On the lookout for the best sports sunglasses for women? Look no further! Emma Lewis researches and tests the best sporty specs available to help you stay fit and protect your eyes this summer…
Are you in the market for some new sports sunnies this summer? Remember to think about more than just keeping that crow’s feet at bay as you sip cocktails and look hip on a sun terrace. Sports sunglasses have to work a lot harder than fashion types as you’ll likely be moving more, and at speed, while you sweat more. You may also be making sudden movements and experiencing more extreme or changeable conditions and terrain. And what if you crash or fall, or an object hits your lenses? They need to be able to cope with impact as well as those harmful UV rays.
What to look for in sports sunglasses for women
We asked the people at performance eyewear brand Bollé (established in 1888 so they know their stuff!) to give us some tips on what to look for when buying for active use. ‘Wraparound styles are a must for serious sportspeople,’ says a spokesperson. ‘As well as blocking more sun, especially at the sides, they’ll help keep out wind, dust, grit, pollen and bugs!’ Retro-looking, curved, one-piece ‘shield’ styles are on trend at the moment, upping the style stakes, too. ‘Make sure the glasses have rubberised ends of arms (aka temple tips) and nose pads to help stop them slipping, even when you’re sweating heavily,’ they add.
As for the frames, high-quality, flexible, durable types are best at handling a lot of action without snapping, and will be more comfortable to wear, too. When it comes to lenses, it’s worth paying more for good-quality, impact-resistant polycarbonate or NXT with a scratch-resistant coating. ‘This is especially important for cyclists, so choose the right lens for the light conditions,’ continue the bods at Bollé. ‘Just think of a stone flying up and hitting a car windscreen…’ SunGod’s 8KO material is claimed to be clearer, stronger and lighter than most other polycarbonates with more scratch-resistance, or NXT is another mega-tough, superlight material giving amazing visual clarity.
Next, it’s time to choose the lens colour, or combo of lenses, to suit you and your budget best. Would you rather have interchangeable lenses, photochromic (that react to light) or is a dark pair for bright, sunny days your priority? Would prescription lenses enhance your experience?Once you’ve found a pair you like the look and sound of, check the fit and stability. Too loose and they could slip down or fall off, which won’t help your sports performance and could be dangerous. Too tight, and they could cause a headache. Check that they work with your cycle helmet and in a cycling position if you’ll be wearing them on rides.
Lastly, note that darker lenses do not necessarily mean more UV protection, warns the American Academy of Ophthalmology. And beware of fakes, counsels Bollé: ‘You wouldn’t wear fake sunscreen, so don’t choose fake eyewear.’ Your eyes are really important, so invest in them.
Know the sunglasses lingo
Here are some terms that you may not be familiar with…
- Temples: The slightly confusing techy term for the arms of the glasses.
- Category 0-4 ORA % VLT: Lenses are graded according to how much light they let through, and range from Category 0, which give you 80-100 per cent Visible Light Transmission (VLT) so are clear or nearly clear, to Category 4, which are very dark, with just three to eight per cent VLT. Category 2 can be a good all-rounder to cope with changeable conditions, or Category 3 for sunny days.
- Photochromatic Lenses: These automatically darken in bright light and lighten in low light. Darkening normally takes around 30seconds, while lightening can take five minutes.
- Polarised Lenses: These cut reflected glare from surfaces such as water and shiny surfaces, and can be particularly useful for watersports and fishing, as well as driving.
- Mirrored Lenses: A metallic coating on the lens that’s great for really bright sunshine, helping reduce the visible light that comes through your sporty sunglasses.
KIT TEST: 5 of the best sports sunglasses for women
Bollé Lightshifter (£150)
The striking hot-pink,semi-rimless frame and curved,shield-style lens give these an appealing sporty look that’s more feminine than some. The Brown Blue category 3 lenses are perfect for bright, sunny days, giving very good high-contrast vision. Flattering on smaller faces, these sunglasses don’t budge, thanks partly to the Thermo grip material on the nose and end of arms. The vent at the top of the lens and anti-fog treatment help keep vision clear, plus the lens is tough, oil-repellent and anti-scratch. Don’t always want such a dark lens? Buy the photochromic version, which comes with top-notch,high-contrast, colour-boosting NXT Phantom lenses (£170); or another lens to swap in. Prescription lenses are available, or you can use an optical clip-in.
Smith Attack Mag (£149.99)
These are serious glasses for serious runners and cyclists! I was really impressed with how the Chroma Pop lenses produced amazing contrast and colour on a ride through the woods. You get two lenses to cover all conditions– one grey-based with a light-black mirror for bright light (category 3) and a rose-based high-contrast one for more overcast or changeable conditions (category 1). Just click the arms and nosepiece off and on in a flash to change lenses. The large vent at the top helps keep the lenses mist-free and the lens shape offers plenty of coverage for cycling. No-slip arms and a two-position nosepad (click to change) keep them nicely in place. Smudge and moisture-resistant coatings do their job well too.
Oakley EVZero Ascend (£149)
This model is designed specifically for women, so won’t swamp smaller faces– hooray! A great blend of style and function, these frameless shield-style curved glasses feel so comfy and lightweight, you may forget you’re wearing them. They’re good all-rounders for the active bod, and won’t look out of place when you’re being less active either. The Prism lenses offer impact protection and you can choose these dark category 3lenses or lighter category 2 versions, both of which are designed to enhance colour, contrast and detail. These didn’t feel quite so secure on my narrow head as some of the others, despite grippy nosepads and arms, though.
Cebe S’Track 2.0M (£130)
These sunglasses are long-distance trail runners’ favourites for good reason. The super-curved, adjustable arms hug your head and, thanks to the extra contact points by your temples and the adjustable nosepads, are the most secure of all the models on test. The smaller lens size is perfect for no-nonsense running, and I found the high-contrast, photochromic vario lenses (that can change from category 1 to 3 in less than 20 seconds) that I tried were ideal for dealing with mixed conditions. The anti-fog coating and side-vent combo worked a treat, and there’s an anti-scratch coating on the lenses, too. Prescription wearers can get these in +6 to -8 including varifocals, or use optical clips, and versions with interchangeable lenses are also available.
SunGod Velans TF (£115)
If you’re looking for a personalised fit, these are the sunglasses for you. From frame to lens selection, and even to nosepad size or logo colour, you can fully customise your Velans to suit your preferences. However, there’s so much choice that it’s worth taking a bit of time to make sure you get it right. Rumoured to be very durable, these sports sunglasses for women stood up to my cycling test, providing fantastic peripheral vision thanks to their wraparound design. The glasses also performed incredibly well in multi-light situations. The 8KO Iris photochromic lens adjusts to fast-changing light conditions, which means your vision won’t be reduced should you cycle from full sunlight into a shady patch. Perfect for all great British bike rides.