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by Katy Bergen

December 20, 2019

Quick tips for one of the first gear items you might encounter at the pool

Olympic triathlete Heather Fell relies on the tried and true talcum powder trick to break in a new swimming cap.

Sarasota Sharks Masters Swimmer Larissa Carmichael always starts by pulling her long hair back.

But the swim cap isn’t just a tool to keep longer hair out of the way during a swim.

Swimmers rely on swim caps for their contribution to hydrodynamics, the protection they provide from chlorine and other pool chemicals, and the visibility they offer open water swimmers.

Swim caps also help ear plugs stay in, provide a sticky surface for goggles to cling to, and can help swimmers retain heat.

Sometimes, however, reaping the benefits of a swim cap is stymied by two simple challenges: getting a cap on and keeping it on.

U.S. Masters Swimming has these tips for ensuring that putting on a swim cap is the most painless part of the swimming experience.

  • Pay attention to the seam. No matter what technique you use to put a cap on, make sure the cap seam lines up with the middle of your forehead. The seam should span from your forehead to the nape of the neck, not from ear to ear.
  • Ensure that the top of your cap rests in the middle of your forehead. If your cap rests too high on your forehead, you run the risk of it shifting off during a race, particularly during the water impact after your start.
  • Wet your hair first. Some cap materials, particularly latex, stick to dry hair strands. It's not uncommon to see swimmers wet their hair before attempting to put a cap on. Others use a small amount of conditioner for the added benefit of providing some hair protection. Some swimmers actually wet the cap itself—it depends on what material the cap is made out of.
  • If you have long hair, pull it back with a hair tie before you attempt to put the cap on. This can make it easier to pull a cap over the entirety of the head without having to stuff large amounts of hair into the bottom of the cap.
  • Stretch it. If you find a cap is too tight or too new to fit comfortably over the head, try stretching it out with hands a few times before attempting to put it on.
  • Switch it up. If you normally try and fail to put your cap on front to back, try stretching the cap at the base of your head, and putting your cap on back to front.
  • Experiment with different styles, whether it's latex, silicone, or neoprene. Silicon caps are often considered the easiest to take on and off, but also tend to slip or move around the most. Latex can be more uncomfortable to put on but adheres tightly to the head. Work out—and practice a competition-style race— with various styles and find what works for you.
  • Double up. Many competitive swimmers will wear two caps, with the second cap covering their goggle straps. A latex cap provides a sticky surface for goggles to cling to as the inner layer and a silicon cap reduces resistance as the outer layer. Layering decreases the likelihood of losing your goggles during a start and ensures a more hydrodynamic swim.
  • Try talcum or baby powder. Properly drying and treating swim caps with talcum or baby powder post-swim is considered best practice. The powder helps prevent bacteria growth. And it also makes it easier to put on a cap by keeping it from sticking to itself, and it extends its lifetime.
  • Find a Friend. Line up your seam and hold the front of the cap in the position you want it to rest on your forehead. Then, have a friend pull the rest of the cap from the front of your head to the back.


  • Technique and Training


  • Caps