Sweat in your eyes can leave you struggling through an otherwise easy run. Nothing is worse than the burn of perspiration, and with many running and cycling sunglasses, the ventilation just doesn't allow enough airflow for your eyes to breathe and the sweat to evaporate. While no sunglasses are perfect for every athlete, the best sunglasses for running and cycling share many key features. Understanding how these features contribute to some of the best sunglasses available will help you choose the perfect pair.
Protecting Your Eyes
The easiest solution to the problem of good ventilation seems to be to avoid sunglasses altogether. However, sunglasses provide some serious advantages for top-level athletes. The first, obviously, is the mitigation of sunlight. This goes beyond comfort, however; harmful UV radiation entering your eyes can cause photokeratitis, similar to a sunburn on the surface of the eye. Long-term exposure can also cause you to develop cataracts, which can restrict vision. Finally, sunglasses with a safety glass rating can protect your eyes from impact, which is especially important for cyclists who ride in traffic, where small rocks can be thrown by car tires at high speeds.
Finding the Right Lens
The best sunglasses for cycling and running use advanced lenses to keep your vision clear. These lenses are polarized to reduce glare, and usually have a hydrophobic coating to prevent moisture and fog from building up on the lens. This coating also allows you to wipe the lens clean while riding without limiting your vision with smudging and streaking. Wrap-around style sunglasses also prevent wind from getting under the lenses and blinding you, which is good for cyclists that travel at high speeds. Most of the top cycling lenses are photochromic, which allows the lenses to change their shade to match changing light conditions.
To provide proper ventilation, the best sunglasses used in high-level competitions take advantage of the air rushing past the cyclist or runner's face to effectively cool the wearer and evaporate sweat before it can reach your eyes. These sunglasses use vents drilled into the frames or the lenses themselves at precise positions, where air is prone to stream past without creating turbulence that can make it hard to see. Glasses without these holes for ventilation can create warm air pockets behind the lenses, which compound the problems of sweat around your eyes.
Needs of Athletes
The best sunglasses for cycling and running need more than good lenses and good ventilation. Grip is essential for keeping the sunglasses on your face during high-intensity, strenuous activity. The best sunglasses also use plastics to provide all of these benefits at extremely light weights, which allows the user to forget they're even wearing them. Cycling sunglasses often mate with the ventilation holes on most high-level helmets so that sunglasses can be tucked away on top of the helmet when not in use.
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at MaxTheCyclist.com.