10 best sporty swimsuits for women that make a splash

·10-min read
We tested every costume on quality, design, coverage, support and comfort in the water (iStock/The Independent)
We tested every costume on quality, design, coverage, support and comfort in the water (iStock/The Independent)

Sporty training swimsuits are arguably the most important piece of swimwear ladies own. Sure, theoretically, you could swim lengths in a barely-there string bikini meant for sunbathing – but that would kind of be like running in a pair of high-waisted jeans and a cashmere cardi: inappropriate and difficult.

Trust me, as someone who spent the majority of the past 20 years underwater, I perhaps understand more than most the importance of a one-piece costume that doesn’t chafe, sag or ride up – and looks good, too.

From the age of nine I swam for my local swimming club – competing in counties, districts and nationals. I sometimes swam more than seven times a week, in the water at 5.30am before school – and was teased by the boys in maths class for having wet hair that smelt of chlorine. And although I was never very fast – I certainly wasn’t going to challenge Michael Phelps’s world records or become an Olympian – swimming very much defined who I was and who I am.

I’ve tested some of the best women’s training suits from market-leading labels, for both pool swimming and open-water swimming (including some that are fashionable enough to hang out poolside or on the beach in), looking at the quality, design, coverage, support and comfort in the water.

Remember: working out in the water doesn’t mean you can’t have fun – so expect colourful creative designs, patterns and prints to put a smile on your face.

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The best sporty swimsuits for women for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Funkita eco diamond back one piece, TropFest: £41.95, Funkytrunks.co.uk

  • Best with fully adjustable straps – Speedo women’s solid tie-back swimsuit, pink: £38, Speedo.com

  • Best patterned training swimming costume – Maru fanshell ecotech sparkle swimsuit: £36.99, Maruswim.com

  • Best for triathletes – Stomp the Pedal single strap one-piece swimsuit: £70, Stompthepedal.co

  • Best chlorine-resistant swimming costume – Zone3 women's strap back swim suit: £35, Zone3.com

  • Best for open-water swimming – Huub jenkins costume: £39.99, Huubdesign.com

  • Best for making a statement – Batoko lobster costume: £50, Batoko.com

  • Best for stand-up paddleboarding – Stay Wild Swim odyssey one piece: £170, Shopstaywildswim.com

  • Best for sea swimming – Davy J ZipUp cutout suit : £125, Davyj.org

  • Best for the beach – Tide and Seek x Rosie Woods classic cut swimsuit: £75, Tideandseek.com

Funkita eco diamond back one piece, tropfest

Best: Overall

Funkita took the swimwear world by storm with its bold prints when it launched back in 2002. The Australian brand, part of the same group as Funky Trunks, is known for its unique, bright designs.

Made from chlorine-resistant fabric with 50+ UV sun protection, swimsuits from Funkita are exceptionally durable and long lasting – they’re designed to not lose their colour, no matter how much time you spend in the sun, which makes them the perfect choice for both amateur swimmers at the beach and professional swimmers on training camps at the likes of Club La Santa.

Over the years, I’ve collected many different styles from Funkita, but this costume – with the double-bind shoulder straps and diamond back – remains my favourite. It also happens to be Funkita’s most popular swimsuit style, and it’s easy to see why. The double-bind straps provide added comfort and support in the water, and the cut is flattering and fun. Funkita offers some seriously zany colours – I always get compliments if I’m wearing one.

Buy now £41.95, Funkytrunks.co.uk

Speedo women’s solid tie-back swimsuit, pink

Best: With fully adjustable straps

When you think of swimming brands, Speedo is often the first that comes to mind. Their suits always fit impeccably and they’re constantly changing up their designs.

Although you might need a tan to pull off this solid colour tie-back swimsuit from Speedo, I love the fact that the straps are fully adjustable and the ultra-high leg cut is incredibly flattering.

With front and back lining, this swimsuit is made from quick-drying, 100 per cent chlorine-resistant fabric, which means it’s designed to last for longer and you know it won’t fade after the first session. One thing to note, though – you’ll probably want a teammate or friend on hand in the changing room to help tie you up the back (and make sure your bow doesn’t come undone).

Buy now £38.00, Speedo.com

Maru fanshell ecotech sparkle swimsuit

Best: Patterned training swimming costume

This fun, girlie costume is part of Maru’s ongoing partnership with the Sea Life Trust – a charity working to protect the world’s oceans. Maru donates 100 per cent of its profits from the ecotech range to the charity to help fund the campaigns to reduce ocean plastic.

I had at least four sparkly Maru costumes when I trained religiously – and this costume, in typical Maru fashion, is also covered in an eye-catching sparkly silver foiling. I particularly love the thin, double-cross straps on the back, and the fact that they contrast with the pastel shells in fuchsia pink.

Although this costume perhaps isn’t for everyone, I found it supportive and flattering and a joy to swim in. If you’re after something a little more safe, I’d recommend trying the strata ecotech swimsuit (£33.99, Maruswim.com). It has a classic ace back, doesn’t budge when you push off the swimming pool walls and offers fuller coverage.

Buy now £36.99, Maruswim.com

Stomp the Pedal single strap one-piece swimsuit

Best: For triathletes

From triathlon-brand Stomp the Pedal, these aren’t the cheapest swimsuits – but as the brand operates a pre-order-only model, you probably won’t find another person at the pool wearing the same cossie as you, as the prints, patterns and colours are always changing.

Offering plenty of support, this polyester suit made from 100 per cent carvico Italian fabric has generous rear coverage and a flattering cut. I love the minimal style of these costumes – they make for a perfect, durable, everyday training suit. Plus, they stay in place, so there’s minimal tugging or rearranging in the water.

Buy now £70.00, Stompthepedal.co

Zone3 women's strap back swim suit

Best: Chlorine-resistant swimming costume

You may think of Zone3 as a triathlon-only brand (they make some of the best wetsuits out there), but this well-established British company – whose products are designed by athletes, for athletes – also offer excellent high-performance cossies.

This bold aztec-style one piece stays put while you swim laps, and its tighter fit offers support in all the right places. It somehow manages to balance the perfect amount of coverage without looking dowdy and shapeless. I particularly like the thicker straps and cross-back style – they sit comfortably on your shoulders when you pull through the water and allow you to train without worrying about your suit getting in the way.

Buy now £35.00, Zone3.com

Huub jenkins costume

Best: For open-water swimming

Another triathlon brand – also known for their premium triathlon wetsuits and recognised as the Brownlee brothers’ brand of choice – Huub arguably dominates go-faster tri gear.

It offers just one swimming costume design in five different classy, on-trend, conversational prints. Like the Zone3 suit, the streamlined design of this Huub cutout style allows serious swimmers to focus on their stroke, not their suit. The jenkins costume has thin straps that don’t dig into your shoulders and back, and will last through hours and hours of training. So that’s a tick for both comfort and durability – and who doesn’t like pineapples?

Buy now £39.99, Huubdesign.com

Batoko lobster costume

Best: For making a statement

If you’ve braved any open-water swim sessions recently, you’ll likely have spotted someone donning one of these fun costumes made from recycled plastic.

Batoko is a small, up-and-coming independent swimwear brand based on the northwest coast of England. From sharks to orcas, crabs to seals, each swimsuit offers a kitschy departure from your standard solid suit.

My personal favourite is this pink and red lobster costume – the quality of this swimsuit is clear. It’s also a lot more stretchy than the other costumes on this list and noticeably has more give in the hip area than some of the other high-rise costumes. With a classic scoop back and generous rear coverage, this fun, good-to-the-planet costume will be coming to the coast with me this summer.

Buy now £50.00, Batoko.com

Stay Wild Swim odyssey one piece

Best: For stand-up paddle boarding

Another sustainable brand creating swimsuits from regenerated ocean plastic is Instagram favourite Stay Wild Swim.

The odyssey one piece is more of a fashion suit than a training cossie. I admit I was slightly worried the zip would come undone when I pushed hard off the swimming pool wall while my chest was exposed, but actually the higher neckline gives a higher level of support, especially if you have a larger bust.

The cool block-coloured panels provide sculpting in all the right places, so if you’re looking for a super flattering suit for the sea that also provides a bit more coverage from the sun, this sporty chic cossie is a top pick. Just don’t look at the price.

Buy now £170.00, Shopstaywildswim.com

Davy J zipup cutout suit

Best: For sea swimming

If you like the bond girl look, you will adore this sleek black number from sustainable swimwear brand Davy J. The high neckline and zip combination makes this costume almost look like a wetsuit from the front, and a two-piece sporty bikini from the back. I felt like a million dollars in this swimming costume – and with an additional inner sports bra, it’s supportive to swim in. So even though it looks like it’s more of a fashion suit, it’s not going to fall off you while swimming. In fact, as their tagline says, it’s “designed to survive a dive”.

If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, but like the beautiful simplicity of Davy J, try their classic cut costume in olive (£140, Davyj.org). It’s essentially a better-looking alternative to a stereotypical athletic suit that still performs well, plus I love the square neckline.

Buy now £125.00, Davyj.org

Tide and Seek x Rosie Woods classic cut swimsuit

Best: For the beach

Less for swimming laps than playing volleyball on the beach, this pretty, cute number from Tide and Seek is also made from recycled plastic. With a bright pink lining throughout, this swimsuit is part of their first-ever artist collaboration with Rosie Woods, and I love the swooshing pastel print.

The shape of this costume is a little different to the other suits on this list – the neckline is actually quite low, so I found it let in a lot of water when pushing off the pool walls, but the thick crossover straps are rather sleek. I can imagine myself wearing this under a pair of denim shorts to the beach in the summer, and then paddling out on a surfboard.

Buy now £75.00, Tideandseek.com

The verdict: Sporty swimsuits for women

I found the task of naming one costume from this list “the best” incredibly difficult, because so many of them perform well in the water and look good too.

But, Funkita’s tropfest costume takes the crown here due to its reliable, flattering cut, narrow straps that don’t budge or impede shoulder rotation and a backside that offers just enough coverage so you’re not flashing anyone when you tumble turn, while the bold, stand-out print speaks for itself.

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