Why Wear Sports Specific Sunglasses?

So you’re going to do a triathlon or duathlon. You’ve brought some gear, a hot road bike, helmet and running shoes. What else do you need? Ah, I know, some sports specific eyewear. Why? Because they look cool? Probably. More importantly because they protect your eyes.

I know what it’s like to run and bike on a bright day. It’s not comfortable squinting into the sun let alone negotiating dodgy traffic on the road. Sports specific sunglasses are designed for protection.

  • UV protection. If you are out training a few hours a day, you are exposing your eyes to a lot of UV radiation. Which has a cumulative toll on your eye and surrounding structures. The lens in your eye can develop cataracts faster if you do not protect them with 100% UV blocking sunglasses. All top quality sports sunglasses are 100% UV blocking.
  • Impact Resistant. Polycarbonate Lenses are a must. Ask for this lens material by name. If the pair you are considering buying are not polycarbonate think again. This material is super impact resistant, Oakley lenses use a very pure form of this material which can stop very high speed projectiles; the armed forces use them. So this means when you are on the bike hurtling downhill at 70+km/hr and a stone is flicked up by a truck ahead, it will not shatter your lens and send a million tiny pieces into your eye….enough said.
  • Lens Optics. The more you pay generally the better quality the optics and materials the frames are made of. Good quality lenses have little or no distortion. Distortion is often the reason why some cheap sunglasses give you headaches. Your brain desires the clearest image it can get and better optics facilitate this.
  • Lens Colour. The right lens colour can make all the difference between seeing an obstacle quickly and clearly, before you make that split second decision to dodge or change your direction at high speed. Too dark a lens can reduce the amount of light getting to your eye, this is especially crucial in low light conditions like twilight or dusk. A rose, orange or clear lens colour is best suited to increase your contrast in these conditions. When you are in bright conditions a yellow lens is not suitable, as your eyes will receive too much light and everything you see will be hyperbright. Some sports sunglasses have Transition or Photochromatic technology like Oakley and Rudy Project, which means they change light according to the amount of UV there is. This is a great option as it caters for all light conditions especially on a long ride or run. Sports Specific Eyewear with interchangable lenses of different colours are the next best option.
  • Lens Coatings. Mirror coatings can reduce some glare and this can be a real benefit on a bright day. Polarised lenses reduce the most reflected glare and are what boaties and fishermen use to see into the water. These are a must if you squint with even the darkest lens on. Compare them to a normal lens and you will see a significant difference. Hydrophobic lens coatings on the Oakley Radar are as one rider told me “insane”, the water literally beads off them unlike any other sunglass lens in the rain.
  • Lastly, Fit. They must fit well, so they don’t fog up when you are hot. Make sure they are not too tight and that when you are in the aero position the lens still blocks out the wind and lets you see through it. The Adidas Supernova won a cycling sports award for this frame, it sits higher on the bridge and triathlete Bevan Docherty wears this model.

If you haven’t got perfect 20/20 Vision then you can wear corrective Sports Specific Eyewear. Oakley, Bolle, Adidas, Rudy Project sunglasses, have models that can be made into prescription eyewear depending on your prescription. Of course you could always wear contact lenses for training and the big day. Technology has improved light years in contact lenses and there are super comfortable disposable contact lenses for nearly all prescriptions. They are convenient and are a great way to see and wear Sports Eyewear. You can even get prescription swimming goggles.

So have I convinced you of the benefits of a good quality pair of sports specific sunglasses? I hope so because your eyes really are worth it. Your eyes take in over 70% of the information your body needs to perform tasks. It is a wise investment to protect them, just like wearing a helmet. Happy training, competing and seeing clearly.

Written by Jeremy Wong, Optometrist who specialises in Sports Specific Eyewear and Eyecare. He has written many articles and has featured regularly on Murray Deaker’s Sports Talk show. He can be contacted at jeremy@gateseyewear.co.nz