In some cases, a wetsuit isn’t necessary for the swim leg of a triathlon. But swimming in your regular tri-suit can present some problems, such as “ballooning” while you’re swimming, slowing you down.
When you aren’t required to wear a full wetsuit, a swim skin could be the best option. Just keep in mind, it won’t meet the standards of a wetsuit, so you won’t be able to wear one when a wetsuit is required.
We recommend the ROKA Viper Pro as our top pick. It features Hydrophobic Teflon coating, patented Arms Up technology, and silicone leg grippers.
Here’s the full list of the swim skins we recommend.
Top 4 Best and Favorite
ROKA Viper Pro Swimskin
TYR Torque Pro Swim Skin
TYR Carbon Zipper Back Short John TriSuit
TYR Fusion 2 Aerofit Shortjohn
1. ROKA Viper Pro Swimskin
The Viper Pro is classified as a “speed suit”. It’s both WTC and USAT-legal so you won’t have any problems wearing it in competition. It’s made from a stretch-woven material and coated with hydrophobic Teflon for aerodynamics.
The seams are bonded for extra durability and have hidden stitch reinforcement. A low-profile zipper at the back minimizes discomfort. Another feature that increases the comfort of this suit is the flat seams at the legs where others use silicone grippers which have the potential to cause pain and “sausage legs”.
This swim skin is designed in such a way that your arms remain completely free—Arms Up technology—, but you get adequate support where you need it throughout the rest of the swim skin.
The men’s swim skin comes with yellow graphics, while the women’s has pink.
- Hydrophobic Teflon coating
- Patented Arms Up technology
- Silicone leg grippers
- USAT and WTC legal
- No other styles available and some swimmers may be uncomfortable with the sleeveless design
2. TYR Torque Pro Swim Skin
The TYR Torque Pro Swim Skin is a close second and is also USAT legal. It’s designed to increase speed by making one more streamlined in the water and also add a small amount of buoyancy.
It has a smooth hydrophilic outer shell which reduces drag, helping this swim skin to achieve an exceptionally low drag coefficient of 0.21. When wet, it becomes slick to the touch, so it’s easy to understand how this creates an aerodynamic effect.
A hydrophobic inner layer keeps you dry underneath this suit, with a 0.5% water absorption rate.
All of these features are achievable thanks to the Yamamoto textile that the swim skin is made from. It’s flexible and allows for one to have a full range of movement. It also reduces drag significantly thanks to a Super Composite Skin—SCS—nano coating. This also makes it extremely durable as it’s abrasion-resistant.
A zipper lanyard makes it easier to transition quickly and it uses a beaded silicone band around the legs for the best grip.
- Hydrophobic inner layer
- Low drag coefficient of .021
- Beaded silicone band
- Yamamoto fabric
- This suit may run small so it’s advisable to check the sizing chart carefully
Best Ironman And FINA Approved
3. Blueseventy PZ2TX Triathlon Swimskin
Not all swim skins are Ironman-approved. If you’re aiming for an Ironman finish, you’ll need to make sure that your swim skin is approved. We recommend choosing the Blueseventy PZ2TX Triathlon Swimskin.
It’s manufactured from Energy Fabric, a Teflon-coated hydrophobic material that enhances one’s aerodynamics in the water. Welded seams also reduce drag in the water.
The fabric is biomechanically engineered to offer light compression throughout the entire suit. This provides support to the body and muscles and lowers draw even more. A YKK locking zipper also aids in moving through the water smoothly and makes transitions easier.
This swim skin is also heat-regulating, thanks to a patch of white reflective fabric on the back. It helps to thermoregulate, keeping you cool when necessary and warm in cold water.
- Teflon-coated Energy Fabric
- Ultrasonic bonded seams
- Optimal muscular compression
- It may be difficult to remove when transitioning
Best For Racing
4. Zone3 Streamline Sleeveless Swimskin
If you’re going to be racing and need something that’s very aerodynamic, the Zone3 Streamline Sleeveless Swimskin is a good choice.
It’s an entry-level swim skin designed to be worn over your tri-suit that’s made of a lightweight, compressive material, Zone3’s Revo Energy fabric.
This material is hydrophobic and has bonded seams, allowing a minimal amount of water through to your skin and offering extra buoyancy in the water. It also reduces drag dramatically, as well as offering maximum compressive benefits.
On the back, a colored panel makes you easily visible in the water and sets you apart from other competitors. A zip on the back with a lanyard makes it easy to get this suit off when transitioning.
- Compressive-woven, hydrophobic fabric
- Dimpled back panel
- Nano-coated fabric
- Drag resistance
- Some might find that the hems around the legs are too tight to be comfortable
5. TYR Carbon Zipper Back Short John TriSuit
Comfort is very important when in the water. The TYR Carbon Zipper Back Short John TriSuit is an excellent choice if comfort is your top priority.
This is partly due to the fabric, which is a blend of nylon and spandex in the body and nylon, polyester, Lycra, and carbon in the insert. This makes it soft to the touch and comfortable against the skin while being highly durable.
But another thing that makes this suit extremely comfortable is the built-in compression technology that helps to lower your body temperature to prevent overheating. It also helps you maintain a good heart rate, and support the muscles to reduce the chances of lactic acid build-up.
It begins to dry as soon as you’re out of the water, so you don’t need to stay wet for any longer than necessary.
A 12-inch zipper with a detachable lanyard makes transitioning simple. The suit is also UPF 50+, ITU-compliant and has a silicone beaded leg gripper to prevent them from rolling up.
Some triathletes may not like the lack of padding in this suit, as it makes it hard to cycle comfortably. But one can buy a padded version if that’s their preference.
- Made from carbon fabric
- Smooth bonded seams
- Carbon flash mesh
- Beaded, silicone leg gripper
- There is no padding in this tri-suit but a padded version can be bought
6. TYR Torque Pro Swim Skin
The TYR Torque Pro Swim Skin is USAT legal and we recommend it for women. It increases one’s speed in the water by making one more streamlined in the water.
The hydrophilic outer layer reduces drag by moving water over it very quickly, giving this swim skin the very low drag coefficient of 0.21. The hydrophobic inner layer keeps one dry underneath this swim skin, which has a 0.5% water absorption rate.
All of these practical features are thanks to the Yamamoto fabric. It’s flexible and allows for a full range of movement without discomfort. It also reduces drag thanks to a Super Composite Skin—SCS—nano coating, which is durable and resistant to abrasion.
Beaded silicone bands around the legs stop the suit from rolling up and getting uncomfortable, although some may find that the bands feel too tight and create “sausage legs”.
There’s also a zipper with a lanyard at the back to allow for one to get out of this suit easily during transitions.
- Hydrophilic outer layer
- Low water absorption rate
- Secure, silicone beaded grip
- Hydrophobic inner layer
- Some might find that the hems around the legs are too tight to be comfortable
7. Zone3 Streamline Sleeveless Swimskin
The Zone3 Streamline Sleeveless Swimskin is a good choice for entry-level triathletes. It’s designed to be worn over your tri-suit for swimming and is made of a lightweight, compressive material called Revo Energy fabric.
This water-repellent nano-coated material is hydrophobic and has bonded seams, preventing water from getting through to your skin and offering extra buoyancy. It also reduces drag dramatically and offers maximum compressive benefits. There’s added core support as well.
On the back, a colored panel—purple on the women’s—makes you easily visible in the water so your family, friends, or coach can keep an eye on you. A zipper with a lanyard makes it easy to get this suit off during transitions.
- Added core support
- Water-repellent nano coated fabric
- Bright colored back panel
- Compressive, woven fabric
- May not be the best choice for advanced triathletes
8. TYR Fusion 2 Aerofit Shortjohn
This FINA-approved swim skin is made to be raced in. Hydrophobic material and flatlock stitching reduce drag very noticeably in the water as there’s nothing to create friction.
Compression technology provides support and improved glide efficiency, which leads to higher speeds in the water.
There’s a lot of technology in this suit, so you’ll get a lot of value for the money you spend on it. Technologies like Turbulence Control, Fluid Channel Dynamics, and Fabrication Logic all contribute to less drag.
The 80% polyamide, 20% elastane fabric is comfortable and soft against the skin. Some may find the material to be too thin and that it begins to become see-through.
- FINA approved
- Hydrophobic construction
- Flatlock stitching
- Isolated Compression technology
- Some may find that the material is thin and see-through
What are swim skins?
A swim skin is a thin, one-piece suit that is worn over a tri suit.
It’s designed to compress the body—with very little buoyancy—which gives you a more streamlined shape in the water. This reduces friction between the body and water, reducing drag.
Swimskins are either sleeveless or will have very short sleeves and the legs will reach the knees. You’d still need to wear your tri-suit as a base layer under the swim skin.
The swim skin will help prevent the tri-suit from “ballooning” and will smooth the lines in the tri-suit that would normally create drag in the water.
What is the difference between a swim skin and a wetsuit?
A wetsuit is designed to keep you warm in cold water where the temperature is between 76.2 degrees Fahrenheit—24.55 degrees Celsius—and 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit—28.8 degrees Celsius. If the water temperature is 84 degrees Fahrenheit—28.8 degrees Celsius—then the swim portion of triathlons will prohibit the use of wetsuits.
Wetsuits are also made from buoyant materials that can help conserve energy as well as stay on top of the water. Wetsuits come in different thicknesses but may not exceed a thickness of more than 5 mm, and the thickness of the wetsuit would determine the water temperature that it can be used in.
As an example, if the water temperature is between 50 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit, then you could use a wetsuit that was either 3mm or 4 mm thick. Wetsuits will also compress your body, keeping you more hydrodynamic, reducing drag.
You will only use a swim skin in warm water races, as a tri-suit can create drag while you’re swimming. Swim skins don’t come in different thicknesses, but they do have a water-repellent coating so there’s lower surface drag.
Can they be worn with other race outfits?
Swim skins can be worn at other races and most swim skins are either Ironman or FINA-approved. With that being said, you’d still need to check the regulations of each race.
But most often if the race is a non-wetsuit swim, you’ll be able to use the swim skin suit.