20th February 2017. In every fitness activity and athletic pursuit, there's a need for the right equipment. Even an exercise as straightforward and basic as running requires footwear that supports your body as you run. After all, there aren't many surfaces left that allow for running barefoot ? nor is it the best way to improve your fitness. Choosing the right equipment, balancing comfort and function, and putting that equipment to good use is an integral part of exercise success. For swimmers, the equivalent to a good pair of running shoes is an item that rests on an entirely different part of your body. We're talking about goggles, of course. Though humans have a natural ability to see underwater, it's all but impossible to see where you're going when you're slicing through the pool at high speed. To see through the waves and walls of bubbles, you need a good pair of swim goggles. Choosing your goggles can be a challenging task, though it might not initially seem that way. You must find a pair that not only feels comfortable to wear, but also yields the level of visibility you need. You can't easily choose a pair just by looking at them, either. Instead, you'll want to evaluate your options based on several criteria. Let's break down what you should be looking for and how you'll know when you've found the right goggles for your time in the pool.

Determine what kind of features you need most

Your goggle shopping efforts will feel like diving into the deep end if you don't answer some basic questions for yourself at the beginning. With so many different styles and options out there, knowing what specific features you want can help narrow down the field and make finding the perfect pair easier. To begin with, will you be swimming indoors, outdoors, or both? Outdoor goggles often feature a reflective coating on the lens while also boasting UV-blocking features. UV resistance helps protect your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun while you train outdoors. For indoor swimmers, however, the lenses can be dark and difficult to see through; a pair specifically for indoor pools is the better choice then. Where you'll swim can also help you choose goggles with anti-fogging capabilities. Narrowing down a specific style is also a good idea. For example, there's a big difference between frame goggles and so-called Swedish goggles. Frame goggles often feature a rubber gasket around the eyepieces; Swedish goggles do not. They also differ widely regarding their size. Do you want to choose goggles for comfort, for visibility, or for speed? Frame goggles will suit you best if you require comfort, while Swedish and competition goggles will let you see clearly while providing a slim profile. The trade-off is a correspondingly snug fit.

Racing vs. training: why you might need different goggles

Let's focus on that idea of choosing the right type of goggle style based on your desired swimming activity. While it ultimately boils down to what you feel best using in the pool, not every style suits all types of swimming. What are the actual differences between racing and training goggles? There are a few major areas of variation. One is the gasket rubber we just discussed ? goggles designed to be worn during a race often feature none of this rubber, opting instead for a small profile that sits much closer to your eye socket. The low profile helps to make your face more hydrodynamic, reducing drag and boosting speed; however, it can be uncomfortable over long periods of time. While you should practice or train in this type of goggles sometimes to become used to them, there's no reason to rely on them all the time. Practice goggles use the suction created by the gasket to keep water out while offering a wider field of view. Combined with a typically strong anti-fog lens film and you'll find that high quality practice goggles can give you all the functionality you need, session after session. It can be worth picking up both sets if you intend to compete. For the casual swimmer who just loves to exercise, though, a solid pair of practice goggles will be the most comfortable choice.

Determining what lenses are best for your needs

The lens material has an impact on the performance and functionality of your goggles, too. Some inexpensive goggles, for example, use plastics that can more easily crack or suffer damage. Similarly, the anti-fog properties of these lenses rarely last very long; you can often find yourself struggling to see underwater. Higher quality goggles feature a tough plastic called polycarbonate. Polycarbonate lenses are very durable, easy to see through, and often last much longer. You can also more easily find enduring anti-fog protection. Considering the importance of visibility underwater for the swimmer, these are features one should seek out when shopping. Make sure to spend some time examining the lenses and reading labelling to understand its material properties.

Testing goggles without getting in the water

So now you have a sense of the basic features you want, and perhaps even the style you think will work best for you in the pool. You find yourself at the athletic supply store, staring down an aisle of goggles ? how can you find the right pair if you can't take them for a swim first? The good news is that it's relatively easy to ascertain how well they'll fit before they ever get wet. Take the goggles which interest you and, holding them by the lenses, press the goggles against your eye sockets. How do they feel? A moderate amount of pressure will give you a better sense of how they'll feel while you wear them. Ensure the goggles feel good and that the bridge of your nose is comfortable. Now, press harder to attempt to form a seal. Can you get the goggles to briefly remain on your eyes even when you let go of them? If the answer is yes, you've found a reliable seal ? if not, keep looking. Otherwise, you'll have to deal with leaky goggles. If possible, try them on with the straps as well ? though this isn't always possible in every store. You should be able to tell after trying on a few pairs what you like best.

Look for the signs of durable construction

After you've picked out a few pairs and tried them on, it's time to decide what you'll bring with you into the water. Aside from a good fit and quality lenses, though, you should also evaluate the goggles as a whole. For example, how are the straps? What's their quality like, and do they seem like they can last? You'll want to consider this especially for outdoor goggles, where the combination of the sun and the water can cause some plastics to degrade. No one wants to lose their goggles in a lake because the strap snapped! There's one more thing you ought to consider: style. Besides comfort and function, some goggles simply look stunning. For some, that's an important factor in making a decision; for others, all that matters is clear vision and a good fit. Overall, though, stylish goggles aren't going to give you a distinct advantage in the pool. The right pair will make it easier for you to focus on perfecting your swimming strokes and keeping up your speed, however. When you don't need to stop to get water out of your eyes or constantly readjust the fit, you can dedicate more time and effort to improving your fitness in the pool.

The right pair is out there waiting for you

Though you might need to look through many pairs, with these tips at your disposal, you can find a good pair of goggles to make your training easier. Don't forget to look for the right set of racing goggles to keep your vision clear from the starting block to the finish line. Whether you need a UV-blocking set of tinted goggles or a slim, sleek set of Swedish goggles, there's no shortage of excellent providers on the market. Of course, no matter how much time you spend handling the goggles in the store, there's no substitute for taking them with you on a dip into the pool. Good luck on your goggle hunt!