Do You Wear Goggles Over or Under Swim Caps?

Goggles Over or Under the Swim Cap

Swimmers who are serious about their swimming performance need to wear a swim cap in addition to their goggles. However, this begs the question: should you put your goggles on first, then put the swim cap over the goggles, or should you don the swim cap first and then put the goggle straps over the swim cap?

Whether you wear a goggle over or under the swim cap is a matter of preference. Casual swimmers tend to wear their goggles over the swim cap so that it’s easier to adjust the straps and it won’t dig into their skin. Competitive swimmers tend to wear their goggles under their swim cap to hold the strap in place and decrease drag underwater. That said, you can wear them however you like.

In this article, we will go over what are the pros and cons of wearing goggles under the swim cap compared to over the swim cap. Each style has distinct benefits, so keep reading to be informed about how the positioning can improve your swimming performance.

Wearing goggles over the swim cap

Can easily adjust the straps (+)

How often do you take breaks between laps just to adjust how the goggle straps are positioned? If this is a frequent occurrence, you will want to wear your goggles over the swim cap so that you have easy access to the straps.

If the goggles are trapped underneath the swim cap, it’s a pain in the butt to remove the swim cap just to adjust the goggles. Even if you are proficient at putting the cap on, this extra step will eventually wear your patience down if you have to do it often.

The most common reasons why people need to adjust their goggles or take it off are that the goggles fit too tightly and need to be loosened up, the lenses fog up too quickly and must be cleared, and that you are simply swimming for too long and the goggles are digging painfully into your skin.

If you can address these pain points, then you can perhaps manage to wear goggles under the swim cap without issues, otherwise just stick to wearing them over the swim cap.

Feels more comfortable (+)

Some people prefer how it feels to wear the goggles over their swim cap because there is an extra layer between the strap and their skin. Over a prolonged swimming session, the strap could dig painfully into their skin, but having the swim cap protecting their head makes it bearable.

If you were to wear the goggles under the swim cap, this problem is exacerbated. Swim caps fit tightly on your head and lock the strap rigidly in place, causing it to constrict your head and feel tight. This can quickly feel unbearable if your straps were also over-tightened in the first place.

Another issue is when the straps feel like they are pulling on your hair due to its friction. Rubber ones are the worst culprit because they are so grippy. If these problems drive you up the wall, it’s time to consider wearing the goggles over the swim cap.

Goggles more likely to slip off (-)

The ease with which you can reach the goggle straps and adjust it can sometimes be a downside.

When the goggles are worn under the swim cap, you can be sure that it’s not going anywhere. Conversely, when it’s worn over the swim cap, there is a chance that the goggles can slip off.

For casual swimmers, this doesn’t matter so much. For competitive swimmers, having your goggles slip off during a competition is disastrous.

The chances of it slipping off are highest during a dive. Even recreational swimmers should be aware of this fact, otherwise you could end up losing your goggles after jumping off of the diving board.

Wearing goggles under the swim cap

Ensures the goggles don’t slip off (+)

Competitive swimmers are more likely to wear their goggles under their swim cap because the swim cap can lock the goggle straps in place. In the middle of the race, they do not have time to adjust their goggles, so they might as well keep it strapped down under a swim cap.

As mentioned, diving into the water poses a great risk of shifting the goggle positioning. The dive doesn’t even have to be done at a great height like a diving board; diving off of the block is enough for it to slip off.

It’s a similar story for triathletes competing in open water races where mother nature can be unpredictable. Turbulent waters can cause waves to buffet these athletes, and losing their goggles in the open water can legitimately be dangerous, so they don’t want to take any chances.

Note: Technically, all competitive swimmers wear their goggles under their swim cap because they wear two swim caps. So even if a swimmer wears their goggles over their first cap, a second swim cap is going to cover the first swim cap and goggles regardless of whether it’s over or under the first cap.

Decreases drag (+)

Competitive swimmers want to leverage anything that can help them swim faster. Some races are won or lost over a difference of milliseconds, so any tweak they can make to improve their speed by a fraction of a second is beneficial.

That is why swimmers wear swim caps when swimming, and why they even double cap: because it reduces friction drag underwater. The purpose of the swim cap is to streamline their head shape to help them move through the water as quickly as possible.

Wearing goggles with the straps on the outside can change their swim cap profile ever so slightly to be less efficient underwater. Now, how much of a difference this makes is unclear, but logically it makes sense. This difference may help a swimmer increase their lap time by a millisecond, and that might make the difference between first or second place.

Feels uncomfortable (-)

When goggles are worn under the swimming cap, it has a tendency to dig into your skin and tug at your hair. You also cannot adjust the goggles mid-swim.

Competitive swimmers don’t care about this downside; their goal is to swim as fast as possible and then they can take off their goggles after the race. Comfort is not a priority, speed is.

If you’re a recreational swimmer, you do not need to subject yourself to this discomfort. You can take breaks by the pool wall, take off your goggles, adjust them as needed, even socialize with the other swimmers. Competitive swimmers don’t have this luxury, nor do they need it.

Allows more water to enter the cap (-)

A common myth is that swim caps keep your hair dry. They don’t, but they certainly limit how much water your hair comes into contact with. If you wear your swim cap over your goggles, there will be a tiny gap where the straps of your goggles stick out from underneath the cap.

This tiny gap allows water to enter the swim cap and completely soak your hair. Some people, myself included, don’t like this sensation and want to limit how much chlorine reaches my hair. Chlorine is known to damage hair, so I want to limit my hair’s exposure to it as much as possible.

The bottom line

There is no right or wrong way to wear your goggles with a swim cap. Whether you want to wear goggles over or under your swim cap, feel free to pick whichever option is most comfortable and convenient for you.

The world’s top competitive swimmers wear their goggles underneath their swim caps for practical reasons – they can dive and swim quickly without worrying about their goggles dislodging.

If you are just a recreational swimmer, you would probably feel better wearing your goggles over your swim cap. However, at the end of the day, it depends on your preferences, so wear it however you like.