Even if pool goggle purchases are never going to break the bank, buying an unsuitable pair can be frustrating and a waste of cash that can be spent on kit elsewhere.
Try on the goggles that take your fancy before buying them if possible. Or, if you can borrow a pair for a couple of lengths, then even better.
Pool goggles differ from open-water goggles in that they’re traditionally smaller, less mask-like and offer less peripheral vision. But things are changing with the former, where even competition goggles now offer greater vision. This means stronger swimmers can scout out their opposition and less experienced swimmers and those sharing public lanes can swim with more confidence thanks to wider, curved lenses. Plus, the updated shape can actually decrease drag.
But the three things you’re really looking for are fit, comfort and clarity. You want your goggles to be easy to adjust and fit perfectly every time; the seal shouldn’t leave huge red rings around your eyes; and you don’t want them to fog up.
- Swimming goggles: how to choose the right pair
- Swimming goggles: how should they fit and how tight should they be?
- Open-water goggles: how to choose the right lenses
The 8 pairs on test are of various shapes and sizes and differ greatly in style and price point, so we were keen to see if each pair would tick off our three golden rules of fit, comfort and clarity in testing.
How we tested the pool goggles
Squeezing in the swims before Lockdown 2.0 began, we tested all goggles multiple times in a 25m pool. Close attention was paid to comfort, vision, the quality of the seal and effectiveness of the anti-fog treatments. We also assessed subjective features, such as the lens and gasket shape, according to how likely it is that they’d work for the majority of triathletes.
The new Aquapulse Pro Mirror slot into Speedo’s fitness category for everyday training and racing. The wide, mirrored lenses offer plenty
of peripheral vision and 100% UV protection, so they’re strong candidates for goggles that you could use for both pool training and racing in open water. The anti-fog coating worked as new after multiple training sessions and, although on the dark side, the lens tint was fine to use during evening sessions in a dimly-lit pool. One thing we weren’t so keen on was the gasket seal, which is large but quite firm, and dug into our cheekbones a little. Speedo’s ‘IQfit’ straps have a handy numbered scale printed on the back, which is really useful for nailing your ideal amount of tension for when you need to buy your next pair.
Verdict: Dependable all-rounders that work in open water, 81%
Zone3 say their Viper-Speed goggles are designed specifically for “pool-based speed sessions” with a hydrodynamic profile to make you look like you mean business. Despite the intimidating appearance, they’re surprisingly comfortable due to the soft gasket seal. The lenses have a heavy tint, but we could still see fine in a gloomy pool with little natural light. The blue hue made things look different to what we were used to underwater, but the field of vision is wide and the anti-fog worked as it should. The patented ‘ultraFAST quickFIT’ rear buckle system has two buttons at the back of the strap to adjust the length, which is quick and easy to use. Extra nose pieces, a storage pouch and fitting instructions complete a fine package.
Verdict: Comfy, visually appealing, excellent lenses 92%
The Xceed Mirrored goggles are a collaboration between Michael Phelps and Aqua Sphere. Like the great man himself, they’re stone-cold quality – they tick every box when it comes to comfort, clarity and fit. While you usually have to choose between low-profile racers and wider, more comfortable training goggles, the Xceeds do both by having a wide
field of vision through the quality mirrored lenses, which have a hydrodynamic curvature to save you every last millisecond. Three nose bridges are included, and the straps are flat so they’re incredibly comfortable on your head. To adjust, you just need to pull on either side of the rear clip, which is simple and effective. Yes, they’re up with the most expensive here, but they’re worth every penny.
Verdict: Simply some of the best pool goggles you can buy, 94%
The versatile mirrored lens is great for those who want one pair of goggles they can use indoors or in the sun. The Titanium Podium should also provide extra protection from reflected light, say Zoggs, which is good for outdoor pools. Zoggs’ curved lens technology (CVT) give you a great field of vision and plenty of clarity, and we experienced little fogging. The gaskets are adequately soft, although not the most comfortable on test, and the swivel-style nose bridge has flex that should mould to most face shapes. The straps adjust via the rear buckle and are made of a soft silicone. The shape of the lenses and feel of the goggles are similar to the Huub Brownlees, with the latter just edging it for the softer seal, and useful extras such as a carry case and extra straps.
Verdict: great vision and clarity; gasket comfort only adequate, 84%
Having scored highly before in 220 tests, our opinion hasn’t changed on the Brownlee goggles: they’re some of the finest pool goggles around. The brothers demanded optimal clarity and peripheral vision when they asked Huub to make them a goggle, and the lenses provide a crystal-clear view underwater in both the pool and open water. Over 180° of peripheral vision is great for tight lanes, and the mirrored coating on the lenses is hard wearing. They’re as close to custom as you can get without actually being custom, featuring three sets of interchangeable straps and nose pieces in the carry case to secure your ideal fit and pressure. While we prefer a flatter strap around the temples, those provided are perfectly serviceable and easy to adjust.
Verdict: Top-quality lenses and suitable for outdoor swims 88%
Described by Nike as their “most hydrodynamic goggle ever,” the Vapors have curved lenses that Nike describe as “oversized” to increase your field of view in the water, and the low profile offers some claimed extra drag reduction through the water. We found the field of vision, while adequate, isn’t as wide as that of similar racey goggles such as the Phelps Xceed. The seal is comfy and we experienced no leaks after changing the nose bridge (you get four). The straps are very firm, so it’s key to adjust them properly before starting your swim to avoid making the seal too tight. The lightly tinted lenses are best suited to indoor pools, but for brighter conditions you can opt for the Vapor Mirror (£28). We found the lenses did fog up at the start of our swims and scratch quite easily.
Verdict: Comfy fit, but some slight fogging in the lenses ,76%
These goggles are the cheapest of our selection. And it’s a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ as the Pulsar Mirror didn’t match the standard of the pricier pairs on test. The gasket seal is quite small and didn’t sit comfortably, leaving some marks around our eyes after swimming. The lenses are flat at the front with little peripheral vision, and we found them disorientating when trying to negotiate a busy lane swim. We also experienced some fogging after a couple of sessions, despite rinsing and storing them in the case between swims. For us, the Pulsar Mirror goggles will provide, at best, an average experience for most swimmers if a flat frontage is preferred, and some might struggle to get on with them at all. The highlight is the low price.
Verdict: cheap but prone to fogging, and sub-optimal clarity, 59%
Numerous goggles in Swans’ range have impressed on these pages over time, and we had a fine swimming experience with their latest pair. They’re available in six different lens options and we tested the mirrored versions with Swans’ Mirror Insert Technology that has an extra anti-scratch layer. As we’ve found after numerous swims, the tech appears to work a treat and there are no signs of scratching or damage at all. There are also photochromatic and polarised lens options available for more than the £47 asking price, yet we can’t see that either would be essential as the mirrored lenses deflect glare well. The tint isn’t too bright so we also found them suitable for indoor pools, and the size and shape of the lenses provide excellent clarity and field of vision.
There are three adjustable nosepieces to secure your perfect fit, and the gaskets are extra soft and flexible so should fit well on any face shape. A single clip at the rear does the job for tightening/loosening, and the straps are replaceable to prolong the life of the goggles. All of which makes the Ascender leap to the top of our picks when it comes to a goggle that you can use for both training and open-water racing.
Verdict: Expensive, but they provide superb comfort and clarity indoors and out, 91%