How to Choose Swim Goggles You’ll Love

Choosing the right pair of swim goggles is very important for the health and comfort of your eyes when swimming. They improve vision underwater and keep chlorine and other chemicals out of the eyes.

You will need to find a swim goggle that is not only secure and keeps water from getting in your eyes, but also fits comfortably for an extended period of time.

You might think this is an easy task, but there are many choices in frames, lenses and colors when it comes to swimming goggles

Frame Type

Swim Goggles come in many different frame styles, each with a different purpose. The sleekest are competition goggles, designed for the low drag during competitions. They are not the most comfortable however, and many recreation swimmers prefer a larger lensed goggle, or even a swim mask.

Swedish Goggles

This type of swim goggle is well known among competitive swimmers and is becoming increasingly popular. They have no gasket, sit right on the eye socket and therefore have less water drag than conventional goggles.

Some competitive swimmers may use another style for training and then switch to the Swedish style for competition.

Some Swedish Goggles such as the Speedo Swedish Goggle or the Engine Psycho Goggle come in unassembled form as standard, allowing for you to customize them and fit them to your face comfortably.

With the Speedo Swedish goggles you use a “string” nosepiece to adjust the length between the eye pieces; with the Engine model you use the various size nose bridges supplied to select the correct width. (It comes with 4 sizes and 2 head straps!)

By adjusting the distance between the eye cups, it’s possible to get a great individual fit with this type of swimming goggle.

Despite this, some swimmers tend to dismiss Swedish Goggles for the lack of a gasket between the eyes and the goggle. Use of Swedish Swim Goggles can also result in rings around the eyes when they are taken off. However, while raccoon eyes might be unsightly, they only last for a short while.

Gasket Type Goggles (Classic)

Gasket swimming goggles come in various forms; two being silicone variations and foam. Of the two, the most popular choice is usually a silicone type swim goggle but some swear by foam. Harder to find are the foam models but Barracuda carries an excellent line. This is the most common type of swim goggle and they come in endless colors and sizes. Barracuda, Finis, AquaSphere, Engine, Speedo all make traditional goggles.

Swim Masks

Somewhere between a traditional goggle and a snorkeling mask is the swim mask. Think snorkeling mask without the nose pocket. One advantage is that the mask sits around the eyes so they are very comfortable. Swim masks tend to stay on the face via gasket suction and less adjusting is needed. They also provide a large field of view as they sit farther from the eyes. They range quite a bit in size with some being a little more streamlined than others. Swim masks are very popular with kids, and parents, because they require less adjusting and even little kids can put them on themselves. They come in a variety of colors, and clear, tinted and mirrored lens types.

Barracuda, Aqua Sphere and Zoggs and manufacture Swim Masks.

Gasket shape

Note that an oval shaped gasket is much better for anyone with a small facial frame than a round shaped gasket, as it does a much better job of fitting the natural shape of the eye socket. Barracuda (B300 series) and AquaSphere (Seal Mask and Vista) are two companies that make gaskets type goggles. Most swim goggles have an oval shape.

Lens materials

• Polycarbonate – resistant to cracking, polycarbonate is a strong material for swim goggle lens. It comes in a variety of tints and supports UV protection and anti-fog. Though most all lenses are some form of plastic there is a lot of difference in quality from lens to lens and you often get what you pay for.
• Optical grade lenses – some lenses such as those in the Barracuda Optical Grade series, are made from a high grade plastic such as is used in regular eyeglass construction. This is lightweight, scratch resistant and has less distortion than cheaper lens.

Anti-fog coatings – this is typically a thin layer of anti-fog chemical applied to the lens. Over time it can wear away and will need to be reapplied with one of the many anti-fog products on the market such as Barracuda, Speedo, or Aqua Sphere anti-fog.

Lens Colors

• Clear
• Tinted
• Mirrored
• Blue
• Amber
• Other colors (less common)

Clear Lens Goggles

For indoor swimming the most common and effective lens “color” is clear. Clear Lens are also good for night swimming outdoors, or in low light conditions.

Tinted Goggles

If you are planning on doing a lot of outdoor swimming or in high glare conditions, you might want to invest in a pair of tinted swimming goggles that offer protection from the sun and its harmful UV rays or just reduce glare. A very common color for tinted goggles is light gray or “smoke”. Reflected light off the water, particularly outdoors can be reduced by tinted swim goggles.

Mirrored Goggles

Taking it a little further than tinted goggles, mirrored goggles can provide extra glare protection for very bright light situations. A number of manufacturers make mirrored goggles. In my opinion they are too dark for night swimming. There is a cool factor to mirror goggles. Mirrored swim masks are also used for water sports like jet skiing.

Prescription Goggles

Speedo, Barracuda, Tusa-View and AquaSphere all manufacture prescription goggles. Some models are preconfigured as a single diopter strength, the same for both eyes such as the Barracuda H2Rx. These are relatively inexpensive.

Others can be configured with replacement lenses that allow you to choose a different diopter for each eye. An example is the Aqua Sphere Eagle where you buy the frame and then individual replacement lens with the chosen diopter, one for each eye. Some brands support up to a -9.0 prescription. You want to round down to the next number when choosing; so if you were a -4.8 you would choose a -4.5 rather than a -5.0.

Strap Types

Better goggles have split strap designs that hold in place better because of the separation between the two pieces.

Getting a good fit with Swim Goggles

The most important thing when choosing a goggle is to get a goggle that doesn’t leak and is comfortable for an extended period of time.

That is why many swimmers buy several pair once they find a model that works well for them.

Many of us have a face shape that is not a perfect fit for off the shelf goggles, meaning that lots of swimming goggles won’t fit us without some adjustment. One solution to this problem may well lie in a pair of goggles that can be adjusted around the nose, rather than a traditional pair of goggles where only the strap can be adjusted. If this sounds like you then Swedish style swim goggles may be the best bet as they can be adjusted in more than one way.

For people with smaller faces some swim goggles come in smaller sizes such as children’s or women’s sizes. Some goggle models come in both a standard and small version so check the label carefully. Often the women’s models are just smaller versions of the men’s models with more feminine color selections.

Swim masks such as the AquaSphere Seal Mask that fit around the eye socket rather than in it can also make for a comfortable fit. They stay on using suction and don’t leave eye marks. These swim masks are popular with triathletes and open water swimmers. If you can try them on your face out of the pool, and they stay on even without the strap after being positioned, you know you have a good fit.

You might need to try several styles to find a swim goggle that fits you perfectly. Therefore, it might be an idea to buy some inexpensive goggles in the style you think might work for you, and see how they fit. Afterwards, you can look for a pair of more stylish or higher quality goggles that have a similar design to the ones you like. Remember that the most important thing about goggles is that they are comfortable, fit well and prevent water infiltration.

A good Swim Shop will allow you to try on the goggles you purchased and return them if they are not a good fit as long as you keep them in brand new condition and return them in their packaging. I recommend getting your Goggles from AquaGear.

A Little History

Swimming goggles weren’t allowed in the Olympics until 1976 during the Montreal games.  They must have made a big difference since many records were broken that year.  It is thought that Persians first used polished tortoise shell to protect their eyes as far back as the 14th century.  More recently water tight boxes with glass bottoms were held in the water to view objects under the surface, but they could not really be called swimming goggles.  With the advent of plastics and latex, some home made models begin to emerge in the 1960′s.  Only recently has technology allowed inexpensive, high quality swim goggles to be available for everyone.


22 thoughts on “How to Choose Swim Goggles You’ll Love

  1. Hi,

    My son is far sighted, +8 vision and I need to get prescription swimming goggles for him.

    Can your company assist me in getting goggles made up for him?


    1. Gus,

      Thanks for your comment. This website is an informational site, not a retailer, but you might want to contact Aqua Gear, as they are very helpful with these type of inquiries. I usually order all of my stuff from them.

  2. As a laper of over 50 years I was a user of Blue Max until I switched to Barracuda. I take good care of my goggles I found that the side clip holder breaks without any reason. I have sent them back several times for this reason. They felt that I was abusing the privilege of returning
    a damaged pair of goggles and refused to replace them.
    They fit well, but have this tendency to break.

    1. Shirley,
      Just to clarify, is it the Barracuda or the Blue Max that have the issue with the clips breaking?

  3. I have been looking at websites for Rx goggles, and they list “sizes” for the goggles they sell, but I cannot find anything anywhere that explains what these size numbers mean, and how to chose the right size for my face. Can you explain the sizing?

    1. This is a random email but I used to swim with Lenny many many years ago we went to the jiounr maccabi games together in Baltimore. I’ve been wanting to get in touch for some time, but have not been able to given his Olympian status. Any chance you could pass my email along, would love to say hi and see how he’s doing.Thanks a bunch.~ jessica

    1. @Pey: That’s a good question. The length of time the initial application of anti-fog on goggles lasts varies depending on how the goggles are cared for. Most goggles come with care instructions that recommend rinsing the goggles with fresh water after each use. I highly recommend you rinse all of your gear with fresh water after swimming. The trick is to try to not get any water on the inside of the lens. If you do get water on the inside, you want to be careful and just ‘touch’ dry using a clean soft cloth or micro fiber cloth without rubbing. This will help extend the life of the anti-fog treatment. Please note that no matter how careful you are, it will eventually need to be reapplied.

  4. I’ve started training for a triathlon & I’m unhappy with the cheap goggles I bought. I feel like they are giving me bags under my eyes. Now I will try a swim shop. Thanks!

  5. When I used to race I loved to use the Swedish Goggles that you mentioned early in the article. I have gone back into the pool over the past couple of months after a long time away and I can’t find those goggles anywhere in my local area.

    1. Any of the goggles reviewed here can be purchased online. Here is a link to the Swedish Goggles on an online swim shop. They ship internationally and would be happy to give you a quote.

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