Choosing Swimming Goggles

January 22, 2024

Choosing Swimming Goggles
Table of Contents

You’ve probably experienced hopping into the pool for a workout, only to have your goggles fill up with water. Or, maybe you’ve suffered through a whole workout with painful goggles feeling like there’s an octopus tentacle suctioned to your eyes.

If you walk away from the pool with bloodshot eyes or goggle rings around your sockets, it’s time to do something about it! This guide is full of helpful advice for you to consider while picking out a new pair of goggles.

Types of Goggles

The first thing you should do is think about what type of swimming you’re doing. All goggles have different purposes. Here’s a brief explanation of the intended purpose of the various types of goggles available for purchase:


Competition Goggles

Competition goggles are generally low profile, technical, and fit close to the eye socket. The close proximity to the socket reduces drag, making you more hydrodynamic. They’re meant for racing and can be uncomfortable if used every day, although many swimmers do practice in them.


Practice Goggles

Meant for everyday use, practice goggles are less technical than competition goggles. Even so, the goggles are well-made and high quality. Since they’re meant to be worn more frequently and for longer durations than competition goggles, they’re generally more comfortable. They usually have more gasket rubber. This softens the pressure against your eyes while creating a good seal.


Recreational Goggles

Although cheaper and fairly comfortable, recreational goggles are not great for long swimming excursions. The anti-fog film on the inside of the lenses— if they have any — tends to wear off quickly.

Swimming with foggy goggles can be irritating, not to mention dangerous! Low visibility can lead to colliding with other swimmers, bumping your head on the wall, or banging into the lane rope. Still, these goggles are fine for those looking to save money and aren’t expecting to swim for long durations.


Swim Masks

Designed for scuba diving and snorkeling, swim masks are much larger than other goggles. Because most swim masks are soft and comfortable, some recreational swimmers prefer these goggles. The clunky and heavy design of swim masks doesn’t make them the most ideal goggle for swimming laps, though.



Open Water Goggles

Swimming in lakes and oceans is very different from swimming in a pool. As open water swimmers and triathletes can attest, seeing and sighting when in open water is much more difficult than in a controlled, pool environment. Open water goggles typically come with increased peripheral vision, comfortable straps and gaskets, and light or clear lenses making lake/ocean swims safer and more enjoyable. 


Types of Lenses

Not only is it important to browse the types of goggles, it’s equally important to consider the types of lenses. There are all sorts of different colors and functions. Mostly, you need to think about the light around you. Consider whether you want to block light or let light in. Here’s a list of the assortment of lenses you’ll come across on your goggle hunt:

Metallic Lenses

“Metallic,” or mirrored, lenses are dark-tinted outdoor lenses best suited for either frequent use or competition. If you swim at noon practice every day, or have a big swim meet coming up, you might consider these goggles. Also, if you swim a lot of backstroke in an outdoor pool, metallic lenses may be the best choice.

If you wear metallic lenses when it is dark out, or while swimming indoors, your visibility will be very limited. The dark tint combined with the mirrored lenses dims everything around you. Therefore, these lenses are not recommended for poorly-lit pools.

Clear Lenses

Clear lenses let the maximum amount of light through. Since open water is usually much darker and more opaque than a clean, well-lit pool, open water swimmers may want to look for clear or lightly-tinted goggle lenses. If swimming in bright sunlight, it is certainly acceptable to opt for a mirrored lens or lenses with UV protection to reduce glare.

Light Colored Lenses

If you swim indoors or early in the morning, light-colored lenses work best. This allows you to see more. Orange lenses cause everything around you to appear brighter, enhancing visibility in the water. Other light colors — such as pink, purple, and green — can also brighten up the pool around you, although not as well as orange lenses.

Keep in mind that lighter lenses don’t work as well in bright places. If you swim outdoors during the day, you’ll be squinting in the bright light.

Dark Colored Lenses

If you want versatile goggles, black or blue lenses are a good pick. These lenses don’t block the sun as well as metallic lenses, nor do they make the water look lighter. But they are fine for cloudy days, a casual swim, and indoor pools that are well-lit.


Hot Tip: Buy Multiple Pairs

In case your goggles break, it’s always good to have a back-up pair in your bag. If you compete, you might want to get two pairs of goggles that fit differently. Your eyes will feel better if you have a looser fitting pair for practice, and save your tighter, more hydrodynamic pair for competition.



The best way to tell which goggles are best for you is to simply try them on. Think about how they feel. If you are going to practice in them for more than a half hour every day, you’ll want as comfortable goggles as possible. There’s nothing worse than having uncomfortable goggles during a main set!

When you try on a pair, imagine wearing them for a long period of time. If you wear an uncomfortable pair, they will only hurt more the longer you swim. You don’t want to get discouraged because of the painful pair of goggles you’re wearing.


The most important part about the right fit is how the goggles shape to your eye socket. If they don’t suction on, they can leak or fall off. Make sure there are no gaps in the gasket where the goggle touches your face.

Keep in mind that some competition goggles do not suction on. Swedish goggles, for example, do not have any gasket rubber. Instead of suctioning on, they create a seal with your eye socket. Still, they need to fit into your eye socket to be secure. With this type of goggle, make sure you wear them tight enough to stay in place.

Open water swimmers swim for extended periods of time — often hours straight — without stopping. For that reason, it is important for their goggles to have comfortable gaskets and seals. Stopping to adjust goggles isn't as convenient in the open water as it is in a pool. Goggles with soft silicone or rubber seals will distribute pressure over a wider area for a gentler fit. The soft material also provides the most cushioned seal and extended comfort.

Remember that the strap can greatly affect the fit as well. Before getting too frustrated with a pair of goggles, try adjusting the strap.

Just as goggles lenses should be comfortable for long periods of time, so should goggle straps. Look for wide split or dual straps that will distribute pressure evenly across your head while holding the goggles in place. Single straps tend to be less comfortable after hours in the water, and are more easily moved out of place.


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 can influence the functionality of the goggles. For instance, wearing a high profile goggle (i.e., they stick out from your face), they are more likely to leak and/or fall off upon entry into the water during a start. However, not every swim starts with a dive. Thus, you could chose different profiles for different purposes (i.e., racing vs. training).

Hot Tip: Browse the Aisles

If you’re having trouble finding a pair that fits, take a look at goggles that aren’t marketed toward you. Many women with small eye sockets find that kids’ goggles fit better. These goggles work just as well, and often times are identical to adult-sized goggles — they’re just smaller. Other ideas: For women with larger sockets, look for men’s goggles. For men with smaller sockets, shop for women’s goggles. Don’t limit your options based on packaging.



Find Your Pair

Now that you’re full of goggle knowledge, you should be ready to find the right pair of goggles for your needs! Comfort, fit, and clarity -- not looks -- should always be priorities when it comes to choosing goggles. Every swimmer has different needs so always consider your swimming environment when choosing the perfect pair!

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