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Swimskin Suits: Key Advantages & What to Look For

swim skin suit in a triathlon

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Swimskin suits, also known as “swimskins” or “speed suits,” are like a second skin for swimmers and triathletes. For warm water conditions or events that don’t allow wetsuits, swim skin suits are a preferred alternative to neoprene wetsuits. 

With a tight-fitting, low-profile design, swimskins are tailored to help athletes go faster through the water by minimizing friction and drag. But the technology isn’t the same as used to be, and today’s swimskins are considerably more advanced compared to a decade ago. 

Swimskins are preferred when wearing a wetsuit is not allowed. They’re generally much faster compared to wearing a tri suit alone, as they’re more streamlined and hydrodynamic in the water. 

However, major triathlon events like the Kona Ironman have tightened the reigns on what’s legal and what’s not. And this turned up the innovation. So, to help narrow your search, we share our recommended swimskin products below.

Expert Advice When Seeking a Swimskin Suit

We asked the experts for their input on swimskin suits for triathlon and what to look for. Endurance coach Jeff Lukich shares these tips when seeking a swimskin suit for racing.

  • Fit: The suit should have a tight-fitting, low-profile design to minimize friction and drag in the water. Look for a suit that provides a compression-like fit without restricting freedom of movement. The suit should be tight, but definitely not uncomfortable.
  • Material & construction: The swimskin should be made from advanced materials that are lightweight, hydrophobic, and quick-drying to enhance speed and performance. Pay attention to quality construction and seams to ensure they are strategically placed for optimal hydrodynamics.
  • Durability: It’s worth considering the suit’s durability and resistance to wear and tear, as triathlons often involve challenging conditions.
  • Race regulations: Be mindful of the specific rules and regulations set by USA Triathlon (USAT) or the governing body for your race. As an example, USAT has specific guidelines regarding swimskins, including restrictions on thickness, buoyancy, and coverage. Familiarize yourself with these rules to ensure your swimskin meets the required standards.

What are the Best Swimskins for Triathlon?

Unlike triathlon wetsuits which can be 5mm thick, swimskins are highly-thin, one-piece suits designed to have a tight and compressive fit that forms to the body. While they don’t provide any buoyancy, swim skins are tailored to maximize glide and reduce friction between body and water.

Engineered for optimal hydrodynamics, swimskin suits are made of specialized materials that reduce friction, repel water, and maximize speed. While a lot of brands keep their textile blends a secret, most high-performance swimskins are made using a combination of spandex, nylon, or other composite fabrics with hydrophobic qualities (low drag coefficient). 

Here are some of our favorite picks for triathlon-centric swimskins. These are all sleeveless swimskins. However, the ROKA Viper X2 and blueseventy PZ4TX both have sleeved versions. 

1. ROKA Viper X2

ROKA Swim Skin Viper X2

Touted “the fastest (swimskin) in the world,” the ROKA Viper X2 is up for contest as the podium-topping swimskin for triathletes. As the gold standard swimskin in USAT and Ironman events, the Viper X2 hails supreme in terms of speed gains, comfort, and mobility. 

Naturally form-fitting without restriction, the Viper X2 offers just the right amount of compression with its premium stretch-woven fabric and wide range of size options. Its easy-to-remove YKK zipper is barely noticeable and its tapered design is tailored to improve swim efficiency and power transfer. In short, the X2’s hydrodynamics make for one of the fastest swimskins.

To purchase, see the Women’s Viper X2 or the Men’s Viper X2 direct from ROKA.com.

2. blueseventy PZ4TX Swimskin

blueseventy PZ4TX women's swmskin triathlon

Fine-tuned over decades of engineering, the PZ4TX from blueseventy combines four different types of hydrophobic fabrics for optimal stretch and compressive fit. Reviewed as a “torpedo in the water,” the PZ4TX has been time-tested and proven to offer one of the lowest drag coefficients among swimskin technology.

Tailored with bonded seams and the perfect amount of stretch, the PZ4TX swim skin suit provides exceptional breathability and elasticity, and the fabric is incredibly durable to withstand the washing machine effect at the start of the race. Highly reviewed, the blueseventy PZ4TX is an innovation worth considering.

To purchase, check out the Women’s PZ4TX or the Men’s PZ4TX direct from blueseventy.com.

3. Zone3 Streamline Swimskin

Zone3 Streamline Swimskin for Triathlon

A true triathlon swimskin that’s gotten high praise from publications like LAVA Magazine, the Zone3 Streamline swimskin is a call-to-action to the requests from Ironman athletes seeking a non-wetsuit option that still offers some degree of core support. 

Designed for optimal fit and maximum drag resistance, the Zone3 Streamline swimskin provides uniform body coverage and heat-bonded seems for the fastest glide and the best in comfort. In a product category where having the perfect fit and mobility is key, the Streamline swimskin from Zone3 delivers.

To purchase, visit Amazon for the Women’s Streamline or the Men’s Streamline.

4. ROKA Viper Pro Swimskin 

ROKA Swim Skin Viper Pro

A more economical alternative to the Viper X2 that hardly compromises on performance is the Viper Pro from ROKA. This swim skin was designed with the same attention to detail as ROKA’s Maverick Pro wetsuit, incorporating the latest advancements in swimwear materials and construction. The Viper Pro is legal for use in USAT and WTC triathlons. 

The Viper Pro swimskin features premium stretch-woven textiles, a hydrophobic Teflon coating, high-tech bonded seam construction, and a low-profile autolocking YKK zipper. Its design provides support where needed and allows for optimized mobility in the arms and shoulders. In short, the Viper Pro is a top choice for non-wetsuit triathlon races and has a proven track record of success in professional competitions.

To purchase, see the Women’s Viper Pro or the Men’s Viper Pro direct from ROKA.com.

Do you Have Favorite Swimskin?

Do you have a swimskin product that’s not on this list that you’d like to recommend? We want to hear about it. Get in touch and let us know.

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Banner photo credit: blueseventy

Jeff Lukich Triathlon Endurance Coach
Jeff Lukich
Endurance Coach at Drive Multisport | Website

Jeff Lukich is the owner and head coach of Drive Multisport and leads Better Triathlete's coach match program. He is a USA Triathlon (USAT) Level 1, USA Cycling (USAC) Level 2, and USA Track & Field (USATF) certified coach. A 10x Ironman finisher and Boston Marathon Qualifier, Jeff specializes in coaching long-course triathletes, ultra-runners, marathoners, cyclists, and athletes with unique events, such as double Ironman, staged races, and SwimRun events. Learn more about Jeff.

Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler