The draw: Improved body alignment
For newer swimmers who struggle in open water, the buoyancy and a neutral body alignment of the Vivid are its biggest draws. The suit put us in a neutral body position and rotation was fluid, leaving us with a smooth stroke. It was a little stiff in the shoulders starting out, but overall flexibility is good. It comes off quick, as long as you peel the top portion down immediately after exiting the water.
The draw: Easy sighting
This suit takes a bit of work to get into (we recommend wearing gloves and socks to help), and the fit is tight, but moving around a bit before hitting the water helps get it in place. In the water, testers only felt restricted when going for more distance per stroke, making this a better suit for athletes with a short stroke and high turnover rate. More buoyant in the chest than the legs, this put us in a position that made sighting easier but created some drag in the legs. The catch panels on the forearm do feel like they grab the water. This suit is one of the warmest we tested.
The draw: Flexibility
Not overly buoyant, this suit put us in a neutral position but felt more supportive as we rolled over to breathe. The extremely flexible upper and arms meant that stroke mechanics were unencumbered, especially during a bent arm pull, so those with a good high-elbow catch will appreciate this suit. We did experience some issues with water creeping in from the neck, something that we were not able to fix 100 percent. The calf-release section at the bottom made removal super fast and snag free. Best for racing in warmer conditions, the focus is on freedom of movement, not keeping you warm.
The draw: A suit for swimrun
A unique suit designed for swimrun events, the SwimRun Core has removable sleeves which stayed put for about 3,000 yards; after that, some adjusting was necessary. The front-facing zipper makes putting it on easy. A thigh pocket is designed for stowing the sleeves, though we were worried they might still slip out. We also thought this suit would work well for a sprint triathlon. Not the warmest suit, we wouldn’t take it in water less than 60 degrees; the focus is more on flexibility for comfort, and the run.
$370 and $440 (respectively), Swimoutlet.com
*Best in Class*
The draw: All-around performance, environmentally friendly
De Soto uses a limestone-based rubber, which is much more environmentally friendly than petroleum for this suit, and the unique two-piece design offers great performance. Touted as the most flexible suit of the bunch, this was especially true at key points like elbows, the chest and shoulders. Buoyancy was balanced and kept us in a good level position. This combination of buoyancy and flexibility allowed our stroke mechanics to remain unchanged. The two-piece design does not allow water in, and while removal takes some getting used to, once dialed in, it is as fast as any to peel off. Warm enough for the coldest water.
The draw: Durable performance
This sleeveless wetsuit got high marks for its buoyancy and flexibility through the hips. The spot-on fit around the shoulders kept water out while not being too tight and causing irritation. Buoyancy in the hips allowed for good rotation. Warmth is always a bit compromised with a sleeveless design, but this suit is fine above 60 degrees. We liked the ease of getting the suit on, and the ankle cutouts at the bottom made removing the suit fast and easy. It’s best for experienced swimmers who want an unimpeded stroke. Our testers also thought the suit would hold up well over time.
Blueseventy Thermal Helix
The draw: Warmth
Specifically made for swimming in cold water (Blueseventy says down to 48 degrees), the inner liner is made of a mid-weight material for increased warmth. More tailored to athletes with a slim build, pulling this suit on we found some initial tightness in the shoulders and elbows, but after a few sessions that loosens up. Balance was even, and we found our legs were able to relax or kick hard without fighting the neoprene. The elbows felt free and loose during the catch, but tightened up on the recovery. The thermal socks were a bit hard to get used to, and the drag was noticeable. As expected, this suit was the warmest one we tested, keeping us toasty in water temps down to the low 50s.
The draw: Flexible all arounder
Sizing of this suit is a bit tricky, so make sure to try it on before you buy. We experienced water coming in the suit, which made stroke mechanics difficult. However, the buoyancy was very well balanced, keeping us high in the water without a bobbing feeling. Flexibility was good throughout the suit, and rotation was great. We also liked the reverse zipper (it closes by going from the neck down) for quick removal. Warmth was adequate, leaving us to think this would perform well in a variety of temperatures.
The draw: A punchy feel for shorter strokes
Most of the buoyancy is in the upper body, which is best for athletes who lift their head a lot when they breathe. This position also makes sighting buoys much more efficient. We found this suit to be most flexible at the hips, which made for uninterrupted rotation. The chest and arms felt a little restrictive, especially on dry land, but they loosened up some in the water. Athletes who have a shorter stroke and high turnover rate, or have a sideways or straight-arm recovery will appreciate the punchy feeling. Warmth is good through a range of temperatures, and we never felt that “get me out of this suit” heat.
The draw: A wallet-friendly boost
The stealthy zebra look of the entry-level S6 is surprisingly flattering, and the durable suit performs well for the price. It features a strong seal around the wrists, easy-on-and-off legs thanks to stretch panels at the backs of the ankles, and extra buoyancy we felt most in the chest and thighs. Triathletes looking to stay warm and get a little rotational help will appreciate the S6. Those with shoulder issues might want to pony up for one with more flex in that area.
The draw: Speed for less
The Sprint swims like a much more expensive suit with a comfortable, no-leak neckline, flexible shoulders and excellent rotation. Panels of super-thin neoprene run along the backs of the arms and lats to give it a fancy, flexy feel. You’ll use a few of the extra seconds you banked in the water to get it off around your wrists and ankles, but it’s worth it for the comfort and speed typically difficult to find at this price.
The draw: Swimrun specificity
The first thing you’ll notice when you race a swimrun: You’ll want to cool off during the run without taking off your suit, so Zone3 used a front zipper. The second: Legs chafe, so Zone3 made the legs a thin 2mm to add some extra buoyancy without feeling restrictive on the run. The arms are an extremely flexible 1.5mm neoprene and zipped up, the top will keep your core toasty. It also features an enormous back pocket for fuel and whatever else you want to stuff in there. But we found this unisex suit a bit restrictive across the chest for the ladies and tough to take entirely off over the shoulders without help. Good thing swimrun uses the buddy system.
The draw: A quick escape
Born in Italy, Aqua Sphere products have a Euro-cool look about them, and this maroon-accented suit is no exception. With neutral buoyancy and stretchy 2mm sleeves, the Challenger is a good pick for swimmers who want a wetsuit for warmth, not to alter their stroke or pop them up in the water. It really shines in T1 where it sheds in seconds.
The draw: No-frills comfort
It’s tough to cut a sleeveless wetsuit right so that water doesn’t pour through the arms and drag swimmers down, but Zoot nailed it. With fun graphics and a no-leak neck and shoulders, the Force is a great entry-level suit or a solid pick for a warmer-water swim. Thick neoprene—up to 5mm in the back—will float you high in the water to help you save your legs for the rest of the race.
*Best in Class*
The draw: Insane speed
For $700, we expected the suit to swim for us, and it pretty much delivered. Our tester put this thing on and had to make a friend double-check the clock—at the end of a 3,000-yard workout, she easily swam 100 yards 17 seconds faster than she’d been going. Perfectly placed buoyancy panels make rotation a breeze, while a luxe lining and flexible shoulders make it feel like a second skin. Eleven size choices make it easy to find the perfect fit.
– Wetsuit reviews by Shaun Guest and Erin Beresini