penalty for an infraction of this rule is a variable time penalty. For safety reasons if no official cap is provided, all swimmers should wear their own brightly colored swim cap.

As an aside, not all triathlons events allow wet suits. It will depend on the temperature of the water at race time, so bring the wet suit and ask when you get there.

4.8 Goggles. Swimmers may wear, but shall not be required to wear, swim goggles or face masks.

4.9 Illegal Equipment. Any swimmer wearing any artificial propulsion device, including but not limited to fins, gloves, paddles, or floating devices of any kind shall be disqualified.

It doesn’t mention water shoes specifically, but we believe that they would fall under the Illegal Equipment section. We also believe that the spirit of the triathlon swim rule is to brave the water elements in minimal equipment: a swimsuit, cap, goggles and wetsuit (only if the water is cold). It creates a fair playing field for all competitors.

One positive thing is that you probably won’t feel any of the rocks or shells below your feet at the start because your adreneline will be pumping so hard that you’ll be numb!

Be well.

Jack Shaw

More information:

Find more information about biking by visiting our Triathlon Biking Section. You will find basic information on how to structure bike workouts and tips on bike gear. We have pictures of triathletes in action.

Triathlon Swim : – Get the low-down on gear and read tips for training and events.

Triathlon Bike: – Learn how to structure bike workouts, find safety tips and read recommendations on great bike gear.

Triathlon Run : – Get the ultimate skinny on running sneakers, running gear, safety tips and much more.

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