If you wear glasses and run, you’ve probably been guilty of running miles without your glasses, at least at some point. Maybe you were pressed for time and didn’t want to put in the effort to put your contacts. Or maybe you just don’t think it’s important to ditch your glasses when running. But the truth: you could be putting yourself in danger if you don’t run with a clear view.
“It’s important to wear your glasses not only to see clearer and further, but also to reduce your risk of injury. A runner with a light prescription may be able to run safely and comfortably without glasses, but the majority of people would benefit from prescription glasses when running,” says Scott Huggler, OD, ophthalmologist at Nazareth Eye Associates in Nazareth, in Pennsylvania.
If a runner can’t see clearly, they’re missing the small rock, curb or subtle changes in terrain that can cause injuries, from a mild sprain to a torn meniscus, he says. So, is it worth ditching your glasses and risking forced leave?
Gary Martin, 18, a recent high school graduate who runs at the University of Virginia in the fall and is under 4:00 tall, says he doesn’t notice his glasses when he runs unless he’s rain. “I train in [glasses] all the time. Cross-country made me want to wear them because there are a lot more worries, like sticks and rocks. So I had to wear them for that, otherwise I would probably trip over something.
Martin, who usually wears Rudy Project Step 1 Ophthalmic Frames, says goggles were also required at his athletics competitions, so he could work out who to take over from, given that all the teams wore black uniforms.
So how do you find a pair of glasses that works for you and doesn’t disrupt your miles? We spoke to experts and put eyewear designed for activity through their paces to help you find your best match.
What should you look for in running glasses?
While dress goggles and racing goggles will give you clear vision, Huggler says racing goggles offer different features. Here’s what it says to look for:
- Ultralight and durable frames
- Aim for a wrap-around frame design to maximize protection and allow for the greatest field of vision
- A snug fit, as this will reduce frame movement
- Frames with non-slip silicone nose pads and rubber grips (at the temples) to help prevent slippage due to sweat
- Lenses made from lightweight materials (like Trivex and Polycarbonate) because they are lighter and more impact resistant than plastic
- Lenses with UV protection to reduce the effects of UV exposure such as corneal damage, cataracts and macular degeneration
Do you have to wear bifocal glasses to run?
The good news is that bifocals aren’t usually needed for running. “Bifocal distortion in downward gaze can be problematic, especially on surfaces that aren’t perfectly smooth,” says Huggler.
“The biggest complaint we hear from our runners is not being able to see their watch to check the time and pace, but new technology has solved that problem with watches that connect wirelessly to headphones, giving the runner valuable information about pace, splits, distance, and time,” adds Huggler.
If you don’t want to wear headphones, Huggler recommends a bifocal deliberately set lower than your traditional glasses. This will allow you to take a quick glance down to read your watch, but without compromising your distant sight.
Also, if you only wear reading glasses, consider a large-dial watch with a bold backlit dial and large numerals in place of the bezels, Huggler says. If that doesn’t seem to work, you can opt for this Bluetooth connection for stat announcements.
The basics of running with glasses
You can still look stylish in today’s racing eyewear and feel confident knowing your eyes are protected and your sight is clear. It’s always best to try out several frames and find the one that’s right for you.
Martin says he’ll stick to running with glasses (and given his quick swerves, we’ll follow that example). “It’s funny, because I read social media; I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram. I see people commenting on how nerdy that look is, the curly hair and the glasses, which I find funny,” he says. “But I accept it.”
The best running glasses to try for your next workout
The runner’s world staff members who typically ditch their goggles while running decided to slip into these styles to test them through many sweaty spring and summer miles. These three supported our efforts, without skidding and with a much better vision.
Sleek and super lightweight, you’ll almost forget these glasses are even on your face. Thanks to the nose pads and the grips at the temples, they also stay in place, even when sweating. They also come in regular and small sizes, for those with smaller face shapes that need a tighter fit, and provide fog resistance. You can upgrade your lens to Trivex, for more durability, as well as a photochromic lens, which adapts to light, and blue light shield lenses.
These mid-size frames feature a rounded design that improves your field of vision and also makes them very secure and stable while running. They come with nose pads and temple tips that gently grip the skin to stay in place, meaning they won’t slip, even when you’re bouncing step by step. Smith knows the sports eyewear market and these frames are designed for athletes. They also have options for Trivex frames, as well as light adjusting and blue light reducing photochromic lenses. (For those with a shorter pupillary distance, see the blacksmith brooch too.)
Another set of lightweight mid-size frames, these come with a more standard nose, but it’s still comfortable and safe on the road. The frames are also set a bit further from the face, thanks to that nose pad, which gives them that barely-there feel. The non-slip material on the temples also gives them the gripping properties you want when you run and sweat. The Nikes also have options for light-tuning, blue-light reducing, and anti-fog photochromic lenses.
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