Spring has sprung in the northern hemisphere, the days are growing longer, and strings of bright sunny days are on the horizon! There are numerous reasons that running hard in the sun can lead to heat related struggles, but what about light related struggles? Sure you look cool ripping laps around the track in aviator sunglasses, but the shades might be serving a practical purpose related to running performance too. In this article, Team RunRun discusses why runners need sunglasses to improve running performance on sunny days and how to choose the best pair.

Facial Expressions, Looking Good and Exertion

If you have ever paid attention to others working out, you may have noticed that you can often see how hard they are working by the look on their face. We often associate frowning or grimacing with pushing hard, while we usually assume that people who have a relaxed facial expression are feeling good and taking it easy. This perception was supported in a 2014 research study that found that an increase in facial muscle activity through frowning and jaw clenching was associated with an increase in heart rate, perceived exertion, and quadriceps muscle activity while cycling. When squinting due to bright light, like being outside on a sunny spring or summer day, the facial muscle engagement involves some of the same muscles that produce frowning and jaw clenching. So when running and walking outside on a sunny day, it is possible that if you are squinting, it might make you feel like you are working harder than you would like to be! The best way to keep your face relaxed when running in the sun is with a great pair of sunglasses.

flagstaff running coach
Coach Georgia Porter cruising on the roads

Sunglasses Solution

Now that we know why runners need sunglasses to improve performance, how do we decide which glasses will work best?  Things to look for in a good pair of running shades are ones that don’t have lenses so dark that they obstruct clear vision and ones that stay on your face when running and sweating. My personal favorites are the Goodr glasses! These polarized sunglasses that don’t bounce or slip come in a wide variety of color combinations and styles that will help you look as awesome as you feel when you are blazing down the trail in the sun. At just $25-35, depending on which style you get, it is affordable to have multiple pairs of stylish high quality sunglasses that could also enhance your workout experience by reducing the squint. 

Another great option for sweet shades that have a shatterproof and scratch resistant lens, and come with a similar price point are Tifosi sunglasses. The Tifosi Swank model is a favorite of TRR co-founder Julie Urbanski! 

Other companies that make some amazing running sunglasses that will keep the squint away for a cool relaxed look while crushing your run in the sun include Julbo, Oakley, Roka, and Smith. While these shades carry a higher end price tag in about the $120-250 range, some advantages may be found in the durability and visual quality. More expensive lenses typically have the polarization coating manufactured into the lens rather than applied to the exterior of the lens, which reduces the likelihood of distortion, scratches, and warping. Most of the more expensive sunglasses come with numerous options for customization and prescription lenses as well; however, prescription lenses are also available with a few models from Tifosi! 

Although the higher end sunglasses usually utilize higher quality materials in their construction, the durability of sunglasses is largely dependent on how rough you are on them! If you are someone who is prone to breaking or losing your sunglasses, a less expensive pair that still has awesome functionality might be something to consider!

Conclusion

Some days will be harder than others when you are out exercising in the sun. However, that effort does not need to be amplified by squinting. A Goodr pair of sunglasses (or one of the many other fantastic options) will definitely make you look great and might just make you feel great too! And of course, even though we know why runners need sunglasses on those sunny training days, nothing beats good consistent training! But squinting less and feeling more relaxed are small ways to make the bigger experience all the better so you can continue to improve as a runner! 

Maxx Antush is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Maxx, check out his coaching page.