Along with running shoes and hiking boots, sunglasses are an outdoor essential for runners and hikers. They keep your eyes protected from harsh glare and damaging UV rays, plus help you see the ground ahead more clearly. While you can always wear your favorite pair of casual shades if necessary, if you run or hike regularly, it’s worth investing in some performance sunglasses. Compared to designer frames, they’re lighter, more durable, and designed to stay put on your face during vigorous exercise, like sprinting on a track or hustling up a trail.
A quality pair of performance shades will ensure you have good visibility and eye protection on your next run or hike. Here’s what you need to know to find the right pair for you.
Frame Features To Look For
Shades that you wear hiking and running have a few attributes that casual-wear glasses may not: Mainly, the frames should be durable (in case you drop them or shove them in a pack), and lightweight. Here are some key features to look for when shopping.
Sunglasses made for active wear typically utilize durable, lightweight frame materials, though not all materials are created equal. Frames made of polycarbonate plastic and plant-based resin tend to be lighter weight than metal frames and come in a range of colors (the plastic and resin can be dyed, while metal obviously cannot). Plant-based resin has similar properties to polycarbonate, but is a renewable resource. Some metals used for athletic frames, like titanium and aluminum, are lightweight and durable, with titanium being more durable than aluminum.
Frame styles range from small and sleek (best for small faces or those seeking the lightest, most minimalist feel) to oversized. The larger the frame and lens, the more obvious the protection from the sun’s rays, though with the penalty of increased weight.
Active-use sunglasses will be lighter weight than glasses made for casual wear. If you’re interested in glasses that feel barely there while you run or hike, look for a pair ranging in weight from the teens to low-20 grams (instead of closer to 30 grams).
Lens Features To Look For
Generally, active-use glasses have lenses made of either plastic (like polycarbonate or resin) or glass. Glass lenses tend to withstand scratches better than plastic, but glass is more apt to shatter upon impact than plastic. Glass lenses can also be highly durable and shatter-resistant if they’re thick, though that thickness will add weight.
Sunglass frame styles combined with an individual’s face shape can make some glasses more fog-prone than others. If moisture (read: sweat) becomes trapped between your face and sunglasses, the lenses can fog and obstruct your vision—not ideal on a hike or run. Many lenses meant for active use are treated with a coating that’s hydrophobic (repels water, coating can wash off) or hydrophilic (absorbs and disperses water, won’t wash off) to keep them from fogging up.
Plastic is a relatively soft material. Because of that pliability, many sunglasses meant for active use are treated with a clear, hard coating to help the lenses resist scratches. These coatings won’t keep them scratch-free, especially if you drop your glasses on a rocky trail or shove them in a pack with your car keys, but they do help ward off small scratches.