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Prescription Running Sunglasses Review & Running Sunglasses Guide

Prescription Running Sunglasses Review and Guide


SaltCityOptics Running Specialist – Koji Peck

I've been running my whole life...from the cops! Just kidding, my passion for running started mainly from growing up playing soccer.  As I got older running was a natural transition and I started doing a fair amount of distance runs.  I mainly trail run now and recently set out in our own playground here in Utah and ran the east to west entrance of Zion National Park.  Over the years I've done my fair share of road races, half marathons, and full marathons. Now the trail is where I call home. I consider myslef a casual runner putting in about 35-40 miles a week.  I'm currently looking forward to the 50 miler runs coming up and at somepoint in the future a 100miler.

The eyewear I run in has a significant impact on my performance and the overall enjoyment of my run.  Outside of lens tint one of the key things I look for in non-prescription and prescription running sunglasses is fit and the function of the frame.  Regardless of the terrain you run on and the conditions you run in having a sunglass that won’t slide down your face as you perspire and a frame that won’t interfere with your vision is essential.

What sunglass lens tints are best for running?

Choosing the right sunglass tint for running often times comes down to personal preference and will vary from runner to runner.  With that said, I definitely have my favorite lens tints that I like to run in.  Lens tints for running will not only vary by what type of terrain you run on (i.e. trails with shadows vs. open road) but it will also vary with what type of light conditions you most frequently run in.  Below are my personal recommendations:

Long Distance Running Sunglasses

Long Distance Running: If you’re hitting the pavement or the trail for a run that will take you from early morning to mid-afternoon or will be long enough that you will experience varying light conditions I would recommend a polarchromic or photochromic (also known as transition) lens which will automatically shift the lens tint by either increasing or decreasing the Visible Light Transmission, meaning your lens will automatically get darker as the sun gets brighter and as the sun goes down your lenses will automatically lighten.  These lenses eliminate the hassle of having to change them out, or worse ditch your glasses as the light conditions change and allow you to continue your run uninterrupted. Polarchromic lenses are available in Smith’s ChromaPop and Techlite lenses which are available in most Smith sport sunglasses and prescription sunglasses.  Photochromic lenses are available in the majority of all Smith and Oakley prescription sunglasses.

The Polarchromic lenses are only available in Smith so if you are looking for a non-polarized lens I would recommend looking at a photochromic (transition) sunglass lens which would transition your lens from light to dark and dark to light.  A transition lens won’t be polarized like the Polarchromic so if you are running on wet pavement, snow, or in conditions where a lot of glare can occur you’ll most likely want to go with the Polarchromic.  However, if you are starting or ending your run in the dark you may want a photochromic lens as it will transition all the way to clear.

Based on Koji’s recommendation SaltCityOptics recommends the following lenses:

Recommended Polarchromic Tints for Long Distance Running: ChromaPop Polarchromic Ignitor, Copper Polarchromic Techlite Glass, Ignitor Polarchromic Techlite Glass

ChromaPop Polarchromic Ignitor: The ChromaPop technology in this lens makes color more vivid with increased clarity and chromatic contrast.  Smith recommends this lens for settings where you will be experiencing shifting light conditions as the Polarchromic allows the lens tint to be self-adjusting and decreases or increases the Visible Light Transmission as the light conditions change.  This lens is the only Polarchromic lens option in the ChromaPop lenses.  An Ignitor lens is going to maximize an objects definition, enhance depth perception and is recommended for medium to overcast light conditions.  ChromaPop lenses improve the speed of visual processing, letting you see true color faster.

Ignitor Polarchromic Techlite Glass:  Smith’s Ignitor Polarchromic lenses automatically adjust in changing light conditions to provide increased color definition and high contrast. These lenses perform best in very bright to medium light conditions. Polarized filter eliminates reflected glare from water, sand or pavement. Smith’s Techlite Glass lenses produce superior clarity, optical precision and glare reduction. They utilize Smith’s Tapered Lens Technology to correct light distortion for true optical clarity. They are also 12 times as anti-scratch resistant as plastic lenses and 20% lighter than standard glass lenses. 

Copper Polarchromic Techlite Glass – Smith’s Copper Polarchromic lens tint automatically adjusts to provide increased color definition and medium contrast. These lenses perform best in medium to bright light conditions. Polarized filter eliminates reflected glare from water, sand or pavement.  Smith’s Techlite Glass lenses produce superior clarity, optical precision and glare reduction. They utilize Smith’s Tapered Lens Technology to correct light distortion for true optical clarity. They are also 12 times as anti-scratch resistant as plastic lenses and 20% lighter than standard glass lenses. 

Recommended Potochromic (transitions) Tints for Long Distance Running:

Clear to Brown Transitions: Brown lens tint absorbs blue light to increase contrast and visual acuity, especially against green grass and blue skies.  Being a transitions lens these will automatically adjust their tint depending on the level of UV light. The more UV light that is present, the darker the lens becomes. In environments where less UV light is present the lens "transitions" to clear or a lighter tint. Oakley’s Gold Iridium Transitions will provide the same functionality without transitioning completely clear.  People usually select Gold Iridium Transitions for aesthetic purposes or if they want a mirror coating on their lenses.

Trail Running Sunglasses

What Sunglass Tints are best for Trail Running?

When trail running you are in and out of shadows so it’s important to have a lens that isn’t too dark and one that increases color contrast and depth perception to help you avoid catching a foot or twisting an ankle.  For trail running sunglasses the most important thing is to get the right base tint of a brown, amber, or rose lens and then as an added performance feature I would recommend a mirrored or iridium coating as it increases contrast and definition.

Based on Koji’s recommendation SaltCityOptics recommends the following lenses:

Recommended Smith Trail Running Sunglasses Lens Tints: Brown, Bronze Mirror, ChromaPop Brown Polarized, Ignitor, ChromaPop Polarchromic Ignitor

Brown and Brown Polarized (Brown Base): Brown lens tint will absorb stray “blue light” and sharpens visual acuity while reducing reflected glare. The polarized lenses will reduce glare from different surfaces, such as water, so instead of seeing the light reflected back into your eyes it is filtered out and clarifies your vision. Polarized lenses are ideal for getting the clearest view possible, but are recommended especially for boating, fishing and any outdoor sport.

Bronze Mirror (Brown Base): Smith’s Bronze lens tint is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. It is an excellent all-purpose lens with enhanced contrast for sunny conditions. Mirrored lenses feature a reflective coating on the outside of the lens that decreases the amount of light transmission even further than the lens base color.

ChromaPop Brown Polarized (Brown Base):  The ChromaPop technology is most apparent in the Brown Polarized lens, offering the most enhanced contrast and amplified colorations of the ChromaPop lenses.  The Polarized Brown is going to be best for fishing, lake and water sports, golfing, and trail running.  The ChromaPop lenses improve the speed of visual processing, letting you see true color faster. They are also Polarchromic which lets you adjust to changing light conditions faster than a non- Polarchromic lens.

Ignitor (Rose Base):  Smith’s Ignitor lens tint helps to sharpen visual acuity and perform best in flat or low light conditions. They provide increased color contrast to better see details and identify changing contours. Ignitor lenses are great for fishing in low light or cloudy conditions

ChromaPop Polarchromic Ignitor (Rose Base): The ChromaPop technology in this lens makes color more vivid with increased clarity and chromatic contrast.  Smith recommends this lens for settings where you will be experiencing shifting light conditions as the Polarchromic allows the lens tint to be self-adjusting and decreases or increases the Visible Light Transmission as the light conditions change.  This lens is the only Polarchromic lens option in the ChromaPop lenses.  An Ignitor lens is going to maximize an objects definition, enhance depth perception and is recommended for medium to overcast light conditions.  ChromaPop lenses improve the speed of visual processing, letting you see true color faster. They are also Polarchromic which lets you adjust to changing light conditions faster than a non- Polarchromic lens.

Recommended Oakley Trail Running Sunglasses Lens Tints: Fire Iridium, Gold Iridium, VR28, G30, VR28 Black, OO Black Iridium, OO Red Iridium

Fire Iridium (Brown Base): Oakley’s Fire Iridium lens tint is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. This lens tint improves visual acuity and features an Iridium coating to further tune contrast and reduce glare.

Gold Iridium and Gold Iridium Polarized (Brown Base):  Oakley’s Gold Iridium lens performs excellently in extremely bright light. The gold color is a great all-purpose contrast enhancing lens color while the Iridium lens coating reduces glare to provide better visual clarity in sunny conditions. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

VR28 and VR28 Polarized (Rose Base): One of Oakley’s specific Sport Performance lens tints, Oakley’s VR28 lens is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. This lens color reduces blinding glare while filtering blue light to increase contrast and improve depth perception in a wide variety of conditions. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

G30 Iridium and G30 Iridium Polarized (Rose Base): One of Oakley’s specific Sport Performance lens tints, Oakley’s G30 Iridium lens is designed to perform best in flat to medium light. The Rose base color improves contrast and depth perception in blues in greens while the Iridium lens coating reduces glare to provide better visual clarity. These features make the G30 Iridium ideal for golf. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

VR28 Black Iridium and VR28 Black Iridium Polarized (Rose Base): One of Oakley’s specific Sport Performance lens tints, the Oakley VR28 Black Iridium filters blue light to increase contrast as well as improve depth perception in a wide variety of conditions. The VR28 Black Iridium performs best in medium to bright light and features an Iridium coating which diminishes glare for better visual clarity. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

OO Black Iridium Polarized (Rose Base): Oakley’s Black Iridium lens is designed to perform well in extremely bright light and is an excellent all-purpose lens for sunny conditions. The black color is a neutral lens tint which offers truer color perception while the Iridium lens coating reduces glare to provide better visual clarity. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

OO Red Iridium Polarized (Rose Base): Oakley’s Red Iridium lens is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. It features a neutral lens tint with an Iridium coating to tune contrast for truer color perception.  Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

Recommended Kaenon Trail Running Sunglasses Lens Tints:  Copper 12 Polarized, Copper 28 Polarized

Copper 12 Polarized: Copper lenses offer a high contrast tint that enhances color contrast and detail recognition. Kaenon’s Cooper 12 (C12) lenses are the darkest lenses that Kaenon offers. These lenses perform best in bright, full sun conditions. Copper lenses are ideal for sports that require high contrast such as golf and cycling since they improve depth perception and enhance the contours of the ground. Glare 86 – specifically engineered for Kaenon’s SR-91 lenses – offers exceptional polarizing capability and tunes the essential light in any environment to your specific needs. A complex lens manufacturing process encapsulates the Glare 86 film into the SR-91 lens material, forming a bond so strong that the lens is guaranteed for life. Glare 86 provides razor sharp clarity and distortion free vision.

Copper 28 Polarized: Copper lenses offer a high contrast tint that enhances color contrast and detail recognition. Kaenon’s Copper 28 (C28) lenses are great multi-purpose lenses that perform well in all light conditions. Copper lenses are ideal for sports that require high contrast such as golf and cycling since they improve depth perception and enhance the contours of the ground.  Glare 86 – specifically engineered for Kaenon’s SR-91 lenses – offers exceptional polarizing capability and tunes the essential light in any environment to your specific needs. A complex lens manufacturing process encapsulates the Glare 86 film into the SR-91 lens material, forming a bond so strong that the lens is guaranteed for life. Glare 86 provides razor sharp clarity and distortion free vision.

Recommended Bolle Trail Running Sunglasses Lens Tints: Gold Mirror Inland Polarized, Rose Modulator Photochromic

Gold Mirror ‘Inland’ Polarized:  This is Bolle’s amber lens with gold mirror tint that fights glare in medium-light marine conditions.  Polarized lenses reduce glare from different surfaces, such as water, so instead of seeing the light reflected back into your eyes it is filtered out and clarifies your vision. Polarized lenses are ideal for getting the clearest view possible, but are recommended especially for boating, fishing and any outdoor sport.

Rose Modulator Photochromic: Bolle’s photochromic rose lens provides enhanced contrast in the light rose and dark rose state. Great for overcast as well as sunny conditions you experience while running or cycling. Photochromic lenses automatically adjust their tint depending on the level of UV light. The more UV light that is present, the darker the lens becomes. In environments where less UV light is present the lens transitions to clear or a lighter tint.

Recommended Zeal Trail Running Sunglasses Lens Tints: Brown Hyperion Polarized

Brown Hyperion Polarized: This is a copper base lenses from Zeal that offers a high contrast tint that enhances color contrast and detail recognition. Copper lenses are ideal for sports that require high contrast such as golf and cycling since they improve depth perception and enhance the contours of the ground. Polarized lenses reduce glare from different surfaces, such as water, so instead of seeing the light reflected back into your eyes it is filtered out and clarifies your vision. Polarized lenses are ideal for getting the clearest view possible, but are recommended especially for boating, fishing and any outdoor sport.

Open Road Running Sunglasses

What Sunglass Tints are best for Open Road Running?  When running on the open road I like to use a lens that performs well in medium to bright light and one that is polarized to reduce any glare from light reflecting off the pavement.  It’s also important to have eyewear with a wrap that will protect you from debris on the road that can be kicked up by passing vehicles and also offers excellent peripheral coverage. 

Based on Koji’s recommendation SaltCityOptics recommends the following lenses:

Recommended Smith Open Road Running Lens Tints: Brown Polarized, ChromaPop Brown Polarized

Brown Polarized: Brown lens tint will absorb stray “blue light” and sharpens visual acuity while reducing reflected glare. The polarized lenses will reduce glare from different surfaces, such as water, so instead of seeing the light reflected back into your eyes it is filtered out and clarifies your vision. Polarized lenses are ideal for getting the clearest view possible, but are recommended especially for boating, fishing and any outdoor sport.

ChromaPop Brown Polarized:  The ChromaPop technology is most apparent in the Brown Polarized lens, offering the most enhanced contrast and amplified colorations of the ChromaPop lenses.  The Polarized Brown is going to be best for fishing, lake and water sports, golfing, and trail running.  The ChromaPop lenses improve the speed of visual processing, letting you see true color faster. They are also Polarchromic which lets you adjust to changing light conditions faster than a non- Polarchromic lens.

Recommended Oakley Open Road Running Lens Tints: Fire Iridium, Gold Iridium Polarized, VR28 Polarized, VR28 Black Iridium Polarized, OO Black Iridium Polarized, OO Red Iridium Polarized

Fire Iridium: Oakley’s Fire Iridium lens tint is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. This lens tint improves visual acuity and features an Iridium coating to further tune contrast and reduce glare.

Gold Iridium Polarized:  Oakley’s Gold Iridium lens performs excellently in extremely bright light. The gold color is a great all-purpose contrast enhancing lens color while the Iridium lens coating reduces glare to provide better visual clarity in sunny conditions. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

VR28 Polarized: One of Oakley’s specific Sport Performance lens tints, Oakley’s VR28 lens is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. This lens color reduces blinding glare while filtering blue light to increase contrast and improve depth perception in a wide variety of conditions. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

VR28 Black Iridium Polarized: One of Oakley’s specific Sport Performance lens tints, the Oakley VR28 Black Iridium filters blue light to increase contrast as well as improve depth perception in a wide variety of conditions. The VR28 Black Iridium performs best in medium to bright light and features an Iridium coating which diminishes glare for better visual clarity. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

OO Black Iridium Polarized: Oakley’s Black Iridium lens is designed to perform well in extremely bright light and is an excellent all-purpose lens for sunny conditions. The black color is a neutral lens tint which offers truer color perception while the Iridium lens coating reduces glare to provide better visual clarity. Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

OO Red Iridium Polarized: Oakley’s Red Iridium lens is designed to perform best in medium to bright light. It features a neutral lens tint with an Iridium coating to tune contrast for truer color perception.  Oakley HD Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from harsh glare without compromising clarity. Oakley’s polarized lenses are engineered differently than most. Most companies polarize lenses by gluing addition filter layers on a plain lens. Each additional layer creates further distortion and loss of clarity. Instead of lots of layers, Oakley takes a powerful polarized filter and forms the lens around it with Plutonite, their proprietary polycarbonate. This creates a lens that is lean and powerful enough to block intense glare without compromising clarity.

Recommended Kaenon Open Road Running Lens Tints: Copper 12 Polarized, Copper 28 Polarized

Copper 12 Polarized: Copper lenses offer a high contrast tint that enhances color contrast and detail recognition. Kaenon’s Cooper 12 (C12) lenses are the darkest lenses that Kaenon offers. These lenses perform best in bright, full sun conditions. Copper lenses are ideal for sports that require high contrast such as golf and cycling since they improve depth perception and enhance the contours of the ground. Glare 86 – specifically engineered for Kaenon’s SR-91 lenses – offers exceptional polarizing capability and tunes the essential light in any environment to your specific needs. A complex lens manufacturing process encapsulates the Glare 86 film into the SR-91 lens material, forming a bond so strong that the lens is guaranteed for life. Glare 86 provides razor sharp clarity and distortion free vision.

Copper 28 Polarized: Copper lenses offer a high contrast tint that enhances color contrast and detail recognition. Kaenon’s Copper 28 (C28) lenses are great multi-purpose lenses that perform well in all light conditions. Copper lenses are ideal for sports that require high contrast such as golf and cycling since they improve depth perception and enhance the contours of the ground.  Glare 86 – specifically engineered for Kaenon’s SR-91 lenses – offers exceptional polarizing capability and tunes the essential light in any environment to your specific needs. A complex lens manufacturing process encapsulates the Glare 86 film into the SR-91 lens material, forming a bond so strong that the lens is guaranteed for life. Glare 86 provides razor sharp clarity and distortion free vision.

If You Wear Progressive Lenses Do You Recommend Them For Running?

In general I don’t recommend a progressive lens for running as progressive lenses are no-line bifocals used to correct both near and distance vision by offering a smooth transition from the top to bottom of the lens. Progressive lenses have a graduated lens power that starts at the top to correct distance vision and gradually changes as you go down the lens for near vision correction.  The only reason you would need them for running would be to read a heart rate monitor or to check your time, pace, and distance.  However, for such a quick look you can usually hold your arm out far enough to be able to read those numbers.

What’s the Most Important Thing to look for in a Running Frame?

A frame that fits correctly and is comfortable is the most important thing.  A frame fit will vary from person to person so it’s important that you get a frame that fits your face correctly. I always recommend a frame that has a wrap to it to offer full peripheral coverage and sun protection.  You’ll also want to looks for a frame that increases its grip as you perspire so that your frames will stay put and won’t be sliding down your face during your run.  Sport specific sunglasses frames from brands such as Smith, Oakley, Kaenon, Zeal, and Bolle will offer this functionality.  Lastly, an interchangeable frame is a great option as it allows you to simple invest in lenses for different running conditions rather than purchasing another frame.

*If you still have additional questions about running prescription sunglasses one of our sports specialists would be happy to help you.  Please contact us by email, phone, or chat and we’ll make sure you get into a sunglass frame and lens that matches your running needs.