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A good pair of sunglasses can reduce eye fatigue and make your trail run that much more enjoyable. But since not all trails are created equal—some have you running in full sun while others dip in and out of trees that cast varying degrees of shadows—sunglasses, and sunglass lens types in particular, aren’t one-size-fits-all. Here’s are our picks for the best sunglasses to wear on the trail.
Maho Charleston 2 with Polarized Gray Lenses | $125
Polarization treatment on lenses reduces glare, and some treatments work better than others. These polarized lenses offer great clarity, and their gray color is both dark enough for full sun, and not too dark for partly cloudy or partly shady trails (though they’re darker than the Zeal and Tifosi lenses in this roundup). Made out of what the company calls “premium” Trivex, or a urethane-based pre-polymer, the lenses proved durable and scratch-resistant after dropping them in the dirt and rocks. Lightweight stainless steel frames sit comfortably on your face, though some noted being able to see the frame in their peripheral vision as slightly distracting.
Smith Pinpoint with ChromaPop Lenses | $139
For runs in full sun, we really like Smith’s ChromaPop Violet Mirror lenses. The high-quality polarization offers great clarity and glare reduction. The Violet Mirror lenses we tested worked great in bright conditions, yet proved a little dark in the woods (solved by simply putting the glasses on our heads at times). ChromaPop, a unique filtering technology that comes in lighter hues as well, does seem to “enhance definition,” as the company claims, without casting an unnatural hue on the trail. The style of these glasses transition well between running and casual-wear, and the frames allow good peripheral vision and a secure fit, even on sweaty faces.
Zeal Palisade with Polarized Copper Lenses | $149
The copper hue on these lenses proved ideal in a wide range of trail environments—they weren’t too dark in partly shady areas, or too light in full sun. The clarity and quality of the polarization ranks high, too, as does the fact that these lenses are made with environmentally friendly plant-based materials, called Ellume. The frames are also plant-based (made from resin) and sit comfortably and securely. The rimless design completely eliminated any fogging issues, and somehow pulls off a casual-wear vibe, which added the versatility of these shades. Bonus: They’re so lightweight that we forget we’re wearing them.
Tifosi Swank SL with AC Red Lenses | $25
These shades may not have the glare-reducing polarization treatment of some of the higher-end (and higher-priced) models in this roundup, but the reddish hue of the lenses performed in a range of conditions by increasing contrast in low light while still shielding from full sun. The lenses are made of thick and durable polycarbonate, and join lightweight frames to create a simple, yet effective pair of glasses. Like the Zeal Palisade, the rimless design reduces fogging (even while wearing a mask), yet still crosses over to casual wear.
Julbo Spark with Photochromic Lenses| $130
With many trail running routes varying from shady to sunny and back, and days varying from cloudy to bluebird, the REACTIV Photochromic lenses of these Julbo Spark glasses can be ideal for shifting conditions. They change from light to dark (between 9% to 20% light transmission), depending on the light levels at hand. These lenses are also made of durable polycarbonate and treated with polarization for glare reduction and clarity. Large, round-shape frames allow full-face coverage and good peripheral vision.