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Sports and performance eyewear, glasses and sunglasses

cyclist wearing sports sunnies

Sports glasses are spectacles and sunglasses specially designed to:

  1. Fit securely and comfortably during physical activity

  2. Keep your eyes safe

  3. Enhance your vision to give you a performance "edge" in the sports you love

In most sports, vision drives performance. So to excel during competition, you should make sure your eyesight is in top shape. Even if you have 20/20 vision (referred to as 6/6 in the UK), the right sports eyewear can reduce glare and enhance contrast to help you see even better and react faster.

Sports glasses boost performance

Sports vision specialists agree that sports eyewear can have a profound effect on athletic performance, and coaches agree. For this reason, many professional sports team have a dedicated optician who is a sports vision specialist.

Sports glasses, goggles and eye protection

Experts agree that most sports-related eye injuries can be prevented if athletes wear protective eyewear, such as safety goggles with polycarbonate lenses.

Ski goggles should be considered a must on the slopes to reduce glare and protect your eyes from intense UV rays, and face shields (either "cages" or clear polycarbonate shields) should always be worn by anyone playing hockey or other sports with fast-moving objects that could strike your eyes.

Although children may resist the idea of wearing safety glasses during sports, parents and coaches should insist on it. It takes only a second for a sports injury to cause permanent vision loss in an unprotected eye.

And eye safety during sports is not just for kids — virtually anyone who plays active sports should wear sports glasses for eye protection and vision enhancement.

Also, never wear everyday "dress" eyeglasses during sports. Regular spectacles are not made to the same protective standards as safety eyewear. The lenses may shatter under impact and cause a serious eye injury.

Likewise, spectacle frames that don't qualify for use in sports or safety glasses can break upon impact or cause the lenses to come loose and damage your eyes or face.

Another danger during outdoor sports is overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV rays have been linked to eye diseases such as cataracts and ocular tumours. Overexposure to UV radiation also can cause a painful sunburn on the surface of your eyes (called photokeratitis) that can lead to long-term damage to the cornea.

Snowboarders and skiers should always wear tinted goggles or sports sunglasses, since UV rays bounce off snow even on cloudy days. Fishermen and sailors, too, need protection from UV rays that reflect off the water.

SEE RELATED: Best sunglasses for ultraviolet (UV) eye protection

Sports sunglasses: Choosing the best tint

You can choose from an almost endless variety of lens tints for sports sunglasses. Selectively filtering glare and certain colours can cause objects of a particular colour on a specific background colour — like a ball against the sky — to appear with greater clarity and contrast.

Tinted lenses that enhance the colour yellow are desirable particularly in tennis, where they heighten the colour and contrast of the ball against the sky or stadium walls.


Retego sunglasses by adidas Eyewear are designed specifically for golf, with distortion-free lenses in a tint that helps the ball stand out from the background.

Different lens tints can enhance specific colours for golfers, skiers, trap-shooters and other sports enthusiasts.

For example, golf glasses with copper-coloured lenses enhance the contrast of a white golf ball against the sky and the green background of fairways and greens.

Amber or rose-coloured ski goggles enhance soft greys that mark shadows on a ski slope. Because these shadows indicate ridges or bumps in the surface, increasing the visibility of these slope changes is a big benefit for skiers and snowboarders.

Reducing glare and adjusting to changing conditions

Polarised sports sunglasses reduce glare so athletes can see more clearly and react faster in bright conditions. Anti-reflective (AR) coating is another glare reducer that should be applied to the back surface of sports sunglasses to eliminate sunlight reflecting off the back surface of the lenses when the sun is behind you.

Nike Hyperion III frames have two polycarbonate lens options, for sunny and flat light conditions.

Photochromic lenses help athletes see their best in a variety of lighting conditions. These lenses darken automatically in response to sunlight and the lens tint fades or disappears when in shade or after the sun sets.

The largest manufacturer of lightweight, impact-resistant photochromic lenses is Transitions Optical. Because of the popularity of this brand, photochromic lenses sometimes are called "Transition lenses." But several lens manufacturers offer photochromic lenses for sports glasses.

Your optician can advise you of the best type and colour of photochromic lenses for your sports vision needs.

Photochromic lenses are terrific for golf, where you move frequently from bright sunlight to shade or dusk during the course of a round. For the ultimate light-control sports glasses, many eye care professionals recommend adding anti-reflective coating to photochromic lenses to eliminate glare from the "bounce-back" of light from the back surface of the lenses when the sun is behind you.

Personalised sports eyeglasses

Getting the best possible eyewear to maximise your sports performance starts with your eyeglass prescription. Make sure your prescription is up-to-date, and tell your optician which sports you enjoy.

Next, see your optician for additional advice about the best frames and lenses for your sport and to see samples of different lens tints. Your optician's help in frame selection is critical, because the proper fit of sports eyewear is very important for both safety and comfort.

When it comes to achieving your personal best in sports, remember that excellent vision is a key factor in athletic performance. Put sports eyewear at the top of your list when you shop for gear and accessories to enhance your game.

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