Another problem: During my Saturday quick trial, I didn't detect any visibility problems, but on Sunday after some underwater flips, the goggles fogged up a tad. The only real point in favor of the Jet Streams is that they're extremely easy to adjust. No screws or scissors here, no nosepiece in need of trimming—just a head strap with a simple clasp that you can tighten or loosen with one hand.
Ease of Use: 5
Nike Swift Strapless Goggle, $25 (plus additional adhesive pads) If you're after a futuristic "I'm not from around here" look, you might like these goggles, which have no head strap or nose bridge. Then how do they stay on, you ask? Why, they stick to your eye sockets with double-sided medical adhesive, of course! The Nikes get points for aesthetics—and for visibility: I experienced no leakage or fog. While I was in the pool, they were pretty cozy, and I liked the fact that I could wear them without a swim cap, since there's no strap to get knotted in my hair.
The problem with these goggles is that they're a little frightening to take off. When I ordered my pair from Swim-Shop.com, I got a rather foreboding e-mail: "None of us here have ever used them, so we are not able to tell you personally whether or not they hurt to remove." As it turned out, the removal process didn't hurt much. And it's no big deal that I lost a couple of eyebrow hairs—I suppose I saved myself a trip to the esthetician. Afterward, however, I had a pretty dramatic red rim around my eyes, and my skin became a little irritated. And while $25 isn't all that much for a pair of goggles, they come with only 20 single-use adhesive pads. After that, you have to start ordering packs of 25, which, at $20 a pop, really adds up.
Ease of Use: 4
Swedish Goggles, $5.00 When these goggles, which came so highly recommended by Lindsay Mintenko, arrived in the mail, I felt daunted. I received a little plastic bag with two hard-plastic eyecups, a latex cord, a small plastic tube, a bit of string, and no instructions. Confused, I looked online for guidance and happened upon a wikiHow page outlining a five-step assembly process. The existence of this page speaks to the fact that Swedish goggles aren't especially user-friendly.
After about 10 minutes of wiki-assisted fiddling, I had the goggles in one piece and strapped them on. I was worried that I'd have the Barracuda experience all over again, since the Swedish goggles employ no suction of any kind (or foam, for that matter). But I was pleasantly surprised to find that these goggles worked as advertised. The little plastic cups were so perfectly fitted to the contours of my face that I experienced no leakage or fogging. After a while, though, the hard plastic felt rough against the corners of my eyes. Also, aestheticswise, this pair is tough to put a number on—some people may like their extreme simplicity; others may think they look as cheap as they are.
Ease of Use: 2
Tyr Nest Pro Goggle, $20.00 Designed specifically for the 2008 Olympics, these goggles have a gridlike pattern around the eyepieces meant to evoke the bird's-nest architectural design of the main Beijing stadium. This detail makes for a great conversation piece and deserves a few aesthetic points, although the material looks and feels cheap.
These were the most "yeah, but …" pair I tried. Yeah, they keep out water and fog, but the suction is a little strong, causing mild discomfort. There's no assembly required, but once in the pool the strap has a tendency to get stuck in the clip, making on-head adjustment a bit tough. They're not expensive, like the Nike Strapless goggles, but they're hardly a steal. All in all, a good basic pair that should do the trick for recreational swimmers.
Ease of Use: 4
Speedo Speed Socket, $24.99 This pair is roughly like the Swedish goggles in that the eyecups are exceptionally well-designed to match the bone structure of the socket and it's possible to custom-fit the nosepiece. But they're better for nonprofessional swimmers, because the soft eyepieces rest more comfortably against the skin than the hard-plastic Swedes, and because they're much easier to customize. Speedo sends along three ready-made nosepieces, each slightly different in size, and it couldn't be easier to clip them on and off.
My friends and I agreed that the Speed Sockets look sleek and professional. And for just $5 more you can get a pair with mirrored lenses, which keep out sunlight and give your face a certain T-1000, liquid metal je ne sais quoi. Because the suction isn't too aggressive, I didn't experience any pain, and the raccoon effect was minimal. These goggles deserve high marks in every category. In fact, I liked them so much that maybe—maybe—I'll dispense with televised sports this August and hit the pool for some laps.
Ease of Use: 5