We spent 50 hours using 33 pairs of swim goggles in South Carolina and the Dominican Republic, subjecting them to many miles of pool swimming, hundreds of waves, and buckets of sand, salt, and chlorine. In the end, we determined that for recreational swimmers who want to extend the time they can spend in the water, the Aqua Sphere Kayenne is the best pair of swim goggles for most adults, and the Aqua Sphere Kayenne Jr is the best swim-goggle model for most kids.
Unveiled in 2010, Aqua Sphere’s Kayenne goggles come in both adult and child sizes. We were impressed with the Kayenne’s durable frame, proprietary silicone eyecup, on-the-fly adjustable strap, and remarkably scratchproof and fog-resistant lens. Perfect for competition, an hour of lap swimming, or a week in the sand and sun of the Caribbean, the Kayenne represents a technical step up from competing models.
If our top picks are sold out, the eyecups on the Speedo MDR 2.4 Goggle fit a wide range of faces—even my 8-year-old son’s—and this model ranked among the most comfortable of all the goggles we tested. Although the MDR 2.4 is built for adults, we found that most adults and kids loved it. The flat, angular lenses allow for a panoramic view, and the lenses are also set slightly farther away from the eyes, making this pair a good choice for long-eyelashed folks, or for swimmers who have issues with visibility distortion and blurriness when wearing goggles with curved lenses.
The Aqua Sphere Moby Kidfeatures a super-soft silicone frame and eyecups; a flat, distortion-free, fog and scratch-resistant lens; and wide, easily adjustable straps that don’t tangle hair but spread wide in the back to help the goggles stay in place. The Moby Kid also seals tightly on a variety of small faces, especially on very young swimmers, and we found that the pair remained comfortable during even our longest forays in the pool.
The Speedo Hydrospex goggles come in adult and child versions. They aren’t as easy to adjust as some of our other picks, and they don’t offer the panoramic field of vision of their spendier brethren. But if you’re looking to swim only occasionally, or if you simply need a good, no-frills pair of goggles, the Hydrospex is a reliable, comfortable, fog-free option that won’t break the bank. The flexible nose bridge works on a variety of face types, while the eyeglass-quality Lexan lens remains clear and scratch resistant and prevents fogging like a champ.
Why you should trust us
This guide is the result of around 13 hours of online research, about 20 pool hours spent sifting through and weeding out 33 pairs of goggles, and more than 10 miles of solo swimming in lap pools and amidst the waves of Folly Beach, South Carolina. It also includes the collective impressions of three South Carolina pool-owning families and their kids. And it takes into account thoughts from my wife, my brother, my sister, and five kids (ages 4 to 12) after a weeklong trip to the Dominican Republic in which we wore the top 10 sets of test goggles almost nonstop during daylight hours.
I spoke with International Swimming Hall of Fame president Bruce Wigo—who started swimming competitively in 1957 and has been swimming pretty much every day since—about the modern swim goggle and what makes a good one. After determining our favorites, I grilled Speedo design engineer Nate Tracy about the goggles he designs. I also spoke with Mirko Bosio and Todd Mitchell, Aqua Sphere’s research and development manager and swim business manager, respectively, about fit, technology, lens construction, visual distortion, anti-fog technology, and the care and feeding of a pair of goggles.
As for me, I’ve been covering watery goods for The Wirecutter since 2015, writing aboutsurfboards, wetsuits, water guns, and all manner of beach gear. My writing has appeared in Outside, Men’s Journal, and Garden & Gun magazines. I’m also the author of Ghost Wave and a co-author on Surfing: 1778–Today, and I’m working on an ocean-handbook project forthcoming from Chronicle Books in 2018. My reporting on topics ranging from national news to science and travel also appears frequently in The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome).
I live on the water in Charleston, South Carolina, and I have been a fairly serious recreational pool and ocean swimmer since my days at the University of Georgia back in the late 1980s. I’m a dad to a pair of kids, who are 8 and 12 at the time of this writing and have been swimming unassisted with and without goggles since they were 2. And two of their best friends, who helped with our tests, are budding young competitive swimmers—the younger having just won a state championship in the backstroke in the 7-and-under division. Their parents are goggle connoisseurs.
Who should get this
We tested these goggles in pools and oceans, and at our local water park.
This guide is for recreational swimmers who want to extend the time they can spend in the water—and by that, we mean kids and grown-ups who plan to frolic in the ocean or pool this summer, or those who swim laps for fun or fitness. If you’ll be swimming a lot, a comfortable, quality pair of goggles is simply the most important piece of gear you can buy.
As a mainstream product, swim goggles actually have a startlingly short history. According to an article available on the website of the International Swimming Hall of Fame (PDF), 14th-century Persian pearl divers used primitive swim goggles made of highly polished pieces from tortoise shells. Polynesians likely used the air pockets in rings of bamboo as goggles long before that, too. But even as recently as 1972, champion swimmer Mark Spitz didn’t wear goggles while swimming to victory and seven gold medals in the Olympics. And he wasn’t alone: The great swimmers of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s usually swam without goggles, too.
“It’s hard to believe that [Spitz] only wore goggles for practice at that time,” International Swimming Hall of Fame president Bruce Wigo said in an interview. “Go back and look at films even to the early ’80s, and competitors weren’t wearing goggles. I swam my entire career without them, but today I wouldn’t even go in the water without them. Goggles completely transformed swimming. Prior to the development of modern goggles, the great swimmers of the ’40s, ’50s, and even ’60s could only swim an hour and a half a day due to chlorine and salt irritation. With goggles, workouts went from 3,000 meters a day to 20,000.”
Today, goggles make it far easier to see underwater. Fish can see clearly underwater because their eyes have evolved to allow for advanced in-water focal length. We humans, on the other hand, need a layer of air between our eyes and the water in order to focus. Goggle lenses and dive masks do exactly this—and in fact, during our trip to the Dominican Republic, we found that our kids grabbed goggles first. Goggles can’t replace a mask, snorkel, and fins in a “real” snorkel outing, of course, and no pair of swim goggles is suitable for wearing much deeper than 6 feet, because they’re not built to handle the same level of pressure as snorkel and scuba masks. But for shallow swimming above tropical reefs, goggles are “just easier than having to put all that stuff on,” my son said.
Goggles also make disgustingly scientific sense: Perhaps you’ve noticed through the years that when you swim in a chlorinated pool, your eyes sting. Chlorine is added to pool water as a disinfectant, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that sting is not a result of the chlorine itself. Rather, it’s the chemical binding of the chlorine to the body waste of swimmers—most specifically, sweat and urine. When the ammonia and other human waste chemicals combine with chlorine, they form “disinfection by-products,” chemical compounds including dichloramine and trichloramine, which not only cause red eyes but also can irritate the respiratory system (and make the pool smell “chlorine-y”). The solution—at least for your eyes—is to wear goggles.
If you’re a competitive swimmer, you probably already have a pair of goggles you love (likely the Speedo Vanquisher or something similarly spare and hydrodynamic), so we didn’t look at competition-grade goggles for this guide. Though the sleek, low-profile Aqua Sphere Kayenne in particular would make for an excellent set of competitive goggles—particularly for open-water swimmers—our key criteria for this guide included comfort, ease of use, visibility, seal, and affordability. The tenth of a second you might gain in the 400-meter freestyle from a super-sleek set of goggles simply didn’t fit into our equation. We also didn’t cover prescription goggles in this guide. (If you are looking for a pair, we recommend a visit to SwimOutlet.com or GogglesNMore.)
We did consider kids goggles for this guide, often finding that our favorite goggles came in multiple sizes. In our tests, our top picks often ranked high for both the kids and the adults, illustrating that the point at which a kid transitions to a junior or adult pair of goggles can be a little fuzzy—in many cases we found that an adult small or medium fit our 8-year-old just fine (the adult Kayenne was his absolute favorite goggle style in the bunch). In general, though, kids younger than 6 years should certainly use children’s goggles. Kids 6 to 14 should consider a “junior”-size set of goggles.
Why buy goggles for a little kid who can’t swim yet? My wife and I have found over the years that wearing a well-fitted pair of goggles can reduce a kid’s fear of the water before they even learn to swim (they tend to experience less fear around getting their faces wet, and they avoid the feeling of burning chlorine water in their eyes, too). And once they do learn to swim, goggles will ensure that they don’t finish a day at the pool looking like their eyeballs have been seared by shark laser beams.
All of this is to say that whether you’re in search of a solid set of goggles for lap swimming, a game of Marco Polo, or a trip to a tropical port, our picks for kids and adults will serve you well.
How we picked
After extensive research, we ordered and tested 33 goggle models for kids and adults. This is just the kids stack.
A search for “swim goggles” on Amazon or SwimOutlet.com reveals a bewildering variety of choices. At the time of this writing, Amazon returned more than 8,100 hits for swim goggles, while SwimOutlet.com generated 498. During our research, we spent around five hours poring over the top-rated options at SwimOutlet.com and in Triathlete Magazine. We spent another eight hours looking at the best-reviewed models on Amazon. Then, we relied on personal and expert knowledge to narrow down the list of what we needed to test.
Goggles fall into three categories. The first, in-eye-socket goggles, are so named because they feature a small lens cup that sits inside your eye socket when you have them strapped to your face. People most often use this type for competition. The goggles fit tightly and can become quite uncomfortable, producing red rings on your face (“raccoon eyes”) as they place excessive pressure on your eye sockets. We tested goggles of this type, and while we didn’t love any of them, we found that they were far more comfortable than those that might have been available a couple of decades ago.
Generally speaking, the second category, fitness and recreation goggles, features wider, pressure-dispersing straps, very soft silicone eyepieces, and oversized lenses that provide a wider field of vision. Because the compressional force of these goggles is spread over a wider area, they tend to avoid “raccoon eyes,” and you can wear these goggles comfortably for a long time. Many of our picks—and most of the models we tested—fall into this category.
The final goggle segment includes mask-style goggles. These comprise a newer, smaller category that started with Aqua Sphere’s Seal mask back in 1998. These goggles most closely resemble snorkel and scuba goggles, but without a sealing portion that covers the nose. They offer a wide fit around the face rather than the eyes and come with a panoramic single- or dual-lens system. Mask-style goggles aren’t terribly hydrodynamic, but they can be a good choice for folks who feel claustrophobic in smaller goggles, or those who want a nice, wide field of vision for open-ocean swimming. Very young kids might appreciate the more wide-open feel of mask goggles, too, because of the easy on-off factor. We cover a few good ones in our Competition section. We also considered novel add-on technologies—extra straps like the Frogglez design, plus nose plugs, earplugs, and more.
During our research, we learned that most goggle lenses come in different colors and tints for different swimming setups. For example, clear and light-blue lenses are the best for morning and indoor swimming. Blue lenses also allow for better visibility in the open water. Gray-tinted lenses, on the other hand, are best for sunny, outdoor conditions. Yellow, orange, and amber-tinted goggles are good for low-light conditions.
In the end, we weeded our testing list down to 15 goggle models for kids and 18 for adults. A good pair of goggles should have soft gaskets and an easily adjustable strap that splits at the back of the head to hold it in place. (Most good straps do this.) It should seal without the strap putting undue pressure on the back of the head, the eyes, or the nose bridge. It should also be durable, standing up to waves, sand, sunscreen, and 6-foot depths. And a good pair of goggles should be fog-free—and it shouldn’t distort the world around you in any way.
How we tested
The author’s wife and kids spent hours taking goggles to different depths to ensure durability.
First, we checked our orders right out of the box to confirm that they’d arrived defect-free with the promised accessories. We also read the instructions, many of which were badly translated and unclear. Aegend’s instructions, for example, had the following in the “To Prevent Fogging” section: “Anti fog coating will wear off over time. Use Anti-fog Solution can help the goggles be fog-free effectively. Saliva, toothpaste and baby shampoo gently applied to lenses can all be used as temporary measures but are not recommended for long-term solution.” Then, in the very next section it says: “Please do not wash it by organic cleaning liquid or it will reduce the using effect.” Huh?
We were cognizant of the reviews of certain goggles where customers complained of snapped straps, so we stretched, distended, and distorted our goggles to what we reckoned were points of near failure. Goggles from Aqua Sphere, Cressi, and Speedo feature ratcheting systems with buttons and pull switches for on-the-fly adjustments, and in our tests all of those ratchet systems worked as advertised, with no gear stripping (and we found them to be, frankly, game changers).
Next, we performed two weed-out tests for the kids goggles and then the adult goggles, giving numerical scores of one to five to each pair for the following criteria: ease of on/off, overall comfort, adjustability, hair pullage, staying in place, fogging, distortion, and seal. Several pairs of goggles dropped off the list right away.
Whether you’re lap swimming, playing at a water park, or tackling huge waves, a good pair of goggles should remain fog-free.
Then we scheduled a goggle-fest for our friends’ competitive-swimmer daughters and my aquatic son and daughter. The kids dove, splashed, and adjusted goggle straps for hours, reporting back on fogginess, pressure points, and how well the goggles stayed put on their faces and heads. After that first run, we handed off the goggles to other friends, who have a pool and two elementary-school-aged kids of their own. They kept the goggles for several days, using them daily, and reported back to us, as well.
For the initial testing of adult goggles, my wife and I spent half a day in the pool beneath the blazing South Carolina sun, scrutinizing fit, fogginess, adjustability, pressure points, and visual distortion. For the second round of adult goggle testing, I took the eight finalist pairs of goggles to Folly Beach near my home in Charleston. There, during a series of morning swims, I tested the goggles by swimming along the beach in the surf zone and bodysurfing amidst fairly substantial waves. I came away pleasantly surprised by how well the non-in-eye goggles kept out water amidst punishing conditions without my having to tighten them down so hard that they hurt.
Some goggle sets also included nose plugs and earplugs. We tested them, too—but none of those accoutrements were comfortable. Though earplugs make me claustrophobic, they do make particular sense for some people as they help prevent swimmer’s ear; nose plugs, meanwhile, can keep microscopic nasties from setting up shop in your sinuses. If you need either, we recommend dedicated plugs such as Putty Buddies, this dual set from Blupond, or Doc’s Pro Plugs. Originally designed for surfing, Pro Plugs really work.
Our final round of testing for adult and kids goggle models happened at the Club Med resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. There, my brother, my sister, and I, plus our significant others and five children, gathered for a wonderful weeklong trip with Grandma. With a tremendous stretch of protected beach and the biggest pool I’ve ever seen, plus a separate pool with lap lanes, Punta Cana was goggle nirvana. We brought the goggles to the pool and beach every day, trying and retrying them, slathering them accidentally with sunscreen, burying them in the sand, and generally just using and abusing them in the salt, sun, and chlorine.
Our pick: Aqua Sphere Kayenne
The Aqua Sphere Kayenne was a tester favorite. It’s comfortable, low on fog, and easily adjustable.
Industry leaders are industry leaders for a reason, and this is as true for swim goggles as it is for any other category. From the moment we opened the durable case for our Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles, both the adult and kid versions, we noticed the superior workmanship in everything from the storage boxes to the clasps to the lens coatings, the instructions, and the attachment points. Aqua Sphere designs and builds all of its goggles in Italy, paying particular attention to “touch points” (PDF), namely any place the goggles touch the body. The company also subjects goggles to rigorous quality control, and it shows.
Aqua Sphere’s Kayenne model has been around since 2010, and it’s a proven design whose line has expanded to cover a range of sizes and tints for swimmers of all ages. Our adult Kayenne featured a mirrored, scratch-resistant, UV-shielding lens. It wasn’t too dark for indoor pools but provided a perfect, soothing tint for middle-of-the-day forays into the blinding blue Caribbean. We were particularly impressed at how well the lenses of the Kayenne goggles managed to stay relatively fog-free compared with the other goggles we tested.
The Kayenne fits a broad range of face shapes, from kids to adults. Here, the adult mirrored mask fits the author’s 8-year-old son.
In our tests the slightly curved triangular lenses of the Kayenne fit an impressively broad range of face types: my narrow face, my wife’s wider face, and my 8-year-old son’s smaller face (whether he was wearing the adult or kids goggles). In fact, while my 11-year-old daughter loved her pink and blue Kayenne Jr pair, she was equally happy with the adult version. Amazon reviewers also mention that these goggles are particularly good for folks with flatter faces who might struggle to fit into other models and brands. At right around 180 degrees, our visibility with the Kayenne models was nearly as wide as with mask-type swim goggles.
All Aqua Sphere goggles feature an easy-to-adjust and comfortably wide ratcheting strap system called a Quick-Fit Buckle. For the adult Kayenne, adjusting the goggles is as simple as pushing a small, sturdy button and pulling a strap that holds a line of ridges to lock the straps in place. For the junior version, adjustment involves lifting a small and equally sturdy lever to accomplish the same thing. As long as you aren’t careless, the straps won’t tangle in your hair or pull your hair at all.
As for durability, one reviewer on Slowtwitch.com puts it best: You can get kicked in the face during a triathlon swim race while wearing the Kayenne, and both you and your goggles—and eye sockets—will probably survive. In our tests, they avoided scratches despite the abuse we subjected them to. Our Kayenne goggles—both the adult and kids versions—also came with a nice hard-plastic case, as well. If you want yours to stay in like-new condition for a long time, rinse them after use and keep them boxed up.
In the Dominican Republic, the Kayenne pairs became the go-to goggles among the adults and kids, whether we were swimming in the lap pool, floating above a school of parrotfish, or coming face-to-face with a young barracuda.
Who else likes our pick
The Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles have received top marks from many publications, and at the time of this writing, they have an overall customer rating of 4.2 stars (out of five) across about 3,000 reviews on Amazon. Non-paid triathletes review them highly in a study posted on Slowtwitch.com, too. One comments, “[I] have used them in the pool and also for open water (salt). I must say that I am very impressed. Best I have ever worn.” Another writes, “I didn’t find a single thing to dislike about these goggles, and I will be switching to these over the Tyr goggles that were my current pair.” The Kayenne is also a favorite of seven-time Olympic swimming medalist Amanda Beard, as well as a slew of the best triathletes in the world, including Timothy O’Donnell. Since the Kayenne goggles’ introduction in 2010, they have sold “a few million pairs,” according to Aqua Sphere spokesperson Melissa Rodgers, and they’re still going strong.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
For me, the view from the Kayenne goggles was as clear as glass. My wife, however, is somewhat farsighted, and she has long eyelashes. For her, the up-close view through the Kayenne was slightly blurry, and she said that her eyelashes rubbed against the lenses right at the end. According to Speedo engineer Nate Tracy and Aqua Sphere’s Mirko Bosio, this sort of distortion is something that major manufacturers work hard to overcome—but it’s still a problem for some people nonetheless.
Runner-up for adults: Speedo MDR 2.4
Speedo’s Clear sight technology makes these goggles especially good for people with wide faces or long eyelashes.
Unveiled in 2015, the Speedo MDR 2.4 Goggle is an impressively comfortable pair of goggles. If our top pick is sold out, or if you have a flatter face, longer lashes, or farsightedness, you might prefer this model. During testing, we found that the anti-fog coating on the MDR 2.4 was not as robust as that on our top pick. The anti-fog properties worked well enough—they just didn’t keep the fog at bay for quite as long as our top pick did during swimming. In the field, my family loved how well these goggles stayed on, even when the ocean was throwing us around while we were bodysurfing and surf swimming.
The MDR 2.4 features a ribbed elastomeric silicone gasket that fits around the outside of the eye socket and encourages a highly flexible seal. Rather than being curved, the lens design on this set of goggles is split and angled, a technology that Speedo calls Clearsight. Speedo’s Nate Tracy explained to us that for people like my wife, those who are farsighted and have long eyelashes, flat lenses can prevent visible distortion inside the active viewing area of the goggles. These goggles may also be a better fit for people with wider, flatter faces.
The MDR 2.4’s adjustment system is fairly easy, involving a button-actuated ratchet. If the lens is too loose, simply give it a quick tug while you’re swimming. If it’s too tight, push the button to loosen it without missing a stroke. Note that the strap doesn’t feel quite as strong as that of our top pick—and because it’s thinner, it’s a little less comfortable on the back of the head. We also read customer reviews on Amazon complaining of snapped straps, though we ran ours hard and had no such problems.
Runner-up for kids: Aqua Sphere Moby Kid
These durable kids goggles endured buckets of sand, swipes of sunscreen, and hours of pool and ocean time.
If our top pick for kids is sold out, the Aqua Sphere Moby Kid is a great backup choice. It’s one of the most durable kids goggles we tested, and extremely affordable. We found that it worked for a wide range of kids’ faces, too, from my 4-year-old niece’s tiny frame to my 8-year-old son’s face.
As with Aqua Sphere’s more expensive goggles, the company put a lot of engineering into this little eye protector. The lenses are flat and completely distortion-free, and at our local pools they proved to be scratch-, leak-, and fog-free. The wide, comfortable straps are a variation on Aqua Sphere’s usual ratchet system, featuring a tiny but tough spring-loaded lever for loosening or tightening that is easy to adjust but locks down securely once in place. We also found that it’s easy to teach even a young child to operate this ratcheting system—and once they learn, they can tighten and loosen the goggles on their own. The straps spread widely at the back of the head to hold the goggles in place, too.
The eyecups on the Moby Kid are made from Aqua Sphere’s proprietary soft silicone, so like our top pick, they feel very comfortable and seal well. In our tests, these goggles withstood long stints in the ocean and the pool. We recommend the non-opaque-frame versions, as they’ll give a child more peripheral vision and a more wide-open feel (for sunny days, we recommend the blue or smoke lenses). As with the Kayenne, keep the Moby Kid goggles in their case and rinse them after use for the best upkeep—with good care, they could last until your kids have kids!
Budget pick: Speedo Hydrospex
The Speedo Hydrospex is a no-frills option that just plain works.
Speedo’s Hydrospex Classic Goggle and Jr. Hydrospex Classic Goggle look outwardly plain, but they quickly became a favorite among our testers, young and old. I’d liken these goggles to the original iMac: Beneath a veneer of simplicity lies hours of detailed sweating.
The Hydrospex goggles are an affordable, no-frills option best described by what they don’t have. For starters, you won’t find an adjustable or replaceable nose bridge on these goggles. (The design takes care of that with an especially soft and flexible slice of silicone that stretches unobtrusively.) They also lack an adjustable ratchet strap. You make adjustments with a fairly old-school but perfectly serviceable clip—simply unhook the strap from its holder, adjust, and re-hook. You can’t do this on the fly, but it works.
We took our Hydrospex goggles through their lap-swimming paces.
The body and eyepiece of the Hydrospex rely on nothing more than the same single molded piece of silicone that holds the nose bridge. The eyepieces themselves are also nothing special—they’re just super-comfortable, uncomplicated eyepieces that keep water out, whether you’re swimming laps, dodging set waves, or taking a dive. The shatterproof, eyeglass-quality Lexan lenses are clear, resistant to fogging, and—thanks to their flatness—completely distortion-free. In the Dominican Republic, my daughter, a young mermaid of the highest order, chose the Jr. Hydrospex more often than any other models in our testing stack. When I asked her why, she put it perfectly: “They work.”
It’s important to note that the Hydrospex models don’t offer the wide field of vision that’s common for a mask goggle or even for most modern offerings from Speedo or Aqua Sphere. But the clear silicone helps reduce the tunnel-vision effect you often find with black-framed non-panoramic goggles. They also come in an equally simple but effective range that includes blue- and gray-tinted lenses, all of which filter UV radiation.
We found some other seriously good models in this category. Two other great goggles were the SealBuddy PV10 and the Aqua Sphere Kaiman, the latter an Amazon Choice at the time. The PV10 is particularly comfortable, as its overall score of 4.8 stars (out of five) on Amazon would indicate, but we found that it fogged a bit more than our top pick and runner-up. The Kaiman lost out because it pressed slightly harder against our eye sockets than the other models we tested. In both cases the lenses on these goggles were more curved than those on our top pick, too. The distortion these curves caused was apparent only in our peripheral vision, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it annoying, but it was definitely noticeable. For swimmers who spend particularly long stretches in the pool, curved lenses can cause an eventually unacceptable level of eye fatigue.
Interestingly, nine pairs of goggles from different manufacturers turned out to be almost identical in their frame and lens design, with only subtle differences in the straps, lens tint, or eye cushioning. According to Aqua Sphere spokesperson Melissa Rodgers and Speedo spokesperson Rebecca Timms, this happens because many companies source their goggles from manufacturers in Asia, picking a line of goggles with specific features from a selection that the manufacturers offer and then selling them on Amazon or elsewhere. Such goggles are not subject to the same level of quality control that established companies such as Aqua Sphere, Cressi, Speedo, and TYR employ. And indeed, our research revealed that seven of these near-clone pairs of goggles were made in China.
Several of the near-clones showed promise when we unboxed them and strapped them on, but when submerged, every single pair of near-clone goggles from Aegend, Aquazone, Cooloo, GDealer, iFlying, iSpeed, Rosa Schleife, and Zoma produced ripples in our field of vision. Most were blurry when we looked at close-up features like hands or underwater objects—including the vital standard black-tile cross marker that indicates when a lap swimmer needs to turn. In some cases, the blurriness was bad enough that it induced mild disorientation, which would have likely degenerated into a headache if we had kept them on for a while longer.
We also tested wider, mask-style goggles for adults and kids. As we mentioned above, these goggles most closely resemble snorkel and scuba goggles, but they lack a sealing portion that covers the nose. They offer a wide fit around the face rather than the eyes, and they come with a panoramic single- or dual-lens system. Most mask-style goggles aren’t terribly hydrodynamic, but they can be a good choice for kids who feel claustrophobic in smaller goggles, or who want a nice, wide field of vision for open-ocean swimming.
When it came to adult-fit mask goggles, we were impressed with the Aquazone Premium Swimming Goggles and their comfortable strap and gasket. This model’s polycarbonate lens system had good anti-fog characteristics internally and a distortion-free orange-and-blue mirrored coating externally that was very soothing to our eyes. The Aquazone pair worked only for those testers with wide faces, though, which prompted us to pull it from our top-picks list.
We also tested the Aqua Sphere Seal—an Amazon Choice mask-style goggle—and the Aqua Sphere Vista. Aqua Sphere originally conceived the Seal in 1998 to give triathletes a wider field of vision and to prevent eye injury from fellow flailing swimmers. It’s the longest-running mask-style goggle design around, with solid visibility and great comfort for a wide variety of faces. The Vista, meanwhile, has a notably wide, face-fitting gasket, and it was among the most comfortable goggles in all of our tests. One caveat: Our Vista pair lost a lens in the Dominican Republic. Aqua Sphere replaced it without issue, but that minor problem knocked it off our list of picks.
As for novel goggle technology, we couldn’t ignore Frogglez. Invented by Christian Hahn, a Kentucky dentist, Frogglez were born from Hahn’s frustration over watching his young kids struggle with goggles that were tough to put on and adjust, and whose straps pulled hair and pressed down on ears. In a classic inventor’s tale, Hahn took one of his old wetsuits and cut out a neoprene strap system to replace the rubber strap on his kids’ goggles with a force-dispersing soft yoke that stays put and goes on and off as easily as a trucker’s cap. After a few years of prototyping, Frogglez went on sale in 2013.
Our overall take on Frogglez is that while the neoprene strap system is well-made and can be quite useful for both recreational and competitive swimmers—making putting on and taking off a cinch—a Frogglez strap is better put to use as an attachment on the competing goggles we’ve listed above. Our young testers found that the actual Frogglez goggles fogged too easily, while the lenses on the Frogglez UDT mask scratched and the silicone gasket split at the top of the nose, rendering it unusable. My long-haired daughter, in particular, appreciated the Frogglez strap, which seemed to fit every kid we tested it with.
If the kid you’re shopping for doesn’t like the straps on an existing pair of goggles, you have two additional options. Cressi’s neoprene strap cover simply and comfortably covers the strap that goggles come with. Or, if you prefer, an easy-to-adjust bungee-cord setup like the TYR Bungee Cord Strap Kit replaces the strap entirely. The TYR strap kit gets good reviews for hair comfort, but I found that the bungee, which loops twice high and low around the head, slipped down on me and pressed against my ears as I swam. My son and I also agreed that the narrow bungee straps produced too much pressure at the back of the head.
We also tested the highly reviewed Speedo Kids Skoogles Goggle and TYR Kids’ Swimple Goggles. Both are affordable, outside-the-eye-socket choices—particularly for younger kids with smaller faces—but in our tests the kids didn’t find them quite as comfortable or easy to adjust as our top picks. Our young competitive swimmers, Sophie and Nola, were more accustomed to the in-the-eye fit of Speedo Jr. Vanquishergoggles, which come with four adjustable nose-bridge pieces for a customized fit. The Jr. Vanquisher pair is a solid choice for young speedsters, but considering its thin straps and more traditional goggle fit, non-swim-team kids preferred our other options.
Very young kids seem to appreciate the wider-open feel of mask goggles because of the easy on-off factor, and our young testers were drawn in particular to Cressi’s Baloo kids swim goggles. The 78-year-old Cressi is a stalwart in the scuba-diving world, and this mask, with its UV protection, excellent anti-fog characteristics, tough crystal-clear lens, soft gasket material, and simple ratchet strap, was a favorite among our young testers. Like Aqua Sphere, Cressi engineers and builds most of its goggles (including the Baloo) in Italy, and we found the quality control on this pair of goggles to be top-notch.
Our only complaint about the Baloo is that it’s not available with a tinted lens. If that’s an important feature for you, try the Aqua Sphere Seal, which also fits a wide variety of kids’ faces. We also tested the Babiators Submariners, a mask for little kids. Although these goggles were neat in concept, featuring wraparound visibility and a wide, comfortable strap, they simply fogged too much.
According to Aqua Sphere’s Mirko Bosio, fogging happens when water vapor rapidly cools as it touches the inside of a lens surface. As soon as a pair of goggles meets the noncirculated, warm, humid air that a face imparts, you have the perfect recipe for the tiny droplets of water that create lens fog (visualize a mirror in a shower-steamed bathroom). “Think about how your car windshield fogs up when you get in it after a hard workout in the middle of winter,” said Bosio.
To prevent this interior condensation, you should dunk your goggles in the pool or ocean before you swim to get them to the same temperature as the water, as opposed to putting them on dry and just jumping in.
In an anti-fog situation, you want to replace the droplets with a thin sheen of water. You can accomplish that by way of a surfactant or a hydrophilic (water-loving) substance that reduces the surface tension of water so that it will form a sheet instead of droplets. Your own saliva can work, as can baby shampoo if you apply it in a very thin coat (you should allow the baby shampoo to dry)—but according to Speedo’s Nate Tracy, these solutions will ultimately wear away the more technologically advanced chemistry that the manufacturer sprayed on the lens during its creation. And contrary to other reports, you should definitely not use toothpaste—have you ever accidentally flicked even a tiny bit of Crest or Aquafresh into your eye?
Care and maintenance
The anti-fog chemicals that manufacturers use on most goggles do have a lifespan, but you can extend them with certain care and maintenance techniques.
First, always rinse your goggles after each use to remove damaging chlorine and salt. Second, avoid touching the inside of the goggles. “One of the big no-no’s of anti-fog is touching the inside of the lens,” said Speedo’s Tracy. “The product team cringes when we see a fresh, out-of-the-box goggle get the spit/thumb treatment on their native journey.” When this happens, he told us, anti-fog coatings might last only minutes versus months. Tracy continued: “There are some commercial options for re-applying anti-fog. They will not perform as well as the factory application, but they will help squeeze a couple more months out of your goggles.”
Finally, remember that any pair of goggles can have a manufacturing defect and fail, so another tip is to buy your pair well before you plan to travel and give it a torture test right when it arrives. Simply bending it, flexing it, and yanking the on straps and clips will often reveal a defect in short order (and in enough time for you to order a replacement).
(Photos by Quinn Dixon.)
- R&D manager, Aqua Sphere, email interview, June 2017 ,
- design engineer, Speedo, email interview, June 2017 ,
- president, International Swimming Hall of Fame, phone interview, June 2017 ,
- How To understand and choose between the different types of swimming goggles, LoneSwimmer, February 4, 2015