Top 2014 Tech Suits Compared - The Gangloff Review
TOP 2014 TECH SUITS REVIEWED:
2014 Men's High End Technical Suits - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
Arena Carbon Pro - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Blueseventy Nero 14 - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Speedo LZR Racer Elite 2 - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Engine Armour Wingskin - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Nike NG-1 - Gangloff Review | Product Page
FINIS Vapor - Gangloff Review | Product Page
TYR Tracer Light - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Arena Carbon Flex - Gangloff Review | Product Page
2014 Women's High End Technical Suits - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
Arena Carbon Pro - Stupp Review | Product Page
Blueseventy Nero 14 - Stupp Review | Product Page
Speedo LZR Racer Elite 2 - Stupp Review | Product Page
Engine Armour Wingskin - Stupp Review | Product Page
Nike NG-1 - Stupp Review | Product Page
FINIS Vapor - Stupp Review | Product Page
TYR Tracer Light - Stupp Review | Product Page
Arena Carbon Flex - Stupp Review | Product Page
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Like at the start of every new year, the swimming community is in anticipation of the first big break out race of 2014, the next barrier to be broken as we inch closer to Rio 2016, and the new face on the national or international scene.
Much like this anticipation, we also anticipate the new series of tech suits hitting the market. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that it is the swimmer wearing the suit that wins the race, but tech suits have become a part of the business of fast swimming.
Each year tech suit manufacturers are refining their trade and finding new and better ways to equip their swimmers with state-of-the-art suits. The number of tech suit options on the market continues to increase, so to help you navigate the waters, I’ve tested and reviewed several of them to follow up on the first-ever reviews I did for SwimOutlet.com in February 2013.
For the newcomers, check out that original post about what I look for in a tech suit. Simply, I look for three things: (1) size/fit, (2) material, and (3) performance.
Similar to my most recent tech suit review, I have teamed up with a Julie Stupp to provide a review that includes both men’s and women’s tech suit styles. See what she had to say about the last round of women’s suits here.
This round of testing was particularly fun for me to do. Last time I tested and reviewed products, I noticed quite a bit of variation between brands; it was evident which suit(s) I would chose for myself. Now, the performance gap between brands and styles seems to have closed.
A lot of tech suit manufacturers are making a lot of fast suits. This makes my job of comparing the suits more difficult, but should bring swimmers ease, as they choose the suit that is best for them. The tech suit standards set by swimmers appear to be tightening up, forcing manufacturers to up their game.
While fast suits have always been a trend, I’d like to point out another trend I’m seeing on the pool deck and from many of the tech suit manufacturers: high-waisted suits. Maybe they look silly, but they’re fast! If there is one thing we learned from the tech suits of 2008 and 2009: more material equals faster suits.
Below, I have summarized the suits that I tested and reviewed in detail. Detailed reviews of the sizing/fit, material, and performance of each product follow.
ARENA POWERSKIN CARBON PRO ($350.00)
The size and fit of this suit is almost exactly the same as its predecessor, the original Arena Carbon Pro, which was removed from inventory by Arena last spring and not allowed for competitions after issues with suit approvals from the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA), our international aquatics sports federation.
I did notice that this suit is quite a bit tighter than the original Arena Carbon Pro (or, perhaps, my waist is expanding). Originally, I ordered a size 28, my typical size. I managed to get into the suit and give it a test swim. It felt good, but over time it really made my legs tired because of the compression. This feeling indicated that I was wearing it too tight. So, I ordered the next size up (30). This size, too, was tight, but I did not get the same tired feeling that I got by wearing the size 28. This experiment leads me to suggest that if/when purchasing Arena, consider sizing up.
Arena does not appear to be following the trend of high-waisted jammers. We’ll see if they follow suit (pun totally intended) in upcoming designs.
The material of this suit reminds me of Arena’s previous design, Arena Carbon Pro, however the Second Edition Arena Carbon Pro (MK 2) is FINA-approved. The material is listed as 52% Nylon, 47% Elastane and 1% Carbon Fiber. I don’t feel as though this suit is as water repellant as others, but its compression is top notch. Depending on your budget and personal preference you can also select different colors to fit your wants/ needs.
I predict that you’ll be seeing a lot of top swimmers around the world racing in these suits. It's still a great suit and its compression is second to none. I would give this suit a solid A for performance.
Pros: Compression, you are locked and loaded for performance. Need some style? You can pick your suit color.
Cons: You might have to try on multiple sizes to find your perfect fit. This suit is more expensive than other suits on the market.
BLUESEVENTY NERO 14 ($285.00)
This suit fits great! It has good compression and gives you the coverage you need down to your knees and up over your hips. Technically, this suit is not cut to be a high-waisted suit, but you can pull it up if you want more coverage. This suit fits consistently with other Blueseventy suits; meaning you are going to get great coverage where you need it and great compression on your muscles. I think this suit compresses better than previous Blueseventy suits, so a nice improvement from the folks at Blueseventy.
This suit is made up of 53% Polyamide and 47% Elastane. Having a higher percentage of Elastane gives this suit good compression, but does not repel the water as well as some of
the other suits. After being in the water for a few minutes this suit begins to absorb the water. So, for better repellency, wear this suit for your race only and warm up/warm down in another suit.
This is the best performing Blueseventy that I have worn. I would give this suit a B+ for performance. You get a good amount of "glide" when pushing off the walls. I would feel very confident racing in this suit.
Pros: Fit and compression.
Cons: Does not repel the water as well as some of the other top notch suits.
Like the name says, this suit is almost exactly the same as its previous model, Speedo LZR Elite, except it is high-waisted. This new element, alone, is a big improvement. One of my biggest concerns about the previous LZR Elite was the lack of compression. This issue is still not completely resolved, as the compression is still not that of some of its competitors. However, this high-waisted version does a better job. Speedo also offers an additional in-between sizing option. Typically, I wear a size 28 and I doubt I could go down to a 26, but Speedo offers a 27. For those of us that are in between sizes and looking for a better fit, Speedo might be the right solution.
This suit is made of 65% Nylon and 35% Lycra Spandex.
Though the suit lacks some of the compression that I like, it does effectively repel water; the water beads right off the suit even after extended and multiple use.
Because of the suits ability to repel water and new high-waisted design, I give this suit an A. This is an improved version of the LZR Elite so you can’t go wrong. I also find comfort in choosing a well-known brand with a history of performance.
Pros: Repels water and is high-waisted.
Cons: Lacks compression and is more expensive than some of its competitors.
ENGINE ARMOUR WINGSKIN ($269.00)
I had never worn an Engine tech suit before from this newcomer on the scene, so was really impressed when I swam in this particular suit. This suit has many of the same properties as the Blueseventy NERO 14 that I wrote about in that review. This suit has very good compression and your muscles feel locked in when wearing this suit. What I mean by that is, your muscles will not shake or move when moving through the water. My only concern with this suit is its coverage in the rear. Remember, I have a slightly larger rump than the average swimmer so this could be an individual thing, but I had to do quite a bit of tugging and pulling to ensure that I wasn’t exposed.
This suit is comprised of 53% Polyamide and 47% Elastane. This fabric blend give the suit great compressive quality, but not quite as water repellent.
Because this suit is the exact same make up as the Blueseventy it reacts the same way in the water, after a few minutes in the water it begins to absorb it. For better repellency, wear this suit for your race only and warm up/warm down in another suit.
I would feel very comfortable wearing this suit in a race because even though the fit is a little off, this suit still allows your body to move fast through the water. Overall, I give this suit a solid B. The fabric quality and compression are on par with the Blueseventy, but the size/fit was not perfect for me. That being said, I predict that Engine could be a major player in the tech suit competition in the years to come based on this first experience.
Pros: Compression and nice price point relative to the performance it provides.
Cons: Not great sizing in the hips/ butt for my body type.
NIKE NG-1 JAMMER ($300)
Being a professional swimmer, it was a big help for me to be able to speak directly with the manufactures on this suit. Like I have said in the past, I wear a size 28, but after giving Nike my waist and thigh measurements, Nike suggested I try a size 26. I loved getting this brand recommendation and nice service.
If I were giving a “Most Improved” award, this suit would be the winner! Now I know this is not the same exact style of suit that Nike introduced in the past, but Nike stepped up their game in terms of fit. Bravo to the folks at Nike Swim!
This suit has two different layers to it. The outer shell is comprised of 61% Polyamide and 39% Elastane. The inner liner (like a brief) is made of 68% Polyamide and 32% Elastane.
More so than its competitors, this suit takes on water fairly quickly. While better than previous jammers, this suit still under performs when it comes to its ability to repel water.
This suit made the biggest jump in performance from the improvements made in the fit of the suit. I liked the way my body was able to move in this suit, but its inability to repel water keeps it slightly lower on my list. I give Nike a B- for this particular suit, but I would keep my eye on Nike. I think Nike will be a major player in the tech suit industry if they continue this trajectory.
Pros: Nice balance of good fit and compression. High waisted.
Cons: Takes on a little too much water. Do not feel the "glide" as much.
FINIS VAPOR ($279.95)
Overall, Finis did a much better job with the sizing of this suit for my taste in comparison to their last version: Finis Hydrospeed Velo. Being that they are still relatively new to tech suit production, I was very impressed with this suit. This suit is on the smaller/ shorter side of a typical size 28, but still within the range of what is typical.
Typically, you want your suit to hit about 1 to 2 inches above your knee caps and this one hits slightly higher. A person not racing breaststroke may not notice this, but when you spread your legs for a breaststroke kick the inseam does have a little pull because it is a little short. Notable: the drawstring was a little short which can make you a little nervous at your championship meet, but is consistent with this suit running just a touch small for me.
The material in this suit is similar to the Speedo LZR; it is made of 65% Nylon and 35% Elastane. This make up allows the suit to repel water very well.
On the flip side, the compression of the suit is not among the very best. But lack of compression can also allow you to wear this suit for a longer period of time (e.g., a long meet session) so that’s something to consider as a major positive.
I give this suit a B for performance. The higher percentage of nylon allows the suit to glide through the water very well, but lacks some compression. I also found myself pulling the suit up a few time trying to get the inseam in the right spot. The drawstring was a little concerning, too. I could tie it, but if you were taking this suit on and off a lot you could potentially lose it within the waist band.
Pros: Repels water nicely. Good all-around suit.
Cons: Runs small and short drawstring.
TYR TRACER LIGHT JAMMER ($134.95)
At this price point, this suit goes on pretty quickly and fits pretty well. It does hit the thighs a little high, which makes the seams feel, perhaps, too tight. This suit does provides less overall compression than several of its competitors, which means wearing it for a long meet would be more comfortable than the others.
The suit is comprised of 70% Nylon and 30% Lycra Spandex, which allows it to effectively repel water. This is the only suit in this review that has stitched seams and smaller panels, which can be a deterrent for some.
Smaller panels and more seams create more drag than a suit with larger panels and bonded seams. For a visual of what I mean, check out the “Material” section of this article. The stitching and paneling is in line with other suits of this price point across brands.
Though this suit is, perhaps, in a different category than the others I’ve reviewed here because of its price point. TYR still has the AP 12 which is its top-of-the-line tech suit. I think this is a very effective tech suit. Highlights of this suit include its ability to repel water. I always associate water repellency with "gliding" or "sliding" in the water.
Pros: performance is very good; great compression
Cons: inseam is too short; drawstring difficult to stay in place
ARENA CARBON FLEX ($350)
The Arena Carbon Flex is a new suit designed to sit alongside the new second-edition Arena Carbon Pro, also reviewed here. What I mean by that is most of the time suit manufacturers design new suits to replace old suits. This suit is not a replacement but is designed for people that want a different product, while keeping a very successful “older” model.
As you may have read, I had to size up to a 30 when wearing an Arena Carbon Pro. What I learned during my conversation with a representative from Arena is that carbon fiber that is threaded through the Carbon Pro was wound in a way to make the suit tighter. What they have done with the Arena Carbon Flex is to make the carbon fiber have more “flex/give” to it, meaning the suit stretches a little more. I tried both a size 30 and a size 28 and I found the size 28 was the better fit in the Arena Carbon Flex - so given my normal sizing, it’s fair to say the Carbon Flex runs true to size.
Even though this suit is slightly more elastic, it holds your muscles in perfectly. I felt secure every time I pushed off the wall and the suit has enough flexibility to allow my legs to have maximum mobility. I could move and kick exactly how I needed to. Arena has also made some adjustments in the cut of the suit. Typically, Arena suits are cut to hit you lower on the waist, but they have allowed more fabric on the top end so you can pull this suit up higher on your waist. To me, this is a big plus.
The last thing that is unique about the fit of this suit is the seaming. Traditionally, suit manufactures have the seams bonded along the inside and outside of the leg, but not with this suit. The seams run up the front of the quad and attach on the sides of your hips. They also have a seam that runs up the hamstrings and attaches above each glute. The seam that runs up the back of the suit does an amazing job of flattening out those of us that have some rounder parts. Anything that makes your body more streamline makes you a faster and happier swimmer.
The material is listed as 52% Nylon, 47% Elastane and 1% Carbon Fiber, which is the exact makeup of the Arena Carbon Pro.
Like I mentioned above, the carbon fiber in this suit is not wound as tight, giving the suit more elasticity. I don’t feel as though this suit is as water repellant as others, but its compression is top notch.
Mark my words, you will be seeing a lot of great swimmers wearing this suit at future meets. This is the best-fitting Arena suit I have ever tried on. I think it has the perfect mix of flexibility and compression. I give this suit an A+.
Remember, I am speaking from a perspective of a breaststroker that has larger legs and hips. I need the extra flexibility in order to perform my kick properly and slightly more give in the suit because my personal build. Skinnier athletes with smaller butts may want to check out an Arena Carbon Pro, while breaststrokers and IMer’s should give the Arena Carbon Flex a closer look.
Pros: Compression - you are locked and loaded for performance while having all the mobility you need. The seaming is designed to make you more streamlined. Lastly, this suit just looks cool.
Cons: This suit has quite the price tag, but you are paying for the best.
The evolution of the technical suit began in 2000 with the unveiling of the Speedo Fastskin at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. The Fastskin was made of material that was supposed to mimic sharkskin; it was a genius marketing ploy and the beginning of a swimsuit revolution. It seemed to be that every four years following the 2000 Olympic Trials, new styles, models, materials and cuts were launched as the “fastest” suit in the pool. The technical suit market began to boom, new companies were created and the marketing behind each brand became very competitive.
Now, 14 years later, I’ve found that every suit company has made a very comparable and competitive technical suit. The quality is terrific across the board. There doesn’t seem to be any glaring differences between suits or a major edge that one brand has over another. The technical market has evened out and the difference is in the details. This is, in fact, great for the consumer, because it means that every suit is fast and your choice boils down to fit, feel and – as we always emphasize – personal preference.
For Mark and I doing the suit reviews, this makes our job a little harder; we have to look at the smaller details of what makes one suit slightly different than another. In fact, most of today’s suits are made of material that reminds me of the “paper suit.” If I were smart, I would have listened to my very close friend who worked in fashion for over a decade and is now a successful swim coach.
She once told me that belts and scarves have a seven-year cycle, “The same style always comes back around,” she would say. I always laughed at her and her over-stuffed closet, but who is laughing now? Sure enough the same phenomena seems to be happening in technical suits. If only I were the same size as I was when I was 10 years old and the suit material lasted forever, I could have recycled my paper suit for the year 2014.
ARENA CARBON PRO ($475.00)
The Arena Carbon definitely takes the cake for being the most difficult and taxing suit to put on. I ordered a 28 without checking the size chart and merely trusting what I wore in 2012. Big mistake! I struggled for nearly 30 minutes in the locker room the first time I got it on. Needless to say I could barely breathe, or move. The second time I tried to put the suit on, it ripped. Take two; I ordered a size 32 after checking out the size chart, looking specifically at my height as the determining factor. The bigger size still took time and finesse to get on but was much more comfortable. Unfortunately I think that a size 30 would be the best fit for me to race in, but it would definitely be too short in the legs and torso, and uncomfortable to wear for more than an hour. The Carbon isn’t well-sized for a taller athlete with longer legs. The legs are the shortest cut of all the tech suits I tried on. This made for some loss of circulation in my quads over time. The suit’s shoulder and back strap construction are very comfortable. The chest coverage and high back are also great features of the carbon.
The Carbon Pro’s best attribute is its cross-stitch design. The material pulls equally from all angles giving it strength or compression, yet flexibility or comfort for the athlete. The suit is double-lined in the torso and butt, adding another layer of durability in the water. The outer seams on the shoulders, back and chest of the suit are thicker than the rest of the suit’s material, but these seams stretch enough to keep the suit comfortable while swimming or racing. The suit’s complete body compression created by the high-quality material and design is its best feature. This overall compression could become uncomfortable for an athlete if left on for too long.
The Carbon Pro’s performance in the water makes up for the size and fit struggle in the locker room. The suit definitely molds to your body better after getting wet. The material naturally stretches with the cross-stitch design and adjusts even better in the water. The suit was excellent at repelling the water in and out of the pool. You could see the water beading off of the suit once you got out of the pool, as well as the initial bubble layer or seal when diving in. Unfortunately the crotch seam in this suit is also a bit uncomfortable, but could be mostly due to the suit having a shorter torso cut.
Pros: The cross-stitch construction creates the best overall compression from shoulders to legs of any suit.
Cons: Sizing for the Carbon Pro is very tricky. Finding the right fit could cost you a ripped suit.
BLUESEVENTY NERO 14 ($375)
The Nero 14 is nearly perfect when it comes to fit! It has every quality I look for in a race suit: long legs, core and chest compression, as well as comfortable back and shoulder straps. The extra long leg fabric is a bonus that ensures enough material for tall athletes. The suit is well made with a high-waisted boy short like compression panel for the stomach and butt, and two chest compression panels. These compression panels make the suit fit tight enough for competition, yet most likely uncomfortable if left on for a long meet session. The panels in the chest are great for compression, but unfortunately don’t go all the way to the edge or seam of the suit. The change in material causes the seam to be loosened over time and use, which could result in some slight chest exposure issues.
Blueseventy’s suit fabric quality has been excellent for many years and the Nero 14 is no different. Don’t let the suit’s light material deceive you; it is very durable and very tight. These qualities coupled with its seamless construction make the Nero 14 completely built for speed. The shoulder and back straps are made with the necessary amount of flex, so that they are taut but not constricting while swimming. I would not suggest sitting around in this suit for too long before a big race because its compression could become constricting after some time. The sticky seams around the quads are especially confining and could definitely alter blood flow throughout your legs and lower body.
The Nero 14 performed well in the pool especially with its most notable attribute being the high quality compression panels. The suit was comfortable and effective while swimming, turning and diving due to the material’s elasticity and compression combination. I was also impressed by the Nero 14’s evidence of high water resistance. The suit had water beading off of it for a long period of time after I got out of the pool. Unfortunately, the Nero 14 has a poor crotch seam construction that could feel awkward for some breaststrokers. No matter how you adjust the suit, it never seems to quite fix the fit problem.
Pros: Amazing overall body fit, and highest quality compression panels on the market.
Cons: Awkward crotch seam construction and loose chest seams.
SPEEDO FASTSKIN LZR RACER ELITE 2 ($429.00)
The LZR’s sizing hasn’t changed much over the past several years, which is a great thing because the suit’s cut fits very well. I always order a 27L (for long) and I can always count on a long torso and leg with this suit. I like having the 27 option. One of the LZR’s new features is the “comfort strap,” and it is without a doubt a winning adjustment. I would be very comfortable wearing this suit for a long period of time or during a longer race without the fear of tiring my shoulders out. The flexible seams around the back and chest also make this a very comfortable fitting suit.
The LZR’s material is very thin which is good for getting in and out of the suit and for comfort, but could be a deterrent for durability.
The suit performed very well in the water with its excellent water repellant and beading qualities. Water was still beading off of the suit even 10 minutes after I was done testing it out; this definitely impressed me. The LZR also has great compression in the chest, torso and hips due to its bonded seams and extra lining. While the suit had great compression it was still very comfortable and easy to move in, in the pool making any stroke or turn easy to do. The only downside was that some water seemed to seep through the top part of my suit during my start, which was most likely due to the flexibility of the comfort straps.
Pros: The LZR’s biggest upside is its new comfort straps, as well as its compression quality, which is a mainstay for the Speedo brand.
Cons: Unfortunately the thin single layer areas of the suit seem less durable and could be a concern for multiple wears.
ENGINE WINGSKIN ARMOUR ($379)
The Engine Wingskin was the second-most challenging suit of the bunch to get on behind the Arena Carbon Pro, but it was worth the struggle. The fit of the suit was amazing because of its seamless construction. The suit has a high-waisted back, comfortable shoulder straps and long leg coverage. The V-shape construction of the back strap has only a little give and is very tight so it could get uncomfortable if worn for long periods at a time. The best part about the fit is the complete chest coverage and comfortable shoulder strap combination.
The Wingskin’s unique seamless and double-lined construction creates serious compression felt in and out of the water. The compression is felt everywhere but the quads which is made up of only a single lining. The leg construction is thin, but not so thin that I am afraid to tug at it and get the suit in the right position.
The Wingskin had an amazing compression feel throughout my wear test. The suit was the perfect fit, except for in the strap across my back. It did not flex or loosen at all once in the water. Because of the Wingskin’s amazing fit across my chest, the suit molded the best to my body and at no point did I feel water go in to the top of my suit. The Wingskin also had all the right water-repelling capabilities and a lot of beading once hopping out of the pool. The downside to this suit would be the tight strap across the back and a poorly placed crotch seam, which became very uncomfortable after multiple flip turns.
Pros: The torso construction of the Wingskin created the best compression and water seal out of all the suits I reviewed.
Cons: The crotch seam could be a problem that some long distance swimmers might struggle with.
Just as Mark noted in his review of the men’s Nike suit, the women’s Nike also improved greatly from its predecessor, most notably in the cut and fit of the suit. The NG-1 was not only comfortable with complete chest coverage, but it also had flexible shoulder and back straps. The Nike has a high back and average leg length nothing too short or overly lengthy.
The Nike material is very comfortable and molds well to the body due to its new construction. The suit has a thick double lining throughout the chest, torso, hips and butt. This creates a great feeling of compression. While the suit has a lot of seams it is not constricting and is easy to move in or adjust once on.
Once I dove in the water, I immediately felt the compression in the torso, hips and rear. The compression coupled with the improved fit meant the suit was well-molded to my body. That combination made for some quick turns and smooth underwater transitions. Unfortunately, the suit missed the boat on a quality water repellant. There were very few water beads to be seen after I finished testing out the suit. And the suit had several sticky seams on the inner lining that felt constricting during flip some of my turns and strokes.
Pros: Most improved fit and high-quality torso, hip and butt compression.
Cons: Sticky seams and lack of water repellent for its price point.
FINIS VAPOR ($359.95)
To put the Vapor on, it took me time, patience and gentle hands. The size of the suit was not the issue, it was the very thin material and awkward fit that made me afraid I would rip it when tugging to get the suit to fit comfortably. The suit did stretch out at the seams after getting wet. I would suggest ordering a size smaller than you think is necessary but because of the tight seams, it might not feel great at first. Specifically the chest and shoulder strap areas were too loose after one use. The Vapor has a nice low back and a long-legged fit which is great for taller athletes. Overall the Vapor’s fit is tight and a bit off for me.
The Vapor has a double lining throughout the torso and butt. Unfortunately, the material is very thin and seemed to wear out quite quickly.
The initial on land compression felt good, but once the suit was worn it seemed to lose some elasticity.
In the water the suit was very flexible and easy to move in while swimming all four strokes. During some of the first turns the seams pulled at my skin but as the suit loosened up they felt more comfortable. The Vapor was fantastic in repelling water and had a ton of beading when I exited the pool. This is definitely the suit’s most redeeming quality.
Pros: The water-resistant quality of the suit is simply top notch.
Cons: The suit significantly stretched out after just one use throughout the chest and in the shoulder straps. Sizing could be the key here.
TYR TRACER ($191.99)
The Tracer was one of the easier suits to get on which is always a bonus. I don’t like to be exhausted or stressed for time when putting on a suit. The Tracer also fit very well. The suit hugged my hips, sat low on my back and had long legs. The more material covering your body, the better due solely to the fact that the suit’s material is faster than your skin.
I always order a long leg option, if available, and with the Tracer it seemed this option was already built in to the suit's cut. The shoulder straps on the Tracer were comfortable due to the flexibility and give with which they were made; on the downside the seam that cuts across the back is not comfortable, because it is tight and doesn’t stretch much with time.
The construction of the suit with the double lining and cross-stitch in the chest and torso is its best quality. This combination of lining and stitch created a great feeling of compression and comfort while on land. The suit was easy to move in and did not feel constricting, I would assume if you had to sit in it for several hours at a long meet it would remain rather comfortable.
In the water the Tracer performed pretty well. The suit has a definite water-repellent quality that could be seen as soon and you dove in the pool, as well as when out of the water after a swim by the constant water beading. The Tracer performed very well when molding to my body in and out of turns and throughout each of the four strokes. The suit unfortunately lost some of its compression quality when it got wet. The Tracer lacked some core and leg compression compared to some of the other suits in this review and a big reason for that is the price point. You might also want to check out TYR’s top of the line tech suit from last year, the AP12.
Pros: The Tracer is a very comfortable suit that felt good on land and in the water due to its excellent fit.
Cons: It lacked some key compression components in comparison to the other suits in this review but this difference can very much be attributed to its lower price point.
ARENA CARBON FLEX ($475)
Arena has designed and released a number of suits since 2012, the Carbon Pro MK 1, MK 2 and now the Flex. All three have fit very differently, which can be frustrating for the consumer to know which size is best to purchase, but great because each athlete has a very different body and suit preference when it comes to racing. It is important to try these suits on or at least speak to someone who has worn the suit before purchasing. The Flex was not as tight or as much of a challenge to get on as the Second-edition Carbon Pro due to the new “taping” or seams that are incorporated in the suit. Given my experience with the Pro, I ordered a size 30 in the Flex and it was definitely too big. The new seams create more give, but it was too much for me in the upper body.
Unfortunately, I think that a size 28 would be the best fit for me to race in, but I don’t know how it would feel or stretch in the water. The leg length seemed to be longer than the Carbon Pro’s length, which was a welcome change for me, and the back had a lower scooping design. Every female swimmer has their own preference when it comes to the cut and design of the back of the suit, the low-cut fit and feel were great, but in my opinion the more material covering your body, the better. The suit’s shoulder and back strap construction are very comfortable, but too loose on land and especially once they got wet.
The Carbon’s waffle or, as I like to call it, cross-stitch design has not changed. The material is made to give you an equal and all over feeling of compression, which is the Carbon’s greatest feature -- but this suit was not as “tight” or compressing as the Carbon Pro due to the added flex that gives the suit its name. The Flex like the Pro is double-lined in the torso and read, adding a layer of durability and compression in the water.
There is a lot more “flex” in this suit due to the taping. The taping begins under the armpit and runs vertically down the front and back of the suit. The best feature of the flex is the glute and hamstring taping. This seam definitely gives you extra flex while swimming, and an added sense of how your muscles are firing or moving in the water. The suit is definitely more forgiving or comfortable over a long period of time, but personally I prefer the tighter suit knowing I am getting a little extra full body compression while racing.
The Flex’s performance in the pool left me with mixed reviews -- all based on the same new feature of the material’s flexibility. The Flex downside was due to the size. While the Flex upside was due to the taping. The well-known high-quality compression design coupled with the new flex taping performed very well in the water. The glute and hamstring taping give you that little extra flection you need in your lower body while starting, turning or swimming without sacrificing the suit’s compression or structure. The taping also gives you a new sensation in the water: I became very aware of how my legs were reacting to each stroke and turn.
The cross-stitch material created the same great water resistance and beading, but the loose fit in the chest caused major water drag negating the upper body compression. This could have been an issue with my sizing. Make sure you are fitted properly. As soon as I got in the pool there was water getting in through the top of the suit. I could feel it especially on a dive and turns. I think had I had a smaller suit it would be less noticeable but the upper body “flex” might just be too much for some athletes who will prefer the tightness of the Pro.
Pros: The glute and hamstring taping is a winning feature that gives an athlete a new muscular sensation while racing.
Cons: Sizing. The Flex’s loose fitting upper body sacrifices compression.
TOP 2013 TECH SUITS REVIEWED:
Men's High End Technical Suits - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
Arena Carbon Pro - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Blueseventy Nero XII - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Head Liquid Fire - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Dolfin Platinum2 - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Rocket Science FU2 Racer - Gangloff Review | Product Page
TYR AP12 - Gangloff Review | Product Page
FINIS Hydrospeed Velo - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Speedo LZR Elite - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Nike Flex LT - Gangloff Review | Product Page
Women's High End Technical Suits - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
Arena Carbon Pro - Stupp Review | Product Page
Blueseventy Nero XII - Stupp Review | Product Page
Dolfin Platinum2 - Stupp Review | Product Page
Rocket Science FU2 Racer - Stupp Review | Product Page
TYR AP12 - Stupp Review | Product Page
FINIS Hydrospeed Velo - Stupp Review | Product Page
Speedo LZR Elite - Stupp Review | Product Page
Nike Flex LT - Stupp Review | Product Page
Over the course of February, my fellow Mizzou coach Julie Stupp and I did numerous tests of the latest and greatest tech suits from the sport’s biggest brands. Our goal was to give you our independent opinions on how each tech suit fit, how the materials worked to a swimmer’s benefit and ultimately how they performed in the water.
And while we tried out each suit at least twice in the water, I would love to do a longer-term review some time in the future that takes place over 6 months or even a year. No question, tech suits change with time and wear.
Choosing a tech suit can be tricky business and you can read more about what I look for in a tech suit here. Ultimately, we found that each suit had its own unique pros and cons from its compression to water-repelling qualities to comfort and even style. Here’s our breakdown by suit.
The Arena Carbon Pro took me 10 minutes to put on. Its compression is awesome, even though the suit is quite stretchy. Hitting at the appropriate spot on my hips and knees, the Arena Carbon Pro has a great fit, even though it takes a bit of work to put on. Surprisingly, it is quite comfortable.
Though not as water-repellent as some of the other suits reviewed here, the compression owed to the suit content (52% Nylon, 47% Elastane, 1% Carbon Fiber) continues to be a highlight for me. The way the fabric is woven together gives the suit a cool checkered look, which helps both the performance and with aesthetics.
A lot of swimmers chose this suit at high-quality championship meets. I, too, feel confident wearing this suit for important races. This suit just feels right. My muscles are locked in, which allows me to move as I should through the strokes. I give this suit an A+ for performance.
Pros: compression and fit are close to perfect for this best-in-class suit
Cons: priciest suit on the market; takes a little time (and effort) to put on
The Blueseventy Nero XII was fairly easy to pull on taking me only 4-5 minutes from start to finish. Upon pulling it on, I immediately noticed its very good compression in the legs. However, I wish the compression in my hips was better; it was a little too easy to get over my hips. The suit rides a little high over the hipbones for my taste. Though some people don’t like the Steve Urkel look (am I aging myself here?), I tend to LIKE a suit that comes up a bit higher.
This suit, overall, was very comfortable and likely conducive to a long training or meet session.
Because of the composition of the suit (53% Polyamide, 47% Elastane), I felt “locked-in” in this suit; there was little give. It is also extremely water-repellent.
I like this suit and would feel comfortable wearing this suit at any championship meet. My go-to test (three strokes breaststroke for a 25-yard effort) showed me just how good this suit was; during this drill, the Blueseventy Nero XII helped me glide easily and keep my speed well into the wall. I hit the wall with some “oomph” indicating that I was gliding through the water properly. My one complaint is the compression in the hips. Even with my big booty, the suit felt a little bit loose. I give this suit a B+ for overall performance.
Pros: very comfortable for such a high performance suit; good compression in the legs
Cons: a little loose in the hips/butt; for some, it may come up too high over the hips (though I consider this attribute a pro); high price-point
The Head Liquid Fire is TIGHT and took me a full 10 minutes to put it on. It had decent compression, but it was the holes around the legs and the waist that are really tight.
Once I got it over my hips, the size of the waist was okay, but getting it over my booty (again, it is on the larger side) was quite difficult. Because the brief is not attached on the inside of the suit, I had to do some “smoothing” after I had the suit on. Taken together, if I were to order this suit again, I would likely size up.
Despite a lesser amount of Elastane (64% Nylon; 36%Elastane), the HeadLiquid Fire still has good compression thanks to its small panels. These panels help it not stretch as much.
I would certainly consider choosing this suit for a race. One of the best attributes of this suit is its choice in multiple vibrant colors. Why is the color under the performance heading? I consider how you see yourself and how others see you as important components of performance. Don’t underestimate the power of confidence and intimidation. When you strut in a suit that is bright, you send a signal to your competitors that you’re not afraid to stand out.
Pros: good performance; great graphic colors
Cons: runs a little small compared to my usual sizing
The Dolfin Platinum2 was easy to pull on (even over my hips) and only took roughly 4 minutes to get into. Though I think the suit would benefit from more compression in the hips, its separate brief that is 100% nylon makes the suit extremely comfortable in all of the right places (know what I mean?).
This suit is made up of 70% Nylon and 30% Elastane which does not lend itself to extreme compression, but its ability torepel water (I could see the water beading http://youtu.be/LUnSXnnUads) gives me confidence in the suit, because you do not want your suit absorbing the water. You want your suit repelling the water, so you slide through it. This suit has stitching rather than bonding.
I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of this suitgiven its lower-price point! Typically, I want my suit to fit tighter, but when I dove in I felt an easy, fast glide. This reminded me that you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a suit by your initial evaluation). I think this suit is a good, solid choice and give it a B for overall performance.
Pros: beading of water; comfortable; nice price!
Cons: could have more compression compared to some of the higher-price point suits
The Rocket Science FU2 Racer felt tight, but not restrictive, allowing me to get it on in about 6 minutes. This suit rides a little higher in the back than in the front, which I really like (again with the large rump reference). It also moves with your body well. At times a suit will pull at the bottom or top as you move, but this one really stays in place.
At first glance, this suit looks like the old polyurethane suits,but is not. It has a high-polyester content with no Nylon (82% Polyester; 18% Elastane). It is not very stretchy, which is a positive in my book.
I really like the way this suit is cut and smooth's out my muscles, which contributes to the way it performs in the water. I give this suit an A- for performance.
Pros: great fit; smooth's out your muscles
Cons: drawstring issues; higher price-point
The TYR AP12 is very tight and took a lot of work to get into. A LOT, like 12 full minutes. I felt the burn in my forearms, as I pulled it up. Rather than the leg holes or waist being tight, it was the body of the suit.
The inseam is a little short, but the compression in the hips/butt is great. This suit is also available in a version that goes up even higher on the hips, but I tried the standard short version.
The content of the TYR AP12 (85% Nylon, 15% Lycra) lends to its stiff material without much give. Though the seams are stitched rather than bonded, the stitching is hidden quite well.
I consider this a very high-performance suit. I would wear this suit at any championship meet. It felt great pushing off walls at maximum speed with no slippage or movement. While I would not feel comfortable wearing this suit for an extended period of time because of how tight it is (it was even a little restricting on my turns), I have a lot of confidence in this suits ability to aid in fast swimming. I give this suit an A- for overall performance.
Pros: performance is very good; great compression
Cons: inseam is too short; drawstring difficult to stay in place
The FINIS Velo took me 5 minutes to put on. The sizing was a little funny and did not seem consistent with other suits that I tested. Next time, I will order one size larger.
Made of 71% Polyamide and 29% Elastane, this suit has very good compression. The material does not stretch a lot (a good thing in my opinion).
The FINIS Velo performs excellent in the water; however, water made it into the suit through the rear end where the fit was not perfect. I would give it a B- for overall performance, but I would really like to try this suit on again in a more appropriate size, which I am sure would bump it up to B+ or A-.
Pros: good compression; not too much stretch
Con: fit is a little funky compared to my normal sizing; make sure to get sizing right
Taking me 4 minutes to get into the Speedo LZR Elite, I noticed that it lacked in compression. However, the fit is fantastic and gave me the support I needed in all the right places. It is very comfortable and has good coverage (over your hips, down to the knees, over the butt).
Even though the material does not provide much compression, its content (70% Nylon; 30% Elastane) makes it extremely comfortable. Along with the Dolfin Platinum2, it is also the most water repellent of all of the suits reviewed here—the beading of the water is a great indicator!
Regardless of its compression, this suit performs VERY well. Its ability to repel water gives me confidence in my ability to swim fast wearing this suit. I also believe that the Speedo LZR Elite is a great choice in suit if you know you’ll be wearing it over an extended period of time (i.e. age group meet). All things considered, I give this suit an A for performance.
Pros: fits well; glides effortlessly through the water
Cons: lack of extreme compression
The Nike Flex was one of the easiest to get on taking me only 3 minutes. The suit had a little too much material, but the waist is tight, which I look for in a suit. I had a little trouble with the inside brief (you don’t want to see a picture of this), as well as the drawstring. Perhaps I should have sized-down one size.
This suit is extremely stretchy as it is made of 80% Nylonand 20% Spandex. It’s not normally the kind of material breakdown that works for me personally with the Spandex component.
I was disappointed in its performance. I was expecting more out of this suit, so it grades the lowest out of the suits among my test for performance.
Pros: tight waist leads to a good fit up top
2013 Women's Tech Suit Reviews by Julie Stupp
I learned quickly with these reviews that I had to be careful not to judge or jump to a conclusion based on my initial opinions. My thoughts on most of the suits during my first wear, and especially the first wear before I jumped in the pool, changed after I swam. The way the suits fit before I got into the pool was quite different than after the swim, because all of these suits mold, form and accentuate different parts of the body when wet. One aspect of all tech suits is that they seem to get better with time and particularly with time in the water. These high-tech performance suits are each company’s best work and it shows in the material, manufacturing and in their performance in the pool. In this review, it was easy to highlight the winning attributes of each suit, and I truly enjoyed finding the little nuances of each brand.
The Arena Carbon Pro is another seamless high-tech racing suit that requires an athlete to take some extra caution and concentration when they’re putting the suit on. The Carbon took me somewhere between 8-10 minutes to get on, but then I spent a few minutes adjusting the shoulder straps and hip seams to make sure it was in the place. The fit of the suit is great, it is definitely snug and it holds a swimmers body in very well with its double lining and high open back. The suit is double-lined throughout the body, core and hips, but not in the legs. This tight fit means that the compression is absolutely felt in the water. The hip seams are unlike any other high tech suit I have seen. There is a small triangle where the three seams in the suit intersect on each hipbone. They work to not only the hold the hips in place with compression, but they also give you some flexibility and the necessary mobility to move in a stroke like breaststroke. Getting this seam in the right place is important not only for the fit and comfort of the suit, but also for the functionality. The Carbon is definitely a tighter suit, which is key for compression, but I could feel it in the shoulder straps. I do wish the legs of the suit were an inch longer as well, it didn’t cause any extra tightness in my quads, and I would just like the extra length for an advantage of more material.
The material of the Carbon (52% Nylon, 48% Elastane) contains carbon fibers and has a much different design than most other high-tech suits. It has a small square pattern that seams to work well on a swimmers body. When you stretch the suit with your hands, you can see the square design stretch but only in the place your pulling, not all over the suit. This is important while swimming because it means that one area of the suit’s stretch won’t cause drag or any other negatively affects in another area. The Carbon’s design and material is definitely durable and well made for a swimmers body. It has great water resistant qualities in its material. The suit produced beading and the white bubbling in the water that all swimmers look for when testing out a new high tech suit. I think the compression in the suit’s legs could have been even more impressive, if they had kept the double lining all through out the suit. The Carbon was well thought out and obviously designed to help a swimmers body slip through the water easier. It is tight yet comfortable and gets better with use.
The Carbon performed very well in the water. It’s best quality is compression. Like I said before, the compression isn’t just felt in one area or another it is felt throughout the suit evenly due to the seamless design. The Carbon even suctioned to my body more in the pool making me feel like the suit was working with me and not against me. The suit proved to be comfortable in all four strokes, but especially in the butterfly and the breaststroke. The movement of your hips and butt are most important in butterfly and breaststroke and, because of the suit’s compression in those areas, you become more aware of your movement in those two strokes. The overall slim fit not only helped to streamline my body while swimming but also on every flip turn and pullout. The tight fit in the shoulders straps and suit did create a little loss of mobility while bending over to do a start, but I think over time the suit might give a little more. The Carbon was one of the best fitting suits in the review. It has a well thought out design and is manufactured specifically for a swimmers body. This suit absolutely gives a swimmer the sought after compression advantage in the pool.
Pros: unique design and compression; because the suit is designed for a swimmers body with a durable yet mobile square pattern, it helps the swimmer feel more fluid in the pool. The suit’s overall compression can be felt in and out of the water and didn’t seem to change the more it was used, meaning it is a very durable material.
Cons: high price-point; shoulder straps and legs: the suit can feel a bit tight at first and pull on your shoulders, but hopefully with some wear this would become less noticeable. The legs of the suit could be a little longer to accommodate tall athletes and they would be ever better with the double lining
The TYR AP12 is definitely a tough suit to get into. I would suggest that a swimmer builds in extra time to their pre-race routine in order to not be rushed while putting on the AP 12. This was the only closed-back suit I tried on among the suit reviews and it turned out to be one of my favorite features of any of the high-tech suits. The closed back (or full coverage) added to the time to get the suit on, but another reason it was harder than others to fit into is because it is a tight suit. The suit is close fitting in a good way in all areas except for the seam around my leg. The seam definitely was something I noticed while swimming, but I think it could be avoided if the suit was a little bit longer in the legs. Overall the AP 12 is very well made and it definitely fits a swimmers shape.
The AP12 is made from a blend of 85% Nylon/15% Lycra with a Spandex, Nylon and Lycra lining that mold to the body in and out of the water. The suit is double- lined throughout the body, but not in the legs. This double lining is a key factor in creating the great compression you feel at all times. The only downside to the tight and compressed feeling of the AP 12 is that the material doesn’t give very much. There isn’t a lot of room for movement or flexibility on land or while swimming. I decided to test out the closed back feature and the tightness of the suit by doing a start. When I bent over the touch my toes on the starting block I had trouble doing so because the suit didn’t stretch at all. While this creates a slight inability to move, it does mean that the suit is well made and will last for a long time. I could tell that the suit had a top-notch ability to repel water because the white bubbling effect lasted for more than one dip in the pool. This is a huge advantage.
The AP12 performed very well in the pool, due to the compression, water resistance and closed-backattributes, all making the suit very likable. The suit molded to my body even better while swimming than it did on the deck. I felt the most compression in my hips and legs, which was great for swimming breaststroke. The AP12 suited all four strokes quite nicely; this would be a great suit for an I.M'er. The suit repelled the water so well that I never felt any water flow in or out of the AP12 on turns, pullouts or the start. The suit was comfortable on the shoulders but a little too tight on the lat muscles. This was where I felt a little bit of immobility in my strokes. The AP12’s structure created some of the most compressed and hydrodynamic qualities I tried on during this process. The closed back definitely closed the deal for me on this suit!
Pros: its leg and hip compression; I felt like I was wearing the AP12 and not the other way around. It is a suit that will last a long time and won’t lose its shape quickly.
Cons: on the flip side is the fact that the suit is not very flexible. Its inflexible features cause some minor mobility issues, but I think overtime it would begin to stretch out and move easier, it’s just something to consider.
The Nike Flex LT was rather easy to get on once you got past the tight legs of the suit. This ease always worries me a little bit; because I tend to think the easier it is to get a suit on, the less it will fit me properly. Unfortunately, this held true for some aspects of the suit. The legs of the suit were very tight, but the top half of the suit was too big. The suit had a high back, which I like, but it was too loose. There was too much of a separation between my skin and the suit. The top portion of the suit had too much material for my size and was unfortunately transparent. The suit’s design throughout the shoulders and upper back, as well as in the chest, was very comfortable and had an appropriate level of tightness. The overall fit of the Nike Flex LT was not as comparable to a Nike practice suit size; I would suggest getting a size smaller racing suit than you might normally wear. The good news is that Nike has been introducing a new “regular-size” line-up of suits for the Flex, and have re-sized these the current suits as “long size” – so this should really help. Definitely check with customer service when you order.
The thin material that makes up the Nike Flex LT creates a few more problems than advantages from its 80% Nylon/20% Spandex composition. There are several sections in the suit where it is double-lined for extra coverage, i.e. the chest, crotch and butt. This double lining is great for security, but the whole suit would have been better if it would have been double-lined because the sections that are made up of a single layer are see-through. Before I had even gotten wet I could see my belly button through the suit in the mirror. The double lining in the crotch is cut like a bikini bottom, which is an uncomfortable feature because it looks like you are wearing tiny underwear underneath the suit. The positive of the thin material is that you never feel weighted down in the water.
The Nike Flex LT was not as water-resistant or compressive as I would have hoped in the pool. Unfortunately the suit became a bit looser and more transparent once it got wet. These qualities obviously don’t equate to enough compression for a big race. On the other hand, the high back and comfortable shoulder straps helped make swimming any of the four disciplines a pleasure. Due to the thin nature of the suit, I worried that water collection might pose a drag problem but this was not the case. The Nike Flex LT lacked some key high-tech qualities, but it was comfortable and overall was drag resistant. The Nike Flex LT fell short for me on performance but had redeeming comfort qualities in the water.
Pros: the flawless design of the shoulder and back straps, they had just the right amount of tightness; the design in the chest was also great, because there was no room for water to creep in and collect. The Nike Flex LT did not cause any drag due to water bubbling or flapping inside the suit.
Cons: lack of high-tech qualities expected out of this higher-price point line of suits; there was a lack of compression and water resistance in the material and unfortunately the suit became transparent once it got wet.
At first, I was quite skeptical of the Dolfin Platinum2 because it only took me five minutes to put on and it made several snap, crackle and pop noises during the process – but this suit proved to be the dark horse of the review! The Platinum2 had an amazing fit in the chest, probably my favorite design yet. The cross stich on the outside combined with the inner-lining panels made me feel very secure in the suit. There would be no wardrobe malfunctions and more importantly I knew that the suit would keep me compressed throughout a race. I do wish the Platinum2 were a little bit longer, because the seam around my leg was cut too high and dug into my quads a bit. The back of the suit was high, which I like, but a little too loose. The high back left room for water to seep in the suit.
The Platinum2 was not only a comfortable fit, but also made of comfortable material consisting of 70% Nylon/30% Elastane. The suit had a great water-repellant qualities, which could be clearly seen underwater by the white bubbling affect and also when I got out of the pool; water was beading off of the suit in large quantities. On the deck, I was worried the suit might be too stretchy and could lose its shape once wet, but I was very pleased when I got in the pool and the suit molded to my shape. The cut of the suit and blended materials made for a great fit and feel in the shoulders straps and around my back. Overall the material was great; I just wish the lower back of the suit were a bit tighter.
The Dolfin Platinum2 exceeded my expectations in the pool. I was definitely surprised by how much I liked this suit. The core and chest compression made all four of my strokes, feel great. The breakouts, open turns and flip turns were also effortless in the Dolfin. The suit streamlined my body enough, while also giving me the necessary flexibility to swim properly. The only downside was the loose open back. The suit did create some drag when water would flow into the lower back. The water collection caused a bloated feeling in the suit, which isn’t ideal. But much to the contrary of my initial thoughts, the suit did not lose its shape or stretch-out at all in the water. I think this suit would last through several big meets. The Dolfin Platinum2 was the biggest surprise of the bunch. It was the dark horse competitor, who won from lane 8. It had compression, water resistance, and a flexible fit and seemed to mold to my body better, the more I wore it in the water. This is definitely a suit I would never have considered buying before – for no other reason then I wasn’t familiar with it – but now I will.
Pros: the high-quality water repellent that created an abundance of water beading off the suit; the perfect contrast between the compression in the chest and core, while still giving me flexible movement in the water. Nice price.
Cons: loose open back; because the suit doesn’t sit close enough to the body, there is some water that flows in and out of the suit and causes some unnecessary drag, while swimming.
The Blueseventy Nero XII was moderately easy to get on. It took me around 8 minutes to shimmy into from start-to-finish. Right away I knew it was a great-fitting suit. I felt the compression throughout the body of the suit, but especially in my core, which is a huge advantage in a race. I was also pleased with the comfortable fit, due to the thin yet very well manufactured cut of the material. The suit had a high back and the perfect amount of tightness in the shoulders. The only complaint I have is that the legs were a little too short; I could have used another inch or two of material for my height. I think the 28 other than the leg length was the perfect size for me in the body. After checking out the size chart my suspicions were confirmed, the size 28 was made for a 152 lb. female, but one who is only 5’8. No wonder the suit was a little short for me. I would suggest buying the suit based on your weight and not your height, because if it is too big in the body, the amazing compression qualities could be lost.
The suit’s nylon and Lycra blend of 53% Polyamide/47% Elastane was definitely sprayed with a high quality water repellent that was evident when I got out of the pool. I immediately saw a good amount of water beading off of the suit. The material didn’t lose any of its compression qualities once it got wet, which was great because that is the best quality of the suit. The Nero XII had a lot of mobility and was working with my body in the water and not against it. The only problem I could foresee with this suit is that the material on the side of my chest was not very tight, and it could show a little more than I would like after a race.
The Nero XII performed very well in the water. It was one of my favorite suits to swim in and it definitely made me more hydrodynamic because of its all-over compression. It not only compressed my core, but I realized how well it formed to my hips, thighs and butt after I swam a few laps. The suit can comfortably be swum in any stroke and made me feel streamlined. The streamlining effect carried throughout the turns, pullouts and especially the breakouts where it is easy for a tired swimmer to break their core or bodyline. There were no looming issues on the flip-turns, or in any crotch seams that have given me problems in other suits. It is obvious that Blueseventy has looked into every detail of this suit. The Nero XII was built to create a hydrodynamic swimmer, one who easily glides through the water in a compressed and comfortable high tech suit.
Pros: the most important is the compression of the suit; the suit’s cut fits the female body very well and it definitely has lasting compression qualities. I don’t see this suit wearing out anytime soon.
Cons: two minor cons of the Nero XII are the loose material around the chest and the missing inch or two on the legs. The material around the chest is by no means flapping in the water or causing any drag, but it is something I took note of. The suit was very well cut, but since I am a taller girl, I would have liked that extra inch on the legs. Perhaps in the next model, they could consider a long option, available for alternative sizing purposes.
The Speedo LZR Elite is quite a different build and fit compared to its lower-priced LZR Pro sibling! The LZR Elite took me approximately 8 minutes to get on and it did not cause me to get worn out or tired, but I was extra careful to take my time around the suit’s seams. The material surrounding the seams is rather thin, so I was worried that it might rip, when I was trying to adjust the suit and while I was securing it in all of the right places. The suit is very well manufactured and you can feel that they made this suit with a swimmer’s body in mind. It fit very well with the right amount of material in the legs, chest, back and shoulders and not too much in any one place. The high back and tight fit in the chest make me feel certain that there won’t be any drag or water flowing through the suit, while I swim. The LZR Elite was a bit tight in the shoulders and lateral muscles, but with a few more uses, I think it will become more flexible and comfortable without losing its shape.
The LZR Racer Elite came packaged with information about the material (70% Nylon Polyamide, 30% Elastane), how to put the suit on and how to care for it. This suit boasts compression panels that will enhance the swimmers performance – and it did not disappoint. The suit’s compression was most felt in the chest, hips and thighs, which is truly important in all four strokes. The best part about the material is the combination of the compression panels and the thin flexible material in between. The combo creates a comfortable, yet fast fit, because the panels create the compression, while the thin material creates the necessary mobility. This winning fusion makes swimming all four strokes easy and comfortable.
The LZR Elite performed very well in the water with definite repellant qualities on each compression panel. There was no lack of water beading off of the suit every time I got out of the pool. This is an awesome sight to see as a competitive swimmer because you know your suit is working for you and with you during every single race. It also has excellent compression in the legs that will absolutely be a lasting and a helpful quality to any swimmer who fatigues in a race. This suit made my swimming feel much more fluid because of the fit and blend of materials, there was not any pulling in one place or water pockets causing drag in another. The LZR Racer Elite highlights its two key high tech qualities of compression and water resistance very well in the pool and it did that more than just once for my testing. Bottom line, the LZR Elite is a very well manufactured suit with its high quality material and compression it makes swimming fast seem a lot more effortless.
Pros: a well thought-out product; the suit’s material combination not only makes you feel securely compressed, but also hydrodynamic, two qualities any elite swimmer wants.
Cons: a little tight in the shoulders and lat muscles during the first several uses and the thin material makes you extra cautious, when putting on or taking off the suit.
The FINIS Hydrospeed Velo was a tricky suit to get on because of the many different panels and seams of the suit. The Velo took me close to 10 minutes to get on and a majority of it was me just trying to finagle the seams and panels into the right spots. The seams created an awkward fit and look around the legs because they were much tighter than the stretchy material in between the panels. The tight seams caused my leg muscles to bulge in some areas and not in others, this created a weird feeling and also what I would imagine to be drag due to the uneven surface areas. The suit was pretty tight on my shoulders and was very low cut in the back. I kept trying to readjust where the suit sat on my shoulders and my low back, but nothing seemed to fix the problems. Unfortunately, this suit didn’t come packaged with a sizing chart but my guess is that this suit was made for a shorter swimmer.
The Hydrospeed Velo had a unique blend of materials made of 71% Polyamide, 29% Elastane that looked and felt unlike any other suits in the review. When I was wearing the suit on deck, I did not like the way the suit felt because it just didn’t seem to fit right, but after I got into the pool I had a much different opinion. Much like the look of the Speedo LZR Elite, the Hydrospeed Velo has thicker panels of compression and thin material holding the panels together. In the Velo, the thin material seems too flimsy, because it is completely transparent in the stomach area. Yet the compression in my legs and chest were terrific in this suit, especially after getting wet. The material had a way of sucking to my body and skin so much better after I jumped in the pool. Like I said before, this was completely the opposite result that I thought I was going to get while I stood on deck.
The Velo exceeded my expectations in performance mainly due to the way the suit formed to my body and shape so well after getting wet. The suit’s molding capabilities created an impressive amount of compression in my legs and chest, which helped my backstroke, freestyle, and butterfly feel great. Unfortunately, because of the poor cut of the suit, some of the high tech qualities were lost because the tight shoulder straps inhibited my movements in the breaststroke. The low cut back also allowed water to flow in and out of the suit during the breaststroke. This suit performed very well in 3 out of the 4 strokes and is definitely a great option for sprinters or long axis swimmers. The Velo is the biggest comeback suit among my reviews. Much like a negative split swimmer, the Velo started off at a mediocre pace and came out of nowhere with the closing speed. The Velo is a top-end competitor but needs a few slight adjustments in order to be the best.
Pros: good price-point among the group of suits; form-fitting and compression qualities that seemed to come to life after the suit was in the water. The suit completely surprised me and helped me to swim back, free and fly with a much more streamlined stroke.
Cons: sizing; the suit just didn’t feel like it was built for my body type, the measurements are a bit off in length and weight. These dimensions caused some drag that could possibly negate the suits great compression.
The Rocket Science FU2 Racer was by far the most challenging suit to put on in this whole suit review. Good thing this was the last suit I had to put on! It took me 15 minutes and the experience reminded me of the now-illegal suit days. The suit is rather hard to grip and pull on, because there aren’t any seams. On the flip side, that is a major positive because there isn’t any drag and it is a smooth-fitting suit. I believe the suit may not have been the right size for my height and weight stats; the legs of the suit were a little bit too short, and it sat too low on my butt, so I might have needed one size up. This made the suit a little too tight in the shoulders straps and around my quads. Once I got into the pool, I was able to properly adjust the suit and then it fit much better. All of the hard work putting on the suit in the locker room proved to be worth it once I got into the water.
The material of the FU2 Racer made of 82% Polyester/18% Elastane is reminiscent of some suits I tried 3-4 years ago that were super fast, like the Arena X-Glide. The suit is very water repellent and also had total body compression. The suit fits like a glove because the material is completely double lined and it doesn’t stretch easily. This combination is the reason for the overall compression you feel in the suit. The FU2 Racer only has 2 seams, one in the legs and one on the butt of the suit. They are well- bonded seams and I believe the suit will withstand several high-level competitions. Rocket Science thought a lot about the manufacturing of The FU2 Racer and that can be seen in details like the flex panel on the side of the suit. These flex panels live up to their name and give you the mobility needed in the water in contrast to the non-stretchy material that covers the rest of your body.
The FU2 Racer performed very well in the water, because it has all of the high-tech qualities I look for when choosing a racing suit. The checklist of compression, water resistance and comfort were all there. It was comfortable while swimming all four strokes, because the suit formed and molded to my body so well after getting in the pool. The total body compression made me feel very streamlined on my starts, turns and pullouts. The water beading off of the suit was seen after multiple uses, so I know that the spray Rocket Science used was of high quality. The FU2 Racer definitely requires some time manipulating the fit in and out of the pool, but it makes swimming fast seem easy and worth the extra time to put it on. Putting on the FU2 Racer ended up being time well spent, because of its performance in the water.
Pros: its details; the suit was well thought out with specifics like bonded seams and flex panels. The FU2 Racer also has all the necessary high tech qualities like overall compression, water resistance and durability.
Cons: amount of time and energy it takes to get the suit on. If the suit was the correct size, I don’t think the shoulder straps would have been too tight and I don’t think it would have been too low in the back. Sizing chart would have been helpful.
About Mark Gangloff
Mark Gangloff is a two-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100 meter medley relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He is the U.S. Open national record holder in the 100-meter breaststroke set in July 2009 in Indianapolis and attended Auburn University. He now works as an Assistant Swimming Coach at the University of Missouri. His large hand size is 8.5 inches from wrist to the top of his middle finger and 10.5 inches spread across from his thumb to pinkie.
About Julie Stupp
Julie Stupp is the first athlete in NCAA history to qualify for the NCAA's in both swimming and track & field. She first competed in the U.S. Olympic Trials as a 14-year-old in 2000 and made the final of the 400m IM at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. She is an IM and breaststroke specialist and competed for Auburn University from 2004-2007, where she was an 11-time All-American. She is now an assistant swimming coach at the University of Missouri.
NOTE: Please note that reviews are the opinions of Mark Gangloff and Julie Stupp -- not those of SwimOutlet.com. They are offered only as general information to customers. Size and fit are unique to each person’s body type and every swimmer has different suit needs. For specific questions about a tech suit, customers are encouraged to contact SwimOutlet.com customer service. For more information about “How to Choose a Men’s Tech Suit” go here and for info on "How to Choose a Women's Tech Suit" go here.
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1 month ago.Hey Mark,
What is your opinion on the TYR Tracer B-series jammer?
Would it be a beter buy?
I heard it is just as good, if not better, than the Lzr, and a lot cheaper.
2 months ago.Hi Julie,
I am getting ready for Fina World Masters in August... Getting my first tech suit... I am grappling between the Arena Carbon Pro or Flex and the Blueseventy... I am swimming free and fly. I am 5ft 7in., 125lbs., 34in chest, 33in hips and 27in waist... My torso is 60in and I have a 32in inseam... I am looking for a suit that will fit me the best with strong compression and comfort for racing in the pool (100's, 200's free and fly) as well as the open water swim (3k). Thanks SarahJulie Stupp
3 weeks ago.Hi Sarah,
Any of those three suits will be great in the pool, it is all based on your preference and price point. Unfortunately I don't think either of the Arena suits will be comfortable for that long in the open water The blueseventy will be just fine in the open water but if you are interested in more open water swimming there are specific open water suits, that will fit a little differently and be a little more comfortable!
Good luck at Fina World Masters!
Julie StuppBionic Seahorse :)
3 months ago.I'm looking at getting the Finis Vapor kneeskin because it's water repellency looks AMAZING, especially in this video!
I have the orange Arena Carbon Pro and love it, but it's starting to get worn out :( . I'm getting ready to go into my senior year in high school so I want a color that will stand out, and it seems like EVERYONE has the orange carbon, and a lot of people had the other colors too. Also, I want something not as pricey!!! I like the mint green in the video, but unfortunately swim outlet doesn't carry it :( . Also, this time around, I want something that repels water better for longer. It seemed like my Arena's water repellency lasted for the first four races and that was about it. I've heard that the Vapor's water repellency lasts longer and is initially 'stronger'. My question for you is what size should I get? I wear a 26 in the carbon pro, and my measurements are: 36 1/2 inch chest, 27 1/2 inch waist, 34 inch hips, and a 63 inch body loop/torso. I am seventeen years old, 5'8" tall and weigh about 140 lbs. any and all help is greatly appreciated!
-Bionic SeahorseJulie Stupp
3 weeks ago.Hi Bionic Seahorse,
You will love the Vapor's water repellency. I wear a 30 in the Arena Carbon and tested a size 28 in the Finis Vapor. I would say go down one size from your Arena suit and order either a 24 or 22 in the Finis Vapor. Double check the sizing chart and see which best matches your measurements. I felt comfortable in the 28 Vapor but could have even worn a 26.
I hope this helps, good luck!
Julie StuppDesperate Mom
3 months ago.Hi, Julie:
Victory! I was able to put on a size 30 Carbon Pro this morning, after working diligently for 45 minutes!!! I like what I see in the mirror and I can't wait to try it in the pool ( I was too exhausted to put it back on after I completed a full cycle of putting on and taking off the suit this morning) !
Thank you so much for taking the time in providing additional instructions and I must mention Swimoutlet.com has won another loyal customer!Julie Stupp
1 month ago.Desperate Mom CONGRATS!! I am so happy to hear that the carbon pro worked out!
Julie StuppMadie p
4 months ago.Hi mark!
I just wanted to say this review was very helpful! It came just in time, I'm buying a new fastskin for the summer season! Thanks a lot!
4 months ago.Madie,
Thanks for your reply. Glad you liked it.
4 months ago.So many choices... Quite an expense for a growing girl, my research continues. Thanks for the input.Mark Gangloff
4 months ago.Andy,
Check out an old review we did last year.
3 months ago.Hi Mia,
This is a tough question to answer, because it all depends on personal preference. When choosing a suit you should take your size, stroke, the price you want to spend and your goals for the tech suit into consideration.
Julie StuppAlice Ciobanu
4 months ago.I would love to have an arena carbon flex, I am a petite person so this would fit perfect my frame.Julie Stupp
3 months ago.Alice,
The Carbon Flex is a great suit!
4 months ago.This was incredibly informative! It is so hard to decide what is appropriate to buy a 10 year old and if it's actually worth the money. ThanksMark Gangloff
4 months ago.Shannon,
We are glad you liked it. You can wait or not wait for the 10 year old. Just make sure that if you buy the suit fits tight. Without proper fit, tech suits are useless. Good luck!
4 months ago.Glad you liked it!!!
4 months ago.Love the Arena Carbon - probably the best tech suit we've ever boughtJulie Stupp
3 months ago.AH Davis,
Glad you liked the Carbon!
Julie StuppJulie Stupp
3 months ago.Hi Amy,
So glad the reviews helped you!
4 months ago.always looking for more info. on what to buy and these reviews are great! thanks!Julie Stupp
3 months ago.Hi Chandlor,
We are so glad the reviews helped you!
4 months ago.Thanks for all these reviews! Ready to get started for summer league and these help a lot. Thanks!Mark Gangloff
4 months ago.Good luck this summer!!!liz
4 months ago.I'm always dubious when it comes to tech suits, but this really helped thank you!Julie Stupp
3 months ago.Hi Liz,
So glad we could change your mind a bit!
Julie StuppJulie Stupp
3 months ago.Hi Linh,
These suits are great, glad you liked the reviews!
4 months ago.Mark and Julie,
Thank you so much for the reviews. My son 14 yrs old is ready to get a new racing jammer and this review helps us a lot. My daughter 10 yrs old hasn't grown or worn out her racing suit as of yet. She found a new confidence in herself and training when wearing it. She pushed hereself so that she more than qualifed for several events for state. Smiling all the way! Those suits are priceless in my eyes just for that!Mark Gangloff
4 months ago.Holli,
Thanks for sharing about your family. It is awesome what a new piece of equipment can do for your frame of mind. Best of luck to you and your family.
3 months ago.Hi Holli,
We are super happy those suits are putting smiles on your faces, it sounds like a win-win!!
4 months ago.Great reviews!
I am new to the world of elite swimming and will be purchasing a new tech suit for my next nationals season. I've bookmarked this page for reference when I purchase next fall. I appreciate the thorough details about each suits strengths and weaknesses. Please be sure to include some price sensitive options. Being a club swimmer is hard on a college budget!
4 months ago.Katie,
Thanks for the feedback!
3 months ago.Hi Kristin,
Glad you liked the reviews!
Julie StuppMarlan McElroy
4 months ago.This suit review has been very helpful,and I hope that when I choose my tech suit it will be the best for me. I hope that I pick the suit that will give me the edge to succeed.Julie Stupp
3 months ago.Hi Marian,
All of the tech suits are great and will definitely give you an edge!
Julie StuppLiz Paulk
4 months ago.My daughter will be competing this year in her High School State 6A champs. Need a recommendation for a suit for a backstroker.Julie Stupp
3 months ago.Hi Liz,
There are a lot of great options for your daughter. I really like the AP12, Wingskin, LZR Elite and Blueseventy Nero for backstroke.
Good Luck at State!
Julie StuppJulie Stupp
3 months ago.E.B,
Glad you liked them!
Julie StuppDesperate Mom
4 months ago.Julie:
Thanks for your informative review on the Arena Powerskin Carbon Pro. It makes me feel somewhat relieved that I may not be too big to fit in to any of these suits, they're simply difficult to put on. I'm 5'6", 128lbs, 34-27-36. I've tried sizes 28, 30, and 32 only to find out that I could not even fit my thigh in any of them. I ordered size 34 as my last resort and the order arrived today. For this size, I could pull the suit, ONE LEG ONLY, all the way up to my crotch area, then there seems to have no more room for me to squeeze my second leg into the suit!
As advised by some of the online videos, we are supposed to put on the suit one leg at a time but once I'm done with one leg, I'm clueless how I can work my other leg into the suit, not to mention how to pull the suit pass my hip area, given the seemingly inflexible fabric at this point and I'm too afraid of ripping the suit if I use excessive force.
I'm about to give in but then I read your review, which gives me some hope. May be you could provide some advice as to
1. whether this suit is for smaller ladies and not for my built
2. or I need to order even bigger sizes (but 34 is the largest available at Swimoutlet.com)
3. how I can manipulate the suit (or my body) so that I can put it on
Thank you in advance for you help!Swimoutlet.com
4 months ago.Hi,
Technical suits are difficult to put on. Unfortunately for the Arena Powerskin Carbon Pro only goes up to size 34. Have you compared your measurements to the size chart for the 34? Below is a link to a video from Arena that shows you how to put on a tech suit that may help. And another link from our guides on how to put a tech suit on. I hope both these help you. Let us know if you have any questions. Have a great day!
4 months ago.Thanks for your reply, Swimoutlet.com.
The guide from Swimoutlet.com on how to put a tech suit on is somewhat helpful, but not the Arena video, which I had watched prior to posting my questions. I followed its instructions but I could only get my one leg in the suit. There are other details missing in this video, which I'm hoping Julie could chime in to supplement the information. Also, if I could find out about Julie's height, that would provide a more useful and meaningful reference for determining the size of my suit than Arena's sizing chart. Thank you.Julie Stupp
4 months ago.Hi Desperate Mom,
I am sorry that you have had such trouble getting the suit on! Honestly I would think that the 34 would be way too big for you. I am 5'11 and wear a size 30 in the Carbon Mark 1 and 2 and a 28 in the flex. Have you tried the flex yet, it may have more give for you around the hips?
Here are a few tips to get the suit on:
Do note that it takes a good 30 minutes to get a tight technical suit on, especially when you are being super careful not to rip the suit. 15 of those painstaking minutes will probably be spent just getting the suit over your hips.Julie Stupp
4 months ago.1. Try on the suit for the very first time when you are completely dry.
2. I put both legs on at the same time. I sit on the locker room bench and put both legs in the suit pulling it up as far as possible before I have to inch it little by little over my butt and hips. (Usually I am sweating, frustrated and cursing at the suit (in my head of course) at this point wondering if it will ever budge, so give yourself a few minutes to rest and maybe try a few light stretches to loosen the legs of the suit).
3. To get the suit over my hips I take small sections with my fingers and lightly pull a little portion at a time and I usually get one hip covered at a time.
4. Once the suit is FINALLY over your hips it is easy to adjust the suit to a more comfortable position on your body. Then you may have a friend help you to get the shoulder straps on, if needed.
5. The suit will loosen up a bit in the water, where again you can adjust if needed.
6. Be careful when taking the suit off to be just as gentle as putting it on, a lot of swimmers rip the suit when taking it off because they are anxious to get out of it.
I hope this helps!
4 months ago.entered to win :DAdd a Comment
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