Triathlon Swimwear

And Other Swim-Related Gear

Triathlon Swimwear is fairly straightforward.

For training the only thing you really need is a standard swimming suit or swimming trunks, and goggles. There are other accessories you can get for training if you wish, and some different things you can invest in for racing.

If you have any questions about triathlon swim gear then please just ask us.

Triathlon Swimwear For Racing

Keen triathletes will probably want to race in a specialised suit, called a ‘race suit’. This is a one piece, skin tight suit that creates little drag in the water or on the bike, and is aqua-phobic (water runs off it). This is especially important if you are after a fast time in a non-wetsuit permitted swim.

If you are new to triathlon, you don’t need to rush straight out and buy a race suit. or specific triathlon swimwear. You can race in a normal swimsuit and then in transition pull on a cycling jersey and shorts.

Alternatively you could swim in shorts (shorts and a crop top for girls). Don’t try swimming in normal cycling shorts – the padding will fill up with water and weigh you down.

It is possible to buy swimming briefs (both short and long leg) that have a bit of padding, making the bike section a little more comfortable. When you come out of the water you can then just pull on a vest or top for the bike and run.

Triathlon Swimwear For Training

Any standard swimsuit that is comfortable will do - it doesn't need to be specific triathlon swimwear.

You’ll also need goggles so that you can see where you are going and to stop the water irritating your eyes.

Again standard goggles will do the job just fine. They should feel comfortable and fit well so that no water can get in.

Some Additional Toys For Training

Our Swimming Training pages describe how you can use some of the toys below to add to your triathlon swimming training. They all have their uses, but don’t become over-reliant on them.


These are plastic devices worn on your hands whilst swimming.

There are many different types of paddle with a variety of different uses. However the main use is to increase the amount of water you can ‘hold’ with each stroke. This creates more resistance for you to pull against.

One reason for using them is to swim faster for less effort. As you are able to hold more water your stroke should become more efficient, so for the same effort you go faster. Another use is to increase muscular endurance. The extra resistance places a greater stress on your shoulders and lats (if swimming properly) and with the right training session can be used to develop muscular endurance.

One other use for paddles is to try and help you ‘feel’ the water. As you are able to ‘hold’ more water, you should be better able to feel when your hand is in the correct place as the resulting ‘catch’ is more effective. You then take the paddles off and try to replicate this feeling.

They come in different sizes, and you need to be careful about what size you choose.

Beginner triathletes or novice swimmers should start off with a relatively small set. In fact you can even buy finger paddles which just fit over your fingers rather than your whole hand, so providing a lot less resistance. Some of these come in the form of neoprene gloves – handy if you swim in cold open water!

More experienced triathletes or stronger swimmers can use a bigger set of paddles to help develop muscular endurance.

If you use a pair that is too big relative to your strength, you risk injuring your shoulders. The bigger the paddles, the more resistance there is through the water. If your shoulders are not strong enough you will eventually over-stress them.


Fins are worn on the foot, are made from rubber or plastic, and aid movement through the water. They can help improve your front crawl kick strength and ankle flexibility. They also help you to maintain a good body position with ease, and allow you to swim faster for less effort.

Fins can help you swim at a fast pace with reduced effort. This means you can practice correct technique at the right pace without getting as tired.

You want fins that are relatively short – not ones that you would use for snorkeling. Snorkeling fins are very long and this slows down your leg kick too much, swimming fins are really like having bigger feet, not becoming a fish!


Snorkels are useful for technical sessions working on body position. You can practice body rotation without having to move your head to breathe.

It is possible to buy swimming specific snorkels which angle back over your head. This means that you can keep a low head position and therefore not compromise your body position in the water.

Pull Buoy and Kick Boards

These are usually made of polystyrene or some similar material.

The pull buoy is placed between your legs to add buoyancy. This usually makes swimmers whose legs drop swim much better, as your body position is much flatter in the water.

Don’t over use this as you will eventually need to swim without it and if you are over reliant your position will change and your stroke mechanics alter significantly. This is not usually a good thing.

Kick boards are flat and are usually held out in front of you while you practice your kicking only.

There are many shapes and sizes of both, everyone has preferences, but in general there is not much to choose between the brands.

Goggles And Caps

You can either wear the standard swimming goggles that you use for training. Or if you prefer, you can buy triathlon specific open water goggles. These are bigger than your normal swimming goggles, are more secure on your face and give better visibility.

It is really up to you what you find most comfortable, which is the most important thing when it comes to racing.

Most races will supply cheap swim caps – these are used to identify the race groups. You can buy neoprene hats and if it is cold you can wear this under the race cap to keep you warm.

Got a question about triathlon swimwear?
Then ask us!

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