- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below."
If there’s one thing runners can learn from cyclists, it’s the importance of sliding on sunglasses before heading outdoors to chase down some endorphins. And not just in the summer. Even when it’s chilly or overcast, sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays, which can pose damage even when the sun is hidden behind a layer of clouds. Finding the right pair that balances protection with comfortable features can be challenging, so we tested the leading models to suss out which do it best.
The Expert: I’m a longtime distance runner and outdoors gear reviewer for Runner’s World, Bicycling, and other sites. I also live in Texas, where sunglasses are a year-round necessity—and finding the perfect pair that can handle my general sweat output without sliding, bouncing, or steadily disintegrating from overuse is an endless personal quest. To select these recommendations of the best sunglasses, I worked in collaboration with the Runner’s World editors and test team, who tried dozens of different pairs to tease out their favorites.
What to Look for in Running Sunglasses
Full UV and Glare Blockage
Ultraviolet light can take its toll on both cloudless days and when the skies are gloomy. Look for a pair of sunglasses that offers the best protection for your individual face shape, because UV rays can reach your eyes from all angles. Wraparound models offer the best coverage from side to side, but any lens shape will give you relief from common seasonal irritations. During testing, we liked every model on this list for their ability to keep glare from earlier sunsets out of our eyes in the fall, block out pesky gnats and intense sun during the summer, stop snow from hampering our vision through the winter, and cut through fog and pop-up rain showers come spring.
Lens Tint and Polarization
If you’re running on roads during the day, polarized lenses can cut down on glare reflected from the road surface and cars, allowing you to relax more and focus on your run. But it’s fine, in low-light and off-road situations, to safely make do without polarization, as long as the lenses still block UV rays. (Despite what many still believe, a darker tint doesn’t necessarily offer better protection.) Look first for lenses rated UV400 or higher, then consider tint. Many sunglasses come with a rose-colored lens to improve your vision by providing greater contrast, which can be helpful on technical trails. If your daily runs are along scorching hot blacktop, you might be better suited with an extremely dark lens that can cut down on the intensity of the sun.
Size matters when it comes to sunglasses because larger, wraparound, and close-fitting shades will cover more of your face and offer more protection from UV rays. Because you’ll be wearing these sunglasses for running, you’ll also want frames that are lightweight and have grippy nose pads and temple tips, so they’ll be more likely to stay in place and not bounce or slide off your face.
How We Selected These Running Sunglasses
Our team of test editors at Runner’s World wear-tested dozens of pairs of sunglasses for runs, cross training, and more leisurely pursuits around town. We’ve tested these sunglasses in every season and on a variety of face shapes to determine each pair’s best use. Each model here has earned its place based on fit, comfort, performance, and aesthetics. In addition, we’ve consulted product engineers on the latest lens technology and frame materials, and have spoken with an optometrist to weigh a pair’s price against its performance and features. Read on for our picks.
Goodr The OG
Weight: 22 grams | Rx option: No | Best fit for: Small to medium faces
We’ve been fans of Goodr shades since the company launched in 2015. They’re affordable, well-built, polarized, don’t bounce, and come in a ton of fun colors. The original model magically fits a lot of different head sizes comfortably, but opt for the BFG style if you have a larger noggin. The BFG comes with a wider frame and larger lenses, plus longer arms and silicone inserts at the nose and temples, so you’re ensured a more comfortable fit. (It’ll cost you $10 more, but we still think it’s a bargain.) The only drawback our testers noted was that more light leaked in around the edges of the OG’s frame compared to the BFG model. At $25, these sensible shades aren’t a liability when you’re traveling or tossing them into your gym bag—that’s why you see so many runners rocking them.
―BEST INTERCHANGEABLE LENSES―
Oakley Half Jacket 2.0
Weight: Unknown | Rx option: Yes | Best fit for: Narrow to medium faces
The Half Jacket is designed for those who like to easily swap out their lenses to suit the occasion and lighting conditions—whether you want non-mirrored or mirrored of any color; polarized, non-polarized, or some fusion of the two; or prescription lenses. All the lenses are polycarbonate and provide full UV protection but allow varying levels of light transmission depending on your lens choice. The frames are made of a durable and lightweight plastic that flexes to the shape of your face and won’t break, even if you drop them or bounce them around in your pack. You can get them in a low-bridge version or an XL for a larger fit. And much like the Knockaround Sport sunglasses, Oakley also has a tool on its website so you can create a fully customized pair, from the color and pattern of the frame to the lens type and the style of the ear socks.
Weight: 34 grams | Rx option: No | Best fit for: Medium faces
With a name like ForceFlex, these 34-gram glasses were asking for us to try to break them. With our bare hands, we couldn’t—they really are so flexible that you can bend them 180 degrees in any direction. So then we sat on them. Then we stepped on them, jumped on them, ran them over with a bike, and threw them at a wall—no damage, not even a scratched lens. You can bend the temple arms with enough force, but they just bend back into place. The view from behind the lenses isn’t as vibrant as pricier competitors, but the shades offer 100 percent UVA/UVB protection and cut down on glare well. For $30, that’s great value.
—BEST AFFORDABLE RX—
Weight: 22 grams | Rx option: Yes | Best fit for: Small to medium faces
Not all running sunglasses have to look outwardly sporty—nor do they have to cost as much as a pair of new shoes—to offer top performance at fast paces. (Just ask pro-runner Molly Seidel, who wore a pair of the Tifosi Swanks when she qualified for the Olympics at the 2020 Marathon Trials.) In our testing, we found that the Swank’s Grilamid TR-90 frame feels slightly rubberized on the temples and nose bridge, which helped the glasses stay snug without bouncing or slipping when we were sweating through strong gusts of wind. The polycarbonate lenses didn’t fog up during humid lunch runs and resisted repeated drops on the pavement, although they’re not scratch-proof. But, thanks to the rainbow of color options, the Swank can still look cool even with a few nicks.
—BEST DESIGN-YOUR-OWN OPTION—
Knockaround Premiums Sport
Weight: 25 grams | Rx option: No | Best fit for: Medium faces
It’s rare that you see celebs sporting $25 shades, but these glasses have proven themselves stylish enough to cut the glare of the limelight for stars from Snoop Dogg to Selena Gomez. That’s not the only reason we like them, though. The Premiums Sport’s sturdy build and rubberized nose help them stay secure on your face, although they’re flexible enough to work for runners with bigger heads too. “I got much more eye coverage than I expected with the square frames,” said one tester. “Plus, you can’t beat the price and all the color options.” (If you dream up a lens and frame color combo that isn’t there, you can design it yourself with the new custom builder tool.) The nose and temple pads are a soft, grippy thermoplastic compound that helps the shades stay put after you get all sweaty. With their polarized, impact-resistant lenses and UV400 protection, Knockarounds are also true to their name; these are durable shades that can withstand drops and scrapes.
Weight: 19 grams | Rx option: Yes | Best fit for: Medium faces
The Roka Oslo is our pick for runners who want shades so ultralight that they’ll forget they’re wearing sunglasses at all. The thin temple arms have hydrophilic grippers that keep the 19-gram glasses pinned without any evident pressure on your temples, and they’re flexible enough to accommodate a variety of face shapes. You also get three sizes of nose-bridge pads to dial in the fit. Our test glasses had gold mirror lenses that were ideal for bright and sunny days as well as shadier portions of trail running beneath the forest’s canopy. The lenses also appeared to enhance the contrast between the dirt and the surrounding greenery, which helped us pick out protruding roots and stumps more easily.
Similar Style on a Budget: Goodr Circle G ($25)
—BEST IN HIGH HUMIDITY—
Rudy Project Propulse
Weight: 26 grams | Rx option: Yes | Best fit for: Small to medium faces
If Rudy Project’s Propulse looks familiar, that might be because you’ve seen this pair on the faces of pros like Aliphine Tuliamuk, Jared Ward, and Gwen Jorgensen. And it’s no wonder why. After thorough testing, the Propulse gets our vote because we’ve used it on trail, road, and track and in direct sun and low light, and it’s excelled at all of it. Our clear-to-red photochromic lenses were ideal for golden-hour runs, blocking glare as the sun set and still letting in some light after dark. And the soft, easily adjustable nosepiece and grippy temple arms kept the frames securely situated without creating pressure points. Wraparound lenses also provide plenty of coverage for trail running, but they aren’t as close to the cheek as many oversize shades—that helps them ventilate better and not feel as hot, another plus for muggy runs under thick tree cover. Our sole complaint? The Propulse doesn’t come with the robust hard case that Rudy usually includes.
Similar Style on a Budget: Tifosi Vero ($70)
Goodr Mach Gs Poseidon’s New Wave Movement
Weight: 20 grams | Rx option: No | Best fit for: Medium to wide faces
For wider-faced runners or just those who want a bit more wraparound coverage, Goodr’s Mach Gs bring everything we love about the brand’s OGs to an even lighter, aviator-style frame. They also come pre-loaded with added style—this New Wave, sea God-themed pattern is particularly popular among trail runners and off-road cyclists alike. The glasses have polarized, reflective lenses to reduce glare and UV400 protection to block out 100 percent of UV rays. They’re shockingly lightweight but have a grippy nosepiece that sits securely on your bridge so they won’t bounce or take flight while you’re running. Like all Goodrs, they’re also an amazing bargain.
Buy More Colors
Similar Style on a Budget: Tifosi Shwae ($35)
—BEST COLOR-ENHANCING LENSES—
Weight: 27 grams | Rx option: No | Best fit for: Small to medium faces
If you’re not familiar with Smith, the brand got its start making goggles for skiers and snowboarders in Colorado. Since that beginning, it’s expanded to sunglasses, helmets, and apparel for all types of athletes. Specifically geared toward runners and cyclists, the Reverb is a model we’ve been liking a lot for our daily runs. These 27-gram, TR90 frames have a wrap-around shape that provides more coverage against glare, adjustable soft Megol rubber nose and temple grippers, and hydroleophobic (moisture- and smudge-resistant) ChromaPop lenses. We found that the lenses really do amp color and clarity; our views midrun were crisp and vivid along shady trails and sun-soaked open roads. Our violet model has lenses rated at 15 percent light transmission, so we’d recommend a lighter tint if you spend a lot of time in the shade.
Smith Flywheel Chromapop Sunglasses
Weight: 36 grams | Rx option: Yes | Best fit for: Medium faces
If you like the style and generous coverage of the Smith Reverb (above), the brand’s Flywheel sunglasses take things even a step further with a full-on throwback skier vibe that spans even more of your face without blocking the view with excess framing. The frames are made from a durable plastic resin with comfortable rubber nose pads that keep them from sliding around, even after you start sweating. They’re not in league with the most lightweight sunglasses we tested, but they don’t feel heavy on your face. The polycarbonate, wraparound lenses feature the brand’s “Chromapop” lenses, which are designed to filter out color distortion and provide more clarity. Choose from a list of different frame colors and patterns and lens colors—Smith offers lots of interchangeable retro options for this style.
Similar Style on a Budget: Tifosi Tsali ($70)
Expert Caitlin Giddings on What All That Lens Tech Means
RW: What are photochromic lenses?
C.G. Also known as “transitions,” photochromic lenses are essentially clear indoors but are activated by UV rays and darken automatically as you run from shade to sun. Just one caveat: Most photochromic lenses won’t work while you’re driving because your windshield blocks the ultraviolet rays.
RW: What do the percentages of light transmission mean?
C.G.: “Visual light transmission” is expressed as a percentage of how much light your sunglass lenses allow to reach your eye. This percentage is dependent on the color, thickness, and material makeup of your lenses. If you’re looking for sunglasses that are ideal for sunny conditions, choose lenses with under 20 percent VLT. For variable sun and all-purpose use, go with 20 to 40 percent VLT. For dark and overcast days, lenses with over 40 percent VLT will protect your eyes but still allow you to see your surroundings.
RW: Any advantages to mirrored lenses?
C.G.: Mirrored sunglasses have a reflective coating that can reduce glare. Polarized sunglasses do this as well, but mirrored lenses are believed to have a slight advantage for reflecting ambient glare and protecting your eyes on the water. The primary disadvantage of mirrored sunglasses is that the lenses are easier to scratch.
You Might Also Like