When it comes to sunglasses, it’s easy to think that a single pair is all you need. The truth is, if you run, cycle, play tennis or do any other kind of outdoor sport, there are certain things you need to take into consideration to protect your peepers from eye damage.
"Sportspeople are particularly at risk as outdoor activities often occur when UV levels are highest," explains Vanessa Rock, skin cancer prevention manager at Cancer Council NSW. "They also take place in environments in which there are high levels of reflected UV radiation (such as water, concrete or snow) and little or no shade available."
So while it’s fine to throw on your favourite pair of wayfarers for the weekend, you should still make sure they have good UV protection and if you’re working up a sweat, there are a few extra factors to consider.
There’s a reason that the SunSmart campaign extended their famous "Slip, Slop, Slap" campaign to include "Slide" (as in slide on some sun protection). Long-term exposure to UV can lead to damage such as cataracts and skin cancers in and around the eye. So for any sunglasses, the Cancer Council urges people to check they comply with the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067:2003. This a mandatory standard for fashion spectacles and sunglasses, so check the label before making your decision.
"The Standard has five categories of sun protection, ranging from 0 (very low sun-glare protection, some UV protection) to 4 (very high sun-glare reduction, good UV protection)," explains Vanessa. "Sports players should choose sunglasses that are matched to the activity they are engaging in. Categories 1 and 2 offer some UV protection and are also labelled as fashion sunglasses while category 4 sunglasses are not suitable for driving."
For outdoor sports such as cycling, running and skiing, it’s critical that you can navigate your terrain accurately. So what’s going to give you clear vision in those environments? Polarised lenses.
"Polarised lenses will reduce the vertical glare from surfaces such as water or roads, allowing clearer vision," says Vanessa, who explains that these lenses are also a way of dealing with indirect UV radiation reflected off such surfaces. And it’s not always about safety – polarised lenses are popular with those who fish, as they enable a more detailed picture of what’s going on beneath the ripples and waves.
There are a plethora of lens hues out there, each with specific benefits. For example, yellow lenses work best for clarity in overcast conditions. Grey tones don’t filter colours, but optimise vision and diminish glare.
"Brown or amber-based lenses give greater clarity for depth perception and may be more suitable for people involved in a sport where this is important, such as skiing or golf," adds Vanessa.
Various colours have different types of filtering, so the best option is to talk to an optometrist or sunglass specialist to find what colour lens is best suited to your particular sport.
You might also want to consider transition or photochromic lenses which change their tint according to when you move from shade into light, and vice versa. For many, long distance runners and cyclers, for example, these help keep vision at optimum levels in a variety of conditions. Vanessa from the Cancer Council also suggests that for those who may encounter fast-moving objects, such as cricketers, you might want to ensure lenses are reinforced. "Although this risk is small, choosing impact resistant lenses may help."
Thick frames are very on trend at the moment (hello, hipster!), and while you might like to channel Elvis Costello or Bono in your downtime, if you’re hitting the track or the court, you want lightweight frames which won’t stand in the way of that next personal best. So keep your active-wear frames minimal and streamlined. Materials to look out for include metals such as titanium, aluminium and stainless steel (which are all durable as well as lightweight). Keep in mind that some sports may not allow metal frames to be worn; in this case plastic frames or sports goggles are a good option. You want something that’s sturdy, but doesn’t necessarily feel that way.
It’s a no brainer – you’re after sunnies that will stay put while you’re pounding the pavement, racing your bike or teeing off. So make sure they’re a tight fit, and also check out added elements like rubberised earpieces and nose pads which will help them remain in place. Another option is to invest in a strap which connects the arms and goes around the back of your head to keep your sunnies from budging.
Lastly, in terms of style, there’s one sports design which is popular for a reason – the now classic wrap-around.
"Close fitting, wrap-around sunglasses help reduce reflected UV radiation and glare that can pass around the edge of sunglasses and bounce off the back of the lenses," explains Vanessa. "They help protect the eye and the sensitive skin around the eyes."