Running Sunglasses Overview

running sunglassesAfter all the great contributions to trail shoe and sock discussion posts, iRunFar is calling for your suggestions and reviews of running sunglasses. Since y’all were so good at articulating the often minor differences between socks, you should have an easy time describing a product group in which differences are more easily seen. Read on for more information on running sunglasses.

This topic is near and dear to iRunFar’s blogger-in-chief as he faces the following challenges, which many of you may also encounter:

  • He requires prescription eyewear, but will not wear contacts;
  • Loves to run outside, but gets terrible sun headaches;
  • Often begins or ends long runs in low light conditions; and
  • Is SOL when his glasses fog up.

Luckily, these problems are often solved by the many technologies now incorporated into athletic eyewear. The bigger difficulty lies in choosing between the many available options. Making things more difficult is the fact that the various brands of performance eyewear aren’t often found together and the prescription versions can’t truly be tested without throwing down a couple hundred dollars at a time.

In choosing sunglasses, one first needs to figure out what options are most important. Which of the following are most important or vital to you?

  • Looks
  • Fit
  • A prescription version
  • Polarized
  • Photochromic (color density changes with brightness)
  • Types of UV protection
  • Anti-fog characteristics
  • Interchangeable lenses

While the runner-in-chief loves his pair of polarized prescription Oakleys, he’s willing to take a look at any of the brands out there. Some of the brands we most commonly see or hear being worn by trail runners include: Julbo, Oakley, Rudy Project, Ryder, Smith Optics.

It may be worth noting that even if a manufacturer does not offer prescription lenses, an outside company often provides prescription services. For instance, Opticus makes prescription lenses for Julbo and Adidas sunglasses while Sports Vision Bend does the same for Smith Optics.

Here’s what a contact at Smith Optics had to say about photochromic lenses:

A lot of people are interested in a lens that changes tint for trail running, but I like to point something out. The change in the lens does take a little time. On average, it could take anywhere between 60-90 seconds to adjust to the light condition. So for example, if you are running in and out of shade or trees – the lenses may not change fast enough. We do have a lens, Ignitor, that seems to give the best versatility. Many runners wear it as the primary lens. I personally use it, as do a number of trail runners I know. It gives great clarity and depth perception and you can “read” the trail better than with the naked eye.

Below is a list of some running sunglasses and sunglass technology reviews iRunFar has collected over the recent past. A tip of the sweaty hat to TrailRunningSoul for originally identifying a few of these reviews:
Rudy Project Ekynox Sx

Also check out these broader sources of information on performance sunglasses:

  • Outside Magazine sunglasses review page, includes:
    • Each of its many sunglass reviews from 2004 through 2008;
    • Gear Features covering sunglasses; and
    • Gear Guy entries on sunglasses
  • Backpacker Magazine review of multiple sunglasses (March 2008), including:
    • Zeal Tensai, Rudy Project Jekson 2.0, Tifosi Ventoux, Julbo Trail, Native Ignition, Smith Trace
  • running sunglass reviews, including:
    • Adidas Gazelle Polarized Sunglasses, Oakley Half Jacket Polarized Sunglasses, Nike Odeon Sunglasses, Bolle Bolle Vigilante Sunglasses, Oakley Thump Pro 256MB MP3 Sunglasses, Smith Toaster Slider Sunglasses, Adidas Shield Sunglasses, Oakley Minute Sunglasses

There are 9 comments

  1. angie's pink fu

    most important:fitpolarizedI have never bought brand-name sunglasses. I go to the nearest store that carries sunglasses and try on every single pair that is polarized until I find one that fits correctly :)

  2. Trail Goat

    I agree that fit is important…. you don't want your sunglasses falling off as you barrel down a mountain trail!I've really enjoyed my polarized lenses, as well, but might go with polychromatic instead this time. I'm guessing it would be too much for me to hope for prescription polarized, polychromatic sunglasses that fit well, huh? I'll keep trying… though. I've got two weeks in the Rockies coming up and I want to see it all from dawn to dusk!

  3. aerojust

    I agree with angie 100%. I try on a bunch of $20 glasses and find a pair that fits well and seems rugged. I have never owned or wore a pair of glasses that were more than $30. I look at them as almost disposable as I will either break or lose them within a year. Am I missing out on something by not investing in quality (expensive) glasses????? Are $200 glasses really 10 times better then my $20 glasses? Maybe I have been missing out on something…..

  4. Bedrock

    Goat,I struggled with this a couple of years ago (although I do wear contacts so I may have it easier). I ended up with a pair of Nike sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. I really like this feature. Yellow or orange for dawn, dusk or under a deep forest cover, dark during the brightest part of the day and clear for at night. Fit is the most important factor for me. Unfortunately (or fortunately) most brands I tried all fit pretty well. I grabbedc the Nike's because they werre on sale.

  5. Dan

    I've been very happy with Rudy Project Rydons. I have the prescription insert (like you I don't wear contacts). They're designed for interchangeable lenses, but so far I only have one pair polarized black. In low light conditions, I just take the lenses out and the frames and insert are just a goofy looking pair of regular prescription glasses that don't slide down my nose as much.

  6. tinger

    I never used to wear sunglasses while running. I decided to get a pair after I had laser eye surgery since my eyes became a little more sensitive to sunlight. I've been using a polarized pair of ~$50 Peppers from REI for several years. The flexible rim joints are a nice feature for fit. No grippies on the side or nose but I added a strap which not only keeps them in place, but also keeps me from losing them. . The Also, as many of you know, REI's 100% satisfaction guarantee allows you to feel safe about your purchase. I'd like to try a higher end pair, but I it's been difficult to find frames that fit my small face. Also, I know I'll be upset if the lenses scratch/damage easily.

  7. Anonymous

    On the topic of are $200 sunglasses worth the price?I bought a set of Dragons (Twins) in 2000, and for the life of my, these babies would not break no matter how hard I tried. I went running with them, to the beach, even wore them while doing a cross country cycling trip, I crashed my bike twice (the 2nd time at 25mph), and still these sunglasses never came of my head. If you find the right fit & go for quality, they'll last you a while. (Mine finally broke this past summer)

  8. Trail Goat

    Anonymous above this comment,I agree with you that $200 can be so worth it. For the past 3-5 years, I've had a pair of polarized prescription Oakleys that I love. The probably set me back $400+ and were totally worth every penny. I did preak the frames once, but swapped the lenses into an old set of frames from a non-prescription version of the glasses that I had.

  9. Running Girl

    Tifosi Optics, Native Eyewear, Endurance Eyewear…Lifetime WarrantyNo need to pay $200…Endurance Sport Eyewear specializes in performance eyewear for active athletes. We offer running and jogging sunglasses, marathon sunglasses, skiing sunglasses and more. Created to optimize athletic performance – designed with a functional “cutting edge” look. Serious and casual athletes demand performance from themselves and the sunglasses they wear. If you exercise, train or perform outdoors, your eyes deserve the best. Fit, weight, durability, style and 100% UV protection (with or without polarization) are absolute essentials.

Post Your Thoughts