Full-Sleeve vs Sleeveless: Which Suits Better?

Wetsuits come in two major categories: full-sleeve and sleeveless. A full-sleeve wetsuit features neoprene arm coverings which extend down to the wrist, whereas a sleeveless wetsuit terminates at the shoulders similar to a tank top.

Both styles have wide-cut legs and a back zipper and show very few differences in all other respects. Figuring out what type of suit is most suitable for you might not be a straightforward solution. Having one of each sort can be a really great option on occasion.

Many triathletes find the swimming portion of the triathlon to be quite difficult. Swimming in open water, where there are many unpredictable elements, can make the task even more difficult. Rough waves, low visibility, icy water temperatures, nervousness, and not knowing the swim course can all increase exhaustion.

As a triathlete, you should make all the necessary efforts to succeed, including acquiring the finest triathlon equipment. A key move is getting the right wetsuit.

The difference

It isn’t hard to distinguish between the two. Sleeved wetsuits cover the arm area up to the wrist, whereas Long Johns, which are also known as sleeveless wetsuits, finish just across where the shoulder meets the arm.

The focal point of this conversation is the various advantages both these styles present to triathletes.

Sleeveless wetsuits


  • For beginners, transitions can be tricky to master so a sleeveless can be a good option for them. A sleeveless wetsuit is easier to put on and take off, thereby cutting transition times by vital seconds.
  • Being less restricting due to less neoprene, they can add to shoulder mobility, thus enhancing strokes. This is especially beneficial if you’ve got any issues with your shoulder since there are fewer chances of aggravating the shoulder with sleeve friction.
  • They are perfect for warm water swims, where a good swim in a full-sleeved suit might leave you over-heated.
  • For some triathletes, a feel for the water is important in being able to track the efficiency of each stroke. Their ability to feel the resistance of the water in the catch-and-pull phase of the stroke helps them get more water behind them and push themselves forward.


  • Most triathletes find that the arms add to their drag coefficient since the arms in themselves don’t lend anything in terms of buoyancy or streamlining. The opening at the arm-shoulder intersection can allow water to get in and acts like a parachute, consequently increasing drag.  Less neoprene means less buoyancy and more drag, which equates to slower swim times.
  • Sleeveless wetsuits are not suitable in cold waters since they don’t offer the insulation that full-sleeved wetsuits do. Also, if there are any jellyfish, full-sleeve wetsuits offer more protection!
  • Fitting a person for a sleeveless wetsuit becomes a bit more challenging because not every person has the same body structure.  Some may have narrower chests than others and while weight and height may be the same, every person’s body is shaped differently.  A bigger hole means more chance of water filling any open areas between the suit and your body.  More water in the suit means increased drag, slowing you down.
  • There are markedly fewer sleeveless models available today than there are full-sleeved ones.  Many manufacturers have reduced their sleeveless offerings down to one model while others have eliminated them all altogether.

Dos and don’ts

  • Do make sure that the wetsuit fits snugly under the arms to prevent the extra entry of water.
  • Don’t forget to try on your wetsuit before buying it. Take it off and put it on a few times to see if it’s going to get in the way of your transitions.
  • Remember, wetsuits should fit you skin-tight, like a glove, but there is a difference between being uncomfortable in your suit and being restricted in your suit.  You do not want to be restricted in your stroke ability or breathing.

Best Sleeveless Triathlon Wetsuit

XTERRA Vortex Sleeveless

XTERRA claims that the Vortex sleeveless wetsuit has been the top-selling option in North America for the past decade – and it’s not hard to understand why, due to its extraordinary strength and performance in practice and competition. This item provides a comprehensive level of satisfaction in terms of comfort, suppleness, and buoyancy, resulting in optimal performance. The X-Flex Liner 2.0 is equipped inside, resulting in smoother and more flexible movement while swimming and changing, while the chest has a 5-millimetre thick neoprene and the back has 3 millimetres. This model gave enough warmth for swimming in the open water during the summer. The wetsuit worked exceptionally well even in breezy conditions, especially when it came to identifying the buoys. However, the transition was a little tricky. As the diver left the water, it was noticeable that some water had crept into the wetsuit during the acceleration from the dive. It was enough to be felt, although it did not interfere with performance or have to be removed.

It could be a beneficial use of the customer’s resources to check how the chest measurement would be with one size lower than what is indicated on XTERRA’s size chart for the X weight range. When stacked up against the other sleeveless models that were tested, the Vortex was the most effortless to take off from the torso area, yet not as effortless to take off past the ankles. Most triathletes will find that the Xterra Vortex offers a combination of comfort and performance that is worth its cost.

Zone3 Vision Sleeveless

Zone3 Men's Sleeveless Vision Wetsuit

The Vision by Zone3 has long been a preferred garment amongst those who choose to wear a sleeveless wetsuit. This suit is much more lightweight and slender than the other three I looked into. Zone3 utilizes a 5mm neoprene material that is thicker in their men’s swimsuit, however, in order for the women’s suit to provide a more natural body posture in the water, it is made with 3mm neoprene. The suit’s lightness really emphasizes the ability of the user to move freely in the torso, hips and legs, whilst also giving added buoyancy and warmth. The lightweight material of the suit makes it very easy to take off quickly and efficiently in T1. The testers felt the Vision was really cosy and snug-fitting, yet the wide arm openings allowed the liquid to penetrate the wetsuit with each arm paddle and turn of the shoulder. When looking at the different suits tested, the Vision has the most spacious vertical opening and is skinnier at the top of the back (more than one inch in both measurements.) For athletes who have a history of experiencing anxiety or claustrophobia due to the tight compression of their chest caused by a standard wetsuit, the wider arm openings on this suit are very desirable.

Roka Maverick Pro II Sleeveless

Roka has sidelined the idea of producing an entry-level or training model to offer purchasers a luxurious and comfortable pro racing experience in the Maverick Pro II Sleeveless. The combination of high-end liners and the independent neck panel creates an instant level of comfort and a snug fit. Users won’t need to worry about chafing.

Sizes are plentiful and well-matched. At first, the wetsuit might seem too snug, but don’t worry – it will conform to your body in the water. The Roka RS2 panel, situated in the centre of the chest, is not especially thick, yet it still gives the wetsuit an even feeling when rotating.

It may not provide much warmth or buoyancy, but what it lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in terms of its flexibility. Triathletes will be able to use their flutter kick without much difficulty, as they have the same level of adaptability when they’re running in transition.

Pros of Full-Sleeve suits

The advantages of a wetsuit with long arms are that it is warmer, provides more buoyancy, aids with moving through the water, and guards against the environment.

A suit that covers a greater area of the body allows for more warmth to be kept in. By restricting the quantity of cold water that passes over the skin, the body’s temperature is held within the suit. Taking off your sleeves – especially in the underarm region, where plenty of heat can be held or lost – can cause an immense alteration in body temperature, for better or for worse. The tiny amount of liquid that comes in through the neck area is warmed by the body temperature, resulting in a more pleasant sensation while swimming in cold water.

The extra neoprene on the sleeves also gives the wearer more buoyancy and support in the water. The arms and upper body still get buoyancy despite the sleeves usually being fabricated from thinner and more pliable neoprene.

A full-length suit provides a more streamlined shape in the water for the person wearing it. Olympic swimmers and those who wear shape-hugging Spanks have a distinct advantage in their respective competitions: both the suits and the undergarments help reduce resistance and increase speed in the water. The same concept applies to wearing wetsuit sleeves, as these items create a streamlined outline of the arms which allows for more efficient gliding through the water.

The long arms of the garment give extra cover from the weather. Certain stretches of the ocean can have a reputation for jellyfish, sea lice, or other aquatic creatures that can be unpleasant. Covering as much skin as you can while biking and running help guard against unwelcome stings and irritations.


  • The fit can get tricky.  An ill-fitted full-sleeved wetsuit can get extremely restricting and can even be harmful, aggravating the shoulders and limiting the mobility of the arms.
  • Having material around the shoulders can feel like it will slow down your stroke rate.
  • Full-sleeves can create slower transitions for beginners who haven’t quite mastered taking it off.

Dos and don’ts

  • When it comes to full-sleeve wetsuits, the fit is crucial. With the right fit, you’ll enjoy all the benefits the sleeves have to offer.
  • If you’ve got the money, go for it! A general rule of thumb here is that the pricier a wetsuit is the better quality it is. It’s got a whole arsenal of features to give you that added advantage in the water.

Best full-sleeve triathlon wetsuit

Zone3 Women’s Aspire Triathlon Wetsuit


Zone3 Aspire Wetsuit

This wetsuit is optimal for female athletes at any level, from just starting out to experienced triathletes. Some of its key features include:

  • Premium #39 SCS Yamamoto fabrics ensure great flexibility, comfort and performance all over.
  • An aqua dynamic ‘SCS’ Nano coating applied to the neoprene eliminates drag in the water and streamlines your body.
  • A higher stretch 3mm chest panel combined with a 1.5mm side chest seam conserves core body warmth and is designed to suit a wide range of different chest sizes.
  • A new 1.5mm one-piece shoulder panel with no seams from elbow to elbow provides more flexibility and distance per stroke.
  • Pro Speed CuffsTM on the arms and the legs and a downwards YKK zip for rapid removal after the swim to ensure the quickest transitions, saving you vital time on any course.

2019 ORCA Predator Men’s Full-sleeve Wetsuit

Orca - Predator Wetsuit - Men's

This new full-size wetsuit for men has been tailored specifically to fit a swimmer’s body perfectly, providing maximum buoyancy in the legs and arms and even more mobility in the torso. Here are some of its features:

  • 0.88 Free’s 5-layer construction and heat reflective Titanium coating allow for extreme stretch and flexibility, high buoyancy and insulation with less drag.
  • Super thin 1.5mm SCS coated neoprene collar provides comfort.
  • Bamboo InfinitySkn Lining for extreme flexibility and second-skin comfort.
  • 1.5mm Yamamoto 44cell in the key underarm area for maximum flexibility, fit and comfort.
  • 5mm Exo Cell Core Lateral Stabilizer (CLS) with 4mm Exo-Lift front panel provides streamlined body positioning, reducing fatigue.
  • Coated in HydroLite Nano ICE for a lower drag coefficient.

Final words

We are hopeful this guide provides you with understanding and motivation when selecting the perfect wetsuit for your upcoming triathlon competition. When making a purchase, choose an item that is of excellent quality as most athletes find more comfort in items of a higher quality and good design.

Weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both the sleeveless and full-sleeved wetsuit, but ultimately the decision comes down to the individual triathlete and what best suits their particular style and ability level.

Best of luck in locating the appropriate wetsuit for you and be aware that the proprietors of JustWetusits.com present 8 brands to pick from to assist you in locating the perfect one! You can phone the experts at any time for advice about what kinds of wetsuits will suit your needs, the sizing, different kinds of models and what the best choices could be.


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