When looking at different types of swimming goggles, whether for open water, pool swimming or both it is important to understand that it is not possible to have a one size fits all scenario, one type or brand of goggle that is 100% perfect for one individual will not nearly be the same for another.
This will usually be down to the fit and leakage prevention which in turn depends on several individual characteristics including the shape of the face, eye socket depth, size of the nose bridge and skin type. So as everyone’s face is different so will be an individual fit but what I hope to achieve in this open water swim goggles review is to look at some of the basics that should help in deciding which goggles to try out.
I will also share feedback that I have on some brands as well as the ones that I now use and have used in the past which I hope will be of help if you are looking to purchase goggles for the first time or as a change to your current choice.
Why do I need Goggles?
The first thing to address is why you need a pair of swimming goggles. It is not just the obvious fact that they will keep the water out of your eyes, but also they are probably the most essential piece of equipment apart from a swim costume and usually a wetsuit if swimming outdoors.
In my humble opinion there is no way that you will be able to swim efficiently without putting your face into the water, especially if swimming freestyle. By putting your face downwards into the water whilst you swim enables you to maintain a good, horizontal body position in the water that is a key aspect in developing good technique and less resistance through the water.
Having good technique and a streamlined body position will then in turn improve your breathing to the side and lead to a better and more enjoyable swimming experience overall. If you swim with your face up and out of the water you will most likely experience your legs sinking down into the water behind you, which has a negative effect on all the variables mentioned above that are a prerequisite for a good technique.
The Different Goggle Types
Whilst acknowledging that the fit of swimming goggles does come down to personal characteristics there are different types of goggles adapted for different swimming scenarios. I will go through these now so as to give some pointers as to what you should be looking for.
- Open Water: These are flat lens goggles usually with a silicon gasket as part of the frame to provide a waterproof seal. They are larger than standard or competition goggles to give a wider field of vision and the gasket should result in a more comfortable fit that comes into its own on longer swims. Open Water goggles come in a variety of frame colours and also different lens tints to give varying degrees of visibility, sharpness and anti glare. These are the type of goggles that I use and also that I see the majority of open water swimmers wearing.
- Competition: Known as Training or Competition goggles these are generally more used in swimming pools. The lens is more rounded and the gasket smaller and less forgiving than on open water goggles, and whilst giving more visibility as they are often transparent on the sides they are smaller on the face and not as robust in open water settings. You also may hear of “Swedish” goggles under this category but their smallness and complete absence of a sealing gasket make them unsuitable for open water.
- Full Face: These are more diving mask like goggles with a 360 degree seal around the complete goggle. They give an excellent vision range and can be comfortable to wear as they do not put as much pressure on the eye sockets. You will invariably not find these in a pool but they are used by open water swimmers as they can find them more comfortable over longer distances and they also handle rough water well. A downside is that they can cause greater drag in the water if saving seconds in the swim is important to you, and personally I have not found a pair that have not given some leakage but others do find these a preferable option.
Polarised Lenses or not?
As mentioned earlier the goggle comes with a range of lenses, light to dark or smoked to cut down on bright light and glare, colour tinted for reducing glare or increasing visibility in different conditions or mirrored if that is your thing, but I will always go for a polarised lens. To me this gives the optimum visibility for open water in cutting down any glare from the sun, making objects seem sharper and also reducing any glare off of the surface of the water. They may come in a little more expensive than standard lenses but I believe it is an investment worth making.
Also, part of the investment in a lens is that they should be anti-fog. There is nothing worse than goggles steaming up mid swim as I can testify when swimming into a ski ramp and putting a big hole in my wetsuit, an expensive mistake!
One of the criticisms of anti-fog is it just does not last and can be held against a brand i.e. the Zoggs Predator Flex has had some comments lately that the quality of the anti-fog is not what it was, but I am of the opinion that this says more about the care of the goggles than the goggles themselves. It should be remembered that these are essential pieces of equipment and should be treated as such, like a good pair of running trainers or top end sunglasses. Throwing them in your kit bag with other sports gear, usually damp, or touching or spitting on the lens will only have a detrimental effect on the anti-fog regardless of brand. I now have at least two pairs of swimming goggles on the go at one time, one pair for training and pool swimming whilst the other pair are kept safe and clean for race days or for the longer training swims.
And So, Some Goggles
So I did promise a review of some specific goggles. As stated earlier it does come down a lot to trial and error to determine which brand or type might suit you, but also there are some basic things to keep in mind when making a choice such as the type of goggle and lens.
Also there is large range of pricing even within a single brand, but my advice if swimming seriously is to make a sound investment in a quality pair of goggles as they will become an essential part of your swim equipment. Keeping that in mind here are some goggles that I have either used myself or have been recommended to me by my fellow swimmers:
Zoggs Predator Flex
The Zoggs Predator Flex Polarized are my goggles of choice as I find them a very comfortable and lightweight fit with excellent gaskets that reduce pressure on the eyes. The strap is adjustable on both sides for a superior fit and they are a very durable set of goggles. The peripheral vision is excellent at 180 degrees and lenses come with anti-fog. As mentioned earlier I go for the polarised lenses that keep out the light from direct sunlight whilst reducing glare and reflections.
Speedo Futura Biofuse
These are the goggles that my brother recommends and as he has done numerous Ironman swims and sea swimming as he is lucky enough to live by the coast I can have no argument with him. I have also tried them and they are comfortable, durable and can be worn either for regular swim sessions or more challenging conditions in the open water. They are gel like in feel which adds to a comfortable fit and reduces marks around the eyes. The lens again come clear or in different tints, including polarised.
Aqua Sphere Vista
These are a more full faced google with an all round seal. They are bigger than the Open Water goggles and give good 180 degree visibility. They have a single adjustable buckle on the side and are also anti-fog, scratch resistance and UV protection. I have used these in the past and have never personally been comfortable with the full face fit, but if you find Open Water goggles to restrictive or uncomfortable on your face then these are well worth a try.
These are a quality goggle from Huub, who always come highly recommended for open water equipment including their excellent range of wetsuits. One of the pricier goggles on the market, these are very light in feel and the mix in construction of silicon and thermoplastic rubber (TPR) enable them to give a good fit on the majority of facial profiles. They come highly recommended “These are my pride and joy. They are one of the very few goggles I can wear which don’t leak..” Claire D.
A cheaper alternative to the Aphotic is the TYR Nest Pro which is a budget priced goggle but still comes highly recommended and with most of the features of the more expensive goggles, including smoked lenses, anti fog and UV protection. They are soft in design and should fit comfortably on the eye socket and also have an adjustable strap for on-head adjustment. “I also find the cheaper Pro Nest goggles really good and my hubby will only wear the latter” Claire D, and knowing Claire’s husband and that they do a lot of open water swimming off of the Cornish coast I have no doubt that these goggle do an excellent job.
So, Which Goggle?
As mentioned above it really comes down to personal preference and also some trial and error as individual facial characteristics will have an impact on which goggles give the most comfortable fit and leakage prevention. But I hope by going through the different goggle types available, and some of the features that you should look for in an Open Water goggle I have helped you in that choice.
Personally for me it is the Zoggs Predator Flex:which gives a good comfortable fit (for me), are durable, light and flexible and with the polarised lenses gives excellent visibility. They are award winning goggles and one of the most popular choices out there, which I see anytime I turn up for an open water swim or race as there will be lots of swimmers wearing them, in a varied assortment of colours and lens types.
I hope the above helps and please feel free to leave any comments below.