Particle swarm optimization (PSO) is a relatively new global optimization approach inspired by the social behavior of bird flocking and fish schooling. Although this approach has proven to provide excellent convergence rates in different optimization problems, it has seldom been applied to inverse geophysical problems. Until today, published geophysical applications mainly focus on finding an optimum solution for simple, 1D inverse problems. We have applied PSO-based optimization strategies to reconstruct 2D P-wave velocity fields from crosshole traveltime data sets. Our inversion strategy also includes generating and analyzing a representative ensemble of acceptable models, which allows us to appraise uncertainty and nonuniqueness issues. The potential of our strategy was tested on field data collected at a well-constrained test site in Horstwalde, Germany. At this field site, the shallow subsurface mainly consists of sand- and gravel-dominated glaciofluvial sediments, which, as known from several boreholes and other geophysical experiments, exhibit some well-defined layering at the scale of our crosshole seismic data. Thus, we have implemented a flexible, layer-based model parameterization, which, compared with standard cell-based parameterizations, allows for significantly reducing the number of unknown model parameters and for efficiently implementing a priori model constraints. Comparing the 2D velocity fields resulting from our PSO strategy to independent borehole and direct-push data illustrated the benefits of choosing an efficient global optimization approach. These include a straightforward and understandable appraisal of nonuniqueness issues as well as the possibility of an improved and also more objective interpretation.