How to Choose the Right Pair of Goggles for Open Water and Triathlon Swimming

Goggles are probably the most important piece of swimming equipment that you will ever buy.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of goggle options out there, so how do you know how to pick the right pair?


Everyone’s face is shaped a little different and different goggles will fit some faces better than others.  You will need to try on several pairs of goggles to find a pair that fit the shape of your face.

The best advice on picking a pair of goggles is to press them to your face (without putting on the strap).  Goggles that fit well will suction to your eye sockets momentarily before falling off.  If the goggles immediately fall from your face, you know you have a pair that does not fit well and are likely to leak.

Many goggles will come with interchangeable or adjustable nose pieces that you can use to fine tune the fit of the goggles.


Going along with getting the right fit, your goggles should be comfortable.  Some goggles have no padding whatsoever while others have varying levels of rubber, silicone or foam padding.  Again, trying on several pairs will allow you to find the goggles that are most comfortable for you.


There are many different styles of goggles to choose from.  Everything from minimalist pool racing goggles to goggle/mask hybrids.  Each type of goggle has its own pro’s and con’s.  Think about what types of events you will be doing and how much time you will be spending in the pool as opposed to the open water.
  • Racing Goggles - These goggles are typically “low profile”, meaning that they do not stick out very far from your face.  The reason for this is that they are designed primarily for pool swimming and racing where aerodynamics are more important.  Higher profile goggles are more likely to come off when diving into the pool and pushing off the wall on turns.  Because they have a low profile, they tend to reduce your vision to only be able to see what is directly in front of you.  These goggles generally have little to no padding and may be uncomfortable for long distance swimming.  Speedo, TYR, Nike all have lines of racing specific goggles.
  • Triathlon / Open Water Goggles - These goggles are designed specifically for open water and triathlon swimming.  They typically have a higher profile than racing goggles, but lower than hybrids.  Because they have a higher profile, they can allow you to see more of what is going on around you, which is more important in open water swimming.  BlueSeventy and Aqua Sphere have lines of open water and triathlon goggles.
  • Goggle / Mask Hybrids - These hybrid goggles are relatively new on the market.  They are a cross between goggles and a mask that you would wear snorkeling.  They typically have a higher profile that triathlon / open water goggles and allow for even greater visibility.  My experience with hybrids has been that it is hard to find a pair that fits me right.  Be sure to try on several pairs to make sure that they fit well and will not leak. Aqua Sphere has a line of hybrids.

Two Straps are Better Than One

Losing your goggles on race day is a fear shared by many triathletes and open water swimmers.  Choosing a pair of goggles with two straps can help you to keep them on.  Positioning one strap higher on your head and the other strap lower can increase your chances of keeping you goggles on.  Experiment with where to place the straps so that you get a fit that is comfortable for you.  If you are really worried about losing your goggles, try putting them on underneath your cap.

Colored Lenses

In a previous post I talked about choosing different colored goggle lenses depending on the weather conditions.  Here is a summary of that post:
  • Black/Gray/Smoke - These darker lenses are good for bright, sunny weather. Dark lenses dim the bright sunlight so that you are not blinded when you take a breath or sight.  They can also reduce the glare on the water’s surface.
  • Blue - Blue lenses can be helpful in foggy weather.
  • Clear - Clear lenses are best for swimming in the evening or early morning when it is dark
  • Yellow - Yellow lenses work best in foggy, hazy conditions. They increase clarity even in dense fog.
  • Red - Red lenses increase contrast and brighten cloudy, dreary days.


Many goggles will be pre-treated with an anti-fog solution that will help to keep your goggles from fogging up.  This treatment will eventually wear off, but there are several anti-fog treatments out there (some that you can even get a free sample of).  I have used different anti-fog products with varying degrees of success.  Although it sounds kind of gross, licking you goggles works wonders for keeping them fog free (and it’s free).


Goggles typically range from about $5 to $30 but can get up to as high as $100 if you need prescription or carbon fiber goggles.  It’s worth paying a little extra for goggles that fit well and are comfortable.

With so many options, choosing a pair of goggle can be a little overwhelming.  The most important thing in choosing a pair of goggles is that you get the right fit and that they are comfortable.  Having a pair of goggle that don't leak is much more important that the style or color of the lenses.

Do you have a pair of goggles that you can't live without?  Leave us a comment and tell us about them.

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