Gotta wear shades, but how do you choose the right ones?
Sunglasses do more than show some personal style and help with aerodynamics—they protect eyes from the onslaught of hazards triathletes encounter with every ride and run.
“The UV light from the sun is strong and can contribute to various eye disorders such as cataracts, cancerous eyelid lesions and macular degeneration,” says optometrist and professional triathlete Steve Rosinski. “Even when it is cloudy out, the sun’s rays are still there. And for those who live and train at elevation, every 1,000 feet in altitude increases UV radiation by 5 to 7 percent.”
In addition to blocking UV rays, sunglasses act as a barrier for bugs or debris in the air, which can lead to a painful (and potentially blinding) ordeal. Rosinski’s must-haves for sunglasses:
100% UV blocking: More than 10 percent of all skin cancers affect the eyelids, in part due to lax sunscreen coverage. “I tell my patients UV lenses are like sunscreen for your eyes!” Rosinski says.
Polycarbonate lenses: The thin, lightweight lens material is impact resistant.
Anti-fog properties: Sweat can cause fog to build up on lenses, obscuring vision: “If we can’t see due to fogging, we are increasing our risk of hitting a pothole or debris in the road,” warns Rosinski.
Large lenses: Choose glasses with more “wrap,” or lens coverage, around the face for maximum protection of eyes and the surrounding skin.
Glasses or Contacts?
Contact lenses allow athletes to seamlessly transition from swimming with goggles to putting sunglasses on for the bike and run. Contacts are also a great advantage for sun protection—many newer lenses on the market contain UV protection. If you train or race with contacts, Rosinski suggests keeping a spare pair in your transition bag or saddle pack just in case of uncomfortable or lost lenses.
Not sold on the idea of contacts? It’s easy to find prescription sport sunglasses these days, thanks to sites like SportRX (Sportrx.com), which allow you to order your favorite style with an optometrist’s prescription.