Swimming is the perfect exercise; it’s aerobic, burns fat while building muscle, and is incredibly low-impact. But as a beginner, it can also be intimidating to know where to start. Before you go jumping in a pool to swim laps, you’ll probably need to get yourself some gear. If you’re looking to purchase goggles, we have some insight into the swim goggle world and an idea of how to pick a set. So let’s get our ultimate guide to swim goggles started where we’ll talk about goggle style, lens color and material, and fit.
There are a few different kinds of goggle shapes you’ll want to familiarize yourself with to see what works best for you: Swedish, gasket (classic), and swim mask.
The Swedish-style goggles are meant more for competitive swimming because they sit low on the eye socket and have less drag than a traditional goggle. A potential drawback is that you have to put them together yourself; the idea is that if you size it across your nose-bridge yourself, they’ll have a custom fit. If you don’t have the Swedish put-it-together-yourself spirit (I mean, they are the country that brought us Ikea), there are other options.
Gasket goggles are the most common goggle design and most likely the ones you’ve seen the most of in your search. They are made to fit to the face using either silicone or foam, although it seems as though the foam gasket goggles are a less and less popular option. Oval shaped lenses in this classic style typically accommodate more face shapes, but be sure whatever you get works for you (we’ll get to that later).
The swim mask style goggles (which are a snorkel mask, swim goggle hybrid) are really great for kids and anyone looking to do some recreational swimming. Their big selling point is that they fit well and don’t need much fuss in the adjustment department. Kids can put them on themselves and be good to go for the day. They also come in lots of colors, are super comfortable, and have a larger viewing area. However, even though they’re not quite the size of snorkel masks, they’re still probably too bulky to use for swimming laps.
After you’ve picked which style is going to work for your needs, it’s time to consider your lens options. There are bound to be an array of lens tints and color options that will thoroughly confuse you. Here is a quick rundown of the advantages of each.
This colored lens is good in extreme lighting conditions, both high (outdoor swimming during midday) and low light (poorly lit indoor pool). This lens’ strength is that it can make it easier to see in low light while also being able to reduce the harshness of the sun when you’re outside. In addition, everything will appear brighter when you’re underwater with an amber lens.
A non-colored or clear lens is good for indoor pools and dark conditions where you’ll have low light. If you swim early in the mornings outside or spend your time in an indoor pool, these are the lens for you. If you plan on swimming outdoors during the middle of the day when you’ll be experiencing a lot of sunshine, consider a darker lens.
Any of these darker tinted goggle lenses are a good choice for everyday events and training because they protect from glare in moderate lighting situations. They are helpful in a wide range of conditions, from cloudy days, casual swimming, and well-lit indoor pools.
These reflective lenses are designed to deflect the harsh light of brightly lit swimming arenas and the luminous sun. Mirrored lenses are also popular among competitive swimmers because it hides their eyes from their opponents. These are not ideal for dark conditions or swimming in poorly-lit pools because they don’t let in enough light.
Another set of choices you’ll be faced with during goggle selection apply to the lens material itself. Here are a few of those options and what they mean.
Polycarbonate lens material is known for its strength. It doesn’t crack like cheap plastics, comes in tons of colors and can have added features like UV protection and anti-fog coatings. It’s a good choice for open water or for any goggles you want to have last.
This is a treatment done on the lens that is meant to keep the goggles from getting annoyingly fogged up either before or during a swim. It’s a coating that will wear away after time but can be reapplied with a drop or a spray. It will wear away less with proper goggle cleaning.
This means that the lenses are made with a high-grade plastic that are used in some prescription glasses. Its benefits are that it’s lightweight, resistant to scuffs and scratches, and distorts your view less than a cheaper plastic that is easily warped.
Once you’ve established what style, lens color and added lens features will work best for your needs, you’ll need to make sure that they fit well. None of the other awesome features will matter if they leak or fall off.
A surefire way to check to make sure the goggles you’re choosing are a good fit is the suction test. Take the goggles out of their packaging and without using the straps, press the goggles firmly against your eyes. If no air is getting in around the seal, they should stick in place, if only for a second or two. If you can’t get them to stay, the lenses are probably too big or ill-fitting and air is seeping in around the edges, rendering them useless in the water, too. There’s also a chance it isn’t fitting across the nose-bridge correctly and that may need to be adjusted (if possible).
Keep in mind that some goggle types (like the Swedish style) may not suction at all. In that case, use a mirror, friend, or sales person to check around the edge of the lenses while you hold them to your face to make sure you don’t have any gaps where air or water can leak through.
The straps shouldn’t create the seal of a goggle, but they’re there to help keep them properly in place. Keep in mind that tightening the strap won’t compensate for an ill-fitting goggle, so make sure they’re sealing correctly initially. If you have a split strap or two strap system on your goggles, the bottom one should be in keeping with your eye-line all the way around your head with the upper strap slightly placed above that one to keep them in place. If you put the bottom strap too low, your goggles are likely to slip off when you dive in or will make the fit wrong on the eye and they will likely leak water.
Most importantly, make sure they are comfortable. They should be snug, but they shouldn’t be painful. You’re not likely to wear them if they cause you any undue discomfort.
Picking a good set of goggles is the key to a good swimming experience. If you stick to our ultimate guide to swim goggles, you’ll be one step closer to setting that Olympic record. Or at least obtaining a Phelpsian six-pack.