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.
Swim Goggles come in many different frame styles, each with a different purpose. The sleekest are competition goggles, designed for 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.
This type of swim goggle is well known among competitive swimmers and is becoming increasingly popular. Swedish goggles have no gasket and sit right on the eye socket. They create 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 our 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: silicone, rubber, and foam. 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Clear Lens Goggles
For indoor swimming the most common and effective lens “color” is clear. Clear lenses are also good for night swimming outdoors, or in low light conditions.
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.
Taking it a little further than tinted goggles, mirrored goggles 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.
Newer technologies found in goggles like the TYR Special Ops 2.0 provides swimmers with the best of both worlds. Just like the same technology that’s used in eyeglasses, photochromic swim goggles darken in bright light and return to clear as ambient light increases.
Similar to mirrored goggles, polarized lenses are particularly well-suited to open water swimming and triathlons. They filter some light to eliminate glare and reduce eye strain. If you’ve ever worn polarized sunglasses, you know what I’m talking about.
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.
Be sure to use the right formula to determine your diopter strength as it’s not the same as your standard prescription strength. You’ll probably need your sphere and cylinder numbers to determine diopter strength.
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
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 is to invest in a pair of goggles that can be adjusted around the nose, rather than a traditional style where only the strap can be cinched. 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.
You might need to try several styles to find a swim goggle that fits you perfectly. It might be an idea to buy some inexpensive goggles in the style you think might work for you, and see how they fit. Later on, 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.