If you wear glasses or contact lenses, then doing sport can be complicated. Being able to see properly can be the difference between feeling confident and enjoying an activity or feeling anxious and stressed.
It wasn’t until I got a pair of prescription goggles that I realised how anxious I felt in the swimming pool because I couldn’t see properly. I also realised how much dirt was at the bottom of the pool for the first time!
I’m fairly short sighted so I couldn’t see a pace clock or read a set on a white board which is irritating. But the main thing is I found it hard to recognise people and was embarrassed when I wasn’t sure who was talking to me. I also find it hard to communicate with people when I don’t have my glasses on. When I can’t see, I also struggle to listen because I rely so much on reading body language as well as the words people are speaking.
The other reason for having prescription goggles is to use them as an alternative to wearing contact lenses while swimming. I know a lot of people do swim with contact lenses, but it can be a huge risk of infection and isn’t recommended.
Anyway, if you wear glasses or contact lenses then it’s well worth getting a pair of prescription goggles and here’s some tips on what to look out for.
I buy mine either from the optician or from www.prescription-swimming-goggles.co.uk. But there are lots of general sports stores that sell them such as Decathlon and Wiggle.
They’re not that expensive and are easy to buy online. They can cost from £20 to £60
The first thing you need to do is get a copy of your prescription.
A lot of goggles don’t accommodate a wide range of prescriptions. The cheaper ones often go +6 to -6. If your prescription is outside of this there will unfortunately be less choice.
Some models have interchangeable lenses, so they send you a standard goggle and then you add in the lenses suitable to your prescription. I often find this fiddly and sometimes has ended my swim because I can’t manage to put them back in again on poolside.
I prefer a goggle that comes with the prescription lenses already added so there’s no fiddling about and chance of the lenses popping out.
Some goggles will only give the same prescription in both eyes which is OK if you’re eyes are the same. As my eyes are different this option just gives me a headache. The more expensive one’s will offer the opportunity for different strength lenses in each eye
Most prescription goggles don’t give your precise prescription and won’t accommodate for astigmatism but just plus or minus numbers. Most will go up or down in increments of one, but some models do offer 0.5.
I have a high stigmatism in both eyes and the people at prescription swimming goggles were super helpful and recommended that I increase the number of my right eye to -8 to help with the stigmatism.
I use the Sutton Swimwear OPT1800 with a minus 6 in one eye and minus 8 in the other eye. This gives me good enough vision to feel happy in the water and recognise whoever’s talking to me. These goggles are of an average size and fit my eyes comfortably rather than being of the tiny race like style. I have a clear pair and a blue tinted pair for sunny outdoor swimming. They cost about £20 and have lasted several years. I usually replace them when they start to get a grow mouldy rather than the fact that they’ve broken.
Because they’re not my full prescription my vision isn’t terribly sharp so to give you an idea, they’re not of the standard I’d be able to drive in. But have been perfect for me to do many Ironman races and 3 Channel Relay swims.
Now that I work full time as a swimming teacher, I decided I could treat myself to a pair of goggles with my full prescription. I bought these from Vision Express and they cost me about £60. They only had one choice of goggle either in clear or tinted so the choice is of course much more limited. Because I have a stigmatism in both eyes, they need to measure my eyes to get the lenses in the right place. So, if you have a complicated prescription then it’s well worth getting an optician to help.
Again, it’s a revelation to have proper sharp vision in the swimming pool and I feel much better with the full prescription! If you’re very short sighted like me and rely on your prescription goggles for a swim, then it is worth having 2 pairs so you always have a pair should one of them fall apart.
I now have several pairs and tend to use my full prescription ones for teaching and triathlon races and the cheaper ones for my weekly swim practice at the pool.
Because they’re a bit more expensive than ordinary goggles I do try and look after them a bit more carefully. I always put them in a case to try and limit the scratching to the lenses which is supposed to prolong the anti-fog properties. Despite that, the anti-fog properties do seem to disappear quickly. Read about how to deal with that here