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Published Jul 26, 2022 2:46 PM

You can skimp on some gear, but when it comes to your eyes, you deserve the best protection. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best running sunglasses. Whether you rock a pair of White Walker blues, beautiful browns, or hazel peepers, protecting them from damaging UV light is important. The American Optometric Association recommends your sunglasses block out 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light, and that the frames fit close to your eyes and the contour of your head to protect from all angles. Those of you who participate in snow sports immediately understand this. 

We used this general professionally-recommended criterion as the basis for our evaluation, and also took the cool factor into account — because we don’t want you going around looking like complete dorks (paging Marine Corps officers). So buckle up and take a look at what we scrounged up as the best running sunglasses of the year.

Best Overall

Oakley has dominated the sport optics market for a long time, and its Radar EV Path glasses carry on its reputation for excellence. So what do I love about these glasses? First, they’re super comfortable. This is a product of Oakley’s ergonomic design and material choice. The frames are made from Unobtainium, what Oakley calls its grippy plastic (and the name of a fictitious mineral in the film Avatar). They stay comfortably snug and don’t shift around from sweat or wind. Second, the polarized Prizm lens technology offers reduced glare and increased contrast at an 11 percent visible light transmission rating. I highly recommend polarized lenses for any situation where you need to reduce glare from horizontal sources like roads and water. Third, they offer superb ventilation so they won’t fog up.

The Radar EV Path feels in hand like quality glasses. They’re very well-built. I also love the customizability. Through Oakley’s website, you can choose between 23 frame colors, two lens shapes (path [curved] or pitch [angular] bottoms), four lens types (standard, polarized, Prizm, and Prizm polarized), 23 logo colors, and 14 ear sock colors. The lenses are also interchangeable — should you desire to own one frameset and multiple lenses for different light conditions. They are also prescription lens-capable. Most importantly, they offer outstanding impact resistance to keep your eyes where they belong — in your head.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: Large
  • Weight: 28 grams
  • Frame: Lightweight O Matter frame material
  • Lenses: Prizm polarized
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (11%)
  • Color: Gray
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 38mm x 50.5mm
  • Bridge: 13.8mm
  • Temple: 128mm
PROS

Superior lens technology

Superior fit

Excellent coverage

Outstanding customizability

CONS

Sport-specific look limits versatility

Tifosi Optics has been making sports eyewear for cyclists, runners, and golfers since 2003 and now has 3,500 stores in 60 countries. In fact, they’ve now become a top-selling brand in specialty cycling shops. I loved these glasses immediately upon putting them on. They’re super lightweight, very comfortable, provide a lot of coverage, and block out harmful rays and glare. They also didn’t bump around my face on rough trails or roads when I was riding my bike.

The anti-glare coating went a long way to reducing eye strain. I do some pretty dynamic sports, so I like to put sunglasses through a head-shake test, and these babies stayed right in place. The nose pieces are made from hydrophilic rubber which actually gets grippier as you sweat and the long wraparound temples keep them snug AF. I’m also really hard on gear, and the Swick’s polycarbonate lenses handled my drop-and-don’t-shatter test with flying colors. They also look great and for $15 more, you can use the Tifosi lab to customize them. They compare nicely with Smith Lowdown 2 or Roka Barton shades but are $75 to $150 cheaper. These are ideal for athletes on a budget. Cleaning storage bag included.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: Medium to large
  • Weight: 26 grams
  • Frame: Light and durable Grilamid TR-90
  • Lenses: Shatterproof polycarbonate
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (13%)
  • Color: Smoke
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 44.5mm x 58.3mm
  • Bridge: 14mm
  • Temple: 131.5mm
PROS

Blocks 100% of harmful light

Super comfortable

Very light

Don’t slip when face is sweaty

Shatterproof

Polarized

CONS

Moderate lens quality

No hydrophilic rubber on inside of temples

No anti-fog vents

Most Innovative

The inventors of Ombraz were tired of breaking expensive sunglasses and decided to create an innovative engineering fix to the most common cause of sunglass failure: bent or broken temples. Most of you have experienced that sinking feeling when you realized too late that the $200 pair of shades you just bought was under your foot being crushed. The folks at Ombraz said to hell with breakable sunglass temples and replaced them with an elasticized adjustable cord. Their innovative yet simple design delivers comfortable, functional sunglasses that don’t fall off and look pretty cool, as well.

There’s a lot to like about this design. First, the quality of the lenses is awesome. Look at any high-end pair of binoculars or cameras and the lenses are most likely made by Carl Zeiss, who has been making high-quality lenses for a long time. The polyamide lenses come in three choices (gray, brown, and yellow) and filter out 100 percent of UVA and UVB light. Second, the frames are very durable and well-made and feature 14mm nose pads to add comfort and prevent slippage. The connecting cord is 100 percent marine-grade antimicrobial nylon, very secure, and super comfortable. The icing on the cake is that Ombraz plants 20 trees for every pair sold, so your purchase is carbon-negative.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: Large and extra large
  • Weight: 20 grams
  • Frame: TR-90
  • Lenses: Carl Zeiss polarized polyamide
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (11% VLC)
  • Color: Gray (11% VLC), brown (13.5 VLC) and yellow (20 VLC)
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 53mm x 45.3mm
  • Bridge: 19.9mm
  • Temple: NA – they removed them!
PROS

Superior polarized Carl Zeiss lenses!

Super comfortable

Superior retention

Lightest frames we tested

Scratch-resistant

Flat packability

CONS

Corded fit takes a bit of getting used to

Hard to adjust with one hand

Best for Triathlons

If you know anything about people who are into triathlons, you’ll know they’re pretty anal about their gear, look like dorks, and can PT like nothing you’ve ever seen. So when I first tried these glasses on, my partner was like, “Oh, hellllll no!” based on fashion points alone. But as a runner and a cyclist (and a reformed tri guy), I immediately saw value in these shield-style lenses from Adidas. They filter out a lot of light (13.5 percent VLT), are comfortable, stay on your face, and provide a lot of contrast while reducing glare. For road running and riding, I prefer polarized lenses to further reduce glare and found these lenses lacking in that department. It also has a quick-change lens system and a clear second spare lens.

I also really appreciated how light these glasses are and how well they ventilated to prevent fogging. They have ventilation at the top of the frames, at the sides of the temples, and near the nose pieces. They’re also uber sporty. You’ll look like you’re about to ride in the Tour de France, so don’t think you’re wearing these to the bar — unless you want to remain single forever. These glasses also come in six lens and frame color options.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: Large
  • Weight: 28 grams
  • Frame: Light and durable TR-90
  • Lenses: HDC contrast polycarbonate
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (13.5%)
  • Color: Smoke
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 143mm
  • Bridge: 7mm
  • Temple: 135mm
PROS

Comprehensive, wraparound coverage

Forgettably comfortable

Superb anti-fog ventilation

High-definition Contrast (HDC) lenses

Rubberized nose pads and temple ends

CONS

Not polarized

Honorable Mention

If you are looking for a capable pair of sunglasses that stay put, help you see clearly in bright conditions, and won’t break the bank, Under Armour’s Playmaker sunglasses are worth a look. They aren’t the most stylish sunglasses on the market (tastes vary widely, I know), but they are a tried and true straightforward, versatile design that you can wear exercising and out and about.

The nosepieces are fully adjustable and made from UA ArmourGrip rubber, as are the non-slip temples. The TR-90 frames are light, durable, and flexible. I really liked the auto-lock hinges that snap into place. The lenses are treated with an anti-smudge coating, which is nice when you’re sweaty, and the temple tips have holes for you dorks who like to use lanyards with your sunglasses. For $20 more, these frames come with Under Armour’s Tuned lenses specifically designed for baseball and softball to increase contrast and ball trackability.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: Large
  • Weight: 28 grams
  • Frame: Light and durable TR-90
  • Lenses: Polycarbonate
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3
  • Color: Gray
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 72mm
  • Bridge: 10mm
  • Temple: 130mm
PROS

Straightforward design

Decent coverage

Auto-locking hinges

Adjustable nosepiece

CONS

Not polarized

Fit feels tight to some with larger faces

Best for Your Inner Terminator

If you are looking for super light sunglasses and enjoy a rimless shield style, give the Adidas SP0062 a try. While I didn’t like them as much as the Adidas SP0054, I know other folks preferred them. The polycarbonate lenses are durable and stood up to my twist test. I also couldn’t shake them off of my face, and they also held up in the wind. They don’t offer as much ventilation as the 54s. Stylistically, the gold reflective lenses are bold and make a statement, and aren’t the kind of thing I’d wear when not wearing running gear or a cycling kit.

This style is available with Adidas’ new HDC lenses that emphasize colors and contrast while reducing glare. In addition to the polychromic smoke-colored lenses, you also get an interchangeable clear lens for low-light conditions. The SP0062s also can mount prescription optical clip-in lenses.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: Large
  • Weight: 29 grams
  • Frame: Light and durable TR-90
  • Lenses: HDC contrast polycarbonate
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (13.5%)
  • Color: Smoke
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 138mm
  • Bridge: 7mm
  • Temple: 135mm
PROS

Unobstructed wrap-around coverage

Super lightweight

Adjustable rubberized nose pads

Quick lens change capable

Mountable optical prescription lens clip-in capable

CONS

Not polarized

More flexible, flimsy feel; durability concern

You might know Nathan for their running packs and gear, and these lightweight polarized running sunglasses provide crystal clear sun protection without the dork factor that comes with many sports sunglasses. The grippy rubber all about the inside of the frame keeps them in place on sweaty faces on road or trail, yet they are subdued enough to wear out on the town. The TR 90 frames are strong and flexible — they’ll take some abuse without breaking. They’re also temperature-resistant. I like how the rubber grips fit flush with the frame on the earpieces and at the nose pad. I also like that they are prescription lenses capable. They resist fogging reasonably well in cold weather and are available in four colors: black, tortoise, gray, and clear.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: One size fits most
  • Weight: 28 grams
  • Frame: TR-90
  • Lenses: Polycarbonate
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (15% VLT)
  • Color: Gray smoke
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 56mm
  • Bridge: 15mm
  • Temple: 146mm
PROS

Lightweight

Polarized

100% UV protection

RX lens compatible

Rubber grips at nose and temple

CONS

Nose pads not adjustable

Honorable Mention Value Sunglasses

Decathlon is essentially the REI of Europe, and its products are making their way across the Atlantic. These full-blade sunglasses were designed for cycling but serve equally well for road running. With 100 percent UV blocking lenses, a wide field of view, and weighing just a scant 27 grams, these glasses will protect your eyes and comfortably and forgettably stay on your face during your workout due to the grippy rubber on the nose bridge and temple tips. The lenses are made from high resistance polycarbonate and the HD coating enhances vision by giving more contrast to blues, greens, and grays.

While there is a lot to like about these glasses — especially the price — I do wish they had auto-locking temple hinges and an adjustable nosepiece. At $79, they outperform some of the mid-tier Oakleys I’ve seen in terms of performance per dollar value.

Product Specs:
  • Fit: One size fits most
  • Weight: 27 grams
  • Frame: 80% Polyamide 11, 20% Styrene Ethylene Butadiene Styrene
  • Lenses: Polycarbonate
  • Visible light transmission: Category 3 (12%)
  • Color: Gray mirrored
Dimensions:
  • Lens: 140mm
  • Bridge: NA
  • Temple: 124mm
PROS

Very light

Comfortable fit

Good coverage

HD lens

CONS

Not polarized

Nose piece not adjustable

Not compatible with some cycling helmets

Things to consider before buying running sunglasses

Running sunglasses need to perform three essential tasks. First, they need to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Second, they need to help you see better in variable light conditions. And third, they need to stay on your face — even when you are sweaty, when it’s windy, and when you are barreling downhill.

Protection

That big thermonuclear fusion ball of energy we call the sun kicks off massive amounts of warmth and light that enables life on our planet, and it also kicks off some light in wavelengths that can be harmful to our eyes. Most people wear sunscreen to protect their skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and all of us should wear sunglasses to protect the sensitive tissues in our eyes from the same. UV radiation has been shown to cause debilitating eye diseases like cataracts, macular degeneration, keratitis (corneal sunburn), conjunctival cancers, and more. The good news is that prevention is easy, and you can look cool doing it. Wear sunglasses whenever you are out in the sun — even on cloudy days — and choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB light. You’ll also want to look for lenses that protect your eyes from impact and punctures — especially while trail running — with an ANSI Z80.3 seal of approval for basic or Z87.1 high impact rating. All of these ratings can be found on the Use and Care information sheet that comes with each pair of sunglasses that you, like me, probably never read and throw away.

Lens category

Sunglass lenses come in five categories from zero (clear or light tint) to four (very dark tint). You can find this information on the inside of sunglass temples or on the accompanying information sheet. Look for Category Three lenses for most running purposes. If you are running in the mountains on snow, you might consider Category Four glacier glasses to prevent scorching your corneas and snow blindness, which really, really sucks. You’ll also want to pay attention to the Visual Light Transmission (VLT) rating, which tells you how much light the lens allows to pass through. For instance, a VLT of 11 percent means the lens is filtering out 89 percent of the light. The lower the VLT number, the darker the lens. Glasses with a VLT of one to 19 percent are good for bright conditions. I prefer glasses with a VLT of 11 to 13 percent in sunny conditions, and use 30 to 40 percent VLT lenses for cloudy, foggy days.

Polarization 

Hate bright glare? Me too. Polarized lenses are the solution. These lenses have a special chemical applied to them that filters light. There’s a lot of molecular science behind this, which I won’t go into here. What you need to know is that polarization reduces light, theoretically, by 50 percent, but in effect by about 38 percent because no polarization is manufactured perfectly. So it makes things darker and also reduces glare from horizontal surfaces like water, snow, cars, etc, so images also appear crisper and details are easier to see. If you want to nerd out on the science, watch this video. Note: They do make it harder to read LCD screens, and they do make reflective surfaces, like oil slicks and ice, a bit harder to see.

Fit 

Newsflash! No two heads are identical and “one size fits all” is bullshit. Always try on sunglasses. Check out the coverage around your eyes. Shake your head vigorously to see if you can throw them off. Check to see if they have grippy rubber at the nose and on the temples to avoid slippage when sweating. Also, check for any pinch points and make sure they’re comfortable. The best-designed glasses are the ones you forget you are wearing.  

FAQs about running sunglasses

Q: How much do running sunglasses cost?

A: You can get $5 sunglasses if you have a $5 head. They’re out there, and if they don’t block UV light, they’ll damage your eyes. I’ve seen quality sunglasses range from $25 to $50 for value glasses, $50 to $100 for mid-range glasses, and $100 and up for premium shades. If you have $470 to burn, Oakley will sell you a pair of Zeus.

Q: Why are there so many lens colors?

A: Different lenses filter out different light in different amounts and affect how much contrast and what colors you see. Gray, green, and brown lenses are normally used for outdoor activities to cut glare and reduce eye fatigue. Gray and green typically don’t distort color. Yellow and vermillion lenses are designed for use in low-light conditions and enhance contrast. This can be important when you are skiing or snowboarding, as they improve the visibility of objects in the landscape.

Q: What are sunglass lenses made of?

A: Most are made from either polycarbonate or glass. Polycarbonate is lighter than glass, provides better impact protection, and delivers great clarity, but scratches more easily. Glass is heavier and resists scratches better. It’s also more expensive.

Q: What about lens coatings?

A: Sunglasses often come with one or more chemically-applied coatings to make them tougher to scratch, less likely to fog up, repel water, or mirrored to reflect more sunlight and reduce glare.

Final thoughts

Hands down, Oakley remains the king of sport optics, and its Radar EV Path sunglasses were my top pick for quality of manufacturing, optical clarity and performance, eye protection, coverage, fit, retention, ventilation, Rx compatibility, and weight. They’re not the most versatile glasses — I wouldn’t wear them while not exercising. But I would wear them running on both road and trail in every weather condition. They’re expensive though, and you don’t need to pay $261 for functional, well-fitting running glasses.  

Methodology 

I selected all of the sunglasses in this review based on personal ownership, hands-on inspection, performance reputation, interviewing other experts, and thoroughly reviewing manufacturers’ specifications. I took my time to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each item, and also checked out the reviews of other experts just to make sure we weren’t missing anything. For new items, I asked for samples from the makers and tested them in the field. When that wasn’t possible, I visited the products in the store. In either case, I also reviewed the manufacturers’ websites, user comments, YouTube reviews, and third-party evaluations, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

When researching the best running sunglasses, I based my criteria on my own experiences using outdoor gear in the field for more than 35 years. I’m very familiar with the major manufacturers of outdoor equipment, know their reputations, and have a sense of their customer service — which is also super important. I also speak with other people who spend considerable time outdoors for their thoughts, as well. 

After gathering enough high-performing products for a best-of article, I racked and stacked each based on their attributes, design, and performance. My bias is towards the lightest, best-functioning, and lowest-cost solutions available. We don’t torture test gear here at Task & Purpose — we test within normal usage limits. When gear does fail or break, we contact the manufacturer to see if and how it stands by its products. I also take a look at how easy the gear is to maintain or repair in the field — the simpler, the better.

For final selection, I take all factors into consideration and think, what is the gear I’d most want in my pack? What would I trust my life to in the backcountry? Those are the recommendations I forward for your consideration. Furthermore, it’s of the utmost importance to the Task & Purpose team that our readers know our commitment to open, fair product recommendations and reviews, and that you can trust us to provide you with unbiased, balanced information.

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