A pair of good sport sunglasses can make all the difference to performance. Not only do they have an über professional look, but eye protection against harsh glare will also help you squint less, which is proven to conserve precious energy.
What are the best sunglasses for sports?
When shopping for a new pair of sunnies, go for one with a high UVA rating to protect your corneas from sun damage, even if you just race in the UK. Like some of the glasses here, many brands will supply multiple interchangeable lenses, so you can adapt the choices depending on variable lighting conditions.
This versatility is useful when cloudy days call for a lighter lens or if a sun-drenched course requires a darker pair to provide adequate clarity. Recent years have seen the introduction of the photochromatic lens, which becomes darker when exposed to high UV rays. Changing out these lenses can be a precarious task, however, so a durable frame is essential.
While this type of eyewear summons references to obscure ’80s pop bands, the visor-style, wraparound lens shape does offer the best performance advantage as it optimises the field of vision and coverage. A sturdy frame that sits close to the eyes is also desirable to help with windchill on the ride, while incorporated vents and an anti-fog coating are lifesavers when huffing and puffing through T2 onto the run.
Finally, to reduce the chance of your sunglasses bouncing on the fly ensure you have a snug fit on the nose bridge and silicon grippers along the arms, which will also help improve comfort. We’ve tested sunnies from eight top brands to give you an informed comparison of price, comfort and practicality…
Top triathlon sunglasses
Alba Optics Stratos
Handmade in Italy and a featherlight weight of 30g are two instant appeals of the Stratos, the latter due to the pair lacking a main frame. That gave us concerns over durability, especially in the chaos of transition come race day, but they come close to the Roka in their near-invisible run prowess.
In terms of adjustability, there’s no replacement nose piece (you can opt for an ‘Asian Fit’ nose pad when purchasing), but the arms have four different length options, a neat feature for added grip on the run. There’s an interchangeable lens but no spares are provided.
Verdict: great arms and low weight, but better lenses on test 70%
The GP-1X stay true to the brand’s multisport roots, feeling as close to a tri-specific pair of eyewear as you could get. That’s due to the lack of a top frame for unobstructed visuals on the aerobars or drops, and reduces the weight to just 27g.
Four different nose pieces help with finding a secure fit, we had no fogging issues and the large HC Fusion lens performs in a variety of light conditions. For that £200+ outlay, however, you’d expect a second lens and we’d happily trade the fancy outer box they arrived in if it went towards a clear lens being provided.
Verdict: quality pair for bike and run, but lacking spares 79%
Buy from Roka
Sungod Vulcans FF
The Vulcans come in two modes: the TF (top frame, £125) and the FF (full frame, £150) here, which sees the frame extending under the lenses for added durability. That move does see the weight increase by 5g to a test-topping 37g, but it still wasn’t an issue on the run.
Unlike Sungod’s debut Pacebreakers, the Vulcans provide a huge amount of facial coverage without a noticeable gap. But it’s the lens that really excels here, offering versatility and fog-free riding in a variety of changeable conditions. You don’t receive a spare lens, but the custom options are extensive.
Verdict: duarble and secure, but no spare lens 87%
Buy from SunGod
Scicon Sports Aerowing
The large shield design of the 33g Aerowing is on-trend, giving both wide facial coverage and an obstructed view on the hoods (part of the top frame creeps into the vision on the tribars, though). Adjustability is best in class, with the nose pieces offering horizontal and vertical movement; the arms can be bent and reinforced to secure the desired level of grip and flexibility; and a series of venting channels prevent fogging. We didn’t feel fully confident swapping out the lenses for the included clear pair, though – not ideal when the outlay is £170.
Verdict: great pair but there’s a knack to swapping the lens 89%
Buy from ProBikeKit
Tifosi Alliant Interchangeable
The cheapest pair here punch above their fiscal weight and wrap comfortably around the face. They come with two lenses for lighter and darker conditions that, while not providing the definition and clarity of its higher-end competition, is pretty good.
Vents at the top and bottom increase airflow to prevent fogging, yet the slightly narrow lens means the base vents are too noticeable. The nose bridge is also too big and adds interference. Yet construction is solid and the rubber ear pieces provide stability. From experience, the Grilamid TR-90 frame material will last a few seasons.
Verdict: a strong pair of eyewear for the price 80%
In our eyes, the coolest-looking glasses on test and the simplest. They’re fully framed but the depth of the lens means vision is uninhibited. The lens delivers a crisp definition. On test are Bolle’s Phantom Vermillon, an orange hue that works wonders on all but the brightest of days.
Like most on test, the lens features an anti-fog treatment, which is backed up by subtle but useful vents at the top and below each eye. The ski-goggle design arcs around your temple, and clamps in place thanks to rubber grips on the nose and arms. Seven frames are available with different lens options.
Verdict: A relatively simple but effective pair of glasses 86%
Oakley Flight Jacket
The Oakley Flights follow a similar design to their Jawbreaker model, though they lose the top part of the frame and feature a chunkier finish. They also provide Oakley’s ever-impressive Prizm lenses, offered in Prizm Road, Prizm Low Light or Prizm Trail.
Prizm Road works wonders at increasing the contrast of vision and making colours sing while riding or running. But what muffles those bright notes is the unique nose vent that, when flipped, lifts the glasses slightly away from the face to improve venting. Sadly the execution is poor as the bridge becomes uncomfy, especially when on the run.
Verdict: a pricey let-down from the optic legends, 72%
The Davos from Tifosi glasses appear to represent great value. They’re a budget-friendly model and come with a hard storage case, a soft cleaning bag and three interchangeable lenses – one clear lens, one light-enhancing lens and one slightly mirrored smoke lens. Switching between them requires a bit of brute force to begin with but gets easier as you perfect the knack and the frame develops some give.
Yet the frame is more of an issue when you’re wearing them, as it’s visible whichever way you look. It’s not obstructive but, certainly in this colour, it’s hard to ignore. The bigger problem is the frame’s insecurity – the glasses constantly slide forwards and, with even the slightest tilt of your head, you can see over the brow. The vented lenses are also breezy, which may help prevent sweat getting in your eyes, but also makes your eyes more prone to watering. So not such great value, after all.
Verdict: some handy extras and a relatively cheap price, but lacking a secure fit 66%
Top image: Getty Images