Original Swedish Goggles


Swede swimming solution

Among competitive swimmers that wear goggles four hours a day for weeks on end, the widely accepted gold standard is a type of goggles invented in the 1970s by the Swedish company Malmsten AB and widely copied thereafter. They will hold up to years and years of exposure to chlorine, replacement parts are easy to find, they are infinitely customizable to their user’s face, are very comfortable when dialed in, and yet cost only $4 a pair where others can cost $30. They’re called “Swedish” goggles.

The first thing you’ll notice about them is that unlike every other goggle on the market, they have no soft rubber/foam seal around each eyepiece. The sealing surface is hard plastic. What would seem to be a shocking design oversight actually makes a lot of sense. They were originally designed this way to accommodate people that might have a skin allergy to rubber or foam. Because the seal is hard plastic, it is impervious to chlorine and UV, and seals exactly the same way each time. Individual eyepieces will last forever and still seal the same long after soft seals have rotted away from the chlorine. They come in about eight million colors, but I recommend not getting the metallic eyepieces as the coating eventually wears off but they do look cool. There is an anti-fog variant, but I just spit and swish in mine and that works well enough. I suppose you could also buy an anti-fog cream.

The nose piece is another thing you’ll notice, in that it appears to just be a cheap piece of string in a rubber tube. Again, this design is very smart, as it is infinitely adjustable where other goggles have to use interchangeable nose pieces or some other part that will force the purchase of a new pair if it ever gets lost or broken, the Swedish goggles’ nose piece can be replaced with any bit of string you can find and a piece of clear tubing from the hardware store. Many swimmers like Michael Phelps also use a section of the head strap as a nose piece. I personally use a twist of wire.

The head strap is like the nose piece; instead of a proprietary strap like other goggles, it uses a simple piece of flat rubber strap that can be found anywhere. The strap can be configured to have different upper and lower lengths in order to sit perfectly.

Fitting them, of course, is more involved due to their customizability. There are detailed directions included with each pair, and it takes about 15 minutes. Just like any goggle, some people will fit them and some won’t. I have heard of a few swimmers shaping the sealing surface with sandpaper in order to make them fit, but they really do fit the vast majority of people. However, they won’t fit a lot of kids because kids’ smaller eye orbitals will interfere with the sealing.

I have had my pair of goggles for about ten years, and have gone through about five head straps and three nose pieces in that time while pool and ocean swimming 10 hours a week during college and 2 hours a week thereafter. My eyepieces are still going strong.

11/23/10 -- Jon Braun