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Top 8 tips for buying trail or ultra running sunglasses

As ultra runner and founder of a sports sunglasses company I know a few things about both of these subjects and decided that I would write this blog

Every time I go to an trail or ultra running event I am always disappointed by the lack of thought that trail or ultra-runners place in their sunglasses. Many do not wear sunglasses and expose themselves to the dangers of harmful UV sunlight.

In this blog will identify my top 8 tips for selecting sports sunglasses that will be suitable for trails and ultra running.

These are my top 8 tips to look for:

As a trail or ultra distance runner you are going to be running in bright sunlight and wooded areas. You need a high quality lens that allows you to see the trail, but also a lens which is not too dark.

In these conditions, for trails it's better to go for a lighter or a photochromic lens. Lenses start at grade 0 (clear) and go to 5 (very dark). Most people don't even think about this but standard sunglasses lens are a grade of 2.5 to 3.5. For trail or ultra runners this may be too dark so I would go for a grade of 2 to 2.5.

Alternatively, a good option is to go for a photochromic lens which starts with a light grade (say grade 0.5) and darkens in bright sunlight to grade 2.5.

For trail and ultra runners comfort is very important.

All sunglasses touch your skin at the nose and the temple arms. These are called the "pinch points".

Good trail or ultra runner sunglasses will have soft rubber on the nose pieces and temple arms. This soft rubber (emphasis is on "soft") which is more comfortable and the rubber (as long as it's not hard) actually improves the grip of the sports sunglasses when the head gets wet or hot.

Soft (not hard) rubber makes the trail or ultra running sunglasses more comfortable at the pinch points

Trail and ultra runners come in all shapes and sizes and so do their noses. Therefore it stands to reason that trail or ultra running sunglasses should have adjustable nosepieces.

Adjustable nose pieces are important for two reasons.

(i) You need to be able to make the nose piece thinner or thicker and adjust it if it begins to mark or rub in your nose.

(ii) You need to be able to move the sports sunglasses frame closer or further away from your face (eyebrows). This function is very useful if you want more sun protection (then move the frame closer to the face) or if you want more airflow (move the frame away from your face) if they are fogging up.

One size does not fit all. Not all head sizes are the same. An adjustable temple arm for sunglasses is a great option for a trail or ultra runner.

When you are running you don't want your trail or ultra running sunglasses to move around. Adjustable temple arms mean your trail or ultra running sunglasses grip your head better and stay stable on your face when you re running.

So go for adjustable temple arms so your trail or ultra running sunglasses which will be more stable on your face.

For me this is very important.

If you are a trail or ultra runner you should go for half rim sports sunglasses. This means sports sunglasses where there is no bottom frame or rim; this is called a "half rim design". This serves two functions which are important to a trail or unsteady runner.

(i) No bottom rim means the frame is lighter and it changes the centre of gravity of the sunglasses frame so there is less weight at the bottom of the sunglasses frame which reduces the sunglasses from sliding down your nose.

(ii) No bottom rim means sweat which rolls down your face is prevented from accumulating at the bottom frame/rim of your sport sunglasses. This would obscure your vision and is very annoying.

As a trail or ultra runner then you will spend a good deal of time outdoors and need maximum protection from the the sun.

This is best achieved by a "wraparound design"; as in this style the lenses are larger and wrap around the side of the face which reduces the stray UV light coming in from the side.

Up to 30% of harmful UV light enters the eyes from the sides and preventing this should be a important function for your trail or ultra running sunglasses. This also means they will be more comfortable on your eyes.

It's great to have special coatings on the trail running sunglasses lenses.

These include hydrophobic coatings which shed water and sweat and anti-fog coatings. You can have a combination of both but not in the same surface of the lens.

Hydrophobic coating are particularly good in hot conditions as you are going to sweat and these special coatings mean that any water which gets on the lenses will form a "globule" and roll off the lens. This means it will not obscure your vision and you will keep the sunglasses on your face longer.

Anti-fog coating are great in colder conditions or in temperate climates.

Trail runners are rough on their equipment. Especially sunglasses. They tend to be thrown into a rucsac or stuffed into a back pocket while not running. Trail and ultra runners need sports sunglasses that will be durable.

There is only one material that can stand up to this type of abuse. This is TR90.

TR90 is a special plastic polymer which has great tensile strength and flexibility. Much better than most "normal" plastics. TR90 also is more resistant to degradation by UV light and chemicals from hair products and sun tan lotion. This is a problem for normal sunglasses plastics which degrade more easily.

The problem is that it's difficult to know if sports sunglasses are made from TR90 or just normal plastic. The simple solution is to look at the inside of the temple arm as TR90 is more expensive and any sunglasses manufacturer which uses this frame material will most likely tell you. Look for the words "TR90" on the inner face of the temple arm.

If the words "TR90" are not displayed on the inside frame then there is a very high chance it is not made from this material and will be just a normal plastic. Don't trust any other plastic material.

In the above list I have no talked about UV protection this is a given standard for all sports sunglasses.


So these are my top tips as a keen ultra runner and founder of a sport sunglasses brand. If you get anywhere near this top 8 list the chances they are getting the best functions for trail or ultra running sunglasses.

Anything less than 5 on the above list then the chances are you are not wearing or buying specialist trail or ultra running sunglasses buy tommy hilfiger sunglasses.
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