Choosing Swimming Goggles For Triathlon

Choosing Swimming Goggles For Triathlon

Do you actually need swimming goggles for a triathlon?

The easy answer here is yes. Goggles are absolutely essential for several reasons. First, because sighting is essential in triathlon. In order to be able to open your eyes fully and see where you are and what’s ahead, goggles are a must.

Secondly, they keep water out of the way (obviously).

They also keep out:

  • Salt
  • Chlorine
  • Bacteria

All of these are at the very least irritating, something you don’t want when you are racing.

Perhaps even more importantly, they also keep out objects. When you’re in the scrum of a triathlon, you may find your goggles knocked by an erratic elbow or foot. Better your goggles than your actual eye, is what we say!

Also, open water may contain sea or pond weeds, stirred-up sand, the Loch Ness Monster… Who knows?

So here’s a few tips on finding the right pair.

Goggle Fit


swimming goggles secure fit

Getting the fit right is key. Open water starts can be notoriously pushy. Goggles that aren’t firmly in place may get knocked out of place. Sandwiching your goggles between two swim caps is one way to keep them secure. Making sure you’ve got robust goggles that are a snug fit is another.

You could even get them custom-fitted. The Magic5 scans your face using an app and creates a set of goggles contoured to your features starting from £53. That’s pretty much on a level, price-wise, with buying a high-spec pair of goggles without the guaranteed fit.

Look At It Through The Lens

swimming goggle lenses

Choosing the best lenses for swim conditions is also important. Where and when you’re swimming will affect this decision. If you’re a keen triathlon competitor, you’ll probably want a few different pairs, depending on race day conditions.

Some things to consider:

  • Is it sunny or cloudy?
  • Early morning, afternoon, or late evening?
  • Whether or not it’s indoors our outdoors

You can find goggles with a combination of features. Or you may want a few different pairs to swap depending on race day conditions.

  • UV protection
  • Mirrored or smoked
  • Polarised

Surprisingly, whether you’re swimming in chlorinated water, freshwater or salt water isn’t going to matter that much to which goggles you choose. All goggles need to be rinsed after use to protect any coatings they have (such as anti-fog). Rinsing also helps to maintain gasket and strap elasticity, as salt and chemicals can degrade these materials over time.

If you’ll be swimming outdoors, you need to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Not all goggles have UV protective coatings, so be sure to check. If it is bright sunshine out, then you need to also shade your eyes. Mirrored or smoked lenses help provide shade. Mirror coatings do that by reflecting light away and smoked lenses simply create a darker view. Keep in mind, if you’re swimming along a shady lake shore, you may find these types of lenses too dark.

In early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, watch out for extreme glare on the water. Polarised lenses can help. Polarisation is a coating that bounces the worst of the glaring light away while allowing other light through.

If it’s very early morning, before the sun is up, or even the middle of the night, you should probably opt for clear lenses for full visibility.

In The Pool

indoor triathlon swimming

Some triathlons have their swim section in a pool rather than in open water. If that’s the case, your choice of goggles depends on the facility where you’ll be swimming.

  • Brightly lit or an outdoor pool: polarised and/or mirrored or smoked lenses will still be a good choice.
  • Relatively dark: fog-resistant pool goggles with anti-glare or high-contrast coloured lenses may be a better option.

Mirrored and smoked lenses may be too dark for a dimly lit indoor space. It will be a challenge to see what’s going on. Some people claim that there’s a psychological advantage to mirrored goggles. That might be true. But you’re probably better off focusing on your own vision than on trying to get inside the head of the person next to you.

Instead, think about what your weak spot is visually:

  • Sighting on the surface – Reflections on the surface of the water are distracting or make it difficult to see what’s ahead or to the side. In this case, try blue lenses. They counteract glare.
  • Sighting under the water – You have trouble making out the lane lines or seeing other swimmers underwater. If this is the case, consider red, pink or amber lenses. They will provide higher contrast in the water, making lines and objects stand out more clearly.

Get Ready!

Whatever goggles you opt for, make sure you get some practice in with them before you hit competition time. Some good training workouts to put them through their paces will give you a confidence boost before the big day. It will also ensure you’ve got all the little adjustments made so there’s no chance of leaks.

It may sound obvious, but practice putting them on exactly how you’ll put them on for your race, especially if that includes double-capping. The last thing you want is for your goggles to start sliding or to get knocked off straight out of the gate.

Okay, ready to start your triathlon journey? Book a session with one of our coaches for one-to-one support through your training.

Want to up your game? We can provide personalised lessons on improving technique or give bespoke tailored swimming plans to get the best out of your next race. Get in touch!

by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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