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No, you are not a genetic freak. Yes, the right goggles are out there. You just have to know how to look for them.
The first ad for swim goggles appeared in Swimming World Magazine in 1968. Something akin to today’s Swedish goggles, the “clear-view swimming glasses” were hard plastic cups that suctioned into eye sockets to protect against chlorine irritation and improve sight underwater. Two years later, goggles made their competition debut and were soon hailed as “one of the greatest transformational technological advances in the history of the sport,” writes the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
But they won’t transform anything for you if they don’t fit right. Luckily, design and materials have revolutionized the must-have accessory so every face, no matter how funky you think yours is, can enjoy a leak-less, clear-view swim. We asked goggle savant, aquathlon champ and retired pro triathlete Sara McLarty, who was one of the fastest swimmers on the ITU circuit, how to find the perfect pair.
Grab your friends’ goggles.
“Try your friends’ goggles on at swim practice. Be that weirdo,” McLarty says. That way you’ll get a great, hassle-free idea of how they perform in the pool or open water—and of how comfortable they are. There’s a caveat: Gaskets can get leaky if the goggles are old.
Check for suction.
If you have access to a store that lets you take goggles out of their containers, push them onto your face. “Can they just sit there for a couple seconds with their own suction before they just fall off? They don’t have to stay there all day, but they shouldn’t fall right back off into your hand. That’s the super simple way to tell if they’re shaped for your face, and the right angle for your face,” McLarty says. You don’t want to cinch them down to make the suction active, or you’ll get a headache—quick.
Try a mask.
“Newer swimmers tend to be much more comfortable with mask-type goggles, not the in-your-socket kind of goggles,” McLarty says. “They’ll want something with a wider, bigger gasket that sits a little bit more on your cheekbone.” Aqua Sphere invented the first swim mask in 1998. Today, the company’s Vista, Seal 2 and Seal XP2s all feature a wide, distortion-free field of vision thanks to curved lenses that keep the peripheral view clear—and soft silicone gaskets for max comfort.
Go for swappable nose pieces.
“Often the fit doesn’t have to do with head size or face size—sometimes it’s how far apart your eyes are,” McLarty says. “And sometimes goggles fit your eyes, but they don’t adjust and are a centimeter too wide for your face. So if you’re going to order goggles and don’t have the opportunity to try them on beforehand, look for ones that have interchangeable nose pieces.” Many open water goggles don’t offer this feature but luckily, some of them do come in multiple sizes. Aqua Sphere’s Kayenne, Kaiman, and Kaiman EXO goggles come in small or lady fit, which run slightly smaller than the regular fit size. Perfect for those with smaller face sizes.
Get a good return policy.
If you’re buying online, or in a store for that matter, check the return policy. A 30-day money-back guarantee means if you spring a leak, you’re not stuck with it. Some gear companies and tri shops alike offer generous return policies: Trisports.com has a 90-day policy, while Aqua Sphere will let you try their goggles for 30 days.
Don’t be stingy.
“It’s not like you’re trying out different $4,000 bikes, so it’s not going to break your bank to find what fits.” If you have to buy two—or three!—pairs of goggles to find your Cinderella moment, it’s gonna be OK.
Don’t expect perfection, but you can get pretty close.
Goggles work with a bit of suction—a feeling that can take some getting used to. “There is no magical goggle that feels like you’re putting cucumber slices on there,” McLarty says.
Replace them every three months.
When you do find your favorite goggles—and they start leaking, fogging or are getting tough to see out of—it’s not because you need a different type of goggle. “You should replace your goggles every two to three months,” McLarty says. Especially if you tend to swim with eye makeup on. “That can cause build-up and make them a cloudy mess.” And if you’ve got an A race coming up, grab a new pair and swim in them a few times before the big event so you’ll have nice, crisp, leak-free vision. “It’s not a new bike!” McLarty says. “You can always grab a new pair.”
Aqua Sphere was founded in 1998 in Genoa, Italy with a single goal: to create the most comfortable, best-performing eyewear for swimming. To this day, the company remains at the forefront of goggle innovation by working with the world’s best swimmers, including Michael Phelps and Ironman World Champion Faris al Sultan, to better this essential piece of gear through breakthroughs in materials and design. All of Aqua Sphere’s goggles are made in the company’s own Italian facility, ensuring the cutting-edge designs maintain their integrity throughout the manufacturing process.