One of the things I love about running is the simplicity. One foot in front of the other and off you go. We add challenges with speed, distance, and weather and add variety with terrain, races, running partners, etc. But at its essence it’s simply moving the body the way it was built to move. Elegant and fast (OK, maybe not for everyone). Very few external things matter – just you and the limitations created by your own mind. This isn’t hockey and we don’t need any balls or sticks or crampons etc. nor are we riding on $2,000 wheels. Just a pair of sneakers and a will to keep moving. That said, there are a few items of gear, especially in ultra running, that can make a big difference in terms of performance, efficiency and comfort. Sneakers – of course. That’s the foundation and finding the right shoe for you is key. But given the length of our running (time and distance), the small comforts and discomforts can make a big difference. One place where this is an issue for many – including me – is sun protection for the eyes. Like many, I have struggled for many years to find sunglasses that work; and, by work, I mean protect my eyes for sun glare of all intensities and not otherwise get in the way. A few months ago I tested and have been training and racing in a pair of Rudy Project Noyz with Graphite frame and ImpactX Photochromic clear lens. Bottom line – I think I hit the jackpot.
So, how does one evaluate sunglasses? Let’s be honest – it is largely subjective and personal preference. After talking with some fellow runners, I’ve identified that some of the key criteria for many are (not necessarily in this order):
- Sun protection
- Size/shape of lenses
- Frame fit (e.g. hey man, those glasses are way too big for your face . . . )
In the end, though, it is a very personal choice, which makes buying sunglasses difficult since you really don’t know how they work until you try them. And by trying them I don’t mean slipping them on and looking at yourself in a 2” wide carnival mirror in the middle of a store with Jimmy Teenager Salesguy telling you that you look great while he’s texting his buddy. I was fortunate enough to land a pair from Rudy Project to test and write-up, so here it is. I’m hopeful this helps for those in search of the right pair of sunglasses – whether for racing or just to look cool.
The Rudy’s performed extremely well by all measures. By far one of the best feature are the ImpactX Photochromic lenses. To say I was skeptical of the technology would be an understatement. It just seemed like a marketing ploy to me (for more info, though, see Rudy’s ImpactX information – it is sort of incredible that this technology is not more well known). That said, I was overwhelmingly impressed with their performance. I first tried the sunglasses at the Coyote Two Moon (C2M) race a few months ago. It was an overcast and foggy day with the sun breaking out now and then. My start time was late afternoon. Perfect for testing a technology that claims to adjust the tint with the amount of light transmitted (getting darker with higher light intensity). Given the change in amount of sunlight over the course of the race the Rudy’s were going to get a workout for sure. They were outstanding. The transition from dark to light/clear is seamless and the eye protection is excellent. I was able to run without distraction of having to lift my glasses up as things got darker, while still avoiding retina burn when running into the sun. It was a real treat and I became a converted skeptic. I used them again at the Leona Divide 50 miler which was all sun all the time (except for the start) and the Noyz performed well in high light intensity all day. The same performance was true at Western States this year, as I ran in and out of shaded sections (too few of those . . . ) with the Rudy’s in place the whole time – all the way to the finish. (iRF’s post-Western States interview with Kevin Sullivan)
One small drawback is that when I do lift the sunglasses and have them ride on the top of my head or visor they do tend to bounce. The frames are so light that the lenses seem heavier (this is all relative because the glasses and frames together weigh a mere ounce (31 grams)), which I think creates the differential leading to bouncing (or maybe I just have a warped head). I’m willing to overlook this, however, since it is rare that I have lifted my Noyz – because they glasses can be worn in the dark (as I did at C2M).
Beyond the high tech lenses, the durable frame is light and fits well. A lot of the races I have run this year have a fair bit if downhill (C2M, Leona Divide, Western States – uh hem, that’s more than 50,000 feet of total descent) and the glasses held on strong, but not too firm. I never even noticed I had them on – at an amazing 1 (yes, O-N-E) oz, they are extremely light. As for durability, I have packed them into my backpack, jammed them in my briefcase, dropped them and yes stepped on them (not intentionally) and they are no worse for the wear – no scratches or anything. Guaranteed for life by Rudy.
As I was once a pudgy kid (yes, I mean like husky pants store fat), I have made it my life long goal not to stick out. But, the Rudy Noyz make a statement. It’s a toss up whether I look like an Olympic athlete (pat, pat) or Michael Douglas from Falling Down (sans shotgun). In any case, I think the Noyz have some style with their functionality, which is not a bad thing. There are lots of frame color and lens options, so for folks looking for a wilder look to match their leopard pattern Moebens (iRF Moeben review) and polka dot gaiters, you’re in luck (maybe some Multi Laser Blue – sounds cool to me).
Price? Not sure what to say about this. The Rudy’s are expensive (MSRP $200), but understandably so. These glasses have some of the coolest cutting edge technology built into them and their performance reflects it. Is it worth the price? In my mind, yes. Given all the time and money we spend training, I want to get the most out of my training and racing (and avoid developing wrinkles around my eyes, of course). Anything that helps me execute in the way I intend is a value proposition for me. The Rudy Noyz take away the distractions of the sun without the common side effects of other sunglasses – e.g., failure to protect in sun and shade, frames too heavy, too tight or too loose, cheaper sunglasses break etc. I’m not saying the Noyz are for everyone, but for someone who wants to buy the F-14 equivalent, the Noyz are the choice (after all, they actually incorporate material that is used in the windows of cockpit doors being installed on airplanes (post 9/11) and Apache helicopter windshields panels).
While nothing in life (or ultra) is perfect, the Rudy’s score high marks across the board for me. The area where – for me – the glasses performed less well are on the size of the lenses. The lenses are just a tad too big for my face but ever so slightly, so not enough to make a difference. The Noyz are, in fact, built for smaller faces. One other frustration that is not necessarily Noyz specific is actually finding a Rudy Project dealer. The website is helpful, but there are not many Rudy Project dealers in my area, at least, and given the nature of sunglasses, it’s always better to try them on and test them versus buying them blind (no pun intended) online.
That’s it for now. I won’t belabor the point here. The Rudy Project Noyz with ImpactX Photochromic clear lens are light, sturdy, comfy and perform extremely well in low and high light conditions. If you want to see where you going – even when falling like me – then run out and grab a pair knowing that even when you do fall, your glasses won’t break . . . .
Train well and stay healthy.