Best Pull Buoys for Triathletes and Swimmers

Karen Parnell July 29, 2022

Best swimming Pull Buoys for Triathletes and Swimmers

Pull buoys are a must have for your swim training and can help you to reduce your swim times and improve your technique. You may use the ones at your local pool, and this is always an option but there are many on the market that may make your sessions even more effective.

If you have never used one before and have seen other swimmers use them in the pool you may have wondered how they can help your swimming as a triathlete. Here’s a selection of the best pull buoys I’ve used as a coach and a guide to how to use them.

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the best pull buoys chilitri

What is a swimming Pull Buoy?

A pull buoy is usually a figure-of-eight shaped piece of buoyant foam that you place between your thighs to give you lift in the water. This is useful for you as a triathlete as it helps simulate the body position you can achieve from using a wetsuit in the open water, lifting your hips, and helping you achieve a more streamlined body position, staying more horizontal and hydrodynamic in the water.

As well as replicating your ‘wetsuit position’, a pull buoy also allows you to forget about your legs and kick for a while in training, meaning you can focus more on elements such as the front of your stroke (your hand entry, catch, pull and push of your stroke), or your rotation. Many swim drills will also recommend using a pull buoy, so it’s useful to have one in your kit bag before heading to a coached group session. You may even use a pull and paddles in your swim sessions for even more focus on the front of your stroke!

The key to using a pull buoy is to NOT kick your legs. When you first start using one you may inadvertently kick a little so be sure to lock your heels together and not kick at all.


Types of swimming pull buoy

Pull buoys are pretty straightforward in design, but there are a few variations on the market to look out for. The main thing to think about is how much hip lift you require. For example, men tend to have less fat around their hips, so their hips tend to be lower in the water.

Whereas women have more fat around their hips to protect their reproductive organs and fat is less dense than muscle so tends to float more so women’s hips are higher in the water.

Men may require a large, more buoyant pull buoy to place their hips higher in the water and the Huub “big Buoy” is a great example. Ultimately the smaller your pull buoy the better as you are training your head and chest to be lower in the water and your hips higher using your core strength and hence your body more hydrodynamic and you will ultimately swim faster.

What ever pull buoy you choose back sure it does not cause you to “banana” your back and cause you lower back pain.


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Pull buoys for SwimRun races

If you are thinking of trying a SwimRun race this year, then you are allowed to race with a pull buoy so you can save your legs for the running section and help offset that you are swimming in running shoes. Running shoes tend to act like floats and pull your feet high so adding a pull buoy will help get your hips higher and feet lower in the water.

It’s worth trying a few buoyancy levels to see what works for you with your running shoes, SwimRun wetsuit and if you are wearing calf guards.

You can buy SwimRun specific pull buoys with elastic straps to attach them to your outer thigh when you run, or you can find a pull buoy you like and drill some holes and put the elastic on yourself.


Best pull buoys for triathletes

Maru Pull Buoy - Best Budget Pull Buoy


This is a cheap and cheerful pull buoy and is a favourite for Amazon customers due to its price and lime green or bright pink colours. It is made from anti-chafe foam and is lightweight, weighing in at a 80g. It’s a good all rounder and suitable for all levels of swimmer.

The rounded edges help to make the pull buoy more comfortable. It comes in adult and junior sizes so a family favourite. It may be a good option to try for SwimRun racing by drilling some holes and adding some elastic.


Maru pull buoy

Maru standard pull buoy


Huub Big Buoy & Toy Buoy - Best Pull Buoy for Sinky Legs!

As the name would suggest the HUUB Big Buoy is BIG! To get technical it provides 34 Newtons of buoyancy versus the average of 17 from other buoys. This is ideal if you have little fat around your hips and need more buoyancy to get your hips in the best position and to simulate wearing a wetsuit.

With this latest version you can alter between drag loads by utilising hydrodynamic shaping and you can choose buoyancy focus between the legs with two differing size end curves. As a result, Huub says you’ll be able to tailor the amount of buoyancy and drag you want, allowing you to find the ideal balance for your body type.

There is also a version for ladies called the “Toy Buoy 4”! It offers 23 Newtons of buoyancy so still more than your average buoy but more in tune with a women’s physique. It’s called Toy Buoy 4 as it has 4 use positions.

1) More buoyancy under legs high drag (Large end down, flat side into crotch)
2) More buoyancy under legs less drag (Large end down, rounded side into crotch)
3) Less buoyancy under legs high drag (Small end down, flat side into crotch)
4) Less buoyancy under legs less drag (Small end down, rounded side into crotch)


You can get it on Amazon for £19.99.

HUUB big buoy

HUUB Big Buoy - the highest buoyancy pull buoy

HUUB toy buoy

HUUB Toy Buoy – ideal for simulating wearing a wetsuit

Decathlon SwimRun Pull Buoy - Best SwimRun Pull Buoy

If you are just dipping your toe in the water of SwimRun events then this is a great budget option and no need to get out the drill as it comes with elastic straps to attach it you thigh when running. It’s been specifically designed for SwimRunners so should be comfortable and ideal for your event. You simply swivel it to between your legs for swimming and when running swivel around to to your outer thigh to run with. This should save you time transitioning from swim to run to swim etc.

Decathlon swimrun pull buoy

Decathlon SwimRun Pull Buoy

You can read more about SwimRun events here.

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Speedo ECO Pull Buoy - Best Sustainable Pull Buoy

If you are trying to buy ECO friendly triathlon kit then this is for you. Developed in partnership with BLOOM, it is made from a mix of eco-conscious algae and EVA foam, using algae cleared from fresh water eco systems. 50 bottles of clean water and 31 M³ of clean air have been returned to the environment in the making of this product.

It has a medium buoyancy and is unisex.

Speedo pull buoy

Speedo ECO Pull Buoy


Arena PULL KICK PRO - Best Pull Buoy for Versatility

Buy now from Amazon £14.99

This is a favourite of mine as it’s not just a pull buoy but can be used for kicking without causing you to “banana” your back and remain streamlined.

This means you can take one piece of kit to the pool for your kick and pull sets. It has a great shape and low buoyancy so will work your core more and is small so won’t take up too much room in your kit bag. This is a top pick for more advanced swimmers.

Arena pull buoy

Arena Pull Kick Pro

You can use it in “shark” mode with one or two hands or flat for kicking and in between your thighs for pull sets. It has an anti-slip surface, so you won’t lose it and being small allows you to rotate your hips naturally.

You can see it’s uses in the video:


FINIS Axis Ankle Buoy - Best Pull Buoy for Competitive Swim Training

Buy now from Amazon £29.99

This one is a bit pricey but has a dual purpose as a normal pull buoy between your thighs plus you can use it as an ankle buoy. I use this with more advanced athletes to help them develop a good core linkage between shoulder, abs and hips (and down to your ankles) for crisp and controlled rotation. It will enhance your body alignment by lifting the legs to the surface of the water and may be good for simulating swimming in salty water or for SwimRunners to simulate swimming in running shoes.

It will help you build strength by immobilizing your legs which will improve your arm, shoulder, and core strength. It has a comfortable fit with a lightweight textured EVA foam which mounts comfortably around the ankles providing a secure fit. With its streamlined contoured design it allows water to easily flow over the buoy.

Some swimmers also use it as a kick board by putting it on their wrists and as a vertical kickboard that hooks around your wrists as your body is vertical in the water.

I have even heard people using it as a very comfortable pillow to use on the deck of an escort boat, in the seats by a swimming pool, on the beach, or on a long flight in an airplane. You can’t beat that for versatility and utility!


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finis ankle buoy axis

FINIS multi-use ankle buoy

Conclusion: The humble pull buoy is not so humble today

As you can see the humble pull buoy has morphed into a sophisticated piece of swimming kit and can be used to develop your core strength, improve body position and enhance your body rotation. I have covered the best pull buoy for triathletes and swimmers from beginner to advanced swimming options.

Here’s a FREE Swim Workouts for Triathletes Book with swim workouts, tips, technique, drills, kit and terms.

If you liked this blog and would like help with your swimming, we offer 121 swim camps in Southern Spain get in tough.

I also offer swim improvement training plans on TrainingPeaks and FinalSurge.

Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. 

Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and FinalSurge IRONMAN marketplace:



I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability.


pull buoy faq

FAQ Swimming Pull Buoy FAQ

What is a Pull Buoy?

A pull buoy or leg float is a figure-eight shaped piece of closed-cell foam used in swim workouts. Swimmers place the buoy between their thighs or their ankles to provide support to the body without kicking their legs; this allows the swimmer to focus on training only their arms and developing both endurance and upper body strength.

Using the pull buoy gives the arms a more focused workout by providing flotational support for hips and legs. Good body position and technique can be established, and a bilateral breathing rhythm can be refined. Source: Wikipedia

Why do swimmers use a pull buoy?

The purpose of pull buoys is to create extra buoyancy for your hips, to bring your body position in line so you are more streamlined. This can help you to focus on the rest of your stroke, build core strength, slow down your stroke – and a whole host of other useful things to improve your overall swimming

Do you swim faster with a pull buoy?

You will feel as if you are gliding through the water and you will swim faster because of it. Swimming with the pull-buoy encourages you to complete the pull-through and push completely out the back of the stroke which is good technique and faster swimming.

Can You Use a Pull Buoy in a triathlon race? 

Triathletes are not allowed to use any device that helps them move forward which also includes the use of Buoys. Having said that, the ultimate use of a pull buoy for triathletes is to aid in training to achieve perfect body posture while swimming.

Can you use a pull buoy in a SwimRun race?

Yes, you can offset the buoyancy of your running shoes. You can also use hand paddles, neoprene calf guards and even fins!

How do you care for your pull buoy?

As with all swimming equipment like goggles, hand paddles, pull buoys etc it’s best to rinse with fresh water to make sure chorine, salt etc is removed. This will preserve your kit and extend its life.


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