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Contact Lenses vs. Prescription Sunglasses: Which Corrective Eyewear Is Suitable for Cycling and Running?

TCMTriSquad training on Hwy 1 Santa Cruz

Preparing for a triathlon doesn’t begin and end with training. Another crucial factor in improving your athletic performance is investing in the right gear. As such, a previous post lists recommended bike trainers that ideally match your budget, needs, and preferences. There’s the Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer, which is easy to set up and calibrate, as well as the Zwift Hub, which allows you to train indoors.

Besides purchasing a bike trainer, it also helps to think about which eyewear can positively influence your cycling and running performance. The options vary when you consider existing vision problems, so here’s how to choose between the two most common types of corrective eyewear for athletes, namely contact lenses and prescription sunglasses.

The importance of eyewear in triathlons

Before anything else, let’s establish why eyewear is essential in triathlons. For example, there are different types of swimming goggles that can help you perform better, whether you’re training in the pool or competing in open water. The goggle shape may vary to provide maximum coverage and protection from debris, while the lens tint can influence visibility and contrast depending on the water and weather conditions.

Meanwhile, performance eyewear is equally crucial for cycling and running, as athletes need to protect their eyes not only from outdoor elements like wind, dust, and dirt but also from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Otherwise, they risk injuring themselves or straining their eyes without sunglasses serving as a protective shield.

However, eyewear choices can be more complicated if you’re an athlete with vision problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Since you need both vision correction and physical protection, your options lie between wearing contact lenses underneath shades or investing in prescription sunglasses, as discussed in the following sections.

Contact lenses: Pros and cons

It can be challenging to wear glasses when doing outdoor activities due to the risk of falling off and thus compromising your vision. In contrast, contact lenses provide a better field of view and peripheral vision, while also allowing you to wear any type of sports sunglasses or goggles over them.

Moreover, corrective contact lenses now come in a wide range of lens materials and designs to better cater to athletes’ vision and performance needs. On the optical retailer ContactsDirect, you can find Acuvue Oasys lenses with a tear-infused design for optimal performance and moisture retention throughout the day. Meanwhile, brands like Biofinity offer specialized toric lenses to ensure wearers with astigmatism enjoy clear vision and visual comfort.

However, one notable disadvantage to wearing contacts is the increased risk of dryness, especially if you’re navigating trails in cold or windy conditions. Despite advancements in soft gel lenses, you may still need eye drops to keep the eyes lubricated.

Prescription sunglasses: Pros and cons

On the other hand, prescription sunglasses can be incredibly convenient to wear since they combine vision correction and high-quality performance in just one pair. Take, for example, how the ACTIVE X Optical prescription eyewear from the independent brand Article One utilizes lightweight, flexible, and scratch-resistant frame material to withstand outdoor conditions. 

Besides accommodating vision needs through single-vision and multifocal lenses, the frames are also ergonomic through adjustable nose pads and temple grips, ensuring bikers and runners can wear them for hours on end without sacrificing comfort and fit.

Still, a downside to prescription sunglasses is that they are still prone to fogging up due to sweat, moisture, and humidity. Updating your pair can also be costly if your prescription changes over time, unlike contacts that you can easily replace without the additional cost of frames and lenses.

While each form of corrective eyewear has respective pros and cons, what’s crucial is you can navigate the road ahead with visual comfort and clarity and maintain your overall eye health while participating in triathlons.

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