REI Swiftland MT Trail Running Shoes Review
Reframe this one not as a serious trail runner, but as a stylish, sustainable, outdoorsy casual shoe.
REI stocks the best assortment of top performing trail running shoes anywhere. However, the REI Swiftland MT shoes are not top performing, at least from a technical perspective. That being said, we applaud the Co-op for taking a swing, pushing design boundaries, and raising the sustainability bar in outdoor footwear (shop now).
This is an important, innovative, and highly notable pair of shoes, given that they use more eco-friendly materials than any pair of trail runners or hiking shoes we’ve yet covered. They are elegant and beautiful to behold out of the box, despite a lackluster performance on rough terrain. Think of them less like a burly trail runner you might buy from Altra, HOKA, or Salomon, and more like a rugged version of Allbirds shoes for use on neighborhood park trails instead of on the sidewalk.
If this review leaves you to wonder, “what are the best trail running shoes for technical terrain?” Never fear! Please jump over to our buyers guide to the best trail runners, every single one of which is sold at REI.
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- Price: $130
- M’s Weight: 10 oz | W’s Weight: 9.3 oz
- Heel-Forefoot-Drop: 27-19-8
- Lugs: depth not provided | Rockplate: Yes
- Width: Slightly Narrow | Overall Fit: True
- Wide Sizes Available: No
- On Trail/Off trail? Suitable for level, well-maintained trail
- Pros: Next level sustainability. Lightweight. Good value. Very cool looking.
- Cons: Stretchy knit upper creates a loose and insecure fit. Padded heel cup can rub Achilles. No tongue.
FirmaKnit™ Run Uppers Review
The FirmaKnit™ Run uppers are the most notable component to the REI Swiftland MT Trail Running Shoes, and certainly the most controversial. The seam-free, tongue-less upper is what gives them their incredibly contemporary, deluxe look, and glove-like fit. It is made with 90% recycled materials. It is soft, breathable, and simply put, comfortable.
However, it is also quite stretchy, and here-in lies the problem for hiking and trail running. On down hills or when moving across a slope perpendicularly, the foot will press against the sides or front corner and the material will stretch rather than hold the foot in place. This creates a sloppy, sloshy, and insecure footing. It increases the likelihood of rolling an ankle, or blowing out the connection between the mid sole and the upper. See photo below where the side of the foot overhangs the outer mid sole as the material stretches due to pressure.
This reviewer has a narrower foot, and in order to achieve a secure fit for a short neighborhood run, had to pull the laces quite tight – almost to the point of cutting off circulation. Because there is no tongue, pulling them this tight folded over a section of the knit upper, creating a pressure point running along the length of the laces. The idea of a single layer, tongue-less knit upper is good in theory, but fails in practice for real-world use.
Though we have only light experience with the REI Swiftland MT trail running shoes thus far, we assume that the knit upper will loosen up over time, as all stretchy fabrics tend to, and further degrade performance and the fold over where tongue should be will continue to expand.
Our solution to this problem is to wear these shoes only for activities where a loose fit is okay, and the laces needn’t be over tightened. That’s why we recommend reframing how you think about the Swiftland MTs not as a trail running shoe, but rather as an outdoorsy casual shoe. And through that lens, you can see why we like them. Reframing solves for the biggest flaw and leaves you with a cool, sustainable, comfy shoe.
Laces, Outsole, Midsole, and Toe Rand Review
We really like the laces, which are made with 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) . They are quite long, have some give to them, and gave us a very secure feeling knot.
The outsole – made with 20% recycled rubber – has a grippy feel with moderate lugs capable of handling dirt and gravel, but not ideal for steeps, snow, or mud. As trail runners go, these cross over nicely into mixed trail and road wear. REI does not list the lug depth, but we would ballpark it in the 3mm range. Our limited testing hasn’t yielded any traction issues, however, our concerns with the knit uppers make us unwilling to take the REI Swiftland MT Trail Running Shoes out on the type of terrain that requires aggressive traction.
We love how the midsole is made with 10% algae, how cool is that?! Like we said, next level sustainability. We nod to the cupped sidewalls which help alleviate the stretchy upper issues somewhat. A toe rand reinforces the front to prevent the knit from stretching forward and protecting toes against abrasion.
Heel Cup Review
The heel cup is another interesting discussion point and some may love it while others may hate it. Essentially, they have added little cushions on either side of the Achilles, which helps to lock the heel in place and prevent the foot from pulling out of the shoe step. While it achieves this, it also does a few counter productive things.
Firstly, it pushes the foot slightly forward inside the shoe. This isn’t a problem when you have them on nice and tight, but for casual everyday use, when worn loose, it makes them feel a little short, maybe 1/4 of a size small.
Secondly, and perhaps more problematically, the heel cup cushions can rub and chafe the Achilles. Depending on your feet and how the shoe fits you personally, this may rub and cause blisters, or create a heavenly locked-in feel inside the shoe and aid you in achieving a perfect fit.
REI Swiftland MT Trail Running Shoe Review Verdict
While the REI Co-op Swiftland MT Trail Running shoe may not be the best for hiking or trail running on rough terrain, we do think it’s the coolest and most sustainable outdoor shoe design we’ve ever tested. Neighborhood parks, dirt roads, cabin weekends, mountain towns, and campsite-adjacent-trails are the types of places we’d look to use the Swiftland MT. Think of it like a stylish, sustainable outdoorsy casual shoe, rather than a trail runner.
REI definitely took a swing on this one. We might not love the end product for its intended use case, but they certainly made something sweet. We’ll definitely stay tuned for the next iteration and look forward to a more technically compatible V2.
So which shoes should you choose for technical terrain? Learn more in our buyer’s guide to the best trail running shoes of the year!