Runners Sunglasses Buyers Guide

Running Sunglasses should be lightweight, durable, provide full facial coverage in a frame that stays put on the face, even when sweating.  Many runners have come to find that semi-rimless frames are a great advantage because there is nothing to block their view of what lies ahead of them.  Lenses should be made of an unbreakable material in a color that provides the most for the runner during the time of their run.

Sunglasses for Runners - Oakley Half Jacket 2.0A great pair of 6-base or 8-base sunglasses will provide full facial coverage.  We always recommend Freeform Digital Lenses in your wrapped frame.  This will ensure that you get clear vision throughout the entire lenses without any distortion.

For day runners, we always recommend a polarized grey or copper lens depending on whether that person wants to see the truest color around them or would like a lens that provides a lot of contrast around them.  At night, a yellow lens or very lightly tinted rose or copper lens should be worn to help the runner see at night more clearly.   For runners that run from sun up to sun down, we recommend Transitions lenses, which change from clear to tinted based on the amount of sunlight.

Semi-Rimless Frames

Many people like the semi-rimless sunglasses not only because they are lightweight, but also because there is no frame below the lens to block any of the view in front of them. Oakley has a variety of semi-rimless models ideal for runners such as the Half Jacket 2.0, and Flak Jacket.  All of these models are available with the XL or XLJ shaped lens, which provides more coverage from the sun.

Easily Interchangeable Lenses

One of the newest crazes on the market are frames with easily interchangeable lenses.  This is due to the fact that a runner can switch from one set of lenses to another in seconds.  This enables a runner to quickly and easily switch from polarized grey lenses during the day to a clear or yellow-tinted lens during the night.  Oakley has mastered this trade with the Racing Jacket.

AR Coatings

An AR Coating is an Anti-Reflective Coating. A backside AR Coating, known as the Standard AR Coating, is recommended for any lens (clear, tinted, polarized or transitions).  This keeps the light from bouncing from the lens into the eyes. What this does is eliminate what's known as the "starburst effect" or the halo around light bulbs or headlights. AR Coatings also make lenses a little more scratch, water and fog resistant.

Sunglasses for Runners - Soft KoreAny time someone gets a clear or Transitions lens, we recommend doing both a back and front AR coating.  The front and back AR coating, known as our Premium AR Coating does all the things that the Standard AR Coating does, but a little better as well as lets a broader portion of the color spectrum through the lens.

Freeform Digital Lens Surfacing:

Whether your prescription running sunglasses are being made by Oakley, Kaenon, or by our lab, they are all made using Freeform Digital Lenses.  With Freeform Digital Lenses your prescription is recalculated at every point of the lens.  This eliminates what's known as the "fishbowl effect" or bulging/distortion in your peripheral vision.  This distortion is common with Standard (non-Digital) lenses.  With Freeform Digital Lenses more of the lens can be utilized and seen through with clarity.

Lens Materials

There are only two lenses approved for sports use: polycarbonate and Trivex.  This is because both of these materials are virtually unbreakable.

Polycarbonate Lenses

In most of our sports frames we use a Polycarbonate lens material to make our Prescription Sunglasses.  Polycarbonate is a virtually unbreakable lens material.  This is important for anyone who is active and could encounter some sort of accident when running on the streets, on a trail or in a marathon.  Polycarbonate lenses can be clear, tinted, polarized or made into Transitions lenses.

Trivex Lenses

Not only are Trivex lenses unbreakable, but it also has a higher Abbe Value than polycarbonate lenses.  The higher Abbe Value minimizes what's known as "chromatic aberration", which is distortion when objects are viewed away from the center of the lens.  Trivex lenses also naturally block 100% of the suns harmful UV rays and are both stronger and more scratch resistant than polycarbonate.

Polarized Lenses

Polarized lenses reduce glare, which keeps you from squinting and helps to keep eyes relaxed.  Polarized lenses dramatically improve vision on sunny days near water, snow and on roadways. 

Jano Soto in the Lavaman Triathlon in Kona, HI

Kaenon Polarized SR-91 Lenses:  SR-91 lenses are also approved for sports use.  These lenses are very similar to the make-up of Trivex lenses, but all SR-91 lenses are polarized and block 100% of UV rays and Blue Light.  Another perk to the SR-91 lenses is that it is the only material that is a available in a variety of degrees of darkness.  The copper and grey lenses are available in 12%, 28% and 50% of light transmission.  The yellow lenses are available in 50% of light transmission.

While all Kaenon lenses are made with the SR-91 lens material, we will put this lens material into ANY frame from any manufacturer.

Transitions Lenses

Transitions lenses are lenses that change from light to dark based on the amount of sunlight or UV exposure.  They can be ideal for people who run first thing in the morning or in the evening when the sun is either rising or setting and the lighting is gradually changing.

Oakley Transitions Lenses with Iridium Coating:  Only Oakley offers the Transitions with Iridium prescription lenses.  Iridium Coatings highlight different colors than the lens does, giving you clearer and more vivid vision.  They also give a lens somewhat of a Mirrored look to the lens.  When getting Prescription Oakley Sunglasses, you have the choice of getting Transitions Clear to Black Iridium, Clear to Gold Iridium or Clear to Emerald Iridium.

Just a Side Note:  Transitions lenses do not get as dark as a standard tinted lens.  While most lenses let in about 13% of light, transitions at their darkest let in about 17% of light. Heat can slow down the darkening process of transitions.  After a few years, Transitions lenses may not get as dark and do not darken as quickly.

Lens Colors

The time of day and amount of light outside can determine what lens color is best for your running sunglasses.  Certain colors are best for high light, others are specifically to be worn at night time or in very low light conditions.  Below we've listed the common colors used in Prescription Running Sunglasses.

ColorLighting ConditionDescription
CopperMedium to Very BrightProvides the most contrasts and the ability to recognize changes in the road surfaces or textures.  Improves depth perception.
GreyMedium to Very BrightMaintains the truest color.  More soothing to the eyes because it seems darker.  Ideal for people with sensitive eyes.
YellowLow LightA light gathering color that tames the glare of oncoming headlights and makes the world look brighter.
Very Light Rose/Very Light CopperLow Light or DarkProvides contrast at night.

Our Favorite Running Sunglasses

Oakley Fast Jacket XLJ Prescription Sunglasses Oakley Fast Jacket XL: The Oakley Fast Jacket XL is a lightweight, durable frame with slightly larger lenses than the regular Fast Jacket.  This provides more coverage from the sun's harmful UV rays.  This frame is unique with its Switchlock Technology, making it fast and easy to switch out lenses.  This model also comes with two sets of nose pieces so that you can find the best fit for your face.

Adidas Prescription Sunglasses Adidas Adivista (Lg) a164 (This is also available in a smaller model, Adidas Adivista (Sm) a165).The Adidas Adivista has unique adjustable temples and nose pieces to ensure a snug, yet comfortable fit on the face.  The frame is extremely lightweight and has a carrier that holds prescription lenses into the frame.  The curve of the temples also ensures that the frames will stay-put even when perspiring after a long, rigorous run.  The Adivista has large lenses in a wrapped frame, which provides great coverage from the sun.  And, this frame is available in two sizes, small and large.

Oakley Flak Jacket Prescription SunglassesOakley Flak Jacket and Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 are chosen by runners and bicyclists more than any other model. This is no accident. These are made with the Oakley "O Matter" frame material that is very light weight and durable. Oakley also offers more polarized lens options that are great for runners and bicyclists. Polarized VR-28, G-30, and Bronze all provide great contrast and clarity. The Black Iridium lens is a grey base with a contrast layer that is great for extended time in bright sun. The Half Jacket is a bit smaller than the Flak Jacket. The XL or XLJ versions are not any larger than the regular version, the lens is just shaped differently.

Nike Show X2 Prescription Sunglasses Nike Show X2 (And Nike Show X2 Pro with a larger lens). The Nike Show X2 is one of our favorites due to the fact that its frame is virtually weightless.  The lenses on this model are very large, which provides a lot of protection from the sun and its harmful UV rays.  This model comes with secure wrap temples with a rubber grip design for optimal protection. The Show X2 is designed for medium to large faces.

Kaenon Hard Kore Prescription Sunglasses Kaenon Hard Kore The Kaenon Hard Kore features a large lens in an 8.25-based frame, which means the frame wraps around the face providing maximum protection from the sun around your entire eyes.  The large temples of the frame also block out any sun from coming in through the sides of the frame.  This unisex frame is designed for medium to large faces.