Having a perfect pair of goggles is like having a superpower: You can see clearly underwater, and the goggles feel as natural as a part of your own body. Finding that perfect pair can take some trial and error, though. Here are the things you'll want to know when you start your search. Illustration by Sam Woolley.
Explore Your Options
Swim goggles come in a huge variety of shapes and styles to fit the needs of different swimmers. Prices vary, but you should be able to find something that fits and works well for under $35, and often a lot less. Here are some of the things you may want to consider:
- Visibility: Most goggles have a sort of oval window that you look through. That's fine if you only need to look straight ahead, but if you swim in open water you probably want something that doesn't block your peripheral vision. The grey goggles in the picture above are the Aquasphere Kayenne, which have better visibility on the sides than the pairs with blue lenses.
- Colour: Tinted and mirrored goggles both help to shade your eyes if you swim in bright sunlight. If you stick to indoor pools, though, colour doesn't matter.
- Adjustability: Some goggles have interchangeable nose pieces, allowing you to change the distance between the eye cups to tweak the fit. Minimalist Swedish style goggles come as a kit, so you can create your own nose piece from string or the material of your choice.
- Straps: Goggles with a single strap can end up sliding down toward your neck. Double straps fix this problem: You wear the bottom strap in the usual place and the top strap as high as possible, to prevent the goggles from sliding down.
- Size: Some goggles have tiny eye cups that are meant to fit inside your eye socket, right around your eyeball. At the other extreme are goggles that fit like a mask, making their seal along your forehead and cheekbones. The left-most goggles in the photo above are a mask style. The smaller types are more likely to stay in place, but bigger ones are usually more comfortable.
- Prescription: If you wear glasses, you can order goggles in your glasses prescription. This limits your choice of models, but you still have multiple options from brands like Speedo and Sutton.
These considerations should give you some ideas for which brands and models of goggles will work for you. The real test, though, is whether your chosen goggle actually fits.
Test for a Leakproof Fit
A pair of goggles can only keep water out of your eyes if it makes an airtight seal with your face. Everybody's face is shaped a little differently, so the goggles that work for your friend might not work for you.
You can check the fit of a pair of goggles without putting your face in the water. Stick the goggles to your face, without putting the strap on your head, and press hard. The GIF above shows you how, or check out the full video for more. If the goggles stay on your face for a few seconds, you know you have a good fit.
Next, you need to decide how they feel. If the nose piece digs into the bridge of your nose, or if the goggles are uncomfortably tight around your eyes, that's a dealbreaker. Anything that's uncomfortable in the store will feel even worse by the end of a long workout. Swimmers who prefer tiny, tight goggles for racing often use a more comfortable pair for their everyday swims.
While you're experimenting with fit, don't be afraid to look beyond the label. If you're shopping in the women's category, try looking at men's goggles if you need a bigger size, and vice versa. Kids' goggles offer another option, too: My goggles always leaked until I borrowed my son's pair one day. It turned out I just needed a smaller size.
With so many things to consider, it helps to go to a store where you can try on as many goggles as possible. If you order online, consider the store's return policy. With a little trial and error, you should be able to find the perfect pair.