Swimming can help to keep you fit and reduce stress, so it's no surprise that millions of people hit the pool (or beach) every year.
A recent survey by Sport England found that female participation was the main driver behind an increase in the number of people taking part in water based activities between 2018 and 2019.
The boom in swimming has also led to an increase in the number of brands selling active swimwear. Search for “swimming costume” online and you’ll be faced with hundreds, if not thousands, of options – so how do you know which one to buy?
The main thing to consider is fit. Much like a pair of shoes, an ill-fitting swimsuit can cause chafing, pain, and risks you feeling uncomfortable.
Straps should sit on your shoulders without slipping off or cutting in, while the top of the swimsuit should lie flat against your chest instead of digging in or gaping.
Swimsuits also need to be supportive and – crucially – look great. Many products on the market also offer perks like UV protection and chlorine resistant material.
To help you decide, we’ve dipped our toes in, reviewing active swimwear from big name brands and smaller retailers in order to find you the perfect fit.
We’ve tested them in terms of sizing, cost, and performance to bring you our favourites.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Zone3 women’s strap back swimming costume
We love Zone3’s products and were not disappointed with this swimsuit. If you’re a regular swimmer, then we’d recommend seriously considering this as an option you’ll turn to time and again. The open back design enabled a full range of movement across the shoulders and back – from front crawl to butterfly, tumble to open turns. The straps are lightweight, ensuring that the swimsuit stayed in place without digging in. Available in seven sizes, you can choose between six multicoloured designs – all of which are modern and flattering. Plus, the material is both durable and chlorine-proof so you can really put it through its paces. This is now our go-to costume.
More Than Swim animal print swimsuit
More Than Swim offers high quality products with reduced environmental impact. The creator uses eco-friendly inks which are heat transferred onto the fabric, and the brand says suppliers, manufacturers, and its teams are all paid a fair wage. We absolutely love More Than Swim’s ethos and couldn’t wait to try its eye-catching, sea turtle inspired swimsuit.
It was clear from the offset that this swimsuit has been designed with women in mind; unlike some of the others on the market. The scoop neck was extremely flattering and didn’t dig in, while the silhouette was figure-hugging but not tight. But it’s not just super comfortable; this swimsuit also performs extremely well. We found it stayed in place throughout sessions, while the U-back enabled a full range of movement. The lightweight material dried quickly and retained its shape. While the £99 price point is a bit higher, we definitely think it’s worth it – especially if you want to support a smaller retailer.
Huub brownlee costume – Jonny
A swimsuit designed by a two time Olympic medallist? Yes please. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on this costume, which is part of specialist triathlon brand Huub’s collaboration with the Brownlee brothers. In this case, Jonny Brownlee helped pull together a swimsuit that is both high performing and unique. The open back ensured our movement was never restricted and we loved the retro feel of the design; from the blue/brown geometric pattern to the spaghetti straps.
The swimsuit is fully lined, helping to erase any worries about accidentally flashing while in the pool, and the chlorine-resistant fabric keeps it looking fresh. Available in a full range of sizes, we found we needed to size up in order to stop it being too tight. While we haven’t won any medals in it yet, we think it’ll remain one of our favourites for some time.
Speedo summer stripe logo deep U-back swimsuit
Speedo’s products are always bright and bold – and this swimsuit is no different. We loved the old school design and found it translated well from pool sessions to lazing on the beach. The low, open back enabled a full range of movement while the swimsuit stayed in place no matter what stroke we were doing. We found it fitted well and the scoop neck didn’t gape. It does have a high fitting leg so if you want a little extra coverage then you may want to look elsewhere. Made from polyamide and elastane, the fabric is quite thin, but the front lining worked, and we didn’t have any problems with this swimsuit becoming transparent after a long time spent in the water. If you’re after bang for your buck, you’d be hard pushed to find better than this.
Lululemon will the wave long sleeve one piece
Co-created with a pro surfer, this one piece by Lululemon is a great choice for women who prefer sea or outdoor swimming – especially if you don’t want to wait for the water to warm up after winter. And it can be worn on its own or over a swimsuit. The long sleeves and high neck help to keep you warm, while the fabric dries quickly meaning you don’t freeze while getting changed. We found it fitted well and didn’t leave marks on our bottom, while the silhouette is particularly flattering (we got a number of compliments wearing this costume, which certainly helped to boost our confidence). The back zip is easy to negotiate with a toggle and ensures that the suit stays secure throughout sessions. It’s on the expensive side – but if you’re a regular outdoor swimmer and want a high-quality one piece to wear throughout the seasons, this is a great fit.
Zoggs cuma zip suit
If you’re looking for a little extra coverage during your pool sessions, this swimsuit by Zoggs is a top choice. Available in six sizes, the high neckline is flattering and meant we weren’t worried about accidentally flashing a boob midway through front crawl. We found the zip stayed in place and made it easy to remove the swimsuit even when dripping wet. The extra coverage didn’t mean limited movement, rather the open shoulders on this design meant we could power through our drills with no problems. It was also easy to care for and didn't lose its shape after washing. Plus, the product is part of Zoggs’s sustainable programme, which uses recycled materials – in this case, regenerated yarn made from recycled fishing nets and discarded nylons – to help protect the environment. What's not to like?
Nabaiji women’s aquafitness one-piece shorty swimsuit
This one piece swimsuit from Decathlon is an absolute bargain. It’s made with aqua fitness fans in mind, with the “shorts” covering your bum and top of the thighs, offering more coverage than most suits on the market. We found the built-in bra offered the extra support we needed, and the U-shaped back meant it was easy to get on and off. Made from polyester, Decathlon says swimmers can get more than 200 hours of use out of the chlorine-resistant material. While we haven’t quite racked up that many sessions, we definitely think this is one to stick in the wardrobe and use again and again. One thing to consider is that the brand recommends sizing up – we found a UK size 12 fitted well (we’re usually a 10).
Adidas pro Tokyo 2 watch my back swimsuit
This is a swimsuit for the braver women out there. Inspired by the Olympics, which are taking place in Japan next year, it is both bold and elegant, ensuring that you’ll be the centre of attention at any pool. The ultra-compressive fit and wide back opening made this more like a second skin, helping us to slice through the water and achieve some of our best times. However, these are also reasons for getting the size right. We’d recommend carefully using the brand’s comprehensive guide, which has everything you need to know including what to do if your body measurements for the bust and waist result in two different options. Made from recycled polyester to help save resources and decrease emissions, the material is both quick drying and chlorine-resistant making it easy to care for. If you’re nervous about showing off so much skin, you could always consider one of the brand’s V-back swimsuits first – but we think you should take the plunge with this option.
Patagonia women’s nanogrip sunset swell one-piece swimsuit
For a luxe option that is attractive and functional, this is it. This one piece by Patagonia not only looks great – with a plunging neckline and adjustable cross back ties – it also performs well in the water. While we found we showed off a bit more skin than with the other swimsuits in this round-up, we were impressed with how well it stayed in place during sessions; the lining held the suit snug to our body. The double straps felt secure but didn’t cut into the shoulders, and we had no issues with our movement being restricted. Made predominantly from recycled nylon and elastane jersey, the fabric is super soft, and it carries the Fair Trade Certified sewn label to indicate that a premium has been directly paid to those who make the product.
Arena women's crazy make up one piece
Arena describes this swimsuit as “over-the-top”. But we loved the exaggerated Eighties style – from the high cut legs to the curvy black and white stripes and the hand applying mascara across our chest. It is definitely not a case of style over substance though. Made for intensive swimming, we found this athletic one piece performed equally as well as others on the market with an open back and fitted style that enabled us to move and turn as we wished. The fabric – made from polyester – is chlorine-resistant and offers UV protection, helping to keep you safe and meaning it doesn’t fade over time. If you’re after something a little different, this eye-catching suit will help you stand out in any changing room.
The verdict: Women's active swimsuits
Active swimwear has evolved significantly over the past 10 years. Swimsuits are now bold, brave, and colourful. They offer performance-enhancing qualities and are designed with women’s bodies in mind. This made it particularly hard to choose between some of our favourites, but the Zone3 women’s strap back swimming costume just about pipped its competition to the post. If you’re looking to support a smaller brand, we loved the animal print swimsuit by More Than Swim, while the long-sleeved one-piece from Lululemon is perfect for those who love the sea.
If you're a beginner looking to get into swimming, check out our guide to everything you need for your first dip in the pool
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