Prescription Goggles For Triathletes

For as little as $25, prescription goggles let you see who (and what) you’re passing.

Photo: John David Becker

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Prescription goggles let you see who (and what) you’re passing.

What’s keeping you from seeing the clock at practice and the buoys on race day? If you’re like many triathletes, you don’t even know prescription swim goggles exist—or assume they’re prohibitively expensive.

Fortunately, more than a dozen companies make and sell them (many on Swim Outlet are available in the $20 to $65 price range), and they’re available in strengths starting at “I’d really like to see the pace clock/my watch more clearly” to “There’s a clock at Swim In?”

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If you want your exact prescription, you can get custom goggles (see below). The more common (and cheaper) way to go is with “optical” goggles—off-the-shelf products that approximate your prescription. Why haven’t you noticed them? “It’s a challenge for retailers to carry them,” says Craig Stiff, senior director of hard goods at Speedo USA, due to the huge inventory of strengths they’d need to stock. That generally means you can’t try before you buy (unless the ones you’re considering have a non-corrective model you can check out in a store). But you can get closer to what you want with these strategies:

Consult your optician first. There’s usually a little bit of guesstimation involved, since the off-the-shelf products come in half-step increments (e.g. -2.5, -3, -3.5) and your Rx may be in between, so ask your optician what he or she would recommend for you. “In general, it’s better to undercorrect than overcorrect,” says Rob Tavakoli, a certified optician at SportRx. “Otherwise, you may end up with eyestrain and headaches.”

Opt for adjustable nosepieces. If you have a hard time finding any type of goggles you like, order a pair that’s as adjustable as possible. Sounds obvious, but not every optical pair comes with a changeable nosepiece.

Look for indies. If your eyes are vastly different in prescription, you can either order two pairs and swap the lenses, or order from a company that allows you to purchase lenses individually.

Consider custom. Off-the-shelf goggles can’t correct for astigmatism, so if yours is severe, you may want custom goggles, suggests Tavakoli. The RecSpecs Shark swim goggle from SportRx, for instance, starts at $140 and goes up depending on how complicated your prescription is and how fancy you want the lenses to be—you can even get progressive lenses and prisms in them. You may also need to go custom if your prescription is especially strong, since off-the-shelf products generally only go to -8; some go to -10.

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