A good pair of running sunglasses is critical for running. On sunny days, it obviously makes the run more comfortable and keeps you from squinting, and plays an underrated safety role in keeping debris and bugs out of your eyes. When it gets colder, running glasses are just as important. They are a key part of your winter running gear because you are often running in bright snow or wind, creating even more of a glare. Even when the weather is more overcast and mild, it is nice to wear glasses to keep bugs and the breeze out of your eyes.
Part of the trick to finding good running sunglasses is figuring out what suits you personally. A good pair of running shades will quickly become unnoticeable, you will forget that you even have them on. We suggest finding one that works and then sticking with that model for the long haul.
The market for running sunglasses is loaded with great products. To help you decide which to buy, here is our guide on the best running glasses in each class.
Best All-Around Affordable Running Sunglasses
Tifosi Jet Wrap. In the $26 to $40 price range, it is hard to beat the Tifosi Jet Wrap glasses. We have long loved these glasses for our runs, and find them highly-versatile. We personally use them on bike rides and even while skiing on warmer days.
The all-important nose grip is made of a rubber that provides just the right grip on your nose, but not too much. It is comfortable for hours. The construction is very good for the money, with tough, lightweight materials and a strong hinge. You can find the Jet Wrap glasses in at least 5 colors, depending on the model year. We like the way the temples (“arms” that hold the glasses to your head) hit our head in a comfortable way. What is best, they fit a variety of head sizes, and those with larger or wider faces will be comfortable with the Tifosis just as others are. Construction quality is an A+. We probably sound like we are paid to advertise for these guys, but it is just that we like the glasses that much.
We also like that the lenses don’t distort your depth or distance judgment at all — something that is important when you run, but downright critical when you are on the bike. Some glasses create an ever-so-slight shift in your depth perception, but not the Tifosi.
Overall, a pair of glasses that you can’t go wrong with, and won’t break the bank. Find here.
Best High-End Glasses
Oakley Prism Flak. When it comes to higher-end running and cycling glasses, you are naturally going to be seeing lots of options from Oakley. Oakley has been making great sunglasses for almost 50 years, and they keep cranking out high-end products. Our favorite pair of high-end sunglasses on the market today are the Prism Flak model, providing a little more lens than some of the other high-end glasses. The Prism Flak is made of a very durable material that is also lightweight, making for a very good pair of glasses that can be had for $150 to $200.
What makes this worth nearly $200? To us, it is the lens. We mentioned the lens coverage, but the lens material is made of High Definition Optics for enhanced clarity. The lenses filter out all UV rays, and much of the blue light in the vicinity. We also love the nose and ear grips, made with Oakley’s famous and proprietary Unobtanium.
For runners and cyclists with larger or hard-to-fit heads, the Oakleys will fit perfectly. Because of their wider design and soft arms, you won’t get pressure on the sides of the head that you will find in some other models. A small carrying pouch is included, and we recommend you use it to protect those pricey lenses.
One note — we are seeing and hearing that some folks are having trouble locating replacement lenses for these, which is one of the advantages of the Oakleys. If you buy these, you may want to order a set of replacement lenses at the same time to be sure you have them. Find Here.
Best Running Glasses That Will Also Look Great Around Town
Smith Pivlock Overdrive. A favorite with the mountain bike enthusiasts, the Smith PivLock Overdrive glasses are very high-performing for running, but have a full frame so they don’t necessarily look like running glasses if you want them to double as your “out on the town” shades.
Made of a composite frame that is durable and looks good, Oakley takes care to provide several color options, many of them subtle, so that they will go well in any setting. On the run, you will like the 3 changeable lenses which give you a nice range for various light conditions. The lenses are surprisingly easy to swap, considering that these glasses are full-frame. In particularly, mountain bikers give the Pivlocks rave reviews. We also like that they tend to fit runners of all head shapes and sizes, which is a prerequisite for making any list of recommendations we publish. Find Here.
Best Prescription Running Glasses
Rudy Project Prescription. Most runners who require eyewear to run simply use contacts, and then pair them with a good pair of glasses like the ones above. Sometimes, an athlete likes the idea of a prescription set of running or cycling glasses. Maybe contacts irritate your eyes, or you just find wearing running glasses more comfortable.
There are several companies that make prescription sunglasses, but running sunglasses need to be built differently if you want to be comfortable. We like the models made by the Rudy Project, an Italian company with worldwide distribution. They work hard on creating glasses that are functional and made of great materials, and have several options for people who need the sunglasses to either be made with prescription lenses, or be compatible with prescription glasses.
Rudy has been around since 1985, and ever since has been focused on creating technically-advanced eyewear for athletes. They are passionate about improving athletic performance by giving people better equipment.
What to look for in Running Sunglasses, and our Criteria for the Rankings
When looking at running sunglasses, there are several things to consider as you decide which pair to buy. Here are just a few factors you will want to keep in mind, and the factors we used as our criteria in recommending the above shades for you.
- Obviously, fit is very important and is not something you should skimp on. Try the glasses on, or if you are buying online look for reviews from athletes who might be your size and have used the glasses the way you would expect to.
- Rubber Contact Points. There are two spots on your glasses that are incredibly important, because they have direct contact with your face and head. One is the little grip over the nose. The other is the point of contact over your ears. Both are typically made with the best rubber that the manufacturer can afford to put on. Make sure you are comfortable with those important points of contact. It is a good idea to try the glasses on with your typical running headphones in, to make sure the two do not compete for your ear space or cause discomfort.
- Frame Materials. Most glasses you look at will have a composite frame that is both strong and light. Having a little flex in the frame is nice to avoid cracking. Everything listed above has a frame that we are really happy with.
- Look for glasses that have some engineering in the hinge – ideally, joints that are completed integrated into the frame of the glasses, and joints that can expand past 90 degrees without breaking. You don’t want to spend this much on glasses and then bust them.
- UV Ray Protection. Be sure that your glasses can block UV Rays. This is important for protecting your eyes…. and it is not just a summer thing. UV Rays are even more intense when running near surfaces where the sun can bounce, like near bright white snow.
- Many runners do not think about the field of vision, but that is an important element of a quality pair of glasses. Even more important if you plan to use the shades for cycling, a good, wide field of vision allows you to see continuously for things like traffic or other runners, and allows you to have a better peripheral vision during your workouts. It is also generally more comfortable for your eyes.
- Lens Purity. Be sure that the lens gives you a nice, clear, “true” field of vision, not something that is distorted. Especially important when cycling due to the speed at which you are moving and reacting to hazards. Some cheaper glasses can mess with your depth perception. We did our best to not include any of those on this list.
- Price is obviously the final piece of the equation when you are buying your glasses. The budget is different for everyone, so that is where your personal situation needs to be considered. As you see above, some of these glasses may go for less than $50, while others will go for over $150. As you spend more, you should expect more. If you find a pair that fits you perfectly, consider buying a 2nd backup pair if you can afford it.
Advice from The Experts
We asked Dr. David D. Pierce, President of the American Optometric Association, what advice he and his organization would give to athletes looking for eye protection. He suggests looking at a few key criteria:
“If an athlete participates in an outdoor sport, appropriate sunglasses are a must. For optimal eye sun-safety, the AOA recommends wearing sunglasses or contact lenses that offer appropriate UV protection, applying UV-blocking sunscreen and wearing a hat to keep direct sunlight off of the face and eyes,” Dr. Pierce notes. Specifically, he recommends looking for the following features in any pair of running or cycling shades that you might consider.
- Polarized lenses, which reduce reflected glare from sunlight that bounces off snow or water and add comfort and enhance vision when cross-country skiing, fishing or driving.
- “Blue-blocking” lenses help make distant objects easier to see, especially in snow or haze, which is great for skiers, boaters and hunters.
- Polycarbonate lenses to provide impact protection, an important option for potentially hazardous work, sports and other activities.
- Double-gradient lenses are dark on top and bottom and lighter in the middle. This helps for water or winter sports.
- Performance Tints help improve visual performance for certain activities.
- Wraparound Frames are a good choice that add UV protection from all sides.
Finally, Dr. Pierce encourages athletes to consult a professional as they try to choose a go-to pair of sunglasses. “Athletes should consult with a doctor of optometry about the best type suited for their specific sport.”
Other Running Shade FAQs
How much do I need to spend on my running eyewear?
There is no magic number, and spending more doesn’t always ensure better quality. However, as a general rule, spending $40 or more will get you into a decent pair of running sunglasses. Just be sure you spend enough to get you UV Ray protection. If you fail to get that, your glasses are only doing part of their intended job.
Can I use the same glasses for running and cycling?
You sure can. If you do, we recommend not skimping, as the shades used for cycling serve a very important safety purpose as well. When you are cycling, keeping debris — a bug, or a small rock kicked up by a car — is important both for your health and also to avoid accidents.
What if I am a prescription glasses-wearer?
We asked Dr. Pierce to answer this one. He said:
“For glasses-wearing athletes, it’s important to get fitted for frames and lenses by a doctor of optometry to ensure they meet industry safety standards. Improper eye wear and use can lead to decreased performance and vision, as well as increased chances of accidents. Athletes who do not properly address vision impairments will not perform adequately, and in many cases, will not be able to safely participate in sports.”
Should I wear running sunglasses in winter?
Yes! Running shades are a four-season piece of equipment. In fact, due to snow, the winter can be a time when sunglasses are absolutely key. According to MD Anderson Health System, “the sun can be strong regardless of season or temperature.”
Why Can’t I just Wear Regular Sunglasses for Running?
Your regular, stylish sunglasses might work OK for running in a pinch, but there are a few things about them that are not ideal. They might have a harder or more rigid nose pads — those little soft plastic pieces that sit on either side of your nose. That can irritate your nose in case where you are pounding with each step of the run. Regular glasses typically do not wrap around as much, either. That means that if you are running into a wind, the breeze will work its way around the lens and into your eye, drying it out and irritating it.
What if I don’t wear any eyewear while running?
The effects of not wearing shades while running range from discomfort — having your eyes dry out due to wind or debris hitting them — to serious. The serious effects are that UV Rays can damage your eyes, and over time this can create problems like vision issues and cataracts. Protect your eyes on runs, and making wearing glasses a regular part of your running wardrobe.