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  • Jul

    Top Pull Buoys Compared: The Expert Review

    by Julie Stupp, NCAA & Olympic Trials Finalist

    Buoys by definition keep someone or something afloat. In the pool, a swim buoy is a floatation device that helps to keep a swimmer’s hips, core and legs elevated towards the surface of the water in order to help them to swim more effortlessly. Over the years, swim buoys have evolved and today they can be used in a variety of ways to help improve a swimmer’s stroke, strength and body position.

    During this month’s review, I tested pull buoys, swim buoys, kick buoys and ankle buoys. The training potential with these new and improved buoys is incredible, and it was quite fun to see and review all of the different swim buoys that are now available to athletes.

    Here’s a breakdown of some of the top buoys on the market and how these brands can help you become a better swimmer.

    FINIS AXIS BUOY ($17.29)

    The FINIS Axis Buoy is both an ankle buoy and pull buoy in one that comes in the traditional FINIS yellow and is available in both small and medium on It has dual functionality that allows you to wrap the buoy around your ankles in order to lift the lower portion of your legs, or use it like a normal swim buoy to lift your hips towards the surface of the water. The Axis buoy is made of a very soft foam that perfectly cupped my ankles keeping the buoy secured yet comfortable to wear during long swim sets. This was my first time testing an ankle buoy and it definitely helped me to focus on my core and rotation while swimming, flip turning and streamlining off the walls.

    The FINIS Axis Buoy fits its name because it helped me to hone in on my core during both the long and short axis strokes. Long axis, rotation strokes, (i.e. freestyle and backstroke) while using it as an ankle buoy and short axis strokes (butterfly and breaststroke), while using it as a swim buoy. 


    The TYR Hydrofoil is another ankle buoy that helped to elevate my lower legs in order to improve my body position in the water. The Hydrofoil is a bit bulky for my taste and is not made with as soft or grippy a material as the FINIS Axis foam when comparing the two directly. The TYR Hydrofoil provides a much greater level of floatation so if you are a swimmer or triathlete who struggles to keep your hips, legs and ankles afloat this is the perfect training tool for you. At first, I had to adjust my body position while swimming to counterbalance the high level of flotation in my lower body because the Hydrofoil is so buoyant. This is a great tool to test out and adjust your bodyline and fulcrum point in the water but a bit hard to maneuver on flip turns because the ankle holes are a little too wide.

    The TYR Hydrofoil is the most buoyant of the buoys I tested, but because it is hard to wear it lacked fluidity while training for me. Some might be looking for this extra buoyancy, though.

    SPEEDO PULL KICK ($18.74)

    The Speedo Pull Kick is another dual function buoy. It can be used as a swim buoy or a kickboard. It has a unique flat and almost rectangular shape with slight indents for the thighs and hands to grip. The Speedo Pull Kick has a middle grade buoyancy meaning it’s not going to sky rocket your hips to the surface of the water, nor will it keep you afloat like your average kickboard. This is a great training tool because, while it does help with floatation, it forces you to do a lot of the work for yourself. It is a great option for ages groupers just learning to use pull buoys in order to improve their body lines. It is also excellent for elite long distance swimmers for its dual functionality. 

    The Speedo Pull Kick is an excellent training tool with a variety of uses for every level of swimmer. It is also relatively compact, so it could be a good travel companion.


    The Arena Pullkick Pro, like the Speedo Pull Kick reviewed here, can be used as both a swim buoy and a kickboard, but it can also be used on its side to streamline kick or swim. This added function creates extra resistance while swimming or kicking therefore improving core, upper body and leg strength. One drill I really liked while using the Pullkick Pro on its side was one-arm freestyle. I was able to isolate my core and focus solely on each arm pulling through the water, while the other stayed afloat on the Pullkick. The Pullkick Pro’s unique anvil or angled shape creates a very streamlined buoy that doesn’t create a ton of extra drag while training. The Arena Pullkick Pro is the smallest buoy of the bunch and can easily be thrown into a carry-on travel bag to take to away swim meets or races. Because it is small and compact it doesn’t have the most buoyancy but it will definitely help to improve your strokes by forcing you to focus on your rotation and hip alignment.

    The Arena Pullkick pro is the only triple threat buoy that I know of allowing swimmers to improve their kicking, swimming and drilling all with one tool. I really liked that added functionality.

    ADIDAS POOL BUOY ($13.99)

    The Adidas Pool Buoy is just like a “classic” pull buoy – with the “three stripes” branding creatively added down the middle. The adidas Pool Buoy is made of a soft pliable foam that sits comfortably between your legs while training. It is the perfect size and shape for any athlete to use and it functions just like any old-school buoy allowing you to keep your hips higher in the water and focus on gaining upper body strength while swimming. It has the least amount of buoyancy of the three “classic” pull buoys I tested.

    The only twist on this classic pull buoy is the Adidas Pool Buoy’s name and the logo.


    The Funkita Pull Buoy is another “classic” style pull buoy with a slightly different shape. The Funkita Pull Buoy is rounded at the top and has an angular bottom that makes it easier to grip between your legs. One of the worst feelings as a swimmer is to be cruising along during a hard pull set and have your pull buoy slip out on a flip turn or simply in the middle of the pool. The shape of the Funkita Pull Buoy definitely helps to eliminate this problem so I do like the design variation they have made here. It has a mid-level grade of buoyancy that comfortably improves body position.

    The Funkita Pull Buoy is a great for training due to its non-slip shape. Its currently available only in black with pink lettering or the reverse.

    HUUB BIG BUOY ($24.95)

    The Huub Toy Buoy is a “classic” style buoy that is perfectly named. It offers the most amount of floatation of any of the buoys I tested. They also make the smaller, more junior-focused Huub Toy Buoy with the same design. Unfortunately for me, the Big Buoy was too much of a change it my body position and it disrupted my strokes.

    The buoyancy threw me off not only while swimming but it lifted my hips so much during the flip turns that it took me several hundred to adjust and stay underwater while turning. There are many swimmers and triathletes who struggle to keep their core, hips and lower body raised during training sessions, the Huub Big Buoy is the perfect complement to their training regimen. Or you can opt for the smaller version.

    The Huub buoy packs a big buoyancy punch that was too much for my liking but could be a great training tool for swimmers with a higher fulcrum point.

    Email Address Invalid. Please enter an email address in the format: xx@yy.zz
    3 years ago.
    The ones that wrap around your ankles are "junk" if you swim enough, they will chaff your skin and you will start to bleed, a rash, and it hurts. I bought it but just ended up using is between my legs as a leg buoy.
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