Finding the right pair of sunglasses to accommodate year-round training, whether it be through reflective snow in the winter or the radiant heat of the summer, has been nearly impossible for me in the past. I’ve found myself changing lens colors for different conditions and even changing sunglasses in the middle of an ultra due to irritation, especially on the tops of my ears, after several hours of wear. Given that buying new shades becomes a significant investment these days, it would be great to have a pair that could do it all and still feel comfortable on the drive home after a long day in the mountains.
I was introduced to Julbo sunglasses in 2011 in reviewing the Ultra, and while I was enamored with the photochromic Zebra lenses, I found the fit and coverage to be huge for my head. Enter the Julbo Venturi ($180), which employs a better-fitting panoramic design along with vented lenses which are absolutely essential for running, in my opinion. In this review I will highlight some of the features which I think make the Venturi quite possibly the best optics for trail running on the market currently.
Julbo Venturi Fit
I used to consider weight as the deciding factor in how a pair of sunglasses would perform for running, and the Venturi (30 grams) is certainly not the lightest pair out there. In my collection alone, among the Smith Approach and Parallel Max as well as the Nike Tailwind 12, the Venturi feel heavier in hand. However, what is added in weight is made up for in fit. The Venturi feature a mold-able rubber nose bridge that actually stays in place and feels comfortable for an entire day. With a small and somewhat narrow bridge, I’ve struggled in the past with glasses sliding off and pinching even when adjustable.
My first impression of the Venturi was that they felt less comfortable on my face than my go-to specs, the Smith Parallel Max. But the real test for any performance optics is how they feel after a full day of being outside. The Smiths tend to irritate behind my ears, while the wider curved wrapping temples of the Venturi stay put on my face all day and I’ve yet to experience any issues. As someone with a fairly small head and face, the Venturi fit great for all-day comfort, however they may look best on runners with medium to large faces.
Julbo Venturi Performance
The photochromic Zebra lenses from Julbo are simply the best lenses on the market. Photochromic lenses from other companies pale in comparison, and the Zebra accommodate a full spectrum of light conditions. In flat light and snow-covered rocky trails, these lenses help me pick out the contours. In bright light, they darken enough while still providing sharp detail to trail features. I mean, the lenses go from a completely clear amber yellow to a gold iridium finish in bright light very quickly. I no longer sense the lenses adjusting as I did with the Ultra model back in 2011. These are lenses that I could wear to start an ultra in the pitch dark with a headlamp on and continue wearing throughout the day. Plus, they clean up more easily than any other pair of sunglasses I own. Some water, the provided Julbo microfiber bag, and they’re clean in 20 seconds.
Another feature of the Venturi is the generous panoramic coverage around the eyes. Despite vented lenses, there aren’t any transitional areas in the field of vision which can be distracting and possibly allow foreign objects to become trapped between the lenses and the eyes. The lateral venting of the lenses is mostly effective, but I did experience some fogging of the lenses on cold, winter runs when I was sweating quite a bit. This typically happened when changing directions from a headwind to a tailwind and I’d start to heat up. The only other time I experienced this was when running in a snowstorm. This is really my only complaint about the Venturi and it hasn’t kept me from wearing them for the majority of my longer outings.
Julbo Venturi Overall Impressions
I will be the first to complain about the cost of performance optics being astronomical. From a protection standpoint they are also absolutely necessary, and I think there is a mental boost in decreased eye fatigue and perception of heat on a hot day. (This may completely in my head.) I’ve tried every brand out there, and the Venturi is the highest-quality pair of shades I own. I love my Smiths, but they dirty easily and vent poorly, and they do not offer vented lenses in their line. My Nikes fit great but lack all-day comfort and they’re made in China. Other less-established sunglasses companies don’t seem to offer me the quality of optics, especially in the photochromic lenses that I’m looking for.
The Venturi is a great pair of shades that I know will last for years to come, and with a lifetime warranty I feel like I can wear these day in and day out and not worry about wear and tear. If you’re looking for a new pair of trail running shades for your 2016 racing season, put the Venturi on your must-try list.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Do you wear the Julbo Venturi sunglasses? If so, what is your overall impression of them?
- How do you like the Julbo’s photochromic Zebra lenses? How about the Venturi’s venting features?