The Best Wetsuit For Sinky Legs? (And Cold Water)

What is the best triathlon swimming wetsuit for sinky legs?   This is the question I set out to answer, motivated entirely by self-interest.

I am not a great swimmer.  In the pool I'm slow because my legs sink.  Partly that's due to poor technique but bio-mechanics are also to blame.

I've never been able to point my toes properly, even as a child, so in the pool my feet downward pointing feet drag my legs down and my speed slows.

I need a wetsuit that's going to give maximum lift to my legs.  I think I've found it in the Blueseventy Thermal Helix.  Which do you prefer and why?  Do you share the sinky legs problem?  I'd like to know.  I swam 1.5km and 1.7km in rather cold water this weekend, deliberately not kicking, yet my ankles were on or close to the surface.  Result!  It has taken me over a year to choose and this is how I went about it.
Firstly, I ignored any wetsuits designed for or recommended by good swimmers.  If they have no problem streamlining their body in the pool, then they don't need or want the thicker neoprene in a wetsuit.

I wanted a suit with the thickest neoprene allowed in triathlon (5mm) on the hips and down the full length of the thighs.

Had I been starting my search now I certainly would have looked at Orca.

They're currently advertising their range of wetsuits with exactly this in mind, understanding that top swimmers need a different type of suit to us sinky legs types.

Take a look at orca.com/swimscale and you'll see what I mean.

That was not around last year when I started my search for the perfect wetsuit for me.  At the London Triathlon show, I narrowed my choice down to three; Zone 3 Aspire, Huub Archimedes, and the Blueseventy Helix.

All of which were seriously, hideously  expensive.

First swim in the Thermal Helix
At the same show, Zone 3 were selling ex-demo Aspire suits at a much more manageable price, and this won me over.

It was a good buy, but deep down I knew it was a temporary one.

I used the Zone 3 Aspire suit for all 2016's races and it performed pretty well.  But it wasn't without problems.

The low neck-line prevented chafing but, with arm movement, it occasionally gaped allowing water to flood in, holding me back.

That also meant it wasn't very warm.  We swim year-round in the loch and when the temperature dropped I found myself pulling on my ancient Blueseventy Reaction with neoprene vest and shorts underneath.


To work out the precise neoprene thickness of the Zone 3 Aspire I used these vernier callipers.  I took a large pinch of the fabric, so it was double thickness, measured that thickness and halved the figure.  My ex-demo Zone 3 was definitely less than 5mm where I felt it mattered.  Perhaps it compressed with use?

So at the start of the year I renewed my search for a wetsuit which would lift my sinky legs and keep me warm in Scottish lochs through winter.  Eventually I whittled the choice down to two - Huub and Blueseventy.

Callipers measuring the Thermal Helix
Using Wiggle's excellent returns system I bought a couple of Huub Archimedes 3:5 wetsuits, the ones designed for sinky legs.  

Buying two meant I could get exactly the right size for me.    

The callipers revealed that these too were under 5mm where I felt it mattered.  

This might have just been the particular model I tried, because I know lots of triathletes rely on their Huub suits to cure their sinky legs.  Clearly they work for some people.  But in my case they were returned to Wiggle before the charge appeared on my credit card.  

On the same order I bought a Thermal Helix and when it put it alongside the Huub, there really seemed no contest.  The Thermal Helix measured slightly over 5mm, probably due to the extra 'zirconium' lining.  That orange, slightly fleecy inside is what adds the additional warmth to this suit.

Blueseventy Helix
Best of all, the 5mm panels were exactly where I wanted them.  The diagram alongside shows where Blueseventy place the 5mm panels.  My callipers showed this diagram to be spot-on.

Incidentally, I found that diagram on an excellent Slowtitch article which is well worth reading to learn more about wetsuits in general.

The more I read about them, the more I appreciate the work which goes into the top end suits.

For example, I looked at the detail around the back of each knee.  Each dot on the photo below is a point of reinforcement where seams are joined.

Join the dots
Liz's Speedo suit has two dots on each knee - there was no point in posting a photo because black dots on black liner don't show up.

But black dots on the orange liner certainly do, and you can see how many there all.

All this to add a little more articulation to the knee.  Somewhat wasted on someone who doesn't kick!

You'll notice I tested and ended up buying the 'Thermal' version of the Helix suit.  Because I was buying such an expensive wetsuit it had to be one could swim in year-round.  If it's too hot for specific races then I'll switch to the Zone 3. Just please - make them all be wetsuit legal!

Other reviews - Triathlete Magazine.

No comments: