Can You Swim With Bad Eyesight?

Having bad eyesight doesn’t mean that swimming isn’t an option for you. Bad eyesight may limit you from some things, but swimming isn’t one of them!

I’ve swam with bad eyesight since I was little. Both for fun and through my swim career. So I know first hand that you can swim with poor vision and still enjoy swimming.

Related article: 7 Reasons to Wear Goggles When You Swim

Here’s how to swim when you have bad eyesight and some questions/tips to help you navigate the murky waters. 

Disclaimer: We are not optometrists or physicians. These are only meant as a suggestion and starting point if you’re looking to start swimming if you have bad eyesight. Please consult a licensed professional if you’re seeking medical advice. Please see our disclaimer for more information.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase something through one of our links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Please check out our disclosure page for more information.

Image with a water background. A light white text box with a swimmer on top reads: Can you swim with bad eyesight? Just below in a yellow text box, text reads: 4 ways to swim with bad eyesight + FAQ

How to Swim With Bad Eyesight

1. Prescription Goggles

Our number one recommendation to swim with bad eyesight is to invest in a pair of prescription goggles. Hands down, they’ll save you a lot of frustration and cost in the long run.

Prescription goggles are available from many different swim brands, such as Speedo, Sporti, and TYR. You can also find some specialty stores online that make prescription goggles. 

Some swimmers find specialty stores are a bit more custom fit than what you can find through swim brands. However, they may be more expensive.

Personally, I used Speedo Vanquisher Optical Goggles throughout my high school and college years. And they served me well. 

You can find our review of the top prescription goggles here: The 6 Best Prescription Goggles for Swimming + FAQ.

The only negative with prescription goggles is that once you take them off, you can’t see as well. So if you take them off during a break or while you’re kicking, you’ll have blurry vision again.

Honestly, it’s not something we’d consider a large negative. But rather, more of an inconvenience at times.

2. Regular Goggles

For some individuals, it’s just easier to swim with bad eyesight and not worry about clear vision. And that’s okay! Before I learned about prescription goggles, I swam with regular goggles.

I couldn’t see the clock but I could see the other swimmers around me so I didn’t have to worry about hitting anyone. And I could see the wall without much issue as I approached it.

If you feel comfortable with your eyesight without glasses, then swimming with regular goggles may be an option. 

Related article: How to Fix Common Swim Goggle Problems

For your safety (and others), we do suggest that you only do this if you can still somewhat see what’s going on around you. You’ll want to make sure you’re not running into other people. And that you can see the walls and lifeguards.

Depending on the severity of your prescription though, it might be safer for you to look at prescription goggles.

3. Contacts with Goggles

We’ll start with a disclaimer that we’re not medical providers or Optometrists. Please consult your provider before swimming with contacts.

If you wear contacts and want to swim, we highly encourage you to wear goggles in the water. Especially a set that has a good seal and won’t leak.

Related article: How to Stop Your Goggles from Falling Off?

Most optometrists recommend against wearing contacts while swimming. But many swimmers will swim with them in, so long as they’re wearing goggles. 

Wearing goggles will help prevent any infection while wearing your contacts.

It’s also suggested that you wear daily, disposable contacts if you plan to swim with contacts. This can further reduce the risk of infection. You should also use some eye drops to help flush out any water that did get into your eyes during the swim.

Admittedly, this option is more for competitive or fitness swimmers using goggles. Because we don’t recommend contacts when you’re splashing around in the pool or ocean.

4. Swim with Glasses

We don’t really recommend swimming with glasses. But some people like to swim with their glasses on and we felt it best to address the option. 

While this may help you see, you’ll have to contend with water on the lens when you’re not swimming. In addition to water getting in your eyes when you are swimming.

You’re basically swimming with your eyes open, which most doctors don’t recommend. And we’re not sure how much better you’ll see. 

More Content for You: Swimming Basics to Get You Started

Lastly, swimming with glasses runs a large risk of losing them. And ultimately, you’ll pay more to replace your pair of glasses than what you would’ve paid for prescription goggles.

If you do decide to wear glasses while you swim, we suggest using an elastic strap that attaches to the frame. This can help keep them more secure.

Swimming With Bad Eyesight FAQ

Can You Wear Glasses in a Swimming Pool?

Or in the ocean or a lake?

Eh, you can, but we really recommend that you don’t. It’s easy to lose your glasses in the water. And even in a pool, they can be hard to find. If you lose them in a lake or the ocean, you’ll probably never get them back.

If you plan to sit poolside with them or lounge in the shallow end, you should be okay. However, if you go any deeper than your knees or waist, you should probably take them off. Especially if the water is wavy.

Related article: Basic Swim Terminology

That said if you’re determined to get in the water with your glasses, use an elastic strap on the frame. This will help hold them to your face and look somewhat like a pair of goggles.

However, it’s much more affordable to get a pair of prescription goggles than to try this route. As there’s no guarantee that the elastic straps will truly keep your glasses from falling off.

Kammoy Nearsighted Swim Goggles in particular are prescription goggles specifically for snorkeling or open water use. 

Will the Pool/Ocean Water Damage my Glasses?

Some good news is that chlorine in the pool or the salt in the ocean shouldn’t damage your glasses. Short term, at least.

You should give them a good cleaning after your swim to remove any chlorine or salt from them. 

This will help any build-up from scratching the lenses. Or making the frame sticky. Over time though, the constant salt and chemicals may damage your glasses, especially if you don’t clean them. 

Does Swimming Improve Eyesight?

Swimming, unfortunately, doesn’t magically improve your eyesight. Otherwise, I’d probably be 20/20 by now! 

That said, depending on how bad your eyesight is, your vision might be a bit clearer underwater than above. Not enough to pass an eye test, but things underwater might magnify enough that objects look sharper.

Can You Swim with Contacts?

We’ll start with a disclaimer that we’re not medical providers or Optometrists. Please consult your provider before swimming with contacts.

If your definition of swimming is doing laps in the pool or other body of water while wearing goggles, you can. Provided you’ve consulted your eye doctor and talked with them about the risks.

However, if swimming means going to the pool or beach for some fun, you really should avoid wearing your contacts. You increase the risk of infection while doing so, along with drying out your eyes.

All About Vision suggests that if you swim for fun with contacts, that you:

  • Wear daily disposable lenses
  • Contacts are removed directly after swimming 
  • Your eyes are rinsed with eye drops
  • Contact your optometrist if you experience issues following your swim

Are There Goggles that Go Over Glasses?

If there are, we haven’t seen any for swimming. 

We’ve seen a lot of people suggest putting large goggles over your glasses. But we don’t know where this information came from. Or where such a pair of goggles exist. 

We’ll also note that snorkel masks won’t go over your glasses either. The frame will break the seal around your face and water will get in. They also push the glasses much closer to your face than they should be. 

Again, the more ideal option would be to opt for prescription goggles to save yourself any hassle.

In Closing

Swimming with bad eyesight is possible and shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the pool or beach.

The best option for those who want to see clearly while swimming is to go with a pair of prescription goggles. They’re the safest and longest-lasting options for most swimmers.

As always, happy swimming!


Bonus Content

4 Ways to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear: Swimmer’s ear can be a painful experience if left untreated. That said, there are steps you can take to help prevent swimmer’s ear. Here are 4 ways to prevent swimmer’s ear.

Swimming on Your Period (And Why You Should): Yes, you can swim on your period! From one menstruating swimmer to another, here are some frequently asked questions I get about swimming on your period.

Want to Improve at the Pool?

Join swimmers and swim parents to receive my free newsletter and receive a free Swimming Glossary e-book as a thanks!

Every month you’ll receive tips and coaching to help you find success at the pool.


Image of a swimmer diving into the water

Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience in the pool. And although she fell into the sport by accident in her high school years, she still trains daily and competes throughout the year. She’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.