Not all triathlons will require you to wear a full wetsuit. But there’s no denying that neoprene gives you a buoyancy that you just just don’t get from a tri suit.
That bit of float can help keep your hips in the ideal position while you’re swimming, preventing you from fatiguing quickly and giving more power to your kicks.
If you aren’t keen on the idea of a full wetsuit in warm weather, why not try a pair of the best neoprene buoyancy shorts for triathletes and swimmers?
These usually aren’t allowed in triathlons but they are ideal for helping you stay buoyant while training in the pool or open water.
We’ve chosen the Orca Neoprene Short as our number one. They’re 4mm thick, coated with a hydrophobic Super Composite Skin, and offer 30% more buoyancy than other shorts.
Let’s have a look at our top choices.
Tоp 3 Bеst and Fаvorite
Orca Neoprene Short
TYR Women’s Hurricane Wetsuit Cat 1
WETSOX Neoprene Base Layer Shorts for Wetsuits
1. Orca Neoprene Short
The name of these shorts is appropriate. Have you ever seen an Orca glide through the water? That’s what these shorts are designed to do for you!
They’re created from Yamamoto Neoprene, 4mm thick, to insulate and keep you streamlined. These shorts are coated with SCS (Super Composite Skin), which is a super smooth material that repels water, helping you glide through the water easily.
They also provide a good bit of buoyancy. In fact, they claim to offer 30% more buoyancy than others, thanks to the inclusion of Aerodome panels on the legs, which also allow for a wider range of motion.
These panels are slightly thinner than the rest of the shorts. Thicker sections offer impressive support, while the thinner panels allow for flexibility.
The elasticated waistband helps to keep these shorts tight, but their width prevents the waistband from cutting into the skin. Be aware that water does get through this material, but it won’t get through the neoprene.
There’s also an adjustable drawcord at the waist, so you can get a comfortable and effective fit. Two reinforced eyelets prevent wear and tear on the waistband.
The Orca buoyancy shorts are also surprisingly affordable in comparison to others. Definitely worth the buy if you’re looking for something to help you stay in the right position and move easily through the water.
Because of the thick, non-stretchable neoprene, those who are in between sizes should opt for the larger.
- 4mm thick Yamamoto Neoprene
- Aerodome panels
- Adjustable, elasticated waistband
- Flexible and streamlined design
- May run slightly small (but mainly for those in-between sizes)
2. Zone 3 Neoprene Buoyancy Shorts ‘Premium’ Aerodome Elite 5/3mm
Zone 3 are the original creators of buoyancy shorts, and they’re still right up there in terms of quality.
These shorts are very similar to our top choice. This product is an updated and improved version of their original shorts, called Premium, and designed to be more aerodynamic and more buoyant.
Supportive 5mm neoprene panels run down the sides of these shorts. They provide a 30% increase in buoyancy compared to regular neoprene and keep you feeling properly supported in the water.
On the front and back, 3mm panels made of Yamamoto #39 SCS material allow for flexibility and a light, comfortable fit. The SCS Nano layer reduces drag and fatigue in the pool or lake.
The waistband is wide and non-chafing. It provides enhanced support to the core as well as creating a comfortable seal. An adjustable drawstring allows you to get a comfortable fit.
- 3mm front and back panels
- SCS Nano coating
- 5mm Aerodome side panels
- Enhanced core support
- Some find the drawstring to be too short
3. WETSOX Neoprene Base Layer Shorts for Wetsuits
These neoprene shorts offer decent insulation and buoyancy for their price point. They’re not going to prop you up quite like our first two choices, but these are ideal as an extra layer of warmth under your wetsuit.
The shorts are just 1mm thick, so they go great underneath a wetsuit without making you feel too bulky. You can wear them alone too. Their thinness also makes them extra flexible, so you won’t be hampered by them as you move.
Made from 25% Spandex and 75% Neoprene, they offer a four-way stretch feature that makes them super easy to get on and off. This, and the flatlock seams, ensures that there’s no bunching or chafing.
Another feature that’s welcomed when changing in or out of these shorts is the thumb cuffs. A small loop of material on either side makes it easy to pull these shorts up and down, but excessive force could cause them to break.
- Four-way stretch material
- 1mm thick material
- Flatlock seams for less chafing
- Thumb cuffs for easy use
- Some may feel that the waistband is a little too thin
4. XTERRA WETSUITS LAVA
If you’re looking for the best in both buoyancy and insulation, XTERRA Lava Shorts are an excellent choice. They’re 5mm thick throughout, which is the maximum allowed for wetsuits in triathlons.
Thick shorts are particularly good for open water swims. They prevent water from getting in and keep your hips up, so if you do begin to fatigue, you won’t lose your form too much.
The legs come to just above the knee and the shorts feature a drawstring for easy adjustment. It’s low-cut in the front and higher at the back, which is comfortable and flexible.
Although these shorts are legal in triathlons, they count as a wetsuit and may only be worn in races in which wetsuits are permitted. Double-check before your race!
- 5 mm thick neoprene on the front and back
- Low-cut front waistband, high back
- Flat seams for no chafing
- Allows for full-range of motion
- Thick material is slightly less flexible, which may be uncomfortable for some
Best Lightweight Shorts
5. Hyperflex Wetsuits AMP Series Neoprene Shorts
These shorts are sturdy despite their lightness. Just 1.5mm in thickness, they’re great under a wetsuit or by themselves to protect you from cold water.
They’re made out of Hyperflex AMPstretch superstretch neoprene, with a 6-way stretch. This means you’ll have a full range of motion and won’t feel restricted at all, whether you’re swimming, running, or biking.
Flatlock seams reduce the chance of chafing, and bands around the legs prevent them from riding up uncomfortably. There’s also a cinch strap in the waist so you can get your ideal fit.
- Superstretch neoprene
- Waist cinch strap
- Flatlock seams
- Lower leg bands
- May be too thin for swimming in cold weather
Best Women’s Shorts
6. TYR Women’s Hurricane Wetsuit Cat 1
These buoyancy shorts are 1.5mm thick in most places, thin enough to allow you full freedom of movement in the water but still thick enough to provide a bit of extra warmth.
Each side features a 5mm-thick buoyancy panel, which keeps your hips afloat and reduces fatigue while you’re swimming.
They’re made from Slick Skin Neoprene, which is designed to make you aerodynamic and increase your efficiency in the water.
There’s an adjustable drawstring in the waist, which is helpful to get the right fit. Be aware that there have been reports of the waist running small while the legs fit perfectly.
This pair of shorts is USAT and WTC-legal, so you can wear them in competition without worrying.
- Slick Skin Neoprene
- Different motion zones
- Adjustable drawcord
- WTC and USAT legal
- May run small
Top Runner-Up For Women
7. ROKA Women’s Gen II Elite Aero Tri Short
Ladies who prefer thicker shorts might like these. They’re 5mm in thickness, which is ideal for cold water and gives you a definite buoyancy advantage in the pool or lake.
Made from Yamamoto #39 SCS-coated neoprene, you’ll glide through the water effortlessly thanks to the hydrophobic coating. The thicker material pushes your hips up in the water, helping you to keep proper form and develop muscle memory for it.
A nice comfort feature is a stretch-knit waistband. It’s not only comfortable and non-chafing, but it won’t allow water in as it gets an excellent seal.
It’s considered to be a wetsuit by USAT standards, so it may be worn in any race in which wetsuit use is permitted. Double-check before taking these shorts to your race!
They do appear to run small, so check your sizing carefully before buying.
- Hydrophobic surface coating
- 5 mm in thickness
- Drawcord for adjustment
- Stretch-knit waistband
- Runs small
Looking for a pair of the best neoprene buoyancy shorts for triathletes and swimmers? Here are a few questions you may be wondering about before choosing a pair.
What Are Neoprene Shorts?
Neoprene shorts aren’t just any old pair of shorts. They’re specially designed apparel that’s modeled after a wetsuit.
They’re made of neoprene material (obviously!), which has certain properties that offer a great advantage in a triathlon setting!
They’re specifically designed to lift the hips while in the water and put the swimmer in a natural, healthy position.
What Material Are They Made Of and How Thick Are They?
As their name suggests, these shorts are made of neoprene. That’s the same stuff as wetsuits are made of.
Like wetsuits, they come in a range of thicknesses. The thinnest ones are 1mm or 1.5mm thick. These are generally meant to be a thin, insulating layer that offers more by way of streamlining than buoyancy.
The thickest shorts you’ll find are 5mm. These are ideal for buoyancy, and they offer a great deal of insulation in cold water. They’re a little less flexible than thinner ones.
How Do Neoprene Swim Shorts Help?
Neoprene shorts can help quite significantly. The buoyancy of the material offers a floaty feeling in the water that keeps the swimmer in a particular position; specifically, with the hips lifted.
This is the optimal position for effective swimming form. You’ll be able to move forward more smoothly in the water. The extra buoyancy help will conserve energy that you would otherwise spend on holding yourself up. This energy can be put towards more powerful kicking.
Shorts like these are an excellent tool for weaker swimmers who struggle to keep their hips up in the water. You can focus on your stroke rather than your hip position, and your position will naturally adjust itself the more you use the shorts.
Are Neoprene Swim Shorts Allowed in a Triathlon?
In general, neoprene buoyancy shorts are not legal in USA Triathlon events if the water temperature is above 78℉. In water colder than that, they can be used in place of a full wetsuit or swim skin.
It’s best to check the rules of your particular triathlon before simply wearing a pair of neoprene shorts. Each event may be subject to the organizers’ rules.
Even if your events don’t allow participants to wear neoprene shorts, wearing them just in training can improve your performance.
The more you swim in them, the more your muscle memory will begin to correct your form on its own. If you train in neoprene shorts, you’ll find that your swimming form in competition will improve and help you to swim further for longer!