We’ve all been there (right?): It’s your first year as a triathlete and someone convinces you to join a masters swim or meet them for a swim at lunch. You show up ready to go on the pool deck, your friend comes out of the locker room, and a look of shock moves across his or her face. “What are you wearing?” they’ll ask. The answer, of course, is a pair of running shorts or boardshorts, or (somehow) even basketball shorts. If you’re a lady, it could be that fun bikini you bought for the trip down to Cabo. None of these things are appropriate for a masters swim (or really any swimming at all). None of these things are even remotely the best swimsuit for a triathlete. You can do better.
The big difference between the best swimsuit for a swimmer and the best swimsuit for a triathlete isn’t really that big. Triathletes have one advantage over someone who might be racing in a swim meet—triathletes almost never race in a swimsuit, so hydrodynamics are less important as you’ll only be training in it. We’ll talk more about the different types of suits below, but the biggest keys are getting something that doesn’t slow you down to a ridiculous degree (boardshorts, I’m looking at you), come off (bikini…), or fall apart. The best swimsuit for a triathlete is going to be a workhorse that simply does the job day in day out, and (maybe) shows a little bit of your personality in the process.
Let’s take a look at a few things that you should look for when trying to find the best swimsuit for you:
Right up front, this is a big one for both men and women. Multisporter men with swimmer backgrounds may feel that the best swimsuit for a triathlete is the traditional “Speedo” or brief. They’re not necessarily wrong, as a good swim brief packs down to nothing, dries quickly, and can even be worn under cycling shorts for a quick brick transition out to a ride with minimal consequences. The downside, of course, is not all triathletes want to show that much skin, and if you’re not yet in the “shaving your legs” club, things could get…hairy. If this is you, look for a jammer or something like a square-leg brief with at least some leg coverage.
For women, the new trend is the high-cut swimsuit that shows a whole lot of thigh. While these are fun and sporty, they definitely require some constant personal maintenance that not every triathlady is willing to perform. And you’ll likely be pulling on the suit halfway through your 4k long interval set. Also, for ladies, you’ll sometimes be faced with a choice of “racerback” or not—while a racerback looks great, if you’re swimming outside most of the time, don’t forget about extra sun exposure. As triathletes, we’re already pretty sun-dipped compared to singlesporters.
Ladies Only (Advice from Triathlete’s resident swim-expert, managing editor Emma-Kate Lidbury)
You also want to think about the straps of your suit—this is where personal preference often comes into play. Some women love the single-strap style suits, which only have thin straps designed to ensure your shoulders never feel restricted (vanity note: These are also best if you’re swimming outdoors and looking to avoid ridiculous tan lines. If not, our apologies, and continue to embrace your sun tattoos). Other suits have sturdier shoulder straps—like the diamond back style, which typically have thicker straps and more material through the back. This style is usually preferable for women looking for more coverage.
Pretty much every brand has their own special swimsuit material that makes theirs the best. The most important thing is making sure the suit you buy isn’t a “race-day” or “tech” suit (you’ll know because it’ll be VERY expensive) that won’t stand up to the rigors of chlorine abuse and being wadded up in a ball for days in your bag. If a brand has a different version of the same suit with a special “durability material,” buy it, even if it’s more expensive. Even if you don’t swim as much as a swimmer-only, you’ll likely be mistreating your suit worse than a swimmer might. For women, avoid nylon blends that you’ll find more often in “fashion suits.” Though they’ll feel better off the rack or on deck, a nylon suit won’t stand up nearly as well to chlorine, sun, and motion. Look for a blend of polyester instead.
This may seem obvious, but it’s important. Buy a suit that’s too big, and you’ll be flapping in the water—you can literally feel the material rippling along your body as you swim. Buy it too small, and you may get the initial illusion of it being “faster” and more form fitting, but a suit that’s too small will stretch quickly—destroying the fabric and wearing out very fast. Buy it wayyyy too small, and you’ll look like two pounds of sausage in one pound of sausage casing. The best swimsuit for a triathlete should feel just tight enough where you can’t see any wrinkles in the suit, but not so tight that your skin is noticeably compressed near the seams. When your suit starts to feel baggy, that’s when it’s time to get a new one.
Now that you know what to look for, check out some of our top picks:
Best Swimsuit for Triathletes Who Crave Durability
Nike Hydrastrong Line
$52 (men’s jammer), $64-70 (women’s line); Nike.com
This new offering from Nike is entirely focused on fighting chlorine and salt water. While not exactly a cheap suit, the Hydrastrong line ticks off all of the boxes for a great suit that will last a long time: fade resistant, heat resistant, chlorine resistant, and more. Though a slightly thicker material than other suits, the fact that this specially designed material resists water absorption better than thinner ones allows it not to feel bulky while swimming. Spend a few extra bucks, and you’ll have a great suit for a long time.
Best Swimsuit for (Lady) Triathletes
Funkita Flamingo Flood
Editors love this one piece with a v-shaped (and strappy) back. Using 100% polyester C-Infinity fabric for durability, the Flamingo Flood is exactly the type of long-lasting swimsuit triathletes should be using. Featuring a full-front lining, expect this suit to outlast other thinner, stretchier models.
Best Swimsuit for Triathletes Looking to Stand Out
Amanzi Men’s Kosaki Jammer
$50 (men’s), $65-85 (women’s); Amanziswimwear.com
Ok, so this suit is alllll about the flash. While it does boast a chlorine-resistant polyester that will likely last a while, you’re buying this suit (or any of Amanzi’s crazy designs) because you want to show some personality on the pool deck. Check out a few of this brand’s designs and pick the one that speaks to you. Amanzi also makes some eye-popping ladies’ suits that are just as attention-grabbing, but a little less…scary.
Best Swimsuit for Triathletes Looking to Save Some $$
iSwim Essential Solid Brief Swimsuit
You won’t find a swimsuit cheaper than this. iSwim is a budget brand that allows you to purchase three suits for the price of one regular brief. Despite the price, this low-coverage suit is still constructed with flatlock seams and chlorine resistant fabric. Big bonus: It comes in five solid colors and is often on sale for even less than $12.