Choose the Best Swim Goggles or Mask for You

If you’re looking to buy eye wear for swimming, the first thing you need to do is figure out whether you need goggles, a mask, or a hybrid between the two. Goggles cover your eyes only, whereas a mask also encloses the nose. A hybrid is just what it sounds like – a cross between goggles and a mask. Most hybrid eye wear for swimmers looks like a diver’s mask, but the nose area is not enclosed.

Goggles – Goggles are great for competitive swimming and keeping water out of your eyes if you’re going to play around in a pool, the ocean or any other body of water you’re planning on dunking your head into with your eyes open.

Masks – Masks are best suited for snorkeling, diving, or skin diving. As a snorkeler, having your nose enclosed is not absolutely necessary, but it’s great for keeping you from forgetting that you need to breathe through just your mouth. As a diver or skin diver, having the nose area enclosed is important because it allows you to breath a little bit of air into your mask. This helps alleviate the pressure of the mask during dives.

HybridGoggles – This type of goggle can be used for snorkeling (though purists will insist you use a mask) or the same uses as goggles. They are not recommended if you want to swim competitively since they’re not very aerodynamic. They are also absolutely inappropriate for diving! Some people prefer hybrid style eye wear for swimming because they do not like the tight, eye socket fit of goggles OR the enclosed nose offered by masks.

Once you’ve decided what kind of eye wear you need for swimming, it’s time to start shopping. Here are three simple tips that will keep you from buying something ridiculous:

Tip #1 – Figure out what you need ahead of time. Determine what kind of swimming you’re going to be doing as well as how frequent your swimming will be. Will you be in the pool once a month? Every day? Or will you be in the ocean? Depending on what kind of water you’re swimming in and how often you’ll be doing it, you may want to spend more or less on a new pair of eye wear for the water. By the time you start shopping have an idea of how much you’re willing to spend, how durable your eye wear needs to be, and whether you think you’re going to need goggles, a mask, or hybrid goggles.

Tip #2 – Don’t worry about fashion. Everyone who has ever put on goggles, a swim mask, or hybrid goggles looks like an idiot. (Except maybe, for Michael Phelps, though it’s probably more the fact that he’s accessorizing with six pack abs.) The point being, you’re buying the eye wear to protect your eyes, not be a fashion model. Once you have this in your head, the rest is easy.

Tip #3 – Try it before you buy it. A lot of sports stores will insist that you cannot try on the goggles before you purchase them. You don’t need to buy anything if they feel that way. Keep on insisting you need to try them on, otherwise find another store. Dive shops are often more amenable to letting you try on goggles and masks before purchasing. If you can’t find a place that will let you try anything on, there are still a few tricks left. You can try on a pair of goggles that has already been opened. Or, if you’re a member at a gym with a pool, ask to see the lost and found. You can try on any goggles people have left to see what works for you. Here’s what you’re looking for by the way –

What to look for with goggles – You should be able to put the goggles on your face, press them against your eye sockets, and have them stay there on their own. The seal around your eyes should be air tight. If there are any gaps, or they fall off right away, they don’t fit your face so move on. The exception is some types of racing goggles, which do not have any padding or suction material. These are meant to be strapped as tightly to your head as humanly possible to make you extra aerodynamic for a race. Do NOT buy this type of goggle if you were planning on playing around in the pool or doing a long water workout – they’re just going to be painful and loosen up on you, letting all the water into your eyes. The other exception is goggles that use padding and tension to keep out water. Some goggles have a layer of rubber foam that will not suction to your face. You will need to keep the headband extra tight on these goggles. If you’re testing a pair of these, put them on and see if the headband holds them over your eyes snugly enough to prevent water from getting in.

What to look for with masks – You again want a water tight, suction based seal with a dive mask. You also want to ensure your nose is comfortable inside the mask. If it feels pinched or pulled in any way try out another mask. Ideally, the mask should suction onto your face, stay there without straps, and leave no gaps where air or water can get in.

What to look for with hybrid goggles – Again you want a water tight seal like you do with masks and goggles. Make sure they fit you comfortably.

Now it’s time to buy the perfect pair of goggles or a mask!

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