Swim Goggles: To have or not to have – That is the Question

Your goggle questions answered, by Marjan Moosavi, founder of Blue Wave Swim School

These days swim goggles have become an inseparable element of ‘swimming kit’ for all ages., Parents are increasingly prone to buying goggles for their toddlers and children regardless of whether or not they can swim or whether they are yet familiar with the sensation of having water on their faces. So when are goggles necessary and when should we buy them?

two children with swimming goggles at Blue Wave Swim school's swim lessons

The History of Swimming Goggles

First of all though – a quick look back at the history of goggles. The earliest evidence of the use of goggles appears to be from the 14th Century when Persian swimmers covered their eyes with tortoise shells when diving in the sea for pearls (no idea how they could actually then see better).  But the use of goggles for swimming by the general public and specially for swimming lessons or even elite swimming is relatively new.

Wearing Swimming Googles For Racing

According to the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) or the International Swimming Federation,  commercial swimming goggles as we recognize them today only came about in the 1960s. Before that, swimmers had to wear goggles very similar to motorcycle goggles.

In the below picture, you can see Thomas Burgess who crossed the English Channel in 1911 wearing something similar to motorcycle goggles which apparently leaked all the way. It’s believed he was the first competitive swimmer to swim with goggles.

Thomas Burgess who swam the English Channel in 1911 with goggles

Fast forward a few decades and footage of Olympic swimmers in 1972 Olympic games in Munich (Germany) reveals that even the big stars of the swimming world then, such as Mark Spitz didn’t wear goggles during races.

Swimming Goggles in the 21st Century

But now in the 21st Century, goggles have become the standard kit for swimmers from toddlers upwards. Not surprising really given that they are part of a multi-million-pound swimming accessories industry marketed and sold by famous brands such as  Speedo and TYR and are widely available online, in sports shops and in  Poundland offering a vast array of style choices and price options.

Specialised goggles like anti-fog goggles, prescription swimming goggles or goggles with UV protection tend to be more expensive but, normal goggles, due to large production volume, are generally quite affordable.

different types of swimming goggles

Benefits of Swimming Goggles

Swimming goggles have evolved so much in the last 40 years and thanks to them, swim training sessions have become more comfortable on the eyes allowing people to stay longer in the water and train for more extended periods. Goggles protect swimmers’ eyes from the chemicals in the pool and they allow elite swimmers to swim more than 4000 metres in one session. Modern goggles have also made flip-turns faster, enabling swimmers to reach faster speeds and break swimming records. 

One of the questions I’m most commonly asked poolside is ‘when should my child start wearing goggles for swimming?’

When to buy swimming goggles?

I DO NOT recommend children wear goggles when they at the early stages of learning to swim.

The reason is that people – adults and children alike – must get used to the sensation of having water fully in their face and eyes and be comfortable with putting their full face in the water without protection when they are first learning to swim.  In order that they don’t panic in future swimmers should first get used to the feeling of having water in their eyes and learn how to calmly blink it out.

When, and only when, you or your child are/is completely comfortable with putting your/their face in the water and the first part of the swim programme when the majority of lesson time is spent with your/their faces in water, is it time to reach for the goggles. And at that point, I highly recommend them. You can watch my explanation here:

Tips for Choosing Goggles

From famous swimming brands like Speedo, Zoggs and TYR to Poundland, the choice of goggles on offer can be bewildering. My guidance is:

  1. Just as you would check shoe size, check that you are getting the right size of goggles. Swimming goggles come both in junior sizes and senior sizes, and don’t think that adjusting the straps on an adult pair will fit a child because it’s about the distance between the actual eye pockets which no amount of strap adjusting will fix. 
  2. When you pick the right size, wearing them should feel comfortable and they shouldn’t leak. Zoggs has a good range of junior size goggles and they normally cost between £11.00 to £14.99.  Please avoid buying the hologram goggles because wearing them makes seeing the swimmers’ eyes impossible for the swim teachers. Having eye contact is an important part of teacher-learner effective communication.
  3. There are single or double strap goggles. Double strap goggles (with two straps securing the goggles at the back of the head) fit better around the head and stay on more securely during different practices versus single strap ones.

A word on price: More expensive goggles (and I would categorise this as over £10.00 a pair), do tend to last longer and fit better. But don’t get an expensive pair if you are buying them for a child (or adult) who cannot swim as yet.

    • When your child or yourself start swimming properly or start training for squad and swimming more than one session a week, it makes sense to spend more money and invest in a good pair of goggles. For a good pair, consider buying recognised brands like Speedo, Zoggs, TYR. They are not the cheapest but, worth the investment.
    • If your child only wears goggles once a week for less than an hour or you think your child is bound to lose them (sorry, but it’s true and happens a lot), maybe going for the cheaper options are not going to be a bad idea.

Alert: One of the problems we see with very cheap goggles (under £10) is that they do leak during lessons and children tend to spend a lot of time fiddling and playing with them and waste some of their valuable lesson time.

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