The All Seeing Eyes………..Goggles


When I started swimming regularly again a few years ago I was constantly on the hunt for “The Goggles”. That perfect pair that didn’t leak, didn’t fog up, didn’t leave marks, didn’t squash the bridge of my nose, didn’t start to hurt after half an hour, didn’t scratch within a week of being in my bag, that I didn’t look like a complete twat in (though I have to admit I look like a twat in most goggles, so it’s not that high up there).

When I started swimming outside the situation didn’t improve.  Read any article on open water swimming kit and it’ll say you need different goggles to swim outside than in the pool. Gah, the hunt for “The Goggles” would have to start again.

In my hunt I consumed goggle reviews looking for a recommendation that this would absolutely, definitely be “The Goggles” for me. The naïve thought that someone, somewhere had designed the perfect pair of goggles that would fit anyone. One pair for the pool, another for open water.

I got sucked in by the idea that goggle reviews would be wholly unbiased and honest. Forgetting that of course the manufacturer was supplying those goggles to the writer for a reason. To get free publicity of their new product. Of course writers were going to be kind, laying heavy on the pros and easing off on the cons. Other than customer reviews I’ve never read a review that suggests who they might suit and who they might not.

Just as I discussed in Wetsuits, Wetsuits, Wetsuits. everybody’s different. People’s faces are no exception. They’re the way we tell each other apart. Even identical twins have subtle differences that make them distinguishable from their sibling. Eyes, mouth, chin, nose, hairline, forehead, ears, cheekbones. All in a slightly different size and shape and in a different position to the next person along.

It just doesn’t make sense that one single pair could meet all of the requirements I set out above for every face. Something I’ve finally accepted during my long search for “The Goggles”!

So, how do you find the right pair of goggles?

For me it’s been trial and error. The recommended way to test goggles is to suck them onto your eye sockets and see if they stick for a few seconds. It’s a great starting point but it’s not always a perfect indication of whether they’re right for you. I’ve tried a number of pairs that meet this criteria but were still rejected.

I’ve bought lots of pairs and sent them back instantly because they very clearly didn’t fit. I’ve spent time putting them on, dunking my head in the sink and shaking it about to see if water comes in before drying them off, packaging them back up and shipping them back to the store again. I’ve bought pairs that I’ve tried and realised after twenty minutes just hurt too much or are too dark or don’t stay on my face when it gets choppy. I’ve bought goggles after reading reviews, some with success, others without. I’ve borrowed pairs from friends to try. I’m now learning this is by far and away the best way to do it.

The picture below has 14 pairs in it. It’s not my entire collection, I’m sure there are others in cupboards and bags. They range in price from £30 to £5.

The left hand column are my go-to’s. Note two pairs are duplicates, if I find a good pair I’ll always get spares. Manufacturers have an awful habit of changing styles every year so that perfect pair may not exist when you need to replace them. The middle column are OK’s, I’ll wear them if I have to but they’re not that comfy. The third column are absolute no’s. I still have the OK’s and the No’s because they come in handy when I’m teaching, they live in my work bag as spares for new swimmers. Some of my swimmers have gone on to buy the same style because they fit them but not me. You see, everyone’s different.

Goggles 2

Which brings me on to……….do you need different goggles for outside to inside? Or is it just a way for goggle manufacturers to get you to buy more kit?

When you’re swimming outside obviously you need to be able to see. There’s no pool wall to follow and no end to tell you to stop and turn around. You need to be able to take a look regularly to make sure you’re swimming in the right direction and that you’re not going to swim into anything. Having goggles that don’t fog up or leak are fairly essential as there’s unlikely to be anything to hold onto mid swim to do the goggle empty/de-fog manoeuvre. A wide field of vision is handy too.

If your existing goggles tick those boxes and you like them, then use them. Don’t feel like you need extra kit just because a magazine or a website’s told you so.

There are a few extra things you might want to think about though.

Having a wide field of vision when you’re outside is not only useful to see where you’re going but you also get to enjoy your surroundings. I like looking around at my environment when I swim and I can’t do that very well if I’ve got tiny, eye socket, tunnel vision inducing racing style goggles on. The large mask style goggles are great for this. Until very recently though I’ve had no success with them, they all leaked on my face. A normal style goggle that says it has a wide field of vision will work just as well.

It can be sunny but equally it cannot. A lot of goggles designed for OW are tinted in some way, you can get polarised ones too. It’s essential to protect your eyes from the sun, particularly as sun glare off the water can be particularly strong and make it challenging to judge distance. But, we live in Britain, I live in the Peak District. I often swim early morning or late evening. It’s not always sunny! I very, very rarely feel the need to be wearing sunglasses whilst I swim. I do have one pair of, very cheap, polarised ones but they don’t come out that often. I prefer a completely clear lens so I can properly see my surroundings without affecting the colours. It comes down to personal preference though.

The water can get a tad choppy sometimes. Your goggles need to be able to deal with that and not get knocked off. Just tightening what you already use might be enough but that can sometimes lead to them leaking because you’ve stretched them differently across your face or they just become uncomfortable. My polarised pair are great in flat water but useless if it’s choppy, the water just forces its way through the nice soft gasket around my eyes.

Think about your face size, how far apart your eyes are, how big or small your nose is, how small your face is. My husband has a small face and wears junior goggles quite happily. I had an 8 year old child recently who needed adult sized goggles because they had beautiful big, wide set eyes. I, and The Short One, have quite small faces so we need smallish ones.

Some goggles are infinitely adjustable via the back strap and adjustable nose bridge. Some have fixed but flexible nose bridges with adjustable straps and some have no adjustment whatsoever. There are a few great goggles out there on the market that are comfortable and will fit most people but in reality you’ll just have to try them for yourself to get the right pair for you.

Right now I’m a fan of the brand Arena as they have particularly soft gaskets (the silicon bit that goes around your eye) and seem to fit my small face quite well. Some of the big OW brands out there in the UK like Zone 3, Aquasphere and Zoggs just don’t work for me but work for others. There are also specific ladies fit goggles which are designed for a smaller face. Teen or junior ones also work for smaller faces.

My current favourite go to’s are a pair of £8 junior mask style goggles from Decathlon (as modelled in the picture at the top). They have a fixed strap at the back, zero adjustment, but they just seem to work on my face. They don’t leak, unless I forget to pull my hat out from under the rim when I put them on, and they’re comfortable for a good couple of hours.

I wouldn’t have even considered them until The Short One got a pair and started raving about them. I tried them out and realised how good they were. I’ve just bought a spare pair for when these one’s get too scratched to see.

Think about ones with a good anti-fog coating too. The bigger difference in temperature between your face and the water when you’re swimming outside can make fogging more of an issue than in the pool. The anti-fog coating will eventually degrade so you might want to invest in some anti-fog spray. Though I have to say I’m still a fan of a bit of saliva as an anti-fog coating. It’s always worked for me, it’s free and I always have it on me. I also heard this week that it’s even more effective if you leave it to dry out before you swim 😉 . I have also learned that the less you take your goggles on and off whilst in OW the less they’ll fog up. I assume it’s something to do with constant changes in temperature and humidity.

If, like me you’re a bit slack at putting your stuff away, be prepared for scratches on your goggles. Even the best anti-scratch goggles eventually get scuffed to the point of foggy vision. My goggles usually just live in my dryrobe pocket with whatever other mystery items have ended up in there. Don’t be like me, keep them in a little pouch or case and they’ll likely fare better than mine.

Oh, and I’ve yet to find a pair of goggles that don’t leave some kind of mark around my eyes. Some are worse than others but I’ve just accepted than the “goggle ring” is something I’ll just have to put up with!

So my biggest recommendation here is, borrow as many pairs of goggles as you can from friends and try them out. It’ll save you loads of hassle on shopping! We’re contemplating starting a “try it” box at the OW venue I run so people can have a try out and see what works for them…………..I have a few I can donate.

That’s it, the run down on goggles. Again, sorry, no straight answer but I get annoyed when people claim to have a straight simple answer and it turns out not to be true.

Happy swimming!

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