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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

13 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
121 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best women’s triathlon wetsuits

Last Updated July 2019

Triathlons continue to grow in popularity as athletes strive to push themselves to new limits. As the first leg, the swim sets the opening pace of your race. A triathlon wetsuit lets you glide through the water, cutting both your swim and transition 1 (T1) time.

The unique shape of a woman’s body requires wetsuits shaped and tailored to narrower shoulders, wider hips, and a shorter torso. They’re loaded with the same benefits you’d expect from any other triathlon wetsuit — buoyancy, hydrodynamics, and excellent mobility.

There are different styles intended for varying water conditions and competition levels. Base your decision on your competition level, the water temperature, and the overall fit of the wetsuit. You also have to consider whether or not you need the latest hydrodynamic technology and zipper design. The process of answering these questions will help you narrow down your choices until you find the perfect wetsuit to help you slip right through your T1.

Some wetsuits come with a one or two-year warranty. Considering that punctures and tears can become an issue, a suit with a warranty can save you some real money in the long run.

Key considerations

Triathlon wetsuit styles

  • Full-cut: Full-cut wetsuits provide coverage of the entire body for improved hydrodynamics and warmth. Sleeves and legs extend to the wrists and ankles. Some necklines have a collar while others are rounded, leaving the base of the neck exposed. These suits reduce drag and add more buoyancy than any other option because they cover the entire body. Mid- to high-priced models will have specialized paneling with thicker panels over heavier parts of the body such as the chest, and thinner panels on friction-heavy areas like the armpits. Full-cut suits may also have catch panels on the forearms to increase drag as you pull yourself forward through the water. They’re designed for water temperatures of 50°F and up. The only downside is they’re tough to remove, especially around the wrists and ankles. Some have extra zippers or four-way stretch jersey on these areas to make removal easier.

  • Sleeveless: Sleeveless wetsuits leave the shoulders and shoulder blades exposed for increased mobility. Removal is easier than with a full-cut suit because you’re not dealing with wrist cuffs. These suits still provide improved buoyancy and hydrodynamics over a short-cut model. However, you don’t get the full hydrodynamic benefits of a full-cut suit, nor are they as warm.

  • Short-cut: Take away the sleeves and cut the wetsuit at the knee, and you’ve got a short-cut wetsuit. These models add some buoyancy and hydrodynamics but leave the lower legs, arms, and shoulders exposed. They’re quick to remove and they’re an excellent choice for warm water triathlons.

Size and fit

Size and fit are one of the most important considerations. Wetsuits work by allowing a small amount of water into the suit. Once the water is warmed by the heat of your body, it helps regulate your body temperature.

A wetsuit that’s too large can let too much water in at the cuffs or neckline. One that’s too small doesn’t allow enough water between your body and the wetsuit for sufficient warmth and may be difficult to remove at transition. Triathlon wetsuits are typically fitted by height, weight, and chest measurement. Sizing changes by brand, so take all of these measurements and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.  If you’re in between sizes, opt for the suit for the appropriate weight, as that’s usually closest to the right size.

Athlete competition level

Wetsuits are designed for varying competition levels. The most expensive wetsuits are designed for serious competitive athletes. These wetsuits have the high-tech coatings, seam and paneling design, cuff fabrics, and quick-release zippers that shave seconds off of swim and T1 times. However, most intermediate and beginner athletes don’t need all these bells and whistles — there are many mid-priced suits that may not have as many panels or the latest zipper design, but still leave you more buoyant and hydrodynamic. If you’re a causal triathlon participant, entry-level suits are relatively inexpensive and will keep you warm and buoyant.

Flexibility and mobility

Flexibility and mobility in the arms and shoulders are crucial to the swimming leg of a triathlon. Wetsuits with thinner neoprene over the shoulders and in the armpits improve mobility in a full-cut model. Of course, sleeveless and short-cut wetsuits have the best mobility, but they may leave you cold and increase drag through the upper body.

CAUTION

Fingernails — both long and relatively short — are sharp enough to puncture a wetsuit, so be careful during entry and exit.

Features

Materials, buoyancy, and panel design

Triathlon wetsuits are made of a synthetic rubber called neoprene. High-quality models have 39-cell neoprene, which increases buoyancy over large portions of the body. However, 45-cell neoprene has better flexibility so it’s often used to make the thin neoprene on the shoulders.

To enhance hydrodynamics, triathlon wetsuits are constructed with neoprene panels of varying thicknesses. Thicker neoprene (up to five millimeters thick) on the lower back and upper chest increases buoyancy, helping these heavier areas to rise out of the water. Thinner panels (one to four millimeters thick) cover the arms and legs to help them glide through the water. Top quality, competition-level wetsuits have customized paneling over every part of the body with four or five different thicknesses of neoprene. Less expensive wetsuits may only have two or three neoprene thicknesses and fewer panels.

Zipper design

To keep your T1 times down, you need a wetsuit with a zipper that practically unzips itself. While you might have to practice a few times to use some of these zipper designs efficiently, once you get it down, they can seriously cut your T1 times.

  • Breakaway zippers: Breakaway zippers give you two zip options because they work in both directions. They can be unzipped by either pulling down on the zipper or by tugging on a cord from over the shoulder that releases the entire zipper. When the cord is pulled from over the shoulder, the zipper “breaks away” or instantly releases for quick removal.

  • Reverse zippers: To unzip a reverse zipper, pull from the bottom of the zipper to the top. Many people find this easier to do behind their back than pulling from top to bottom.

  • Floating zipper panel: Zipper seams can restrict the movement of the shoulders and arms while swimming. Floating zipper panels eliminate traditional seams for freedom of movement and mobility.

Friction-reduction coatings

Coatings on the outside of the suit reduce friction/drag, which can shave a few extra seconds of your swim time and reduce fatigue. A hydrodynamic silicone coating called super composite skin (SCS) or slick skin coating is the top-of-the-line coating used to make competitive wetsuits. It can occasionally be found on mid-priced models, though usually these wetsuits have less-expensive silicone coatings. These coatings are still effective but don’t reach the standards of SCS.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re swimming in saltwater, be sure to rinse off your wetsuit after your race to preserve the neoprene.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Chlorine can damage neoprene. We don’t recommend wearing one in a swimming pool, even just to test it. However, if you do jump in the pool, be sure to rinse the suit off thoroughly to prevent or reduce damage.


Staff  | BestReviews

Women’s triathlon wetsuit prices

Inexpensive: Entry-level wetsuits start at or around $120 to $150. Most of these are sleeveless or short-cut wetsuits. They may have some paneling and most have some kind of silicone coating to repel water and reduce drag.

Mid-range: Intermediate and some competitive triathletes can find excellent wetsuits in the $150 to $400 range. These suits will have more paneling — some with both 39-cell and 45-cell neoprene — and SCS coating.

Expensive: Wetsuits designed for competition level triathletes start at $400, but many of the most advanced models are well over $600. These wetsuits have advanced paneling and improved fabric design with either jersey or 45-cell neoprene on the shoulders. They may also have silicone on the cuffs to reinforce and improve the flexibility of the seams.

Tips

  • The key to cutting your overall time is to streamline your transition points. A wetsuit should fit snugly but not so tightly that you can’t get out of it. You also don’t want any extra material or folds. You need to find a balance between the two.

  • Lubricant placed on the wrists and ankles can help you get out of the suit faster. The quicker you get it off, the faster your T1 time.

  • Watch the neckline. You don’t want to feel like your wetsuit has got you in a chokehold. Like the rest of the suit, it should be snug so no water gets in but not tight so that you feel stiff when you swim.

Other products we considered

Here are a few more wetsuits we considered that might be the right fit for you. Xterra Women’s Volt Wetsuit is an inexpensive entry-level suit that has paneling with neoprene of two thicknesses. Reinforced seams prevent water from entering, and we love the shoulder mobility. Synergy Triathlon Full-sleeve Wetsuit has increased paneling with neoprene of three different thicknesses. It has SCS coating like much more expensive suits but stays in a relatively affordable price range. If you’re looking for an entry-level full-cut wetsuit, the NeoSport Women’s NRG Triathlon Full Wetsuit is a good choice. With neoprene of two thicknesses, it helps lift the chest out of the water and reduces drag.

The best way to store a wetsuit is to lay it flat. However, that’s not always practical. Don’t hang the suit as it can stretch out at the shoulders, especially if the neoprene is thin. If you have to fold the wetsuit, try to keep the folds loose and large so the neoprene doesn’t weaken at the fold points.

FAQ

Q. Are there rules or regulations that limit the kind of wetsuit you can wear?
A.
The official governing body over triathlons is the USAT, or USA Triathlon. Their guidelines state that to officially place or qualify in a triathlon in water that's 78°F or below, the wetsuit cannot be more than 5 millimeters thick. In water 78°F to 84°F, you can wear a wetsuit, but if you do, you cannot place in the triathlon or qualify for other events. In water over 85°F, wetsuits are not allowed.

Q. Why are full-cut wetsuits considered faster than sleeveless or short-cut styles?
A.
Full-cut wetsuits increase the amount of your body that’s coated in buoyant, silicone-covered neoprene. The more of your body that’s out of the water, the less surface area there is to be slowed by friction. Sleeveless and short-cut styles leave more of your non-hydrodynamic body exposed to the water.

Q. How are women’s triathlon wetsuits different than men’s?
A.
Women’s suits are narrower in the shoulders, wider at the hips, and narrower through the waist. Depending on the brand, they may also be shorter in the torso. Some manufacturers make tall or petite sizes for those who fall outside of average.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Stacey
    Stacey
    Writer

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