My Favorite Running Sunglasses

While we normally associate sunglasses with summer, I wear my sunglasses throughout the year. In fact, glare off the snow can make sunglasses all the more important in winter. I primarily wear sunglasses to avoid crushing sun headaches, while the more health conscious wear their sunnies to protect their eyes from damaging UV light. Below, I share my three favorite running sunglasses – a group that’s not changed in a couple years.

Julbo Race

I picked up my Julbo Race ($150) three years ago as I was preparing for the Marathon des Sables. At the time, I was looking for prescription-compatible photochromic (the lenses shift light-to-dark when exposed to sun) glasses, preferably that wrapped close to the face. Truth be told, I could never get used to the optical clip insert, the RX optics piece that snapped inside the photochromic lenses, nor was a I used to the size of the Race, so I didn’t take them to the desert and they sat in a drawer for a while.

Julbo Race

In June 2010, I had LASIK and started looking for some non-prescription running sunglasses. My search started in one of my drawers and out came the Race. Without the optical clip, I’ve absolutely loved these glasses.

To start, the lenses are killer. Julbo makes great optics, period. The Zebra photochromic lenses transition from a medium-to-dark lenses without my perception. While I lack the vocabulary and technical expertise to describe the general optical quality, they are the best lenses I own. On top of that, I’ve yet to scratch these lenses despite letting them fall to the hard ground many a time and, uh, not always taking the best care of them.

I’ve come love the Race’s fit and feel. They sweep around my head, hugging it but never being too tight. Around the eyes, the frames sit close to the face, which keeps out dust and debris while still venting well.

If I had to get rid of all my other sunglasses today, I’d be heading out for tomorrow’s run wearing my Julbo Race.

Ryders Eyewear Shot

There’s beauty in functional simplicity, and I’ve come to see such beauty in the Ryders Shot. When hitting the trail on a bright, sunny, bluebird Utah day, I’ll often pull out my polarized Shot ($69). That means they come out an awful lot.

Ryders Shot

I’ve got a smaller face when it comes to sunglasses and the Shot wrap my head just right. Once they’re on, I hardly notice them at 22 grams, but am always confident that they’ll stay in place.

The polarized lenses are great, especially when dealing with snow, a wet trail, extremely bright light, or low-angle light.

The only downside to the Shot is that they’re ready for replacement two years into a hard-knock life. Still, as a solid value proposition in the quality sunglasses sphere, I can strongly recommend them.

I do believe I’ve also seen both Karl Meltzer and Geoff Roes wearing the Shot.

Rudy Project Kylix

I wear my Rudy Project Kylix almost exclusively for runs when it’s snowing. Given that I’m in Park City, Utah that can still mean quite a bit of use. Why do I save my Kylix for the snow? Because mine have photochromic lenses that start clear. Having previously spent the better part of a decade running in prescription glasses, I grew used to eye protection in foul weather. Now, in the snowy environs of Park City, I’m keen to throw on some clear lenses when battling the elements. Little more than a week ago, I slipped on my Kylix just before midnight to head out for a run in wind-driven graupel that sandblasted my exposed skin… but I could see just fine.

Rudy Project Kylix

If and when the sun should pop out, the Kylix transition to moderate-darkness lenses. They’re certainly enough to take the edge off even with full sun on snow.

Like the Shot, the Kylix is tailored toward small faces. The nose pieces on the Kylix are independently adjustable, so they not only sit well on your nose, but you can also adjust the distance of the lenses from you face depending on the specifics of your activity.

Call for Comments

  • What are your favorite running sunglasses?
  • Anyone else throw on glasses with clear or other light lenses when it’s precipitating?

There are 29 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Should I get LASIK? What did you pay? Was it worth it? The past few years my eyes have gotten worse and worse, I swear I am going blind or something. I wear glasses all the time except running, climbing, working out etc. I am basically blind for the 1st 15 min or so of running, and running at night has becoming flat out dangerous regards of light options. Prescription running glasses aren't keep, and LASIK is getting much cheaper. I would fork over the extra dough to not have to wear anything, if it is worth it.

    Got any tips…Any tips for me!!!????

  2. Malva

    Is there a reason why you used to wear glasses instead of contacts? I'm wondering if there is a drawback I've not experienced yet.

    Thanks for the recommendations, I've been sort of shopping but couldn't decide on anything. Definitely timely and helpful!

  3. Reid L.

    Wearing contacts makes me feel like I've got something in my eyes. And my ophthalmalogist says I'm not a good candidate for Lasik[*]. Does anyone have a good recommendation for sport prescription glasses (sun or regular) that are good for running?

    [*] My M.D. said if you have a light prescription (e.g., can see a regular sized digital alarm clock at night) then you'd probably not be a good candidate for Lasik. He also said that Lasik doesn't necessarily bring you to 20/20 vision, but likely better 20/40. The best thing to do is to consult an ophthalmalogist on these things, though.

  4. mtnrunner2

    I'm not usually so low-budget on things that matter, but right now I run in a pair of old-school $25 polarized fishing sunglasses from who-knows-where. The polarized lenses make an otherwise iffy pair of shades usable.

    I did have some Smiths and loved the optics, but the tabs on the removable lenses kept coming off. I would check the design before you buy and make sure it looks solid.

    The pair of photochromics I tried used a coating that melted from sweat and/or sunscreen. They were cheap though. I would hope if you're paying $100-plus that wouldn't happen.

    I'll probably be getting some quality shades again this spring, and go with a non-removable Polarized or high-quality photochromic.

  5. Tom W

    I live in Houston and it is a constant struggle to find sunglasses that don't fog up when running. How have these glasses held up to high humidity?

  6. Kim Neill

    I've been using the Oakley Half-Jacket w/RX polarized lenses for the last 8 years. They fit narrower faces well. I'm interested in the Rudy's also, but haven't found a local place to try on an RX pair for fit. If anybody has any suggestions for RX lenses (not inserts), for narrow faces, I'd love to hear about them.

    1. Bob G

      If you can find a place to try on a pair of Rudy Project ekynox sx, do so! I got a pair with photochromic RX lenses, and have generally been thrilled. The only downsides: 1) $$$$ (which is inherent with photochromic RX lenses) and 2) they are good but not excellent with regards to not fogging up.

      With regards to the price, I will say that mine have taken a beating and neither look nor perform worse for the wear.

  7. Hone

    If I need a new pair of shades I just fork over 9 bucks at Chevron when I am filling up the tank. They have quite an amazing selection!

  8. Frenchy

    I currently use Oakley Half Jacket XLJ with polarized lenses. Have worn them for 2 marathons and they are fantastic. Never had any fogging issues. The lenses are wider than the regular Half Jackets, which helps with peripheral vision. I would love try try Julbos but can't find them in Houston.

  9. Rob Digga

    the ONLY thing I look into for sunglasses is the comfort around the ear. i have used a few pairs and they all end up on my face crooked since the ear piece is up on my hat. all i want is a set of shades that does not irritate me.

    they should design a frame where the ear thingy curves up or can be adjusted to be curved up since i and many other people end up with ear piece on their hat.

    i dont mind investing in comfort

    1. Matt Smith

      I also like my Smith shades – I've got 4 pairs of Toasters in different colors with about 15 different lenses (everything from clear to polarized dark grey.)

      I often use the clear or yellow lenses for night trail runs – more to protect my eyes from errant branches than to adjust for lighting.

      I've never paid more than $30 for a pair, since I pick them up on eBay, but they're probably worth the $100 retail price.

      And, no, I'm not biased for Smith shades just because of my name… :)

      1. Bryon Powell

        I just saw the Toasters for the first time this week and need to find myself a pair. The tortoise shell version are about the coolest looking run-worthy sunglasses I've ever seen.

  10. Jim Ellis

    Best money I have ever spent was getting Lasik. I have had it since 2000. My vision has remained the same since then… I can t speak for anyone else but it was the best choice for me.

    1. David

      Me too – definitely the best money I ever spent. LASIK changed my life.

      That said, if I had to do it again, I might have PRK instead. It wasn't an option for me at the time, but it supposedly leaves your eye a little stronger structurally than LASIK does.

  11. Travis

    rudy project Ekynox SX also with the clear photochromatic lens. Has the gap in the far upper right corner that creates a small vent and keeps the fog down.

  12. Ddog

    Maybe I should just try and run with a pair of glasses but have never wanted to spend the money on a good pair…only to find out that they fly off my face on the downhills, or that they fog or get covered in sweat so I can't see…Do some glasses compensate better than others on these two issues?

  13. KenZ

    I'm on the inexpensive bandwagon too. I've tried high end glasses, and they ARE definitely better. But not by a factor of 10, which is the price differential. They are better by maybe a factor of 2.

    So I continue to buy and wear my vast selection of "Faux-kleys" that I picked up overseas. $12, and they come in a nice case, have an alternate elastic strap, and come with 4 sets of interchangeable lenses. This also lets me put a set in different vehicles so I don't have to remember to pack them.

    To be honest, if I wasn't the type to lose everything, and destroy just about everything I touch, then I would put out the $100-150 for really good stuff. But after leaving my awesome Vaurnet glacier glasses on a bus seat, I have given up paying that much for something I'm doomed to lose or destroy. Same goes for Swiss Army Knives/Leathermans: As long as they have locking blades, $8 is good enough for me. Buy 5 of them, and leave one in every car and kitchen drawer.

  14. Mike

    After an extensive search on uk-available models I set myself on some Sunwise Waterloo chromafusion (transition) sunnies for £50. Best money I've spent, and I really prefer their fit and style over Oakleys, which imo tend to look too terminator and I don't think you're getting anything extra for their huge price tag. The polarisation is just right, the colours are neutral (perhaps a *tad* 'cool') but man are they comfortable. Light reactivity is perfect for overcast-sunny-overcast-sunny British weather/going in and out of forests. Plus, they look great, and don't make you look like a tool like some Oakleys can. I still prefer a 'hand shade' / cap for visual quality (again, even compared to Oakley) but after that, Sunwise win my researched vote.

  15. Adam

    Mike, Derek

    I've been looking at the Sunwise glasses but have read some poor reviews of the optics and in particular the coating on the lenses. What are your experiences like please?

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