Guide to choosing the best sunglasses for your active lifestyle
Putting on a pair of sunglasses is one of the best ways to protect the health of your eyes when you’re spending time outside. But that’s the easy part. Finding the best sunglasses may be a little bit harder, if only for all the choices out there.
Whether you’re active in sports or just enjoy a walk in the sunshine, it’s important to wear sunglasses that fit the unique needs of your eyes and enhance your time outside. When buying new sunglasses, consider what you’ll be using them for so that the function — and style — fit your purposes.
Best sunglasses for sports
While all sports sunglasses are designed to fit a more active lifestyle, the specific look, cut and feel of each pair can vary based on the type of activity they’re intended for. By knowing what factors will enhance your performance, you can find a new pair of shades that looks good, keeps your eyes protected and makes it easier to do what you love.
Best sunglasses for running or hiking
As with any outdoor activity, performance sunglasses are a critical piece of gear. If you want to keep your eyes protected while you spend time outside, look for running and hiking sunglasses with the following points:
The fit: The best sunglasses for running should be loose enough that they are comfortable at the temples and the bridge of your nose, but tight enough that they won’t bounce on your face as you run.
The features: The best sunglasses block harmful UV rays. If you enjoy hiking or trail running, you may also want to consider tinted lenses that offer a greater contrast and make it easier to avoid obstacles.
The style: While wraparound sunglasses block sunlight from all angles, any sunglasses you choose should be able to protect your eyes from debris you may encounter on a run (think insects, dust and pollen). A durable frame that will withstand long runs, sweat and heat may also top your list of preferences.
Best sunglasses for cycling
As with the best sunglasses for runners, when on a bike, you want a pair of sunglasses that will protect your eyes from bright sunlight, keep you safely on your path and enhance your ride. The best sunglasses for cycling should do it all. Here are some key features to look for:
The fit: Comfort is key when it comes to the best cycling sunglasses, particularly if you like long rides. Flexible frames offer durability that a more delicate frame may not.
The features: Anti-reflective, polarized lenses protect your eyes and reduce glare, ensuring a safer ride. Different lens tints work better in different riding conditions, weather and road surfaces, making it easier to see upcoming obstacles or changes in ground texture before reaching them. Professional cyclists often keep multiple pairs of sunglasses in their kits so they’re able to switch to a more suitable lens tint in case of inclement weather or a variation in riding conditions.
The style: Some cyclists want a little flair when it comes to complete their cycling look, seeking out the best biking sunglasses in bold, bright colors and styles, an overall trend in sports sunglasses as a fashion accessory. Once you’ve addressed the durability and practicality of your shades, it can be fun to find those features in a pair that will not only withstand long bike rides, but look good while doing so, as well.
Best sunglasses for water sports
It’s often not enough to have one pair of sunglasses for everyday use. That is particularly true when shopping for the best sunglasses for water sports, a niche sport that requires some additional features, including:
The fit: Adjustable sunglasses that offer a tight but comfortable fit will suit the needs of most wearers in the water. Some water sports enthusiasts may prefer something with a strap to keep them from losing those new sunglasses.
The features: As water can reflect up to 80% of light that hits it, sun protection, and specifically UV 400-blocking protection, should top your list for what to look for in a pair of sunglasses for water activities. Polarized lenses on top of that UV protection will help to further reduce glare off the water. Consider additional features such as anti-fogging lenses and a hydrophobic coating to repel water that hits your shades.
The style: The best sunglasses for water sports are durable and shatter-resistant, with a variety of options across styles and price points, including lightweight sunglasses that will float in the water if they fall off.
Best sunglasses for fishing
While fishing may not seem quite as intense as some of the activities mentioned here, those serious about the sport know the importance of a good pair of shades. The best sunglasses for fishing should enhance your ability to catch fish, making the experience more enjoyable in the process. Here’s what to look for:
The fit: A snug fit will keep the sunglasses on your face, not only when you’re fishing, but also when you’re boating to a fishing spot, often at high speeds. Wraparound sunglasses may be helpful in keeping even more light off your eyes when you’re looking for the perfect spot to drop a lure.
The features: Polarized lenses that block the sun’s harmful UV rays are best for fishing, as they’ll keep your eyes safe and reduce glare from the water. An anti-reflective coating and lens tint may also be a consideration depending on the fishing you’re doing: Fishing in deep ocean vs. creekside angling will have different needs when it comes to contrast and available light.
The style: Whether you’re fishing professionally or as a hobby, having several pairs of sunglasses is probably a good idea. Many swear by the durability of plastic lenses to protect your eyes in case of an accident with a hook or lure, despite the fact that they scratch more easily than glass.
Other things to consider
No matter what activity your sunglasses are for, there are several things to consider while you shop:
Those just looking for the best sunglasses across a variety of situations may want to shop by frame or style, choosing based on the most popular or best-selling shades of the season.
And that’s fine too. As long as your sunglasses offer a high level of UV protection, you can have fun with frames and lens tints, even finding a few pairs to swap depending on your activity.
Finding the perfect pair of sunglasses may feel overwhelming at first, but when you know what to look for, you can choose a pair that best fits your needs and preferences.
Page updated January 2021