Can you wear contact lenses for swimming?

The risk of bacterial contamination means this is a risky route to take – we explain your options for training and race day

Swimming goggles

Are you a contact lens wearer and wondering if you need to shell out on prescription swim goggles for your triathlon training and racing? Read on for our advice…

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It’s a situation that many people will be familiar with, especially as wearing contact lenses can revolutionise your tri experience.

>>> Six common swimming struggles for beginners

But you’ll find that most opticians will recommend avoiding the use of contact lenses when swimming due to the increased risk of bacterial contamination, which might lead to eye infections, irritations and potential sight-threatening conditions such as a corneal ulcer.

The most obvious answer is to wear prescription goggles, which are available from most opticians, for your swim sessions. Some of the larger swim brands also sell goggles with interchangeable lenses, so you can pop in your own prescription. 

Swimming goggles

If you were to go for the prescription goggle option in a race, you’d then need to either put contact lenses in during transition or wear prescription sunglasses for the bike and run. Again, these are readily available at a local optician. This may not be the ideal solution for you – particularly in a race – so many athletes will accept the infection risks and continue to swim wearing contact lenses.

Having checked with a few opticians, the general advice is that if you’re going to wear your contact lenses for swimming, make sure you reduce the risks as much as possible, such as wearing daily disposable lenses, rinsing your eyes as soon as possible after the swim and replacing the lenses for new ones. (You could even leave them out and switch back to glasses.)

If you need more information, try to find an optician who’s active themselves, so they’re able to offer advice from experience.

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For lots more useful swimming advice head to our Training section