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Focus on the miles ahead with these protective running sunglasses

Focus on the miles ahead with these protective running sunglasses
From polarised lenses to lightweight frames, see your best performance with the best running sunglasses for women and men, from Sungod, Oakley, Wiggle and more

There’s nothing more satisfying than a run on a sunny day, but your regular sunglasses aren’t normally up to the job of keeping you seeing straight while you’re trying to beat your PB.

What makes a pair of sunnies specific to running? Lightweight frames are always helpful, letting you focus on the miles ahead, while some will also have anti-fog elements to prevent cloudiness when you’re exerting yourself. Lenses that wrap around the sides of your face minimise the likelihood of bugs and debris getting into your eyes, while also providing a wide field of vision so that you can see obstacles (or, indeed, runners threatening to overtake you).

For those who don’t wish to look like they’re an extra in Tron, there are plenty of brands creating sunglasses in more lifestyle-friendly shapes, and most of these options will perform as well when drinking beers on a picnic blanket as they will on a 10k. They often have anti-slip details around the nose, or slightly sportier arms than your regular sunnies.

When it comes to lenses, there’s a couple of different approaches that eyewear companies take. Polarisation has become increasingly standard – it’s a technology that minimises glare, and its presence is often (but not always) signalled by a mirrored look on the lenses. For those who want to buy a pair for more specific conditions, there’s a whole array of options for different weathers, and even pairs with interchangeable lenses, should you find yourself in direct sunlight and a storm in the same afternoon.

Many eyewear companies have their own names for lenses at different ends of this bright-to-dark spectrum, and you can roughly compare across brands by looking at the “visible light transmission” percentage, or VLT. A low number is best for sunny conditions, while a high number is best for overcast ones.

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How we tested

We sourced models from a range of brands we trust and those we were recommended by fellow runners. These ran the gamut from the biggest sports eyewear company in the world, to some smaller brands doing exciting things in the space. We also looked at companies making models for cycling, hiking and snow sports, as there’s often plenty of overlap when it comes to features.

To test them, we wore them on a range of runs – short, long, and a memorable one on a treadmill (the gym staff were perplexed, to say the least) – and in a range of weathers. We were unable to test the models designed for off-road ultra marathons, because we are quite simply not that good at running. But we exerted ourselves to the max to check these models would stay put, even during the sweatiest of sessions. We also executed a head-banging test… we doubt you’ll wear any of these at a Napalm Death show, but isn’t it good to know you could?

Finally, we used our coffee scale to get an accurate weight for each pair, so you can be sure of your ultralight credentials. These are the best on test.

The best running sunglasses for 2022 are:

  • Best for ultra runners – Alba delta ultra: £156.03, Albaoptics.cc
  • Best for all-conditions lenses – Sungod ultras: £170, Sungod.co
  • Best from running to relaxing – Oakley HSTN: £125, Oakley.com
  • Best value sunglasses – Rapha classic sunglasses: £100, Rapha.cc
  • Best value full coverage – Izipizi speed all weather: £60, Izipizi.com
  • Best light and lifestyle freindly sunglasses – Sungod sierras: £110, Sungod.co
  • Best springy arms – Julbo spark: £84.70, Julbo.com
  • Best cheap all-rounders – Goodr OGs: £30, Goodr.co.uk
  • Best for Oakley stans – Oakley encoder: £210, Oakley.com
  • Best cheap sunglasses with changeable lenses – Alpkit kruger: £15.99, Alpkit.com
  • Best sporty look for less – Dhb clark revo lens sunglasses: £25, Wiggle.co.uk
  • Best without arms – Ombraz viales: £124.12, Ombraz.com

Alba delta ultra

Best: For ultra runners

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Weight: 29g
  • Lens technology: Vzum

Look: these are a statement. We appreciate they will not be to everyone’s taste. But if you’re looking at them and thinking “maybe”, let us guide you towards being a full “yes”.

They are awesome. Made in Italy, of all the full-frame styles we tested, they aren’t the lightest, but they felt the lightest because of how evenly the weight is distributed. Somehow the plastickness doesn’t come off as cheap and, unlike on the Oakley HSTNs (£125, Oakley.com), the zig-zag arms serve the purpose of bringing the lens from above your eyebrows down to your ears. The field of vision provided was therefore exceptional, and the lenses (we tried both the Vzum ML Alu and the Vzum ML King, with the latter designed for more intense sunlight) provided wonderful contrast and clarity that kept us sure-footed when we ventured off-tarmac.

We really liked the shape and sponginess of the arm-ends, while an included strap, with easy attachment mechanism, makes them great for anyone that’s worried about them flying off while leaping over rocks or small children.

Honestly – when we called these in we thought they would prove way too technical for our tastes, but they are simply so good that we have turned into the kind of person that wears them proudly. We also got the most looks while out in them… we like to think they were of the admiring sort, of course.

Sungod ultras

Best: For all-conditions lenses

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 27.9g
  • Lens technology: 8KO Iris

This new style of frames from Sungod is designed with trail and road runners in mind, with a wide field of vision, hundreds of options for customisation, and some really staggering lens technology. We tried the Iris photochromic option, which is essentially like having your aunt’s transitions lenses in your badass-looking running shades.

They offer a staggering VLT range – 16-43 per cent – meaning that they are as good for rainy conditions (and the hydrophobic qualities help here) as they are for dazzling sunshine. I am wearing them while typing this (yes, right now) and it feels like I’m just looking through my boring old human eyes.

If you don’t need this range, these shades are also available without the photochromic option (also knocking £40 off the price), and considering how much we liked the lenses on the brand’s sierras (£110, Sungod.co), we have every faith they’d also be fantastic in this very sporty-looking package. As for weight distribution, they don’t sit just as nicely for us as the Alba’s, and that’s why these have just been pipped to the post, but they are still fantastic glasses that hover nicely above the ear and are really helped by finding the perfect nose piece. There’s even a lifetime warranty, should you drop them down the local ravine.

Oakley HSTN

Best: From running to relaxing

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 23.7g
  • Lens technology: Prizm, optional polarisation

We liked these very much. What looks like quite a dorky pair of specs in the product shots translates to being pretty chic on your face. The rounded shape gives a nod to Oakley’s current obsession with going a bit steampunk, but in a way that feels soft when you catch yourself in the mirror. The little wiggly bit on the arms? It’s the brand’s current flourish of the moment, and it’s inspired by its famous Eighties frames: the razor blades. (No, it doesn’t have any function.)

These ones are good for running because they are stupendously light – we barely knew we had them on – they stay on your face (only the most ecstatic of black metal could budge them in our head-banging test), and the brand’s proprietary lens technology, Prizm, is really just fabulous. We found ourselves being able to wear the grey ones through downright grey conditions, providing cool-toned clarity and contrast, which was as helpful on a run as it was on our bike and while dandering around the park. They’re polarised too, but you wouldn’t know it because you can get these bad boys without a mirrored effect – again, keeping them lifestyle-friendly. They’re a fabulous pair of stealth-sport specs that will serve you all day long.

Rapha classic sunglasses

Best: Value sunglasses

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 26.3g
  • Lens technology: Rose

The secret is out: these cycling glasses are really good for running. And for this price, we think they feel like incredibly good value, as Rapha’s trademark flair for luxuriousness is clear at every turn. We loved that the lenses can be switched depending on the conditions, and that the nose pads are interchangeable, making the likelihood that these won’t fit your face very low.

Speaking of the lenses, they really are fabulous. They’re hydrophobic and we loved the contrast and tone (we reckon they’re up there with the Oakleys). We found the field of vision to be great, especially considering these can masquerade as a pair of lifestyle sunnies, and the straight arms nearly match the Julbos (£84.70, Julbo.com) in terms of sponginess. There was also zero bounce.

Honestly these are fantastic… we’re very upset that the shape doesn’t suit us, but after asking a few pals to try them, it appears we are in the minority, as they seem almost universally flattering. A really great buy.

Izipizi speed all weather

Best: Value full coverage

Rating: 8/10

  • Weight: 28g (large size)
  • Lens technology: Cat 3

If you want something a little sportier than a regular pair of sunnies, but don’t want to break the bank, these speed glasses from French eyewear brand Izipizi are a fantastic option. They don’t have the bells and whistles of some of our other picks, but what they do have, they do well: the field of vision is wide, with a nose bridge proving pretty non-invasive; the arms have the perfect amount of sponginess, and a not-quite straight, not-quite curved camber that makes them likely to suit a wide range of face shapes; and they look pretty chic.

The shaping offers a bit of a statement, but in a minimalist way, and the all-weather lenses we tested gave us good protection in the sun, while not needing to be prised off the second some clouds came into play. Plus, they stayed secure while we ran, despite the lack of non-slip material around the nose.

However, they are missing some sportier touches – like a way to mount a strap and polarisation – and they feel cheaper than more premium options. That said, they certainly offer the best bang-to-buck ratio of all the sportier-looking sunglasses we tested, and we actually liked that we weren’t as scared of breaking them as we were with the £100+ pairs. We also like how the “bio-based” frames are made with 45 per cent organic-sourced polyamide with castor oil, and we love that they’d be perfect for snow sports come winter.

Elsewhere at Izipizi, we liked the brand’s zenith models (£60, Izipizi.com) for polarisation, but found its side shields – which we assume would be fabulous for hiking in the mountains, as they are intended – flapped around a lot while jogging. You could of course remove said panels if you were really set on a pair, however.

Sungod sierras

Best: Light and lifestyle-friendly sunglasses

Rating: 9/10

  • Weight: 22.2g
  • Lens technology: 8KO polarised

The lightest frames we tried (they came in even lower than the brand promised), we loved the Sungod sierras. Although we tested the 8KO polarised lenses – which were utterly fantastic for all sorts of activities, with a remarkably neutral colour profile – the brand’s less fancy versions can be had from just £55.

Like with the ultra models we reviewed above, we liked how customisable they are – we went with the recycled grey material and smoke lenses, for a stealthy combo that we were more than happy to wear when our jog turned into a meander. We found the weight was a little more towards the nose with this pair, but on the whole it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them until you admiringly catch yourself in a shop window.

There’s also a lifetime guarantee and the lenses are interchangeable, should you wish to upgrade at a later date. Overall, these are a lovely pair that are on a par with the Oakley HSTNs (£125, Oakley.com), should you prefer your sunnies to be a little less attention-seeking.

Julbo spark

Best: Springyarms

Rating: 8/10

  • Weight: 26.1g
  • Lens technology: Reactiv

Boasting a history that can be traced back to Chamonix in 1888, Julbo is a brand that knows a lot about eyewear, and its lenses are the proof of this outdoors-flavoured pudding. The Reactiv versions on the sparks we tried did indeed prove reactive to the circumstances, adapting quickly to changes in light and conditions.

We really like the shape of these frames too, which we reckon are stealthy enough to go undetected in non-running settings. We found there was a little bit of movement around the nose while jogging, but of all the pairs we tried, we liked the arms on these the best – they are fantastically spongey, and really gripped our head while, somehow, not feeling tight.

We also tried the renegade models (£126, Julbo.com) and despite not getting on with the fit of them so well – they put a lot of weight on our nose and could feel them resting on our eyebrows – the clarity was also excellent. And once again, those springy arms were our faves, so we have every faith they’d be perfect on those with a different face shape.

Goodr OGs

Best: Cheap all-rounders

Rating: 7.5/10

  • Weight: 22.6g
  • Lens technology: Polarised

Look, these are cheap. Real cheap. Goodr has its thing, and it’s executing it fabulously. These are some of the lightest glasses in our round-up, which means they feel good on the face, and the classic shaping of the OGs meant that, for us, the weight was very evenly distributed.

Despite no visible anti-slip devices, there is apparently a “special grip coating”, which sounds vague but does the job when you’re picking up the pace. The polarised lenses are cooling in tone, which helps with over-exposure on bright days, but they aren’t as good at contrast enhancement as the pricier competitors – which you’d expect.

There are what feels like thousands of colour combinations and different styles to choose from, and the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously, which we like. If you just need a pair for your weekly 5k around the neighbourhood (or you’re the kind of person that loses/sits on sunglasses with regularity), then these are the ones you should buy.

Oakley encoder

Best: For Oakley stans

Rating: 7/10

  • Weight: 31.2g
  • Lens technology: Prizm, optional polarisation

We saw a lot of this style of Oakleys – with its distinctive curved lens around the nose – in the pro cycling peloton last year, and so we were particularly keen to give them a go while out on a run. Lens wise, they are, of course, excellent, with the brand’s Prizm technology bringing the world into sharper focus, and keeping our vision clear during a South Kensington dust storm (no, really).

Fit wise, our female reviewer didn’t get on that well with them: in the glasses’ proposed aim to fit with all kinds of hats and helmets, we found they sort of hovered half an inch above our ears, and didn’t stay in place. Our male reviewer, however, with a wider face, loved the fit, and found them to be incredibly stable, while also praising the anti-fog capabilities.

However both reviewers had one main critique: the aforementioned curved lens around the nose bridge was a bit of a distraction. Despite excellent perimeter visibility, we both found it difficult to ignore the black nose piece at the centre. If you love how these look, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed in a pair, but they definitely don’t have the clearest field of vision on offer in this round-up.

Alpkit kruger

Best: Cheap sunglasses with changeable lenses

Rating: 7.5/10

  • Weight: 29.4g
  • Lens technology: Category 3

Alpkit has long been our first port of call for affordable items that have been designed with outdoor pursuits in mind, and its eyewear is no different. If you cannot see the point in having a set of glasses for running that doesn’t cover all the bases, then this astoundingly affordable wraparound style (which gives you a bit of a Matrix vibe, let’s be honest), is for you.

Spongey arms and a stabilising nose piece lend stability, while the interchangeable lenses mean you’re covered for whatever the day throws at you. There’s category 3 shade for when the sun is out, yellow lenses for when you need improved definition in overcast conditions, and clear lenses to prevent muck going in your eyes.

These would be a great buy for someone who wants to try out trail-running for the first time, but isn’t yet ready to commit to a fancier, reactive set of lenses. They are some of the heaviest on test, which limits how comfortable they can be compared to the high-end models, but if you want versatility without the outlay, these are a good buy.

Dhb clark revo lens sunglasses

Best: Sporty look for less

Rating: 7.5/10

  • Weight: 24.1g
  • Lens technology: Category 3

Another very affordable option comes from the ever-dependable Dhb, with these clark revo sunglasses. These are comparable to the goodr OGs (£30, Goodr.co.uk) above, but many runners will be swayed by the larger lenses providing greater coverage, and the sportier straight arms, which mean the glasses hold onto your head more than perch on your ears.

We found the cool tone of the lenses gave the world a bit of an alien feel, but it did help us see clearly in the spring sunshine. They also proved to be light and bounceless, while the little notch in the bottom right corner gives a sporty look that fans of more expensive Oakleys will love. A good, on-brief pair of budget sunglasses ideal for a summer spent pounding the pavements.

Ombraz viales

Best: Without arms

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Weight: 22.3g
  • Lens technology: Polarised

And now for something completely different. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on this pair of sunglasses by Ombraz, an American company, first started via IndieGoGo, which is on a mission to convert us all to armless eyewear. Why? Well, there are a number of advantages of using a Japanese nylon cord to secure your sunnies to your face. They won’t slip or fall off; they won’t irritate the side of your head; and there are less parts to break, mainly. They also pack down flat, meaning they slip into pockets with ease.

The negatives are that you do need two hands to take them on and off (this is something it took us a couple of days to get used to) and that they don’t work fantastically with long hair that’s not in a ponytail.

But if these things don’t put you off, then they really are brilliant sunglasses. We expected them to be a fun novelty but not to perform exceptionally for running – we thought they had more of a snow/watersports/outdoor yoga vibe. But the minute we started to jog, we were shocked by how much we just forgot they were on our face. The expected bounciness didn’t transpire – they were perfect.

We actually tried them in a brand new shape for the brand (a little less Seventies than its previous models), which we loved as it meant they didn’t look out of place while we wore them around town. There’s also a lifetime warranty, and they’re absolutely the pair of sunnies we’re taking with us on an 18-month long bike trip to the Americas. We’re converted!

The verdict: Running sunglasses

We think Alba Optics’s exceptional running sunglasses are the best ones here: they look insane, but if you can get on board with them, the pay off is palpable. If you need glasses for every conceivable set of conditions, the Sungod ultras are something special, while if you are willing to give something unusual a go, the Ombrazs will turn you into an evangelical for armless models. The Rapha classics, Oakley HSTNs and the Sungod sierras are also fabulous.

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