Swimming Goggles: Why You Need Them, How to Shop For Them

For a lot of beginners picking out the right pair of goggles can be daunting – which model, which features, and how to fit them all seems confusing. Here are my tips for finding the perfect pair.

If you are a seasoned swimmer, then this article is probably not for you. But if you are a beginner or even an aspiring swimmer, this might provide you insight on how to make your swims a wee bit more comfortable. I am talking about goggles.

Goggles are something I take for granted. I think my swim bag has about five pairs of them, at least, so I will never be without. I can’t really remember the last time I swam without goggles. While for me, and most of my friends who swim, picking a new pair of goggles is a no brainer, as my circle starts to slowly switch from swimmers to CrossFitters I am realizing something so simple that is second nature to a swimmer can be a pretty daunting task for others. The overwhelming feeling can sometimes lead beginners to despair and eventually abandon the task. This is just my complicated way of saying that for some people finding a pair of goggles often leads to such a long, drawn out, trial and error experience, they eventually give up on the idea of swimming with goggles.

But there is a pair of goggles for everyone. And while picking the perfect pair is not an exact science, there are some pointers that can help the process.

I think at this point I am starting to hear some of your thoughts and I hear, “But do I really need goggles?” Well yes, you really need goggles. The human eye was not designed to work in an aquatic environment, so when we open our eyes whilst submerged in water our vision is blurred. If you read some of my previous technique focused articles, then you know in order to have the most effective stroke, with the least drag coefficient, your head position is crucial, and that means your face will be in the water, and that means so are your eyes. Wearing goggles will ensure perfect vision during your whole swim, without constantly having to readjust your focus, not to mention the chemical irritation from whatever product the pool is treated with. So this is me being assertive now – you NEED goggles, trust me.

Where Do You Swim?

Lets start with the easy part. Where will you mostly swim? Pool or ocean? If pool, indoors or outdoors? If you are going to swim in the ocean, or open water in general, I would highly recommend goggles with polarized polycarbonate lenses. Several companies sell them and they are usually targeted to the open water community as they ensure the best clarity. These often come in a more “wrap around” model, or 180 degree, allowing optimal peripheral vision, which is so important when swimming open water.

If most of your swimming is going to be in the pool there are many styles and models available. One recommendation suits everyone who will be swimming outdoors, though. Metalized goggles are pretty much the sunglasses of the goggles and commonly referred to as mirrored goggles. Mirrored can come in several varieties, both in fit as well as the color of the tint. Personally I am not a big fan of sunglasses, so I am used to seeing my world bright. When I pick a pair of mirrored goggles I tend to choose the ones that block the glare from the sun, yet allow me to see the world around me brightly. If you are a fan of the dark type sunglasses, then a dark tint mirrored goggle might be a good fit for you.

swedish goggles, swimming goggles, how to buy swim gogglesChoosing a Model

During my swimming generation (and saying this makes me feel old) the big thing was Swedish goggles. These are probably the cheapest around, they come in all possible colors, and you put them together (which can be a headache for some people). The goggles come as a kit of two eyepieces, a long piece of latex rubber, and a piece of string to be used a nosepiece. Among swimmers we eventually gave up on the string and started cutting smaller pieces of the latex rubber and using that as an alternative nosepiece. Basically you get to customize everything to your anatomy, with the exception of the eyepiece. These are still widely available these days, and possibly one of the most popular among swimmers.

Technologies have improved, however, and newer goggles have been released that may be less of a headache and potentially more comfortable. Nonetheless the majority of these newer options, yet not all of them, have been developed based on the Swedish goggle model. The major brands Speedo, Tyr, and Arena sell goggles with multiple interchangeable nosepieces. The nose, it seems, is one of the major anatomical points that often leads goggles to fail (and causes them to leak water).

tyr socket rocket 2.0, swim goggles, swimming goggles, buying gogglesMy all time favorite training goggles are the Tyr Socket Rocket 2.0. These are a pre-assembled Swedish style goggle that has cushioned gaskets for comfort and preventing leaks. The nosepiece is an adjustable latex band, which removes the nose anatomy as a variable as with harder nose pieces. The good news is that Socket Rocket goggles also come in the metalized version.

How to Get a Good Fit

Goggles are supposed to be comfortable but more on the snug side, particularly how the ocular part fits on your eye socket (this is what will ensure a proper seal). The goggle straps should feel tight around the head. Most goggles these days come with a double strap, and I find placing one strap slightly higher than the other helps keep the goggles in place. Also both straps should be at the level of the eye or above, never below. It is common for some swimmers (me included) to not enjoy the feeling of the straps against the moving water. In this case I place my goggles underneath my cap (caps also help a lot, especially if you have long hair) to make sure they stay put not only when I am swimming, but also when I dive from the blocks.

It is almost inevitable that you have to go through two or three pairs of goggles until you find the perfect fit. And then when you do, you just have to keep your fingers crossed the manufacturer doesn’t discontinue them (so far I have lucked out on my picks). Hopefully some of these suggestions and recommendations help you narrow down some of the possible options to a model that will best suit your goggle needs.

What models and brands have you tried? Did you like them? Post thoughts to comments below.

Photos, except for Tyr goggles, courtesy of Shutterstock.