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5 best reading sunglasses in 2024

woman reading a book outside wearing reading sunglasses

What are reading sunglasses and when should you wear them?

Reading sunglasses provide a simple solution if you spend time reading or doing close-up work outdoors and have trouble focusing your eyes. Also known as sun readers, these include both a reading prescription and a tinted lens with ultraviolet-ray protection. 

UV protection is vital to prevent sun damage to the eyes, which can have a permanent effect on eyesight. 

Many people rely on reading sunglasses for outside tasks that involve focusing up close — such as reading and gardening — as well as outdoor recreation where objects can suddenly come into close view, such as cycling and tennis.

Be sure to purchase sun readers with the same magnification as your regular reading glasses.

Some of the best reading sunglasses in 2024

Determining the best reader sunglasses for you all depends on where you place your priorities with eyewear, such as style, durability and price.

Now that you have an idea of what’s available, we’ve compiled below a variety of popular reader sunglasses that can help get you started with finding your outdoor eyewear.

1. Costa Del Mar C-Mates Readers

If you’re looking for durable and top-of-the-line designer sun readers, these Costa del mar bifocal reader sunglasses offer a variety of useful features. The polarized plastic material makes them lightweight. The scratchproof, 580G glass lens provides an enhanced level of clarity. These shades should appeal to those who prefer no-line bifocal reading sunglasses. They’re also available in multiple lens tints, with five different frame styles from which to choose, including rimmed and rimless options.

2. Maui Jim Makaha Reader

Maui Jim remains a popular brand of high-end sunglasses. If you’re hunting for sun readers that come with status, these Maui Jim Makaha Reader sunglasses will surely earn a nod of respect from eyewear aficionados. Rimless and offered with a choice of three tints, these shades feature an invisible bifocal. The company hails that its MauiBrilliant lens material is one third the weight of glass, while still both shatter and scratch resistant.

3. Roster Bifocal Reading Sunglasses

Athletic and on a budget? The sporty Roster from Readers.com could be the active sun reader style for you. These lightweight, semi-rimless shades are available in four color combinations. And they provide 99% UVA/UVB protection.

4. Xperio UV

These polarized prescription sunglasses from Essilor stand apart for their superior sun protection, offering the highest level of UV protection available on both sides of the lens. Manufactured with multiple layers of protection, it includes two scratch-resistant layers. It also features a layer of polarized film to diminish glare and a high-surface density layer that repels smudges, oil and water to easily keep the lenses clean.

5. Harper Bifocal Reading Sunglasses

For the fashionista, reader sunglasses have wide appeal. This oversized vintage cat-eye design looks chic, with a lightweight plastic frame and 99% UVA/UVB protection. Plus, these fashion bifocal reader sunglasses are available in a tortoise or gray stripe frame and gradient tinted lenses.

Who needs reading sunglasses?

Even if you haven’t worn glasses in your youth, you might find as you grow older that you have difficulty reading small print and clearly seeing objects at arm’s length. Called presbyopia, this typically occurs with most people between 40 and 50 years old as a natural part of aging, which can be corrected with glasses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes this as one of the most common age-related eye issues.

Naturally, many who require prescription glasses to see throughout the day also enjoy sun readers to protect their eyes during outdoor activities.

Why wear reading sunglasses?

Reasons abound for wearing reader sunglasses. In most situations that you need shades to protect your eyes outdoors — whether you’re fixing the car, doing yard work, coasting on a bike or perusing a map — seeing clearly remains a high priority. Check out below just a few reasons why sun readers come in handy.

  • No more back-and-forth: Many people experience a common story of carting around two pairs of glasses – their sunglasses and their readers. This entails a constant dance of swapping between the two during outside activities, which can interrupt a relaxing outing or become a hindrance for outdoor work. By combining your two essential pairs of eyewear, reader sunglasses make outdoor life much simpler.

  • Seeing with style: When your outdoor hobbies take you to a boat, a beach or the mountains, your traditional readers might not give the sporty or sleek appearance you’d prefer to showcase as your brand of style. Eyewear companies offer such a multitude of chic, quirky, bold and glamorous designs, you can easily find a pair of stylish reader sunglasses that will enhance your look, without giving away that they are also enhancing your eyesight.

  • Staying safe: Many tasks that take you outside require your close attention to avoid accidents... And they require your vision, too. Perhaps you plan on aiming a hammer on a building project, or monitoring the gauges on a speedboat or reading the safety labels on gardening chemicals. Regardless of where you find yourself, reader sunglasses can ensure you easily see items up close under the sun’s glare.

  • Eye health: This might seem obvious, but reader sunglasses play an important role in the comfort and health of your eyes. If you wear just your readers outside and forgo sunglasses altogether, this comes at the expense of your vision. 

Years of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the eye’s surface tissues, the cornea and lens, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Or if you just use sunglasses without any magnification, you will likely end up squinting to see, which strains your eyes and leads to headaches. Sun readers address all these issues.

Things to consider when choosing reading sunglasses

Just like glasses for indoor use, you can take your pick from a variety of reader sunglasses. These include many options to suit personal style, specific activities and outdoor environments.

Vision needs

Keep in mind just a few of the options below as you explore which sun readers best fit your lifestyle.

  • Bifocals: If you delight in speeding downhill on your bike, you will likely need to see the bottom of the hill far away, as well as a sudden pothole just a foot ahead. For that matter, these same concerns apply to driving a car or motorcycle -- you want to check out your speedometer as well as keep an eye on the road stretched ahead. In these cases, bifocal reader sunglasses can help you assess both near and distant objects on a sunny day, with its two lenses connected together.

  • Full magnification: If you prefer lounging poolside with a summer read, full lens reader sunglasses offer the same magnification across the entire lens, and will provide the close-up focus you need.

  • Polarized: You can kick your eye protection up a notch with polarized full reader sunglasses, designed with a special chemical to reduce light glare. This actually improves your vision and your eye safety in the sun, according to the AAO.

  • HD reader sunglasses: If you like to have the most cutting-edge version of everything – including sunglasses – you might want to explore high-definition (HD) sunglasses. LensCrafters hails the impact of HD lenses on glasses as comparable to the effect of HD technology on television. Made with digital computer technology based on a digital scan of your eyes, these lenses come customized for your eyes to provide a sharper clarity close to normal vision.  

  • Inserts: Understandably, you might already have a pair of sunglasses you love, carefully picked for their look and comfort. You also might feel a bit reluctant to give up these tried-and-true shades for a new pair of sun readers. Not to worry – you can simply obtain reader inserts for sunglasses. These magnifying, stick-on lenses will instantly turn the sunglasses you already own into readers.

Style and frame shape

Picking a pair of sunglasses can be a fun journey in deciding which look and design enhances your personal style and suits your face. After all, sunglasses remain a prized accessory in most closets.

When making a selection, you might want to consider the factors below.

The right frame. As with any apparel, you can find a pair of sunglasses that complement your natural look. In the case of sunglasses, certain frames seem to pair well with specific face shapes. These include:

  • Heart-shaped face: Wide, rectangle frames can help balance out this face shape’s wide jaw line and sharp chin.

  • Square face: Strange as it may sound, circles go well with squares. Round reader sunglasses will soften the features of this face’s broad forehead and jawline.

  • Oval face: Lucky oval-faced folk can pull off almost any frame, including aviator, round and rectangular.

  • Round face: Rectangular frames can add a more structured look to this face’s soft features.

Lens tints

A functional lens tint. You can find almost as many lens tints for reader sunglasses as shapes for frames. But the sunglass lens tint isn’t just about aesthetics, as tints filter light in different ways. Depending on what kind of outdoor excursions you prefer and where they take you, the tint can impact your visibility.

  • Mirrored: If you intend on reading on the beach or helping your kids build snowmen, mirrored reader sunglasses help reflect the sun’s rays to reduce brightness in your eyes around sand and snow. 

  • Amber tint: This tint actually enhances brightness on overcast days. It also increases contrast against green and blue backgrounds, which could prove useful for visiting the driving range or hooking bait on the water.

  • Gradient tint: With the tint deepening from the top of the lens down, this guards your eyes from overhead light, with the bottom still letting in enough light for you to see clearly, which could work well for cycling or boating.

  • Gray tint: Most closely resembling true color vision, gray tints can be functional for outdoor leisure and athletic activities.

Where and how to buy reading sunglasses

You can simply purchase reading sunglasses from stores like Walmart or Walgreens. You can also explore a broad selection of sun readers from many leading eyewear companies. 

These options span a multitude of frames, tints, magnitudes and highly durable materials, with no eye doctor’s prescription necessary for purchase. 

You have many options in where to buy reader sunglasses. If you prefer one-on-one assistance with choosing the best pair for your vision and lifestyle, eyewear stores such as LensCrafters and Pearle Vision can give expert guidance — with independent optometrists often on-site — as well as a wide assortment of options, including sports sunglasses and designer brands.

Many big-box stores such as Walmart Supercenters and Costco include vision centers with an assortment of brands, and you will find reader sunglasses at Walmart among the most affordable. If you simply want to dash into a store and grab a pair, some Walgreens locations have them, though the stock might prove limited.

And if you feel comfortable finding your ideal pair of sun readers on your own, online retailers offer a multitude of choices. To help you get the full scope of your options, Readers.com offers many affordable reader sunglasses, and FramesDirect.com sells a host of designer and brand name products. You can also hunt for reader sunglasses on Amazon, but the prior two websites specialize specifically in eyewear.

Talk to your eye doctor

Before you purchase a pair of readers or reading sunglasses, consider double checking the reading magnification you require with an eye doctor

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