Top 2014 Tech Suits Compared - The Expert 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
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 ($249.00- $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!
I like the compression that this suit offers. I feel tight, but not constricted. Nike is also going with a higher-waisted suit.
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 ($118.95)
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 placeARENA 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 ($349.00)
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 ($368.95)
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.Email Address Invalid. Please enter an email address in the format: firstname.lastname@example.orgAdd a Comment
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