There are often many questions regarding what you should wear when training for or competing in a triathlon. We’re here to clarify what the differences are between full sleeve and sleeveless wetsuits, their pros, their cons, and which one will be the best option for you.
Full-sleeve wetsuit Pros & Cons
1. Added Warmth
When participating in an open-water event, a full-sleeve wetsuit will keep your body that extra bit warmer during the swim. It is especially advisable to go for this option in weather conditions where the temperature is below 70 degrees.
2. More Buoyancy
A wetsuit with full-sleeves actually will give you more buoyancy in the water. Although uncovered arms only contribute a small amount towards your overall body mass, having them covered by wetsuit sleeves will give you more of a floating ability when swimming.
3. Minimal Drag
The smooth skin of a wetsuit works to minimize friction that causes a delay or drag when swimming through the water. The surface of skin isn’t so smooth, and the material of a wetsuit makes up for this.
4. Sun Protection
Your shoulders are often one of the most common places to get a tan or worse, a sunburn. When you are outside training, and particularly in the water, your shoulders and arms will be exposed to the sun’s harsh UV rays.
1. Can be restricting
Those who have worn a fully covered wetsuit have reported that although they found the suit aerodynamic and good for reducing drag, they did find it to be slightly restricting on their arms and shoulders. This restriction is said to mainly during the swim, as it ‘got in the way’ of circular arm motions. However, it worked well for during the run and cycle.
2. Can be uncomfortable
Similar to above, triathletes using a sleeved wetsuit found that the full body coverage was somewhat uncomfortable to perform in. This can be due to their restriction, tightness on the arms and lack of flexibility in the shoulders. However, there are of course some full sleeve options that cater for comfort and flexibility.
3. Can be too warmth
This type of suit is not recommend for use in temperatures that exceed 70 degrees. When temperatures are higher than this, a wetsuit that completely covers you is going to be hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. If you are more likely to be training or competing in a warmer climate, then a sleeveless suit will be a better option.
4. Slower to remove
Due to the excess material that comes with a full length wetsuit, they are generally harder and take longer to remove during the transition phase. Although it may only be a few added seconds, this can often really affect your time in the race.
Sleeveless wetsuit Pro’s Con’s
1. Speedy Transition
Just as we’ve discussed that a full sleeve suit can take longer to remove, a sleeveless wetsuit is generally a lot quicker and easier to get off. There is less material to remove and you won’t have to squeeze your arms out of clingy sleeves. Often sleeveless suits can actually be worn for the entire triathlon without the need to stop to remove.
2. More Flexibility
A suit that lacks sleeves allows for more freely flowing shoulder rotations which will be particularly helpful during swimming. A sleeveless suit offers more room to be flexible within your arms and shoulder which some triathletes find gives them a better swimming ability.
3. Less Constricting
Many triathletes have found that a suit without sleeves offers much less restriction in your arms and shoulders which can help you to create larger and more powerful swimming strokes.
4. Good for warm water
If you are swimming in waters that have a temperature that sits above 70 degrees, then you should probably opt for a sleeveless wetsuit. It will help to keep your body cooler and more comfortable because the wider armholes will work to keep your underarms and shoulders cool, bringing your body temperature down slightly.
Triathletes have noted that the lesser quality sleeveless wetsuits can often cause uncomfortable and irritating chafing on the underarms. This is caused by the material or seams being too tough or too tight in these areas which results in a sore rubbing sensation.
There are many ways to combat this though, including using a lubricant or by choosing a higher quality suit that is designed to minimize chafing in such key areas.
2. Less buoyancy
As mentioned earlier, a full sleeve wetsuit will provide you with more buoyancy due to your arms being covered. Therefore when your arms are exposed to the water, your buoyancy is slightly decreased.
Best Full Sleeve Wetsuits
1. 2XU Propel Full Sleeve Wetsuit
One of the best features of this wetsuit is its incredible weight. It is so lightweight and contours really well to your body. The buoyancy is good due to it being constructed with a coating of Nano SCS as well as 39 Cell panels.
It also features ‘Concave Water Entrapment Zones’ which essentially means it won’t be restrictive, enabling you to have a stronger pull and be more flexible in the water, on the bike and whilst running. The Propel from 2XU will be good for triathletes that train or compete at any racing distances.
2. Synergy Endorphin Fullsleeve SmoothSkin Neoprene
This suit is amazing quality and has some really great features. It has a non-corrosive YKK zipper which massively helps to minimize the amount of drag that can be created. It also has smoothskin material in key areas which helps to reduce the irritability of chafing.
Although full sleeve suits can often be restricting, this one is designed specifically with flexibility in mind so that you are able to perform at your best. The buoyancy of this suit is good too as it is constructed with a 5 mm thick core buoyancy panel, 3 mm of lower leg and back panels, and 2 mm of buoyancy panels for the arms and shoulders.
3. TYR Sport Category 3 Hurricane Wetsuit
This wetsuit is a great option for triathletes for many reasons. Firstly, it has quick release ankle cuffs which make it super quick and easy to remove. It also has speed wrap panels on the leg sections as well as the chest and core areas.
It isn’t restrictive due to the motion zones that help to minimize constriction in the shoulder and back. If you are looking to gain some extra time during the swim, it has thick panels on the forearm area which helps to increase the distance in each of your strokes. It will be perfect for both beginners as well as seasoned triathletes.
4. Orca S6 Full Sleeve Wetsuit
This full sleeve suit is jam packed with smart features that will allow you to get the most out of a wetsuit, and could really enable you to perform at your best. It is built with Yamamoto 39 CELL, which is a highly flexible neoprene material. You won’t feel restricted or confined to the shape of the suit, instead, the suit moves effortlessly with your body.
Super Composite Skin is featured in the construction, which helps to minimize and diminish friction and it also repels water. The buoyancy it provides is pretty good too, due to the 4.5 mm panel on the back. The Orca S6 Full Sleeve Wetsuit will be a good choice for beginners or for seasoned triathletes.
Best Sleeveless Wetsuits
1. A:1 Active Sleeveless Wetsuit
This wetsuit from 2XU is designed specifically for triathletes that are looking for a suit with flexibility and added buoyancy. It is constructed with Yamamoto neoprene, a high quality neoprene material that is flexible, comfortable and high quality.
Concave Water Entrapment Zones are designed within the forearms, which helps create a stronger pull and less restriction in your movement. It has a floating zip panel which gives you an extended reach and a 39 Cell panel which contributes to better elevation in the water.
2. Orca 226 Race Suit
Designed with Stretchskin technology, the 226 Race Suit by Orca is constructed to improve aerodynamics. Thanks to the Stretchskin, this suit contours well to your body and fits like a glove. It’s tight enough but not too tight.
It’s also super comfortable due to the Revolutional fabric which dries very fast and offer decent muscle support. The Tri-tech chamois pad that is features will keep you comfortable whilst cycling, and it doesn’t restrict your movement or get in the way.
3. Zone3 Vision Sleeveless Wetsuit
Performance and comfort are the two main focuses for this sleeveless wetsuit. It’s Full Speed-FloTM coating helps to reduce drag as well as increase your speed when swimming and also uses eco-friendly neoprene.
Flexibility and durability are also key features of this suit, especially due to it being fully stitched and bonded with glue. For those looking for suit that will allow them to have a speedy transition time, this one has a YKK zip which makes it easy to get on and off quickly.
4. Huub Aegis II Sleeveless Wetsuit
This sleeveless wetsuit gives you total flexibility and comfort. Japanese Smoothskin is used which helps reduce drag and improve comfort as well as provide a 3:5 buoyancy. The buoyancy is also improved by the 3mm neoprene that is used. The neoprene also contributes to the suits overall flexibility and thickness.
There is multi-panel shoulders which helps the suit to contour and fit to your unique body shape. Speed cut ankles are a great feature, as it makes the suit easy and quick to get on and off. As well as this, it has a breakaway zipper which adds to the ease of getting out of the wetsuit.
So now that you know our top 8 suits, you’re probably wondering which one is our ultimate favorite, right? There always has to be a winner! Our winning wetsuits for triathlons has to be the Synergy Endorphin Fullsleeve SmoothSkin Neoprene. Why? This wetsuit has so many great features, and is even endorsed by many celebrities and professional athletes.
Not only this, but it also suitable for all levels of ability, is super flexible, offers great buoyancy, keeps you warm and enables you to experience a great amount of freedom in your movement. It also fits very well and it tight enough without being restrictive. Overall, this is fantastic wetsuit to use for training or competing in triathlons at all levels.