Wetsuit size guide: How should a swim wetsuit fit?

Supported by ZONE3.


The fit and feel of a swim wetsuit is super important – if a wetsuit doesn’t fit, it doesn’t work.

Wetsuits work by trapping a very thin layer of water between your skin and the neoprene, and then using the heat from your body to warm it up. It’s very important, therefore, that the layer isn’t constantly being replaced by new, colder water.

How effective a wetsuit is at performing this task is largely a function of how well it fits the wearer.


How tight should a swim wetsuit be?

A wetsuit should fit as tightly as you can comfortably get into. What you need to avoid are slack areas where water can pool, or loose seals around the ankles, wrists, and neck. 

If your wetsuit is too loose, cold water will enter the suit freely or “flush through”. Water sloshing around in your wetsuit isn’t conducive to you being the best you. You’ll feel cold, weighed down, and sad.

If your suit fits properly, that single thin layer of water becomes securely trapped, and because it’s trapped it will heat up. You’ll feel warm, lightweight, and happy when swimming.

So a wetsuit should be a tight fit. Sometimes people think their wetsuit is too small because it’s a bit of a struggle to get into, but wetsuits do generally require a bit of effort to put on, especially if you haven’t had much practice.

However, you do need to be extra careful when stepping in (or out of) a swim wetsuit. One top tip – and this applies to all wetsuits, but particularly single-lined neoprene wetsuits – is to make sure all your fingernails and toenails are trimmed, to avoid making any cuts or nicks. If you want to learn more about this, be sure to check out our guide on How to Care for your Swim Wetsuit.

Generally speaking, the tighter the suit the better. Obviously, it is also possible to have a wetsuit that’s too tight. If it constricts your breathing, if moving your arms up and down feels like you’re lifting deadweights, if you need to call the fire brigade to get it on or off, there is a chance your wetsuit is too small for you.   


How to tell if a wetsuit is too big

Some things to look out for and avoid with a swim wetsuit are excess material behind your knees, at the lumber panel around your back, and around your armpits.

Excess material around the forearms or lower legs isn’t ideal but a little bit of bunching won’t affect your suit’s performance to the same extent. Swim wetsuits should feel a little tighter than surfing suits, but the thinner material means for added flexibility. 


Do swim wetsuits stretch?

Wetsuits do stretch, and if they didn’t they wouldn’t be much use – you wouldn’t be able to get them on, for a start. Being elasticated, however, they should always resume their normal shape. (If you’re wondering whether your wetsuit will “stretch out” over time, like the waistband of a pair of trousers, it won’t.)

Not all wetsuits stretch equally, however. There are a few factors to bear in mind.

Firstly, the thinner the neoprene is in a wetsuit, the stretchier it will be, but there’s a trade-off here between warmth and flex. Thicker neoprene makes for a warmer but generally slightly stiffer wetsuit.

It tends also to be the case that more expensive neoprene is more flexible. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, as sometimes you’re paying for extra warmth, not extra performance or flex. When it comes to ZONE3, you’re blessed with a lot of choice. We have the Aspire Swim Wetsuit at the top of the pile, all the way down to the super accessible and affordable Agile range.  

The more your wetsuit stretches, the freer and less restrained you’ll feel inside it, and you’ll also find it’s easier to get in and out of.


Wetsuit fitting guide

A men’s wetsuit is cut differently from a women’s wetsuit due to the differences in body shape between the sexes. Simply put, women’s suits are slightly wider at the hips and chest. Of course it’s possible for a woman to wear a men’s wetsuit – when borrowing a friend’s, let’s say – but it won’t fit nearly as snugly.

Men’s wetsuits are generally sized in the Small / Medium / Large format, though often there’ll be a second letter, either S or T for short or tall. So for example, if you’re tall and slim you may find that a Medium Tall fits better than a standard Medium. ZONE3 will supply their own wetsuit size charts which will help you work out which suit you need.

As for female wetsuits, these tend to be created to be in line with women’s dress sizes. To make things a little easier, Zone3 use the same Small / Medium / Large format for women’s sizings. However, bear in mind that sizing often varies slightly from brand to brand, and you may need to size up or down. If in doubt, it’s always best to ring our expert Customer Service team on 01702 295678 or email them at info@wetsuitoutlet.co.uk.

The ZONE3 Womens Aspire Swim Wetsuit and ZONE3 Mens Aspire Swim Wetsuit are a strong starting point for swimmers of all abilities. Since its conception in 2008, the Aspire range has received plaudits for its fit - equal parts comfortable and streamlined. It has also been widely reviewed, so it’s well worth seeking these out for a little more info on how they fit different body types. 


Can you wear a swim wetsuit when pregnant?

Until you’re heavily pregnant you can generally wear your normal wetsuit. Later on, you may need to go for a bigger size to get it over your bump. Again, the thickness (or flexibility) of the neoprene will affect how easy it is to accommodate the bump.

We’d always recommend seeking your doctor’s advice before swimming in open waters when pregnant.


Need some more info about open water swimming?

Check out our other posts in collaboration with ZONE3...


11 Safety Tips for Open Water Swimming

How to be a More Eco-Consious Wild Swimmer

What do you Wear Under a Swim Wetsuit?

ZONE3 wetsuit review 




Shop the full ZONE3 range - HERE
Shop the full ZONE3 wetsuit range - HERE

Updated on 4th March 2024

Originally published on 27th February 2024 in Guides

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