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The evolution of open-water swim goggles has been more subtle than running shoes and aero helmets, but the difference is clear—clear vision that is. The days of wearing scuba masks for open-water swimming are behind us, and today’s 2020 goggle line-up includes some great open-water options from the industry’s top open-water brands. Innovations like curved lenses and hard-coated plastics allow for the goggles we review to boast comfort, durability, and superior peripheral vision in a low profile that rivals the goggles used by their pool-focused competitors.
With pools currently closed throughout the U.S., this is a time to put goggles through the open-water ringer, testing them in rough water with the sun on the horizon. We also tested durability by leaving them sandy and covered in salt water in a bag that we took for a run to simulate the reality of the post-race gear treatment when we grab, shove, and head home. We then retested the goggles to see how their lenses stood up to the sand and salt.
Each pair below is rated on lens clarity, visual field, glare reduction, fit and adjustability, and durability on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.
2020 Goggle Reviews: Roka R1
Lens Tested: Dark Vermillion Mirror
Lens Clarity: 5/5
Visual Field: 5/5
Glare Reduction: 4/5
Fit and Adjustability: 3/5
TL;DR: This pair of Roka R1s has the best balance of glare reduction. They have a low profile with enough cushion to fit comfortably and prevent leaking. The lenses have a high-quality look and feel that withstood my sand-blasting and still prevented fogging.
I have been a fan of Roka goggles since I first tried them a year ago, particularly the R1—which sits in the middle of their lens size range between the F1 and X1, which are meant for pool competition and comfort, respectively. The R1 is a goggle that feels equally suited to training in a pool and racing in open water. The lenses have the quality materials you expect from a company that also manufactures some of the best sunglasses we’ve tested. Racing into the setting sun, I had no problem seeing the texture of the waves crashing toward me. Duck diving through overhead surf, these open-water goggles never leaked or felt displaced. With the goggles on, there is almost no frame visible. The curvature of the lenses allows for clear vision straight ahead, up, down and sideways without blurring.
The only complaint with these lenses is a lack of adjustability in the nose piece. I also experienced some cracking along the nose bridge in the pair I was testing, though this has never occured in my personal use of the same model and could be an anomaly.
Bottom Line: If these goggles fit you, then your search is done.
2020 Goggle Reviews: Nike Vapor Mirror
Lens Tested: Black/Silver
Lense Clarity: 4/5
Visual Field: 4/5
Glare Reduction: 5/5
Fit and Adjustability: 5/5
TL;DR: Excellent glare reduction and durability with the lowest profile of the open-water goggles tested. An adjustable nose piece ensures a proper fit for most people. The only drawbacks were in visual field and clarity of the lenses, which ranked slightly lower than the Roka R1.
I was pleasantly surprised by these. I tried them first, then again at the end of my testing to validate my surprise. It makes sense that a leader in sportswear would be able to create a great pair of swim goggles, but Nike has never been able to compete in the pool with dedicated swim brands like Speedo and TYR. The Vapor Mirror is a welcome exception.
The lenses felt thicker than the other goggles tested, and held up wonderfully to the abuse I put them through. The anti-fog coating worked well, even after they had been blasted with sand and salt water and tested once I was already sweating. The dark goggles blocked the glare of the setting sun completely, but unfortunately the black/silver lenses were far too dark for open-water swimming. Even on a bright day they felt dark, and once my head was in the waves everything went black.
They fit perfectly, but I was happy to see a replaceable nose piece, making them adjustable to different face widths. The low profile feels and looks fast, and these are the most fashionable of the open-water goggles I tested. Unfortunately, this also resulted in the black rubber frame enclosing slightly on my visual field—the side vision was also slightly blurry through the curved portion of the lense.
Bottom Line: With an adjustable nose piece and high-end lenses, these goggles had only minor drawbacks. They are an excellent option for both durability and glare reduction, but I do recommend getting a lighter tint for open-water swimming.
2020 Goggle Reviews: Blueseventy Contour Goggle
Lens Tested: Rainbow Mirror Lense Blue Frame
Lense Clarity: 2/5
Visual Field: 2/5
Glare Reduction 2/5
Fit and Adjustability: 5/5
Blueseventy has its origins in open-water swimming, and I’ve used their goggles for training and racing. When the polarized Hydravision Goggles came out a few years ago, it was an instant favorite. Unfortunately, the Contour doesn’t hold up against the other goggles tested. The curved lenses distort vision, and the oversized gaskets severely limit visual range. While the lens material feels sturdy, the goggles fogged badly after my durability testing.
These open-water goggles do have an adjustable nose piece, and I liked the return to a simple strap adjustment from the ratchet system Blueseventy used on their Hydravision goggles. The rainbow mirror was a good combination of glare blocking and yet light enough for an early race start. While the oversized gaskets limit vision, they may help prevent leaking for anyone who struggles to get a tight seal.
Bottom Line: These curved lenses on the Contour are more form than function, and the oversized gaskets and frame seriously limit the visual field. If these are the goggles that fit you best, make sure you have baby shampoo to prevent fogging on race day.
2020 Goggle Reviews: TYR Special Ops 2.0 Transition Adult Goggles
Lens Tested: Transitions
Lense Clarity: 1/5
Visual Field: 3/5
Glare Reduction: 1/5
Fit and Adjustability: 1/5
Transition lenses sound like a great idea for open-water swimming. Swims frequently start at dawn and the sun may be glaring down by the final stretch back to land. In practice, however, I didn’t find the transition to cut glare at all, and it didn’t get dark enough for a sunny day.
TYR is several years behind on the design of these goggles. They have the largest silicon frames of any model tested, but the lenses felt a little subpar—something that was validated with my durability testing. The fog coating did not last either, which made swimming into a setting sun almost unbearable.
To make matters worse, the strap is adjusted through a ratchet system on either side of the goggles. This design has been popular due to ease of adjustment, but is prone to failure. I was happy to see Blueseventy go away from the ratchets, and equally disappointed to see TYR continue to use it. The ratchet did fail on me in the first wave I dove through—the goggles came loose and filled with water.
Bottom Line: Transition lenses sound like a great innovation in swim goggles, but the execution of these goggles for the open water was lacking in design features that matter.
2020 Goggle Reviews: Zone 3 Aspect
Lens Tested: Green Mirror
Lense Clarity: 3/5
Visual Field: 3/5
Glare Reduction: 2/5
Fit and Adjustability: 3/5
Zone3 is a relatively new entrant to the open-water swim goggle space in the U.S., and like Blueseventy they are better known for their wetsuits. With the Aspect, Zone3 chose an angular lense, rather than a curve which seemed to increase peripheral vision with less distortion than curved lenses. I liked the clear mirrored lenses for indoor swimming, and that may be where these goggles are best suited.
The mirror coating did little to reduce glare, and the goggles fogged even before I put them through sand and salt durability testing. The plastic scratched easily as well. Despite a fixed nose piece, the goggles fit well thanks to large silicone gaskets. However, the larger profile felt bulky after testing the low profile Roka and Nike offerings.
Bottom Line: Zone3 goggles show potential, but the lenses lack the quality of Nike and Roka.