I would be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue that a good pair of running sunglasses, even a pair from the gas station if they block UV light, aren’t necessary for any runner, so I’m not going to waste your time telling you how important it is to protect your eyes from the sun.
I do want to briefly touch on the psychological benefit of “running in a cave”. In his book, “I’m Here To Win”, Ironman Champion Chris McCormack, talked about how he fools himself during a race into thinking that he is in a cool, comfortable environment by wearing a visor with a dark underside and the darkest pair of sunglasses he can find. Most runners do this already, but it was good to have Macca describe it. Again, this is something that most runners do already, but Chris described it perfectly. I’ve adopted this same idea when I run and you will always find me in a pair of sunglasses and a dark billed hat to make the environment appear as dark and cool as possible through my eyes.
I’ve owned many pairs of sunglasses during my running career, some cheap and some expensive. You may disagree with me here, but the expensive ones are worth it. They have been worth it for three simple reasons.
1. Fit – the more expensive sunglasses are crafted and assembled with the intention of being worn on a human head. Every pair of cheap glasses I have bought has had something a bit off with the fit, as though they were designed to be worn by some sort of minotaur and they have never felt right on my head.
2. Features – the more expensive glasses have excellent features such as polarized lenses. I know it is possible to have cheap sunglasses with polarized lenses, but that isn’t the only feature found in better glasses and it leads me to my third reason.
3. Optics – the expensive sunglasses have been designed after taking the time to research the curve of the lens to see if there is any sort of distortion in them. Each pair of cheap sunglasses I have worn had some sort of distortion in the field of vision. Unfortunately, I am just obsessive compulsive enough that when I notice that distortion the first time, I can’t help but stare at it every time I wear them.
Before I go any further, my intent with this post is not to sound elitist or make it seem as though “real” runners spend a bunch of money on a pair of sunglasses. I merely want to talk about my experience with sunglasses for running and implore you other runners/triathletes out there to spend as much time thinking about sunglasses to protect your vision as you do your running shoes.
On to the review…
1. The pair for running and everyday wear: Maui Jim Ho’okipa
Maui Jims are fantastic sunglasses. I’ve worn this particular pair both for everyday use while driving around and while running. They feature an incredibly lightweight frame that retains it’s shape if accidentally bent (or sat on), with high quality polarized lenses. (Note: any time you get a polarized lens you will experience a decent jump in the price.) The nose and ear pieces feature a special rubber that gets stickier when it comes into contact with water or sweat so they will stay put on your face during a long, hot run. My only complaint with this pair of glasses is that they are so light, I always fear that they are about to fall off. This is a very minor complaint as this has never happened to me.
On a Runner’s High scale of 1-5, the Maui Jim Ho’okipa gets a 4.5 for it’s versatility and durability. It isn’t perfect, but pretty darn close.
2. The fairly normal looking sport sunglasses: Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL
The Oakley Half Jacket offers a snug fit and, as is common with Oakley, the ability to change the lenses for another pair. To be clear, the frame itself is called the Half Jacket and the lens is the XL version. There are other size options available and I use the XL. The XL lens is a nice fit for folks with a big head like me.
The option to change lenses might sound superfluous, but it is advantageous when starting a run on a poorly lit trail for example, you can start with a lighter lens and as the sun rises, you can switch to a darker one. Oakley has done a good job of making sure their frames look and feel like they can take whatever punishment can be dished out. I never worry about damaging these frames. Oakley pioneered the use of reactive rubber that becomes stickier when wet so you are assured of a secure fit during a long, hot run. The Half Jacket is a snug fit though and is a bit heavy, but neither of these issues are enough to make me regret my purchase.
On a runner’s high scale of 1-5, the Oakley Half Jacket 2.0 XL gets a 4 for durability and the versatility of interchangeable lenses. They could make the frame a bit lighter in my opinion though.
3. The shield: Oakley Radar Path
The Oakley Radar Path offers the same durable frame material and moisture activated rubber as the Half Jacket. As with the Half Jacket, the Radar is the name of the frame itself. The Path is the lens shape in my pair. There are other options available, and you should take your time to understand the lens shape you are buying because it can make a difference in the amount of coverage you get in your field of vision.
The Radar frame is lighter than the Half Jacket and it is a bit wider so it fits my gigantic head quite nicely. It also offers the same flexibility with lens options as the Half Jacket so you can have a lens option for any sort of light condition. I actually have no criticism for the Radar. This is my favorite pair of glasses to run in.
On a Runner’s High scale of 1-5, I give the Radar a 5. Excellent frame fit, function, and options.
What Sunglasses do you run in? Do you run with glasses at all? Leave a comment and let us know.
Respect the Run!
Jonathan Keeth is a proud father of two and the husband to a beautiful and longsuffering wife who tolerates his obsession with running shoes and gear. Jonathan is the author of odyssey100.com where he blogs about his two great goals, training for his first 100 mile race and losing 100 lbs so he never has to register for a race in the hippo class again. Follow him on Twitter: @odysy100