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REI Introduces Its First Trail Running Shoes Since 1970s

REI charges into the running shoe game, releasing the Swiftland Multi-Terrain Trail Runner. We got our hands on an early pair to see how they stand up to the competition.

REI Swiftland trail running shoes(Photo/Bryon Powell, iRunFar)
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In the last 50 years, REI has come out with a lot of its own branded outdoor products. It’s made tents, rain jackets, sleeping bags, backpacks, hiking boots, trekking poles, and more.

But one product it hasn’t produced for decades is a trail runner. The last running shoe the brand made was the Second Wind sneaker in 1979, which sold for $20.

Now, the co-op jumps back into that space with a brand-new trail runner line called Swiftland. Not only is this shoe a big deal for REI, which has been out of the running shoe game for almost half a century, but, according to the brand, it’s also a big deal for the planet. The Swiftland is made with carbon-reduced technology and exclusively uses recycled and bio-based materials throughout its construction.

It’s REI’s latest contribution in a company-wide push toward sustainably designed outdoor products — a trend that has exploded in the outdoor industry in recent years. It’s also a statement from REI that it’s charging back into trail running footwear to meet customer needs.

“More than half of our customers who are hikers or campers are also runners,” said Fan Zhou, REI general manager for run and footwear. “So we developed the premium Swiftland collection and are expanding the run assortment we carry to give runners more options at the co-op.”

REI Swiftland Multi-Terrain Trail Runner


  • Best use Trail running
  • Running shoe cushioning Moderate cushion
  • Heel-to-toe drop 8 mm
  • Heel stack height 27 mm
  • Forefoot stack height 19 mm
  • Footwear height Ankle
  • Footwear closure Laceup
  • Upper FirmaKnit Run (90% recycled PET)
  • Lining Recycled polyester
  • Midsole TerraLoft Run
  • Outsole TerraGrip Run
  • Rock Plate Yes
  • Vegan Yes
  • Claimed weight (pair) 1 lb. 4 oz.
  • Sustainability Eco-friendly bio-based and recycled materials
REI Introduces Its First Trail Running Shoes Since 1970s(Photo/REI)

Swiftland Multi-Terrain Trail Runner Overview

The Swiftland’s most marketable feature is its eco-friendly design components. REI used either recycled materials or Bloom algae to build the major components of this shoe. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 90% recycled PET FirmaKnit RUN upper 
  • 10% Bloom algae TerraLoft RUN compound 
  • 20% recycled rubber TerraGrip RUN outsole 
  • 100% recycled PET laces and webbing 
  • 100% recycled nylon rockplate 
  • 75% recycled PET collar lining 
  • 70% recycled PET collar foam 
  • 70% recycled PET reinforcements 
  • 30% Bloom algae sock liner 
  • 30% recycled TPU haptic overlaps 
REI Swiftland trail running shoes
(Photo/Bryon Powell, iRunFar)

But how do all of those components come together to perform on the trail? REI claims that it didn’t sacrifice any technical expectations by using so many eco-friendly materials in the Swiftland’s construction.

GearJunkie got its hands on an early testing pair of the Swiftlands to put that claim to the test.

And our tester had a lot of feedback.

REI Swiftland First Look Impressions

“Overall, this is a fine shoe for gravel paths at the park and benign trails,” Meghan Hicks, managing editor for GearJunkie’s sister site iRunFar, reported. “[In my opinion] it’s not made for fast or far running, and I don’t see it as compatible for running on technical terrain.”

That said, Hicks and our editors saw merits for some runners with the new Swiftland line.

What We Liked

First and foremost, the price is attractive. There aren’t many trail running shoes out there you can get for $130.

In fact, if you look at GearJunkie’s Best Trail Running Shoes of 2023, there are only two options that sell at that price point: the Salomon Pulsar Trail and the Saucony Peregrine 12.

Hicks also liked the midsole and stack of the shoe.

She commented that the midsole “feels super middle-of-the-road for midsole cushion versus responsiveness,” and the stack is “on the high side, but not as high as HOKAs. I would say middle-of-the-road-ish for what’s trending in trail stack heights.”

REI Swiftland trail running shoes
(Photo/Bryon Powell, iRunFar)

The outsole is made from durable recycled rubber, which ought to handle the abuse of trail running. And the heel contour proved stable, with adequate cushioning on the inside.

“I also like the toe rand,” Hicks noted. “It’s less aggressive than most trail shoes, but I feel most trail shoes overdo it with toe protection.”

REI Swiftland: What Fell Short

The Swiftland’s outsole has good potential for traction because of the aggressive lugging the brand used. But that firm rubber significantly negates the grip factor.

That’s a trade-off that some people might be willing to overlook — as long as they aren’t running on slippery or rough surfaces.

The Swiftland’s upper was another piece of the design that seemed to have some shortcomings. The knit fabric has no plastic overlays or anything else to add structure to it. That means you have to really crank the laces down to lock your foot in place. And that puts pressure on the top of your foot, potentially destabilizing the arch or outer midfoot.

“Other trail companies have already tried and failed in using knit for upper material, and I have no idea why REI did this knowing that history,” Hicks commented.

REI reached out to GearJunkie to explain its reasoning for using a knit fabric for the shoe’s upper.

“For the FirmaKnit upper we wanted all-day comfort with just a bit of lock,” Bennett Grimes, senior product manager innovation and footwear at REI, said. “We purposely didn’t build a highly technical upper on the Swiftland MT to feel more comfortable and welcoming to newer runners. It’s technical enough for most non-technical trails but comfortable enough for most people looking to get into trail running.” 

The REI Swiftland Multi-Terrain Trail Runner: Who Is It For?

Casual trail runners, joggers, and hikers should find the REI Swiftland well-suited for shorter runs and hikes on fairly mellow terrain. For anyone getting into running, or for those who frequent paved or gravel trails and bike paths, REI’s Swiftland seems like it should suffice. Which is what REI says it designed this shoe for.

“We built the Swiftland MT for entry-level to moderate trail runners,” said Grimes. “Our goal was to build a shoe that would welcome more people to explore their local unpaved paths and adventure to some trails out of town. We build the TerraLoft midsole and TerraGrip outsole to handle any terrain but focused on making those components function well on local paths to moderate trails.”

If, however, you want to run fast, run on super-technical terrain, or go for long distances, you might be better off spending a little more and buying another trail running shoe that will be lighter, more supportive, and grippier.

This is REI’s first modern foray into running shoes, though. And the brand has time to tweak its designs as it ventures forth.

The Swiftland is just its initial step into the running space and part of the brand’s commitment to broaden its selection of running gear and invest more heavily in that category. There are sure to be more evolutions of the Swftland and other running shoe models from REI on the horizon.

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