By Mark Gangloff (2-time Olympian & 2004 gold medalist)
Selecting goggles can be hard. SwimOutlet.com offers its customers seven pages of goggles from which to choose, so there is no lack of options.
Having a variety of choices is great, but a wide selection can also be overwhelming. To help you navigate the waters (pun intended!), I have listed a few things to keep in mind as you shop for your next pair of goggles.
But first, a word on personal preference: above all, goggles are an individual preference. Whatever is right for you is right for you. Just like, whatever is right for me is right for me. Now, where it might get tricky is when whatever is right for me is wrong for you. So, trust yourself and your opinion.
However, here are some key factors worth considering when shopping for your next pair of goggles:
Goggles come in all shapes and sizes. Generally, I like to classify goggles as "small" and "large." These classifications reflect both socket size and lens size.
- Socket size indicates the size of the goggle lens. Some goggles are what I consider "small socket." Some swimmers do not prefer small socket goggles (e.g., Swedish goggles) because they can be harsh on the orbital bone. On the other hand, "large socket" goggles, because they don't fit into your eye socket, rely on some kind of suction device (e.g., foam, rubber, etc.). My personal preference is a "small socket" goggle because the "large socket" goggles can feel a bit bulky. But, I encourage you to try both small and large socket goggles before making a final decision.
- Lens size is the size of the lens through which the swimmer sees. A larger lens allows the swimmer to see more; larger lenses allow for a wide-angle view or even "natural" vision. By contrast, small lenses allow the swimmer to "put the blinders on" and, perhaps, focus on their race by limiting their field of vision.
The goggle's profile is how far the goggle sticks out from the swimmer's face. Goggle profile can be classified as "low" and "high." Your goggle's profile doesn't just affect what the goggles look like, but can influence the functionality of the goggles. For instance, I have noticed that when I wear a high profile goggle (i.e., they stick out from my face), they are more likely to leak and/or fall off upon entry into the water during a start. However, remember, we aren't always diving. Thus, you could chose different profiles for different purposes (i.e., race vs. training).
Assembly is the amount of assembly required to make the new goggles (as they arrive in their packaging) functional. Some goggles arrive in your mailbox (and in their packaging) 100% assembled and ready to wear. Other goggles may require threading the straps through the goggles. Others, yet, even require you to string your own nose piece (i.e., the middle piece between the lenses). Though some might be a little intimidated stringing their first nosepiece, easy-to-follow instructions make the assembly of the goggles manageable for almost every swimmer. However, younger swimmers may need some help from a parent, friend, or coach as they assemble their goggles.
Coco Chanel once said... Oh, who am I kidding? I have no idea what Coco Chanel ever said. I do know, however, that a lot can be said by wearing a pair of goggles. Goggles, though functional, are also accessories that can express who you are. Growing up I felt "fastest" in my mirrored Swedish goggles. It showed my competitors that I meant business.
My sister, on the other hand, felt her "fastest" when she wore goggles that donned reptile holograms. Either way, our goggles were a simple way to express our race personalities. And, I believe, influenced the way we raced. However, while style, to some degree, matters, sizing always trumps style.
So when browsing goggles for yourself or the swimmer in your life, I find it helps to ask a few questions:
- What is most comfortable?
- How much do I (or your swimmer) need to see to feel comfortable in practice or a race?
- Will I (or your swimmer) wear these goggles to race or to train?
- How much assembly can I (or your swimmer) tolerate?
- Am I (or your swimmer) bold or do I (or your swimmer) prefer a classic look?
The answers to these questions will help you in selecting the perfect goggles. At bottom I offer simple chart of aspects that were important to me of a small sample of goggles offered by SwimOutlet.com. This chart describes each pair of goggles according to my main criteria I've discussed above.
I hope that I have given everyone a better perspective from which to choose your next pair of goggles. For me as a professional swimmer, having my racing goggles completely secure when entering the water is a #1 priority, so my default is always to use a low-profile goggle. It is not absolute that everyone uses a low-profile goggle but in elite racing profile becomes much more important. Another option may be to have a higher-profile goggle for practice and a lower-profile goggle for meets. It is up to you!
I would like to end this guide with a few highlights from the list of goggles I tested. I am a long-time user of a low-profile goggles, but some of the pairs from above gave me an experience that was different from previous experiences. I have used large socket goggles (great view) that have high profiles (potential to leak during entry) but what was new for me was the large socket goggles (great view) that had a low profile (less likely to leak during entry), which gave me the best of both worlds. I think that adidas, FINIS, and Dolfin have provided something a little different that is worth a try. I also like using the Arena Cobra, although the field of view is slightly less because the socket and lens size are smaller. Overall the Arena Cobra is a very good goggle; plus they give you a nice case to carry the goggle in.
I hope this was helpful. I will see you guys at the pool!