How Should a Wetsuit Fit?

Are you in the market for a wetsuit, but don’t quite know what to be looking for, fit-wise? Knowing how a suit is supposed to fit can be tough for the first time wetsuit shopper. Buying a new piece of neoprene isn’t quite the same as buying a new pair of jeans – prepare to have a different set of expectations both on proper sizing and comfort level. Here are a few pointers to help pick out the right size for your new wetsuit.

Wetsuits fit Tight. While they shouldn’t be painful or cut-off circulation, be aware that a new wetsuit might just be one of the tighter things you’ve ever tried to put on.  If you are a runner, think of how compression tights fit — they should be snug with some pressure but not to the point where you lose range of motion.  Keep in mind that neoprene stretches when it gets wet, and also stretches with use over time. If you’re in doubt about what size is correct or in between sizes, go with the snugger wetsuit.

Pull it up. A proper fitting suit should not be too roomy in the crotch area. The first thing to do when trying on a wetsuit for fit is to pull the suit up so it’s snug between the legs. Only then should you take an assessment of leg and arm length and shoulder comfort.

Arms and Legs. When trying on a suit, don’t pay too much attention to arm and leg fit, with regards to overall length. It’s really no big deal if the suit has arms and/or legs that seem a tad too short – this wont’ have any effect on your swim time. Likewise, it’s relatively easy to deal with arms or legs that are too long by trimming them to length. This is especially the case with body types that have longer torsos and shorter legs. In fact, many wetsuits come with extra long legs and arms; the wetsuit manufacturer expects you to trim them once you have decided on the purchase and include instructions on how to trim.

Collar. The collar is something that you really can’t trim. Make sure it’s not unbearably uncomfortable. Keep in mind that the collar will stretch some over time; however, if you have a bigger neck, look for one of the brands that features a lower cut collar. These tend to be a lot more generously sized.

No Junk in the Trunk. One of the more notoriously poor-fitting areas for many wetsuit wearers is the area around the small of the back. If there is too much space here, the wet suit will billow out and fill with water while you’re swimming. All things being equal, try to pick the suit that fits this area in the snuggest way.

Body Type. Most manufacturers publish detailed sizing charts for both height and weight, but some body types just don’t fit nicely into these charts. Consider going up a size if your body tends to be very broad-shouldered or barrel-chested. Likewise, go down a size if you body type is thin. Sizing for women’s suits can be difficult – if you order online, don’t be afraid to exchange for another size or brand if something just doesn’t fit right. Remember, all brand and models fit a bit differently. If you have the opportunity, try on a few different styles in you price range to see if one fits comparably better than the others.