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  • Mar

    Top 2016 Tech Suits Compared - The Expert Review

    TOP 2016 TECH SUITS REVIEWED (all prices subject to change at any time)

    2016 Men's Elite Technical Suits - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
    Blueseventy R10 - Gangloff Review | Product Page *New Review
    Adidas Adizero XVI - Gangloff Review | Product Page 
    Arena Carbon Ultra - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    FINIS Onyx - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    A3 Perfomance Legend - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Funky Trunks Apex Stealth - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    Jaked JKeel - Gangloff Review | Product Page
    FINIS Fuse - Gangloff Review | Product Page

    2016 Women's Elite Technical Suits - Jump to Reviews | Visit Category Page
    Blueseventy R10 - Stupp Review | Availabe in October  *New Review
    Adidas Adizero XVI - Stupp Review | Product Page 
    Arena Carbon Ultra - Stupp Review | Product Page
    FINIS Onyx - Stupp Review | Product Page
    A3 Perfomance Legend - Stupp Review | Product Page
    Funkita Apex Stealth - Stupp Review | Product Page 
    Jaked JKeel - Stupp Review | Product Page
    FINIS Fuse - Stupp Review | Product Page

    2016 Men's Tech Suit Reviews 
    by Mark Gangloff

    What an exciting time in our sport! Just as coaches, swimmers, and families are making final preparations for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials and the Rio Olympic Games, so are the suit manufacturers. Manufacturers are putting final touches on their suits and adding exciting colorways and color pops, so that we can swim our best – and look good – this summer.

    While many of the big brands unveiled their Olympic suits last year so they could be used by elite athletes at the 2015 Swimming Worlds, many of the suits in this review are not only effective in making us swim fast, but they are also affordable.

    Additionally, newcomers like Funky Trunks and A3 are surfacing, providing us with even more options. I had a blast with this review—I took a trip down memory lane, as I reminisced about preparing for the Trials and Olympic Games myself. I was equally excited thinking about all of the insanely talented swimmers racing for a spot in the history books this coming summer.

    As I have done in the past, I review suits based on three essential criteria:

    1. Size/Fit
    2. Material
    3. Performance

    I’m ready to dive in and go suit-by-suit, but first, remember my annual disclaimer: each swimmer’s body is different, his or her goals are different, and his or her swimming is different. So, regardless of any suit review, it is up to you to find the suit that is going to make you feel the best swimming your race. What I like to provide are my personal insights of what suit works for me and my body, and how a suit might compare to its peers.

     

    BLUESEVENTY R10 ($340)
    Size 28

    Blueseventy has been a manufacturer that we have featured many times in the SwimOutlet.com Expert Review and they always manage to put out very good suits. I was excited to try this Blueseventy R10 because they have adjusted their technology by adding some features that some of the best suits on the market have and over all, you will see from my review that Blueseventy adjusted the cut of their suit and also materials they used in the fabric.

    Size/Fit
    For this review I tried on a size 28 and I would say that this suit was true to size. I had a little trouble pulling this suit above my hips, but this is a good thing. In my opinion, there should be a little difficulty getting a suit like this on because then you know it is going to be tight enough. Once over my hips, I though this suit fit very well with a good amount of compression in the legs and hips. A common complaint I have with some other suits is the leg holes being too tight but these legs hole fit me very well. They were tight enough not to slide around, but not too tight irritating my legs. It’s always about finding that fine line.

    You can see Blueseventy also adjusted the cut of the suit, putting in this panel along the side of the suit. I wish I could say I felt a noticeable difference with it in there, but I really did not. With that said it did not take away from the performance of the suit and it does provide some aesthetics.

    The only slight discomfort I had was with the seam that runs between the legs and up the backside of the suit. It may be from my larger backside but this particular seam felt a little tight for my taste. I found myself adjusting how high to pull the suit up, but after some time I got it right so it was not a big concern.

    Material
    Blueseventy used some different materials than their previous suits. The exterior of the suit is made of 52% Polyamide, 46% Elastane and 2% Copper. The liner was 77% Polyamide and 23% Elastane. The Copper was the new element that they decide to use and you can see it runs vertically in the suit. I think the Copper allows the R10 to keep its shape and provide me with some good compression. Every brand these days seem to include some sort of special material in their high-end suit: carbon, titanium, silver.

    The liner of the suit was comfortable, but after getting in the water I had to make some adjustment to how I was wearing the suit and sometimes when pulling on the suit I would only grab the outer layer.

    Performance
    The Blueseventy R10 earns a B+ for overall performance. If the middle inseam was slightly longer, I may have pushed this suit up to an A-. I would feel very comfortable racing this suit at any championship meet.

    Summary
    Pros: Good compression & comfort for a high-end suit
    Cons: High price & small fit issue
    Grade: B+

     

     

    ADIDAS ADIZERO XVI ($349)
    Size 28

    Everyone has worn Adidas sneakers or t-shirts in their lifetime, but most have not had the opportunity to wear their swimsuits. Back in June 2014, Adidas announced that they were coming back into the competitive swimsuit market in the USA after a long hiatus. It took a little time for Adidas to bring their first tech suit to market again, but it is here just in time! If you were watching, several top swimmers wore this suit in Omaha for Swim Trials and you’ll see the suit again in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. In an interesting twist, Adidas decided to make two different cuts of the same suit, one for breaststroke and another suit for fly, back and free. It is particularly exciting for me because as many of you have read in my past reviews, us breaststrokers are built a little differently and are looking for something slightly different in a tech suit.

    During this review, I will speak primarily on the Breaststroke Jammer, which is the suit of my choice but I will also provide some additional comments on the Freestyle Jammer.

    Size/Fit
    After speaking with the reps from Adidas I went with a size 28 in both jammers and I would say that both suits fit true to size for me. Putting the Breaststroke Jammer on was a little difficult getting it over my hips, but once it was on, it fit really well. I like the high amount of compression that the Breaststroke Jammer has in the hips and additionally on the back of the suit it has a little extra fabric making the suit have more coverage in the back. As you can see in the picture, the extra fabric is black and allows you to pull the suit up higher. They have added this additional fabric in order to have the water flow better over your rear. Traditionally a breaststroker can “catch” water in the small of their back, essentially the water will not run over your hips. This extra fabric certainly does help the water flow over your hips a little better than a traditionally cut suit.

    In contrast the Freestyle Jammer is cut a little lower and I can definitely feel the difference in the two suits. The lack of extra fabric in the Freestyle Jammer does not deter from its performance in the other strokes, as it fits very well. It is merely a difference in design and function.

    You will also notice the difference in the taping on this suit. The taping on the Breaststroke Jammer covers the entire inseam and also goes vertically up the outside of the leg. This taping design allows the Breaststroke Jammer to come back to shape at the end of each stroke cycle and pull your hips inward. In contrast the Freestyle Jammer has taping that goes partially up the inseam and then follows the lines of a traditional brief and it goes up the outside of the leg crossing and attaching at the back of the suit. The Freestyle Jammer taping does not create the same amount of inward compression, but I believe that is by design.

    When choosing between these suits, I can recommend the Breaststroke Jammer to anyone that swims breaststroke and/or anyone that has slightly larger hips and butt. The Freestyle Jammer is cut a little lower and is not quite as tight as the Breaststroke Jammer, but is still a very good fitting suit.

    Materials
    The main material in the Breaststroke Jammer is made up of 76% Nylon and 24% Elastane. The lining of the Breaststroke Jammer is 65% Nylon and 35% Elastane. In comparison, the entire make-up of the Freestyle Jammer is 65% Nylon and 35% Elastane. The extra Nylon in the main material of the Breaststroke Jammer give the entire suit more compression in the hips and legs and for me that is a big plus. The Freestyle Jammer on the other hand was easier to put on and was more “comfortable” and could be worn for longer periods of time, if you are preparing for a long session with multiple events. Like I have said in the past, I would go for more compression over comfort because that is what I feel makes a good suit but the freestyle version is definitely more versatile.

    Performance
    These two suits are a great addition to the U.S. market. I give the Breaststroke Jammer a solid A for performance. Once over my hips, this suit felt locked in and yet I was able to move the way I need to move in the water. I like the extra material in the Breaststroke Jammer and how it helps the water flow over my hips. The Freestyle Jammer performed very well, but I would give this suit a B+. The only reason I would put this suit slightly lower on the grade scale is because it is not cut as well for my body type, but that may not be the case for you so I will actually give it a split B+/A- which I don’t normally do.

    Summary
    Pros: Great compression and fit. Cool design.
    Cons: Freestyle Jammer missed a little compression and I prefer a little more fabric.
    Grade: Breaststroke Jammer A; Freestyle Jammer B+/A-
     

    ARENA CARBON ULTRA ($399.00)
    Size 30

    Arena is a brand that has put out some terrific, quality suits over the past couple of years. As you are probably aware, the primary feature in all of the Arena tech suits is the carbon cage in each of their top of the line offerings: Carbon Pro, Carbon Flex and Carbon Air. We were excited to get the chance to try this latest Carbon, which is coming soon to SwimOutlet.com. This carbon fiber is wound into the swim suit fabric creating a great deal of compression and not allowing the suit fabric to be stretched too far. The Arena Carbon Ultra has many of the features of some of the other suits in the Carbon Series, but the designers have really focused a lot of their energy on what is going on INSIDE the suit instead of just on the outside. The great thing about what Arena is doing is they give consumers as many options as you could possibly want.

    Size/Fit
    Originally, I tried a size 28 and I could not get it over the boney part of my hips. Not even close. In order to get the correct fit, I had to size up to a 30. Once over my hips I was extremely happy with how the suit felt. The compression in the legs was good and my hips and butt were locked into place, which is exactly what I look for in a high performing suit. As you can see in my picture, the suit does ride a little higher than some of the others that I reviewed, but for my own taste that is a plus. This additional coverage may be a combination of the cut of the suit and also the fact that I had to size up.

    My recommendation for sizing would be to go with your original size if you have smaller hips. If you have larger hips, then I would go up one size. I wish I could have cleared the size 28 over my hips, because I think that this would have been a perfect fit for me.

    Materials
    This suit is made up of 50% nylon, 47% elastane and 3% carbon fiber, which is slightly less nylon and slightly more carbon fiber than the other suits in the Carbon Series. Reading some of the technology behind the Carbon Ultra really helped me understand why I had the sizing issue that I had. Like I referenced earlier, much of the development in this suit was done on the inside rather than the outside. The Carbon Ultra has incorporated the Ultra-Link System, which is a combination of how the suit is taped together and additional compression panels. When you turn the suit inside out, you can easily see the additional compression panels in a black and white giraffe pattern that make up this system. Needless to say those compression panels work very well because that is the reason I could not get suit on. While getting the suit on is a struggle, once in place I was extremely happy with the performance and fit of those compression panels.

    Performance
    Arena has done it again: this is a great suit. I give this suit an A for performance. Once in place this suit feels great in the water, giving you the compression that you need, while also giving you the freedom to move through all components of your stroke. The only reason this suit did not get the A+ is because of my sizing issue, which is part of my body composition and I wouldn’t expect from all people that purchase this suit. And it’s not cheap, I might add.

    Summary
    Pros: Great compression and great fit (once in place); unique interior construction.
    Cons: Difficult to get on and high price.
    Grade: A
     

    FINIS ONYX ($289.99)
    Size 28

    FINIS got into the tech suit game with the Vapor about two years ago. While I liked the suit, I haven’t seen it out there too much, so it’s interesting that they have come out with two new tech suits at the same time in early 2016. The higher-priced suit of the two-tiered approach from FINIS’s dual launch this year, the Onyx is the more technical suit that many elite athletes will prefer. Complex stitching allows the fabric to return to its original shape after being stretched.

    Size/Fit
    I prefer the cut of this suit over the FINIS Fuse. It is longer, hitting right above my knee instead of around my thigh. The double paneling in the Onyx gives this suit terrific compression qualities. My only (picky) criticism is that I prefer my glutes to be squeezed together more. Once again, the leg holes were a little too tight—I’m always looking for a suit that does not restrict my circulation or IT band just above my knee.

    Material
    The FINIS Onyx is made of 56% polyamide and 44% elastane. It is the greater proportion of elastane that gives this suit extra compression that I like. The “diamond flex technology” is another added feature of this suit, which likely contributes to the extra compression along with its double paneling. The double paneling may make the suit hard to adjust.

    Performance
    Congratulations, Onyx, you earned an A- for overall performance! They earned this grade because of the great cut and fit. For the top grade of an A, I’m looking for just a tad better fit in the legs for my taste.

    Summary
    Pros: great compression; love the additional sizing options (e.g., 27, 29, etc.)
    Cons: leg holes are too tight
    Grade: A-
     

    A3 PERFORMANCE LEGEND ($229.00)
    Size 28

    A3, a company based out of Wisconsin, may be a new brand name for a lot of you. While A3 has been around for several years, I am only now seeing more and more on deck, especially with teams. This is the first time I had tried an A3 product, but I was excited to do so.

    Size/Fit
    This suit fit true to size, which is always nice when you are getting to know a brand for the first time. While this suit is comfortable, it lacks some compression in the butt/hips for ultimate performance.  With that said, the suit feels good and moves well with the body on all four strokes. The leg holes were “sticky” enough to prevent the suit from shifting, but wasn’t “tacky” to the point where it was glued to my skin. Finding that nice middle ground is key in my opinion and contributes to the suit’s comfort.

    Material
    The Legend is made of 53% polyamide and 47% elastane. The suit’s material treatment gives this suit the ability to repel water well. Well done, A3!

    Performance
    The overall performance of A3’s Legend earns a B+. With a little more compression, Legend can move up to the A-range. While I prefer more compression, I would feel confident racing in this suit and those looking for a touch more comfort if wearing the suit for long stretches might like this option. The A3 Legend was a great addition to this review and to the tech suit market!

    Summary
    Pros: comfortable; price
    Cons: lacks the outright compression of the top models
    Grade: B+
     

    JAKED JKEEL ($198.95)
    Size 26

    Jaked is an Italian brand that came onto the scene during the “super-suit” era (circa 2009). Since then, we’ve seen several jammers from the manufacturer and SwimOutlet.com has been one of the few retailers to carry them in the U.S. I was excited to open the box and see this suit for the first time and see the bonding and unique seaming. My interest was definitely peaked before even putting the suit on!

    Size/Fit
    I sized down in this suit and I’m glad I did! The compression of this suit was very good and it fit well. The suit hits at just the right spot above the knee, as well as hitting high enough on my hips and back that I didn’t get any water down my backside on my dives or push-offs.

    Unlike many other brands, this suit does not have any sticky plastic around the leg holes. This made the suit more comfortable. Even without the sticky plastic, the suit stayed in place – so an excellent job by Jaked relying on design rather than added features to do the trick. The JKeel also features seaming down each butt cheek, which smooth out the rounder parts of the rear end. 

    Material
    The Jaked JKeel features an interesting blend of 58% polyamide, 32% elastane and 10% polyester. When swimming in this suit, I felt “locked” in. The material of this suit contributes to its “shimmery” look/feel and its ability to repel water. Jaked calls this the “AcquaSuAcqua” side effect using their Italian heritage to highlight the attribute.

    Performance
    Jaked JKeel earns an A for overall performance from me! Any racer in the world should feel confident wearing this suit. I liked it and I think the fact that it’s a mid-priced suit with top qualities makes you want to give it that extra half grade! For the win with an A+, Jaked will have to improve the compression and cut even more.

    Summary
    Pros: good compression; comfortable; repels water; price
    Cons: availability in the U.S. can be hard to find, unless you go to SwimOutlet.com
    Grade: A
     

    FUNKY TRUNKS APEX STEALTH ($170.00)
    Size 28

    Funky Trunks is an Australian-based company. Known for their swimwear, underwear and beachwear, this company prides itself on style—BRIGHT colors galore. Now they’ve taken the plunge into elite performance suits. I am always excited to see a new suit and lots of fun options like Funky Trunks. Funky Trunks is debuting with the Apex Stealth.

    Size/Fit
    Apex Stealth features a very traditional silhouette—it hits just above the knee and below the hip bones. However, for those with a larger backside like me, it is a little low in the back. Might not be a problem for those with thinner glutes. For this reason, I felt some water down the rear and had to keep adjusting to keep the suit up where it was supposed to be. I prefer more compression than this suit offers, especially in the hips. While I could size down to get the compression I like/need, I’d be afraid that sizing down wouldn’t give me the proper size in the legs.

    Material
    This suit is made of an outer shell (70% polyamide, 29% elastane, and 1% carbon fiber) and a lining (73% polyamide and 27% elastane). It offers “gridlocking fabric technology,” which I compare to the carbon fiber patter in the Arena Carbon Flex and the Hammerhead Silver Armor that I reviewed last year. The Apex Stealth’s carbon fiber is not wound as tightly as the other two suits. This probably contributes to its lack of compression in the butt/hips. That being said, I do like the compression in the legs of this suit.

    Performance
    Overall, this suit earns a B- for its performance. My preferred suit has more compression, so this suit misses the mark slightly, but it’s a solid debut. I always think brands need a year to tweak their original designs before they can really hit a home run. However, Apex Stealth is very comfortable and moved well with my body.

    Summary
    Pros: price & comfort
    Cons: Lacks compression and cut was a little low in the rear
    Grade: B-
     

    FINIS FUSE ($119.99)
    Size 28

    I did not review a FINIS suit during my last review, so I was excited to get the chance to try not one but two suits this time around! FINIS has always demonstrated top-of-the-line technology, but it has been mostly seen in FINIS gear and training accessories, not tech suits. Nonetheless, I had a gut feeling that the same innovative posture would be seen in a FINIS suit. While the Fuse may be considered Finis’ lower-end tech suit, some big names actually prefer to race in this one.

    Size/Fit
    This, too, is a very traditional cut, but it is a little shorter. To fit properly in the crotch, I kept pulling the legs higher and higher. But, the higher the legs got on my thigh, the tighter it felt. Ultimately, this fit led to the suit being too tight in the legs—it felt as though it cut off my circulation. The compression, on the other hand, was good (especially for this price point!).

    Material
    The Fuse is made of 71% polyamide and 29% elastane. It move great with the body on all four strokes! I never felt as though this suit restricted my movement. It is thick enough to provide enough compression on your muscles, but also stretchy—GREAT combination. Also, as a bonus, the hydro-reflective textile offers UVA/UVB protection to those swimmers racing outdoors.

    Performance
    The Fuse earned a B- on overall performance and its compression punches above its weight in terms of price. Unfortunately, for me, this suit just didn’t meet my own fit preferences. However, shorter swimmers may not have the same length issue that I experienced.

    Summary
    Pros: Good compression given the price point; moves well with your body on all four strokes; price
    Cons: too short; tight in the leg holes (probably from pulling it up higher on the waist)
    Grade: B-

    2016 Women's Tech Suit Reviews 
    by Julie Stupp

    In case you didn’t notice, it is an Olympic year! The #RoadToRio is getting shorter by the day because the Olympic Games officially begin in less than 150 days. Athletes are feverishly preparing for the most monumental competition of their lives and one of the biggest decisions an Olympic swimmer must make is which suit to wear on race day. Many companies have worked tirelessly to design the perfect tech suit for Rio, and many of those were featured in the 2015 Tech Suit Review so swimmers could wear them at 2015 Worlds. Luckily it’s not just the Olympic athletes who benefit from the suit companies innovative new designs. Mark and I have been testing technical racing suits for four years now and I can say without a doubt that the suits get better every year. It’s evident that at the end of every Olympic quad the brands put a little extra time and attention towards making a very special gold medal worthy suit.

    The major trends of 2016: The two words I heard the most while speaking with the different tech suit brands were “engineered-fitting” and “durability.” Fit is especially important for female swimmers, because no two women look the same. The brands have really taken this in to consideration and have all worked hard to design suits that specifically fit female swimmer bodies. Many of the brands have also focused on creating more durable fabrics. It is frustrating for any athlete to wear a tech suit for one swim meet and then the next time they put the suit on for a race it no longer fits the same way it did right out of the box. Tech suits are an investment and the brands respect the fact that consumers want a product to last for more than one weekend of racing.

    The drawback of 2016: Unfortunately, a new trend I have found in some of this year’s tech suits is a seam that runs horizontally across the midsection of the suit. Not only is this seam very uncomfortable when you are wearing the suit for longer periods of time, but it is also very unflattering on anyone who doesn’t have a rock hard six-pack. I hope this seam disappears as quickly as it came!

     

    BLUESEVENTY R10
    Size 28

    We’ve reviewed a Blueseventy suit in each of the last three tech suit reviews but in 2015, our review was of the less compressive neroFIT suit at a lower price point, so I was excited to try the R10, Blueseventy’s latest high-end offering that has been available since mid-summer. In general, Blueseventy suits have fit me really well, so this made me really look forward to the wear-test review.

    Size and Fit
    The Blueseventy R10 takes some patience to put on but as they say, good things come to those who wait, the R10 fits really well! The size 28 is a perfect fit for me, but I would definitely suggest wearing it and swimming in it at least once before your big meet otherwise it will be a bit taxing on the day off your race. The R10 features the new popular power back design that not only fits very well but has a very flexible back strap construction for optimal comfort in and out of the pool.

    Material
    The best part of the R10 is the super durable and comfortable fabric. Blueseventy manufactured a suit with copper micofibers built right into the material. Copper is used in many fabrics to help athletes perform better and recover quicker; this is a very innovative design for technical swimwear. The thicker fabric is great for compression throughout the suit but the double layering around the chest, hips, legs and glutes creates a feeling of being extra hydrodynamic while racing. Blueseventy’s design for the R10 around the rib cage and abs is also optimal for comfort and speed. The panels around the chest have enough flexion in them so that you don’t feel constricted while breathing yet the core always feels super supported and compressed.

    Performance
    The R10 power back is the best of both worlds for many swimmers. It is not a full closed back suit and it has more coverage than your average open back tech suit. I love having this type of tech suit as an option for racing all of the different strokes. Blueseventy used a high tech hydrophobic spray that you can see clearly with water streaming off the R10 for several minutes after I got out of the pool. The R10 is definitely not a suit I would wear for long periods of time. Because of its compressive nature the suit began to tire my shoulders out and I was ready to take it off after testing it out in the pool.

    Summary
    Pros: The power back design and the super durable copper infused fabric!
    Cons: The R10 was tight in the shoulders after wearing the suit for an hour.
    Grade: A+, one of the best that I tested!
     

    ADIDAS ADIZERO XVI ($469)
    Size 24 & 26 Breaststroke Edition

    Adidas has created a very unique line of tech suits for the 2016 Olympic Year! They are mostly known for their older versions of tech suits available overseas over a decade ago, but they haven’t been a mainstay here in the United States. The adizero XVI offers a variety of tailored suits with a select group of world’s top swimmers helping Adidas return here in the States. I can’t remember the last time that I wore an adidas in competition, so I was especially excited to give this new adizero XVI a test run. It’s the suit that freestyle relay Olympian Allison Schmitt will be wearing in Rio!

    Size/Fit
    Adidas have released four new suits that fit every stroke and a wide range of swimmer’s bodies. The sizing for the adizero is not what we are used to in the U.S., they have made the smaller suits to fit bigger, so you have to go down at least two sizes. I normally wear a 27-28 size suit and I tried on the 24 and 26 in the adizero. The 24 was definitely harder to put on, but did not stretch as much as the 26 and is the size I liked best. I tested the adizero breaststroke suit, it fits very well but has some taping that runs across the ribs that felt a little uncomfortable while swimming hard. It is definitely not a suit I would want to wear for long periods of time. Nonetheless, I really liked the overall fit.

    Material
    The adizero is very well manufactured with its unique breaststroke fit. The material of the suit has plenty of stretch while swimming, but also molds well to your body to help you feel the proper amount of compression. Sizing is key here though for the material to feel tight enough. It is important to go down at least two sizes so the adizero doesn’t stretch out too quickly. The Adidas line really highlights the use of taping, they specifically placed the flexible yet strong taping in just the right spots for each stroke. They spent a considerable amount of time testing each stroke-specific suit on many different athletes in order to get the right cut. The adizero also has a very high quality hydrophobic coating, I could see the nice underwater sheen after several swims.

    Performance
    I really liked how the breaststroke suit felt in the pool. I had a great amount of compression throughout my quads and chest, which is really important for any breaststroker and IM’er. The adizero was especially helpful in making me feel springy off of my starts, turns and pullouts because of the taping. I was reminded by the placement of the taping across my legs to not only kick hard, but also to recover and pull my heels back up towards my butt quickly.

    Summary
    Pros: I love the versatility of their tech suit line. They have created suits unique to each stroke.
    Cons: The taping across the rib cage was a tad constricting. Sizing can be confusing relative to what’s out there on the market.
    Grade: A-
     

    ARENA CARBON ULTRA ($549)
    Size 30

    Size/Fit
    Arena began their Powerskin Carbon Series in 2012 with the Carbon Pro just before the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. Throughout the past quad they have launched several different suit technologies and 2016 is no different. Mark and I were luckily able to test the Ultra just days before the Tech Suit Review was released and shortly before its availability on  SwimOutlet.com (it’s available globally). It did not disappoint! The Ultra combines several of the most successful features of the previous Carbon series, but interestingly with the Ultra its innovation lies on the inside. The Ultra is absolutely a more compressive suit -- much like the original Carbon Pro or the Flex. Getting the suit on takes time and patience because of the different blend of fabrics and many inner seams. The suit fits very tightly on the lower body and is a bit more forgiving in the upper body. The compression from the original outer Carbon Cage textile combined with the new, “Ultra-Cage,” fabric bonded on the inside of the suit creates strong compression zones most felt throughout the legs, hips and glutes for me. My core and chest also felt very compressed and supported because of the Ultra-Cage, but I had more movement because of the new, “X-Pivot” seam design on the inside of the suit. This X-Pivot allows for much more rotation while swimming and more comfort while wearing the suit on deck for a longer session. The cutouts as I call them or areas of the suit that aren’t internally covered with the Ultra-Cage fabric are much more pliable. The only downside to the Ultra was the upper neckline of the suit. The Ultra-Cage fabric stops about an inch short of the top of the suit leaving a little too much stretch and movement for my liking. 

    Material
    Arena always has high-quality fabrics that are well-manufactured and well-treated with hydrophobic coatings. The Ultra is no different. The outer and inner fabrics are both very sturdy and durable. The suit held its shape well after multiple wear tests due to the combination of different fabrics and inner seams. The seams running throughout the inside of the suit create the, “Infinity Loop” design. These seams are all connected, creating a comprehensive feeling of compression and connectivity while swimming. I especially liked the support the seams generated throughout the core and lower legs.

    Performance
    The Ultra absolutely gave me a feeling of being more streamlined in the water due to the new compression zone design. I really liked that I had the necessary movement in my hips for breaststroke and underwater dolphin kicks. The Ultra’s X-Pivot gave me the flexibility around my ribs to breath easier and rotate seamlessly on freestyle and backstroke, this is something not many tech suits do. The cutouts around my quads were so much more comfortable than past Carbon series suits and they allowed me to feel less constricted after building up lactic acid, which is especially beneficial in a race.

    Summary
    Pros: Comfortable compression zones from the new Ultra-Cage fabric and the added flexibility from the X-Pivot design are a winning combination.
    Cons: There is too much movement and not enough compression at the Ultra’s neckline.
    Grade: A+
     

    FINIS ONYX ($379.99)
    Size 28

    Size/Fit
    FINIS has always been known for their innovative swimming “toys.” They have created top of the line swimming equipment and accessories for years, but the brand admittedly told me that they, “haven’t ever been there on race day.” With this year’s release of two new tech suits, I would say FINIS has finally made its mark. The Onyx is a double-layered tech suit that has a very compressive fit. It definitely takes a bit more time and attention to put on compared to their other suit in the review, the Fuse. The Onyx has minimal seaming which is great for comfort, but combined with the inner liner of the suit it makes it harder to put on and get into the right places on the body. The suit fits very well and has the same ultra comfortable back and shoulder strap construction as the Fuse. The design of the seams around the lats really allowed me to engage and use my upper body with out putting extra tension on my muscles over time. The Onyx has a mid-back cut which is great for more material coverage. The only downside to the Onyx fit is similar to the first couple of Arena Carbon Series suits: really tight in the legs – so it’s not a suit I would want to wear for hours on end.

    Material
    FINIS has designed a new “Diamond Flex” textile for the Onyx. This particular fabric not only looks flattering on, but is very effective in the pool. The diamond shape helps the fabric to move with the body and stretch in all four directions while racing and simultaneously holds its shape. This Diamond Flex design is what gives the Onyx such comprehensive compression. The Onyx has a very strong hydrophobic coating that was evident by the thick sheen we all love to see on a new suit when we first jump in the pool. I also had tons of water beading off the suit after every wear test!

    Performance
    The Onyx’s double layering helped me to feel completely locked in and buoyant while swimming. Unfortunately the inner lining of the suit made it more difficult to swim breaststroke. I felt like I lost a little bit of flexibility in my hips, which can change your stroke a bit. The Onyx is the perfect suit for a distance freestyler because of its full body compression, excellent shoulder-back strap and lat design, and very comfortable crotch seam. This is absolutely a tech suit you can wear for a longer race without sacrificing any comfort.

    Summary
    Pros: The minimalistic seam design and an excellent engineered fit for female swimmers.
    Cons: The double fabric layering in the legs made swimming breaststroke more of a challenge.
    Grade: A-
     

    A3 PERFORMANCE LEGEND ($349)
    Size 30

    Size/Fit
    A3 Performance is a relatively young technical suit company. They launched their first tech suit in 2012, called the Stealth. Over the past four years they feel they have really honed their craft and believe their newest innovation, the “Powerback,” is going to “fit the masses” very well. I was really excited to finally get to test one of their suits because I have heard great feedback for several years. Sizing was a big issue for me with this suit though because it is a difficult suit to get in to. The Legend was designed for optimal compression throughout the upper body and lats, combine that with the new, Powerback design and you get a tedious suit to put on. I tried on three sizes: 28, 30 and 32. The size 28 didn’t go past my hips. Next, I decided to play it safe and just get into the 32. The size 32 was still challenging to get on, which is a testament to the compressive A3 fabric around the chest, back and hips but once I dove in the water, I knew it wasn’t the right size for me. The 32 was too big for me in the chest allowing some unwanted water to flow in and out of the suit. After slowly and patiently putting on size 30, it fit perfectly. The Legend Powerback is the best of both worlds, it’s not a full closed back, but it’s not a full open back either. It is a 70% closed back design. I loved the added lat and upper back compression, and the always-important chest compression. The Powerback gave me the desired coverage from a full closed back yet the flexibility of movement you get from an open back. The Legend also has thin shoulder straps that sit lower down on your back not creating any unwanted tension in your shoulders. This suit is well-designed for comfort and compression.  

    Material
    A3’s G2 compression tech fabric has been an evolutionary process over the past four years. They explained that they have tried many different water repellents, fabric splices and bonding processes in order to get to the Legend. The G2 fabric is definitely durable and holds its shape, I can attest to that after trying to get in to all three suits multiple times. This gives you piece of mind that the suit won't wear out after just one meet.

    Performance
    The Legend helped me to feel very hydrodynamic in the water. I not only felt compression throughout my upper body but also throughout my legs. The thinner G2 compression fabric and the vertical seams down the sides of my body gave me a great range of motion in my hips and legs for all four strokes. This is definitely a suit you can comfortably wear for longer races and longer meet sessions.

    Summary
    Pros: It’s all about that Powerback.
    Cons: Getting the Legend on is a task.
    Grade: A (on the cusp of A+)
     

    FUNKITA APEX STEALTH ($310)
    Size 28 (open & closed back)

    Size/Fit
    Funkita is an Australian company that is best known for their colorful swimwear, activewear and underwear. This is their first-ever technical racing suit and they designed not only an open back option, but also a closed back race suit. The Apex Stealth in the open version fit very well, but I would have preferred a size 26 in the closed back option. I could have used a smaller size in the closed back suit because the material covering the back is a thinner single layer of fabric with more give. The Apex Stealth material reminds me a lot of a marriage between last year’s Carbon Air and the TYR Avictor. It is thinner like the Carbon Air yet more compressive like the TYR Avictor. Getting into the open back was no problem, but putting on the closed back is a little trickier because you have to be careful when tugging at the thinner fabric. Both suits have great length in the legs and a very comfortable back and shoulder strap design. There is one feature of the Apex Stealth I really dislike and it is the uncomfortable midsection seam found in both suits. The midsection seam runs horizontally across the body just below the belly button but above the hips. It is not only unflattering by creating a sort of muffin top effect, but it also cuts into your stomach after wearing the suit for longer periods of time.

    Material
    The Apex Stealth in the open back version is double lined throughout the body, but just single lined in the legs. This double lining gives you the desired compression throughout the suit, while the single lined legs allow for a little more freedom of movement. The closed back suit is single lined throughout the midsection and the back to again give you a little extra flexibility while swimming, yet covering more of your body with the high tech fabric. Funkita has designed a fabric with a “gridlocking” technology in order to provide swimmers with maximum compression. Funkita did a great job treating their fabric with a high-quality hydrophobic spray. Both suits had water beading off of the material after multiple wear tests. 

    Performance
    Both of the Apex Stealth suits performed very well in the water. The gridlocking fabric helped me to feel water resistance and compression while swimming fast, but I did have some unwanted water flowing in and out of the front of the closed back suit because it was a size too big. On the other hand I felt especially hydrodynamic while swimming butterfly and breaststroke simply because the material fully covered my back.

    Summary
    Pros: Funkita’s first ever tech suit offers swimmers a great closed back suit option.
    Cons: The midsection seam; fix that and this suit would hit that A- range.
    Grade: B+
     

    JAKED JKEEL ($292)
    Size 26

    Size/Fit
    The Jaked JKeel was another tough suit to get on because of its sturdy fabric. It took me some time to get it over my hips, but from there it was no problem. I am glad that the Jaked reps suggested I go down one size in the JKeel because the size 26 suit fit me extremely well, but take note: this is definitely a more compressive suit. The JKeel’s long leg cut combined with their new three seam glute construction really helped the suit to hug and compress my lower body. The three seams start at the base of the low back and run vertically down the suit. Two of the seams run down the center of the hamstrings and the other over the butt. Jaked has also created a new sort of rubber shoulder and back strap connector that is very durable and very comfortable. I had plenty of flexibility in my back and shoulders in and out of the pool.

    Unfortunately, on the front of the suit there is a seam where the shoulder strap material is bonded to the JKeel fabric that sits right on top of my collarbone and irritated my skin. It’s kind of rough to the touch so swimming in it for long periods of time gave me an old school, “rubby.” The double fabric lining throughout the chest created an awesome feeling of compression and the single fabric lining over the ribs and belly gave me the added stretch to breathe and rotate while racing. The only other con to this suit is the midsection seam: it is tight, uncomfortable and unflattering.

    Material
    You can always expect great high quality fabric from Jaked and the JKeel is no exception. The JKeel fabric is well-treated with a high quality hydrophobic coating that showed sheen underwater and tons of beading water once I jumped out of the pool. The suit’s fabric is very durable which makes it more time consuming to put on, but means that the suit will last for more than just one swim meet.     

    Performance
    Diving in the pool I felt very secured and buoyant because of the compressive fabric and the three-seam glute design. My hips felt lifted and I felt like I was swimming right on top of the water. I loved swimming all four strokes in this suit because the JKeel design didn’t constrict any of my movements throughout my hips, shoulders or my back.

    Summary
    Pros: The high quality, durable fabric and the new glute seams were perfectly compressive, yet made me feel extra buoyant while swimming.
    Cons: The unfortunate midsection seam and the shoulder seams on the front of the suit that rubbed on my collarbones.
    Grade: A
     

    FINIS FUSE ($169.99)
    Size 28

    Size/Fit
    The Fuse was a breeze to get on with its more stretchy fabric and flexible compression. To me, this suit seemed like a combination of the Blueseventy NeroFit and the Carbon Air, two lower cost elite suits relatively speaking. Think comfort over compression for a more versatile fitting suit. The Fuse fit me really nicely and was super-comfortable, but I could easily go down a size in this suit. I could wear the Fuse for an all day swim meet because of the awesome back and shoulder strap construction. It has the perfect amount of tension so that water doesn’t seep in the suit while you are racing, but is flexible enough to not strain any of your muscles while you are waiting on an event. The downside to the fit of the Fuse is that the legs of the suit were quite short on me and cut into my muscles about mid-quad and hamstring. So going down a size in the suit would most likely make the legs even a bit shorter.

    Material
    FINIS has chosen a really cool fabric for the Fuse. Not only is it very comfortable and fast but it also has a UVA and UVB protective layer built in to the fabric. This unique textile is a major plus for any outdoor swim meets. Not only can you wear a tech suit, but you can have piece of mind that you are protecting your skin from the suns harmful rays.   

    Performance
    The Fuse has fully bonded seams, which helped me to feel secure while swimming in the suit. It performed well in every stroke and especially on the starts and turns because of its more flexible fabric. The suit was treated with a hydrophobic coating, but it didn’t show as much of the beading water effect after several wear-tests.  If you factor in the price, I could even consider this an A- but keeping price out of the equation, it’s a solid B+, a good grade for this general price point.

    Summary
    Pros: The back and shoulder strap construction along with UVA and UVB protective textile makes the Fuse the perfect summer swim meet tech suit.
    Cons: The short fit of the legs became uncomfortable around my quads and hamstrings after wearing the suit for a longer period of time.
    Grade: B+

     

    View the 2015 Tech Suit Review here 

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