Getting the right pair of goggles is important. It makes the difference between having fun out there in the wet, and having a downright rotten time all fogged up and not being able to see where you’re going. I don’t know about you, but there’s no bigger killjoy to me than having water trickling into my goggles because they don’t fit well. But with that right pair, you might even forget you’re wearing them and just enjoy your splash.
Over the years I’ve spent lapping in the pool, negotiating the ocean, and exploring reefs with my family, I’ve found there are definite standouts in the various styles available... and some most definite flops.
The quest for finding the right goggles really comes down to what your needs and activities in the water are, an understanding about the different styles and features that are out there, as well as some insider tips of the swimming trade. I do believe that right pair of goggles is out there for everyone - don’t give up the search yet!
So what are the best goggle for 2018? Well I can tell you there’s a lot of Aqua Sphere and TYR in the list, and for good reason. They have a proven reputation for longevity, staying leak-free and comfortable. This comes down to superior design of the lenses, strap design and silicone seals that stay soft and supple. Where other brands have broken at the joins or become brittle over time, it’s been good to know there’s goggles out there that have been made to stand up to the rigours of time.
What about Speedo? There’s a real hype around Speedo, all the big names splash it around (sorry, couldn’t resist). But, the results in the pool just haven’t matched up to our expectations. While they do have some very nice and quite unique goggles in the high end price range which are worth a look, for most styles of swim goggles there are better choices out here. Their low- to mid-end goggles, in my opinion, sacrifice quality in their materials and design. For example the silicone around the eyes has just don’t have that super-soft silicone that I expect, making their goggles not that comfortable, and often leaky. My kids always want Speedos because their friends have them, but I’m sick of replacing them just to keep up with the status quo.
I’ll cover a lot of detail in this article, but forthose that don’t want all the ins and out, i’ll pop my number one goggle pick up front for you - the TYR Tracer Racing goggle.
The ’TYR Tracer Racing Goggle’ is by far my favourite pick for a great all-round training, triathlon and racing goggle. I’ve used it almost exclusively for the last couple of years for all my training in the pool and my ocean swims and have been very pleased with its overall performance. I like that it sits low and close to my face, as it has low drag through the water. This low design also give me excellent peripheral vision, which I love in my open water conditions, as I can see all around me to sight.
I find the soft silicone seal makes the TYR Tracer comfortable to wear over a long period. Unlike other goggles where the seal has aged and hardened (making the fit worse over time), I have never had the seal on these deteriorate. It comes with an anti-fog coating, and I’ve found that this coating has lasted a surprisingly long time. The nose piece and straps are adjustable and comfortable.
The TYR tracer comes in a range of colours, which are all appropriate in the pool. Blue makes the water look pretty, if that’s what you like, and I think there’s even red if you’re after something different. However, I strongly recommend clear for indoor swimming, or smoke lenses only for open water - the colours are really important for sighting out there, and any other colour can (and has!) put me off course. The price is very competitive, so there’s really little reason not to give these goggles a try...
If you’re a lap or ocean swimmer who wants a comfortable goggle that lasts, with excellent visibility and a modest price, my pick is the TYR Tracer Racing Goggle.
The TYR not the style you were looking for? Read on! I’ll discuss the important features of goggles, and recommendations for every purpose.
Goggles have changed so much over time. I remember when I was a kid having these goggles that just glued foam pads to the rim, and of course with due time, the glue came unstuck and water would just pour in. It was the same for all the other kids, and we thought it was just the way things were. I was allowed one new pair each half a year, and so I spent about five out of six months with sore red eyes! Thank goodness technology and goggles have moved on since then.
Sizing: Swim goggles are generally one size fits all, but variations are available for women and kids. That said, if you’ve got a big boofy head like mine, or a more petite head, you’re best off making sure your goggles are suited to the width of your face. While this can largely be adjusted for with straps and nose pieces, it’s still worthwhile checking the overall design is a good match. This is particularly true for goggles that come without an adjustable nose piece. A good brand will offer a couple of sizings in their one-piece styles; these might be categorised as ’men’s’ and ’women’s’ sizes.
Goggle profile/style: After checking the sizing, the next biggest consideration is how they fit around your eye socket. At one extreme, Swedish racing goggles sit right on the bones of your eye sockets without any silicone seal. At the other extreme, you have the seriously cushioned ’masks’ that will keep you comfortable in the drink for hours on end. The ’low profile’ goggle is the middle ground, with a silicone seal giving you a comfortable experience in a goggle that isn’t bulky.
Silicone seals: This is my absolute number one feature I look for in my goggles. This will determine whether they are going to remain comfortable and leak-free over a long period of time. I cannot emphasise this enough: make sure your goggles have high-grade silicone that remains supple over a long period of time. There are so many fancy-looking goggles out there, and if you are an occasional beach goer, this won’t matter to you as much. But, if you need them to last you any significant time, this is a big consideration in getting the difference between an adequate pair for a couple of months, and a great pair that should see you through even a year or two of constant use.
Straps: Good goggles should are manufactured with high-quality materials that really last over time and can take a bit of wear and tear. There’s no excuse for straps snapping in this day and age, with all the great materials out there for makers to use. An important difference with straps is the adjustment mechanism. Many goggles these days have a ratchet style adjuster at the strap attachment points. Personally I’m not a fan of these adjusters - once I get my goggles adjusted correctly, the adjuster is just adding bulk. Having said that, these adjusters can be handy if you have say a few pair of goggles by your swimming pool to share with visitors.
Anti-fog coating: The lens on a quality goggle will include an anti-fog coating on the inside of each lens. The durability and quality of this coating varies by brand, but any recommendations discussed below have excellent quality anti-fog coatings. My biggest tip here is STOP TOUCHING IT!! Leave the coating alone, as it can respond to the oils in your fingers and this will affect its lifespan. It is such a lovely thing to swim without your goggles fogging up. I’ll discuss further on some preparation tricks so that you shouldn’t need to defog during a swim. But should you need to defog during a swim, just spit into the goggles (ew, that’s gross! Don’t worry, all the good swimmers do it), rinse with water and replace. Don’t touch it.
Additional lens coatings: Lenses can include a mirror finish, or can be polarised. Nothing says ’I look good and I know it’ like goggles with a mirror finish. Whether the mirror finish lasts well is up to how well you look after them. Polarising goggles are a recent invention, that unfortunately ain’t very effective... If you are looking for goggles to use in bright light, think about lens tints.
Lens tints: Many swim goggles offer a range of tints including clear, blue, red, orange and smoke. Some people just like to be individual, and nothing says individual like a pair of red or orange goggles. Blue is one of my preferred colours in the pool, as it makes everything look so lovely and, well, blue. It’s just nice. Having said that, I strongly recommend untinted (clear) for indoor pools without bright light, or a smoke tint for sunny conditions. Clear will give you an accurate view of what’s around you, and smoke will do about the same but reduce sun glare, like a good pair of sunnies.
Peripheral vision: If you need to see and sight where you’re going, you will need a pair of goggles that won’t impact on your peripheral vision. As the lens moves away from your eye, the lens needs to be larger. So great peripheral vision can be achieved with a racing goggle - as they are very low profile and close to your eye.
Prescription lenses: Prescription lenses are available in goggles and even swim masks, with ranging magnification. Some alternatives allow the choice of differing magnification for the left and right lens. This can make a huge difference to your enjoyment in the deep if you wear corrective glasses as a landlubber. I’ll never forget my friend’s exclamations when she could see the turtles out on the reef with her prescription swim mask - she had thought they were so tiny and blurry, and all of a sudden she could see them completely in full detail like the rest of us. I don’t know what exactly she said, because all her words came through her snorkel, but she was most definitely excited!
Now that you know the differences available in goggles, let’s move on to the recommendations. I have presented my personal favourite, the TYR Tracer Racing goggle. But there are many more variations that may suit your needs better.
Many triathletes and open water swimmers are prepared to forego the sleek ’racing’ design, for a more relaxed fitting goggle. This leads us to our next recommendation, the TYR Nest Pro Swim Goggle.
You can see the TYR Nest Pro has a larger outer-eye cup size than the TYR tracer. This leads to a more relaxed fit on the face that many swimmers prefer over the minimal drag racing goggle style. If you are pack swimming, this style will also give your eye some ’buffer’ from any impact, such as another swimmer’s elbow! The larger style also has a larger lens, resulting in excellent peripheral vision. The non-adjustable nose bridge also leads to a less breakpoints - but if you care for your goggles well, this shouldn’t be an issue. The real feature of this goggle is the super soft silicone seal. They are a dream to wear.
This can also be said for a very similar goggle, the Cressi Goggle, which comes in at our 3rd top swim goggle recommendation. Cressi are not a well known brand of goggles, but they are a very popular snorkeling/scuba equipment manufacturer. Their scuba masks are excellent, and they have successfully transferred their mask knowledge to produce these great goggles.
If you view these goggles, you will see the TYR Nest Pro, and Cressi Goggle come in a range of different tints and lens coatings. As previously mentioned, while I don’t overly recommend mirror finishes, as they scratch easily, with a commitment to care well for this finish, you will find it lasts a long time.
The next recommendation I will include is listed as a ’ladies goggle’. This means the width of the goggles is slightly narrower than standard goggles and the eye socket slightly smaller, more suited to a smaller head. While I haven’t personally tested these goggles, my partner swears by these goggles. They are Aqua Sphere Kaiman Ladies goggles. If you haven’t previously heard of ’Aqua Sphere’, be assured they are an excellent brand, and are a quality product.
Sticking with the excellent ’Aqua Sphere’ brand, the next best goggle recommendation moves from the Cressi and TYR Nest Pro to an even more spacious fitting Aqua Sphere Kayenne. This goggle fits a slightly larger face. The Aqua Sphere Kayenne performed to my expectations, but personally I find this goggle is slightly too large for my purposes (which is mainly lap training). For triathlons and open water swimming, this goggle is an excellent choice if you like the larger fit.
At this stage, I have explored recommendations for general training/racing goggles, to triathlon and open water swimming goggles. If you only lap swim, and race day is your focus, you will want the least drag, whilst also a very secure fit that will not dislodge when you dive. For racing, many like the bare bones ’Swedish’ style goggles. These goggles have no silicone seal - the perspex lens sits directly on your face. Swedish goggles can be hit and miss, and do take some adjustment of the nose string/adjuster to get a perfect fit. Instead of the rubber strap nose piece pictured, some people use string tied in a knot. It’s all a bit fiddly, but once you’ve got it just right, you’ll have a highly personalised piece of racing equipment that will be reliable and durable. The TYR Socket Rockets 2.0 are basically a Swedish goggle, but has a hard contoured rubber edging. This contoured edge improves fit and comfort.
If you are looking for a prescription goggle, the TYR Corrective Optical Performance swim goggle is a popular choice, and a quality item. If you require vastly different magnification in each eye, I suggest purchasing two pairs of these goggles - the lenses can be swapped, and you will have two pairs that meet your prescription. Just what you need if you’ve never been able to see where you’re going underwater. Go look at the fish now! You’ve been missing a whole other world till now!
If you are looking for a goggle that makes a statement, I recommend the Michael Phelps K180, by Aqua Sphere. Michael Phelps, I’m pleased to see he has partnered with what I consider one of the best swim goggle brands out there - Aqua Sphere. I generally don’t recommend mirror lenses, as the coating is on the outside of the lens, and does scratch easily. Having said that, if you put in the effort to look after the goggles, these do look amazing in real life. Put them in a sock after use to keep them looking great.
For our final adult goggle recommendation, I felt I needed to include a ’mask’ style goggle. Recently their popularity has drastically increased. If you are not fussed about drag and like a very spacious and comfortable fit, look no further than the Aqua Sphere Vista Mask. Some swimmers like this style goggle as it will not leave goggle marks around your eyes, meaning you won’t get unusual looks in the hour after you swim! Personally when I used this mask for swimming I found it too large; not in terms of fit - it fitted just right - but in terms of drag. If comfort is your priority, you may enjoy this style of goggle.
I’ll finish the review with a recommendation for kids. Kids goggle requirements are a bit different from adults. They still need that nice fit, with supple silicone, but they also need to take a bit more day to day abuse than your average adult goggle. Unfortunately, some manufacturers skimp on quality a bit with kids goggles. Sometimes they don’t bond the silicone seal to the perspex frame. This eventually leads to frustration when the goggles leak. Another cost cut that is not uncommon with kids goggles is using a foam seal instead of silicone. Again, this will lead to frustration. The goggle of choice to make your kids enjoy their swimming and stop fussing with their goggles is the Aqua Sphere Moby Junior.
Ok, now you have the inside information on the best swim goggles out there. It’s important to look after your goggles to keep them performing like new. In addition, some special attention is needed to keep your goggles fog free. I’ll finish this review with three care instructions.
Lens and anti-fog coating care: Lenses do scratch. Particularly lens coatings, including mirror finishes, and the anti-fog coating. Keeping your goggles within a case or a sock will minimise inadvertent damage. The anti-fog coating needs special care, otherwise your goggles will fog. Many people find their goggles don’t fog for the first week or so, and then start to fog. This is due to the anti-fog coating being damaged, or not cleaned appropriately. You should rinse your goggles under fresh water after each swim. In addition, in the moments before each swim, lightly rub dishwash liquid (anti-fog spray, or even spit - how grose!) on the inside of your goggles, and quickly rinse under fresh water. And stop touching it! If you keep fiddling with it, the oil in your skin will alter the anti-fog coating and your fingernails can damage it. If you’re fogged up mid-swim, the good old spit-and-rinse technique can come in handy.
Silicone seal care: Rinsing your goggles after each swim will keep the silicone seal free of grime. To prolong the life of the silicone seal, fit your goggles with the strap as loose as practically possible. This will reduce compression damage and mis-shaping of the silicone over time, and also result in a better and more comfortable seal with your face.
Nosepiece care: Constant twisting of lenses around an adjustable nose piece will damage the goggle nose piece, and may result in the nose piece latch being damaged. Don’t just throw your goggles in your bag - put them in a goggle case!
If you’re particular about not fogging up, you may want the convenience of an anti-fog spray. I recommend ’Quick Spit’ anti-fog spray, which is easy to have in your swim bag to grab and go. I find if you look after your goggles well, you won’t tend to need this, but it’s a handy thing to have around if you find it helpful. My partner likes to use this in her swim mask when she wants to see the fish, but I just spit and rinse.