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A Guide to Choosing Sports Sunglasses for Triathlons


Martin Spierings wear protective eyewear at the Grand Rapids triathlon

Any triathlete knows the importance of choosing the right gear to ensure safety and enhance performance. As such, a previous post serves as a guide to the proper triathlon race attire in extreme cold conditions. Besides a reliable race suit, it’s recommended to dress in layers to regulate your body temperature and protect you from environmental factors like cold weather, strong winds, and rain. These layers typically include a cycling wind vest, arm warmers, a rain jacket, and a pair of fingered gloves.


Another essential piece of athletic gear is a pair of sunglasses, considering your exposure to harsh sunlight, weather conditions, and outdoor debris when running and cycling. In fact, a research study published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery notes the frequency of eye-related injuries in sports, ranging from corneal scratches and abrasions to blunt trauma and optic nerve damage. However, an estimated 90% of these injuries can be prevented with suitable eye protection, making it essential to consider the following factors when choosing sports sunglasses for triathlons.


Prioritize UV protection


Regardless of which season or time of the day you’re training and competing, the sun’s ultraviolet rays present a threat to your eyes. Both UVA and UVB rays can bounce off reflective surfaces like water, snow, and sand, not only hindering your ability to see clearly but also increasing the risk of eye conditions like photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye).


So, it’s highly advisable to wear sunglasses with adequate UV protection. You can ensure that your chosen eyewear is sun-safe by checking the label, which must indicate either 100% UVA- and UVB-absorbent protection or UV 400 for optimal eye protection.


Know your vision needs


Many athletes may struggle with vision impairments like refractive errors, thus needing to wear eyeglasses to correct myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism and achieve clear vision. Fortunately, you can opt for sunglasses with prescription lenses to balance vision correction and sun safety.


Case in point, the selection of sunglasses from the retailer Target Optical can be purchased with a copy of your updated prescription. This includes sports-friendly frames from the outdoor-oriented brand Oakley, such as the half-rim OO9188 and the rectangular OO9448 frames made of durable O Matter material.


Consider lens tints and coatings


In addition to UV protection and prescription, it also helps to consider which lens coatings you may need. If you want to improve visibility even in high-glare or low-light conditions, the range of performance sunglasses from Nathan Sports comes with polarized filters integrated into polycarbonate lenses. 


Since lens tint can also play a role in visibility and glare reduction, the polarized sunglasses come in four colorways: Adventure Polarized Black, Summit Polarized Gray, Summit Polarized Clear, and Sunrise Polarized Tortoise. Darker tints like gray and black are suitable for running or cycling on bright, sunny days, while lighter tints are ideal for early mornings or overcast conditions.


Ensure a comfortable fit


Lastly, ensure that your chosen sports sunglasses have the right fit for optimal comfort and convenience, regardless of how long your training sessions or triathlon competitions last. Besides prioritizing lightweight yet durable materials like acetate and polymer, check the sizing options when purchasing sunglasses. 


Measurements typically vary according to lens height, frame width, and temple length. Overall, make sure your sunglasses are neither too tight that they cause discomfort nor too loose that they move around on your face while cycling or running. By choosing the right sports sunglasses, you can perform better in triathlons while also protecting your long-term eye health.


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