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How to choose the right sports eyewear

Written by Fiona

February 06 2018

I am myopic (short-sighted) with a touch of (Presbyopia) (the long-sighted part that comes with age). I have worn spectacles most of my life and I have also enjoyed many different sporting activities. The eyewear that I choose will depend on what I am doing, the weather, general conditions and my sport.

It’s the same for anyone who needs prescription glasses or lenses but it can sometimes seem like a minefield – and a costly one if you get it wrong – when choosing new specs.

Being able to visit an optometrist that you can trust to give you the expert advice should be your first step. You’ll need a thorough eye test to ensure you have an up-to-date prescription. If you are resident in Scotland you are entitled to an NHS funded eye examination.

Did you know that conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol could also be discovered during a routine eye examination?

An enhanced eye examination, such as the one offered by Black & Lizars at 11 of their outlets, gives an even bigger and more advanced picture of your health – or future prognosis – using various new technologies.

Oakley EV ZERO Range Prizm lens for road cycling.

The right eyewear for sporty people

Each sport, from running to skiing, through fishing, swimming, diving, cycling, hiking and more, can demand a different type of requirement for specs. For example, I need my everyday (clear lensed) glasses to be robust enough for running, gym and spin sessions and yoga. I also choose wraparound sunglasses for sunny days when I run, cycle or hike.

In addition, I like to swim so that means prescription swimming goggles and then there is skiing when I might choose to wear wraparound sunglasses or ski goggles.

If it’s a team sport, such as football, or a watersport like kayaking, I will choose to wear contact lenses because glasses are not practical for some situations. So, you see, there is a lot to think about.

If I was rich I would have a different pair of specs for every sport and all types of weather but I don’t – and so I compromise.

Bolle Tigersnake Polarized Blue sunglasses have been created for mountain bikers.

How to choose sports eye wear

Your sport

There are different types of glasses and sunglasses to suit all sports from running and cycling to horse riding and skiing. As well as goggles for swimming.

Think about whether you might need contact lenses for sports that have the potential for contact, such as football, hockey, rugby, martial arts etc.

Bolle 6th Sense HD Classic Blue Violet sport eye wear for cyclists.


I look for frames that are hardwearing, such as those made from robust plastics or lightweight but strong metals, such as titanium. Even for my ordinary day glasses, rather than simply my sunglasses, I know they need to withstand my sporting activities.

It is a good idea to ensure your lenses are anti-reflective and UV protected to prevent scratches.

Spring hinges

Side hinges that spring out as well fold in are vital for me. I tend to be quite heavy handed with my eye wear and I change from one pair of glasses to the next so I need the sides to be strong and robust. I have broken the sides by pulling them the wrong way by accident or by one hand. Thankfully many spectacles now have spring hinges or durable joints within the frames.

Silicon grip sides.

Grip when you sweat

I want my glasses to stay on my face rather than slip down when I run, cycle, ski or even do yoga. I look for a nose piece that will stay in place and extra grippy arms. Sweat can play havoc with specs and I don’t want to have to wear a band to keep the glasses in place, so extra grip is appealing.

Many Oakley glasses, both sunglasses and ophthalmic designs, have silicon grips on the sides. This material actually grips more the more you sweat. Many frames have changeable nose pieces to fit different nose bridge sizes.

Tints and transitions

If you will be wearing your ordinary glasses for sport and you want some protection for your eyes when you’re outdoors, lenses that transition from clear to darker shades can be very useful. Ask a dispensing optician about the different transition graduations.

UV protection

Ask if your dispensing optician fits lenses that include UV protection as standard. This will protect your eyes from the dangerous ultra violet light from the sun – and which can lead to problems such as cancer and cataracts.

Sunglasses can also have a transition lens, from clear to dark. This is useful if you are coming in from the outside and want to be able to see what you are doing, for example reading a menu in a café hallway through a bike ride, without having to change your specs.

Wrap around frames for mountain bikers: Oakley Jawbreaker Carbon Fibre Prizm Trail sunglasses.

Wrap around frames

Wrap around frames do as they sound; they wrap around the shape of your head and allow a neat fit between your eyes and the lenses. I wear wrap around sunglasses for most of my sports.

The extra protection of the frames, which sit close to your face, includes protection from dirt, grit, branches, the wind, rain, snow and sunshine.

Beat the glare

Most opticians will recommend lenses with an anti-reflective coating. This helps to reduce the glare and subsequent poor visibility of bright light.

Perfect for golfers: Maui Jim Ho’okipa with smoke grey blue mirror lenses.

A clearer view

Polarised lenses will offer a clearer view, especially in water, because they reduce the glare of the light. Priya Panesar, the Dispensing Optician and assistant manager at Black & Lizars in Milngavie, said: “The technical explanation for this is that these lenses reduce the horizontal planar of light rays. Simply put, this gives a clearer view in all conditions to reduce the glare and enhance contrast.

“One warning, though, do not choose polarised lenses for skiing because they can flatten out the light and make it difficult to see the lumps and bumps of the snow.”

Maui Jim is sold at Black & Lizars. Although this brand does not promote itself as sporty, there are frames that will be suitable for some activities. Also all of their lenses are polarised.

However, it is the polarised lenses that some sports enthusiasts might find attractive. The lenses offer very clear view, especially when near water, running, cycling and any grass sports such as golf. The lenses also offer UV A. B and C protection as standard.

Oakley Radar EV Path Harmony Fade PRIZM Ruby sunglasses are ideal for runners who prefer lens inserts.

Lenses or inserts

Sports eyewear slots into two categories: Frames fitted with prescription lenses or glasses that have prescription lens inserts. There will be people who prefer one or the other and for a variety of reasons.

If you have a high or a complex prescription, lens inserts might be your only choice. This is the case where a high prescription excludes you from wrap around frames and lenses. (Brands and lens manufacturers have a limit on the prescription and making wrap around lenses because if the prescription is too high there will be soft focal areas in the lens).

The alternative option is often lens inserts. These sit in behind the frames and allow for a much great choice of eyewear options.

In many cases the inserts will out-live the frames and so you can simply buy a new frame and keep the lenses.

I prefer a more traditional wraparound frame and lenses rather than inserts but this is mainly because I have not tried the inserts.

Changeable lenses

If you enjoy sports in conditions that are changeable – that includes Scotland, then – frames that allow you to swap the lenses could be a good idea. The lenses might include clear, tinted for dull light, darker for bright sunlight and perhaps even coloured lenses to cope with dull conditions when skiing.

On a sunny day, UV protection for the eyes is vital for long-term good health of the eyes.

Oakley Flak 2.0 XL Prizm sunglasses.

Prizm technology

Exclusive to Oakley, the Prizm technology in their newer lenses fine-tunes wavelengths of colour to offer a sharper view. You can have prescription or non-prescription Prizm lenses.

Prescription goggles

If you swim, dive or ski, a pair of goggles suited to the sport and fitted with prescription lenses can make a huge difference to how much you enjoy the sport.

Sporty juniors

Just like adults, sporty kids will benefit from prescription specs. Ask the Dispensing Optician for sport eye wear to suit smaller faces and sizes.

New Ortho-K lenses

Have you heard about these revolutionary lenses? I had not until I visited Black & Lizars.  Ortho-K lenses correct your vision as you sleep, by painlessly re-shaping the surface of the eye to correct your prescription, freeing you from having to wear lenses or glasses throughout the day.

The technology has already been adopted by Scotland international and Glasgow Warriors rugby players, Rob Harley and Chris Fusaro, who have seen the difference the lenses can make on and off the pitch.

Morven Campbell, an optometrist and clinical services manager for Black & Lizars, said: “As well as working for elite athletes, the lenses are also suitable for children as parents have control over the lens care at night and in the morning allowing kids to head off for school and sports seeing well with no possibility of losing a lens.

“There is extensive research now that shows wearing Ortho-K as a short-sighted child helps reduce the amount of short-sight you take into adulthood. This is excellent news as the lower your prescription, the lower your risk of other eye conditions as you age.

“From the initial suitability assessment to having your bespoke lenses created and fitted only takes around two weeks.”

Find out more about all of the above at Black & Lizars. Check the practice website to find more information of products and services.

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