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How to choose prescription goggles: our experts put six to the test

Whether it’s clearly sighting a course, deciphering the lido clock or simply enjoying the scenery, having the correct prescription goggles is an essential part of your outdoor swimming kit.

Simon Griffiths has your guide to the best prescription goggles on the market, plus expert optometrist advice on how to make the right choice for you.

As a glasses wearer, I had long been frustrated by poor vision while swimming. At the pool, I struggled to see the pace clock or instructions written by coaches on white boards. In open water, I’d mistake people’s swimming hats for course marker buoys and miss out on interesting things to see around me. 

Prescription goggles changed all of that and I recommend them to anyone who struggles with the same problems. There is now a wide range of prescription goggles on the market to cater for most preferences and finding the right pair is fairly straightforward. However, there are a few things to take into account, so I asked practising optometrist James Sutton for advice. 

Scroll down for our review of the best prescription swimming goggles

How do I know what prescription to buy?

A spectacle prescription is usually written in the following form: sphere (or sph) / cylinder (or cyl) x axis. Usually the right eye is written first followed by the left, either one above the other or side by side, for instance: R -3.00 / -0.50 x 180 L -3.50 / -1.00 x 2

The sphere (or sph) is the main part of your prescription and will be ‘-’ for short-sightedness (myopia) and ‘+’ for longsightedness (hypermetropia). The cylinder (or cyl) is the secondary part of your prescription and refers to the amount of astigmatism you have.

Off-the-shelf prescription goggles only correct for distance, not astigmatism, so in order to calculate the power for your goggles, you need to take into account the two aspects of your spectacles’ prescription.

You should base the power for your goggles primarily on the amount of short or long sightedness you have. If you also have a moderate degree of astigmatism (up to 2.00), incorporate up to half of this to choose the most appropriate power. Most swimming goggles come in 0.50 or 1.00 steps so you may have to select the nearest power. Here are some examples:

-3.00/-1.00×90 – the best power would be -3.50 (-3.00 plus half of -1.00 so -3.00 plus -0.50)

-3.00/+1.00×90 – the best power would be -2.50 (-3.00 plus half of +1.00 so -3.00 plus +0.50)

+3.00/-1.00×90 – the best power would be +2.50 (+3.00 plus half of -1.00 so +3.00 plus -0.50)

+3.00/+1.00×90 – the best power would be +3.50 (+3.00 plus half of +1.00 so +3.00 plus +0.50

Unless you have a very basic prescription, most swimming goggles will not provide the same level of vision as your glasses or contact lenses. However, they will provide adequate vision for swimming.

Which prescription goggles do I buy if my astigmatism is more than 2.00?

None of the ‘off the shelf’ goggles correct astigmatism so if the majority of your prescription is astigmatism, or you have astigmatism over 2.00 dioptres, you will need a custom made product for best visual results.

What if my normal glasses are bi-focal or vari-focal?

Swimming goggles only correct for the distance but this is not usually an issue in the water. If seeing up close is important to you (if you want to see a lap watch perhaps) then it could be possible to buy a pair with a reading power in one eye and distance in the other.

What extra considerations do I need to take into account for open water swimming?

Ensure you have good fitting goggles as some open water locations can contain a variety of microbes that are less likely to be a problem in pools. A tint or mirrored finish to the goggles may also be beneficial if you are hoping for a sunny swim. Some swimmers prefer models that offer a wider view, while others like the comfort of swim masks.

Why not just wear contact lenses under normal goggles?

Wearing contact lenses under swimming goggles is not recommended because the chances of getting an acanthamoeba infection are greatly increased. Acanthamoeba is a waterborne microbe that is all around us, but when combined with contact lens wear and the weakening to the cornea in chlorinated water, the risks go up. Treatment for acanthamoeba involves using medical eye drops every hour, day and night, for a few days with the frequency between drops gradually decreasing over the first few weeks. Treatment usually has to continue for at least a year. Even with successful treatment permanent and debilitating visual lose can still occur.

The best prescription googles


SWANS SR2

£47.99

They say: SWANS sells three models of prescription swimming goggles: SR-2, SR-7 and SRX. The SR-2 model is available for short and long-sighted swimmers and available in 0.5 dioptres, -1.50 to -8.00. They are suitable for pool and open water; and for training or racing. Interchangeable nose pieces (sizes S-XL) provide a comfortable fit. The Anti-fog lens offer UVA & UVB protection. Colours include smoke/black, navy blue and navy shadow.

We say: I’ve been using a pair of these as my regular pool training goggles for years. Despite abusing them by dropping them loose and unrinsed in my bag, they’ve lasted well. I also keep a second good pair in their box for use in pool and open water races. These are comfortable, reliable with good all-round and undistorted vision both above and below the water. These are workhorse goggles but they won’t let you down in a race.


HUUB Altair

£49.99 + £12.49 (prescription lenses)

They say: The world’s only goggles with three different lenses. Featuring a soft, flexible and no pressure feel silicone gasket; three interchangeable nose pieces for a custom fit; and three mirrored lenses for reduced glare and comfort including yellow mirror (for lowlight, dusk swims and to help spot swim buoys); silver mirror (ideal for the pool, artificial light or early morning swim); and black mirror (for strong sunlight and bright days).

We say: We’re impressed. The Huub Altair is like owning several pairs of goggles at once. The original goggles come with three sets of non-prescription lenses. We ordered an additional set of prescription lenses. Changing the lenses is a little fiddly but it’s not hard. Vision is excellent and comfort is high. Our only disappointment is that the prescription lenses only come in smoke silver – we’d have liked the same range as the non-prescription lenses.


SWANS SRX

£55.99

They say: SWANS SRX Prescription Goggles are for the short-sighted swimmer. Suitable for pool and open water; and for training or racing. A traditional double silicone strap and interchangeable nose brudges (XS, S, M, L) provide a comfortable fit. Available in dioptres -2.00 to -7.00. FINA approved. Features anti-fog lens, 100% UVA and UVB protection and double silicone strap for secure fit.

We say: The SRX is smaller lighter goggle than the SR2 and sits deeper in the eye socket. The gasket is less soft and flexible for those who prefer a more stripped down goggle experience, although not as austere as the “Swedish” style SR7, which has no gasket. These look and feel fast and vision is excellent. They are perfect for pool racing but we prefer the slightly wider fit of the SR7s for open water.


SUTTON Shark

£18

They say: The Sutton Swimwear SHARK prescription swimming goggle is made from a single moulded mount for added comfort and pre-fitted with corrective lenses. The goggle has smaller eye pieces making it ideal for small faces and a racing profile. The soft moulded mount improves comfort around the eyes and across the nose. The adjustable, split strap ensures great fitting.

We say: We liked these immediately. Basic, comfortable and robust, we found these perfect for pool training. The grey tint softens harsh lights and deepens blues, which helps when swimming outdoors too. As these are pre-moulded, there is no scope to change the nose bridge so they may not fit all faces. At £16.50, these are great value.


SUTTON Coral

£19

They say: Popular brand Sutton Swimwear brings a new sense of style to optical goggles with a red mount and amber mirror finished prescription lenses. This model was sourced due to the popularity of mirror lenses in competitive swimmers. The stylish look and design of the CORAL will appeal to many swimmers but for those who swim outside (open air pools, open water swimming or triathlons) we are sure the tint and mirror finish will make them an essential accessory.

We say: These were our least favourite from the Sutton range we tried. This doesn’t make them bad. It’s more a reflection of the competition. They absolutely do the job they’re supposed to do and are reasonably priced at £17.50. We felt they weren’t as comfortable as either the Shark or Surf models.


SUTTON Surf

£24

They say: The Sutton Swimwear SURF prescription swimming goggle is made from a single moulded mount for added comfort and pre fitted with tinted, mirrored corrective lenses. The wide soft moulded mount improves comfort around the eyes and across the nose. The split headstrap has a secure rachet system on the side so once the perfect fit has been achieved, it will stay the same, use after use.

We say: Our initial reaction on seeing these was that they were big and ugly. After swimming in them, we became huge fans. These were our stand-out favourite of the three Sutton models we tried, especially for swimming outside. They were also the most comfortable, and we were pleasantly surprised at the price. Standard goggle wearers might be jealous.

Last updated April 2024. If you buy a product through a link on this page we may receive a commission.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.