Rudy Project Spinshield Air Review

An in-depth review of the Rudy Project Spinshield Air running sunglasses.

By on May 30, 2024 | Comments
Rudy Project Spinshield Air

The Rudy Project Spinshield Air. All photos: iRunFar/Christin Randall

I’ve spent more than a decade of my running career trying to shoehorn wide, shield-style sunglasses designed for cyclists into a usable solution for our much slower and less wind-producing sport, and the Rudy Project Spinshield Air ($165 to $220, $220 as tested) is the best I’ve found.

In practice, cycling sunglasses can create a couple of issues for runners: Sweat on a runner’s forehead isn’t as easily transferred away since the evaporative effect of wind isn’t as strong as when on a bike, and the head movement of running can cause the frame to slip down the nose. These sunglasses seem to alleviate these issues for runners, and it’s due to a few factors: exceptional ventilation, the relative weightlessness of the frames and lens, which weigh 26 grams (0.80 ounces), and the super sticky nose bridge.

Aesthetically, I am a bigger-is-better person when it comes to sunglasses, and I simply like the look of a big pair of frames, so I was excited about this option. Even with the large shield-style lens size, there is enough ventilation to maintain airflow to your face. When you add the photochromic excellence and the build quality for the cost, Rudy Project has created a pair of sunglasses that give runners the cool look of an oversized frame and an edge in any light condition.

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Rudy Project Spinshield Air Fit

The Rudy Project Spinshield Air uses a pair of design elements that are essential to making them great-fitting sunglasses.

First is the very effective non-slip compression fit of the frame, which uses secure wraparound geometry that isn’t too tight. The ear and nose ergo-grip rubber pieces maintain very good adhesion even when wet with sweat.

Second is the lack of features that are generally only found on sunglasses made for cycling. Cycling sunglasses tend to have extra width around the temple to accommodate helmet straps, and then extra curve at the ear to prevent slippage. The Spinshield Air does away with both of these features, which makes it perfectly suited to a runner’s motion.

As a bonus, it uses less material for the frame and is thus lighter. Since wearing a running hat doesn’t affect the fit or the way the glasses sit on your face or against your ears, this lack of frame shape doesn’t make any performance difference. One does have to consider the reduced ventilation caused by wearing a hat, as there is very little room on your forehead for airflow.

Rudy Project Spinshield Air Photochromic Lens

Rudy Project Spinshield Air - side view

A side view of the Rudy Project Spinshield Air sunglasses.

The Rudy Project Spinshield Air is available with photochromic and non-photochromic lens options, with a $30 price difference between the two. For many runners, it can be hard to return to normal sunglasses once they’ve experienced the convenience of photochromic lenses, and the extra cost is justified.

The transitioning photochromic lens on these sunglasses finds a good compromise: They are neither too dark in bright light nor too muddled in flat light, ranging from 13% to 62% light transmission, which equates to a Category 0 to 3 lens.* Plus, the transition between the two is fast and fantastic. I’ve tested plenty of other glasses that haven’t handled this transition as smoothly.

Another photochromic pair of sunglasses I’ve used, the Dynafit Sky Evo, can make it feel like the lights have been turned out by turning a highly sunny day into a disorienting dark experience. I acknowledge that these sunglasses are made intently to darken especially bright circumstances, like glacier travel or desert use. They allow only 3% to 8% light transmission, which is in the Category 4 range.

The closest companion to the Rudy Project Spinshield Air’s lens is the Julbo Fury with the 0-3 Reactiv lens option. It, too, is a quick-transitioning lens that spans Categories 1 to 3 for light transmission. However, the Fury lacks the full-coverage protection and styling of the Spinshield Air.

Part of what makes Rudy Project’s photochromic technology unique is the pliability and shape of the lens — it can virtually bend in half when manipulated with your hands. Evidently, this curve helps the lens utilize photochromic particles. Photochromic lenses make the most sense in the winter and spring when runs are more likely to go from lightness to darkness, or the other way around, and this has been the bulk of my testing window. I tested the ImpactX Photochromic 2 Laser Black lens, which transitions from clear to the appropriate tint in seconds. In bright sun, they turn from clear to dark black nearly immediately.

*Sunglass lenses are often categorized on a scale of 0 to 4, with Category 0 being mostly clear at 80-100% visible light transmission (VLT), Category 1 at 46-79% VLT, Category 2 at 18-45% VLT, Category 3 at 8-17% VLT, and Category 4 as the darkest at 3-8% VLT.

Rudy Project Spinshield Air Weight

Rudy Project Spinshield Air - diagonal view

Another view of the Rudy Project Spinshield Air.

When you put on these 26-gram (0.80-ounce) sunglasses, you’ll immediately notice where the “air” in the Rudy Project Spinshield Air is derived. This is a markedly lower weight than the glasses I’ve mentioned previously, generally by about half an ounce.

It is light enough to achieve the oft-repeated marketing tagline, “You’ll forget you’re wearing them.” Here, you actually do! Although it is one gram heavier than the Julbo Fury, it has a much bigger lens and thus provides far more coverage. The Dynafit Sky Evo has an even bigger lens but is noticeably heavier at 46 grams.

Rudy Project Spinshield Air Overall Impressions

Bigger, cycling-inspired sunglasses are trendy with trail runners right now, and the Rudy Project Spinshield Air is a very practical option. It combines a high level of protection without sacrificing breathability. The superiority of the photochromic lens performance renders carrying around multiple lenses a thing of the past, and the disappearing, lightweight feel offers no distraction.

Simply put, these are the best cycling sunglasses I’ve found that also meet the specific needs of trail runners.

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Call for Comments

  • What’s your opinion on the resurgence of big, shield-style lenses?
  • Are you a fan of photochromic lenses, or do you prefer fixed-tint ones?

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Check out our Best Running Sunglasses article to learn about our current favorite running sunglasses!

Craig Randall

Craig Randall is a Gear Editor and Buyer’s Guide Writer at iRunFar. Craig has been writing about trail running apparel and shoes, the sport of trail running, and fastest known times for four years. Aside from iRunFar, Craig Randall founded Outdoor Inventory, an e-commerce platform and environmentally-driven second-hand apparel business. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Craig Randall is a trail runner who has competed in races, personal projects, and FKTs.