Ever wondered what colour lens should you buy for your next sunnies? Well in this guide to sports sunglasses for different activities we look at the main features to keep an eye out for and tell you which colour lens works best for activities.
Without stating the obvious; your eyes work hard. Throughout the day, they continuously adjust to different focuses and light conditions, as well as processing a constant flow of images. All of this activity happens so routinely and naturally, you barely stop to think about it.
Glare is nearly ever present in our lives, and it can have a massive impact. When at its brightest it distorts our vision and makes our eyes work much harder, pupils contract, eyelids narrow and muscles strain.
Your eyes need protection year-round. Winter sun is often underestimated, but can be much brighter and more brilliant than even the hottest summer day. During the colder months eyes have much more reflected glare to contend with, especially as the sun is lower in the sky and the weather is partial to snow and rain.
The important thing to remember is that damaging UV rays are present year round during daylight hours. It is not just your skin that needs protecting from UV but also your eyes.
Good sports sunglasses for different activities are an essential for anyone into outdoor activities. And if chosen correctly, can actively help our vision. When learning how to protect your eyes, it is a good starting point to understand how different types of light affect your eyes.
There are four different types of light:
This is what the eye perceives as colour. Excessive amounts of visible light are irritating to unprotected eyes and can reduce your visual perception by as much as 50%. It can also hinder your eyes’ ability to adjust to darkness (known as night blindness) and cause difficulty in depth perception.
Dispersed through the air by dust particles, an interesting fact is that blue light is why the sky appears blue. It is the chief offender in causing glare, and it is the most demanding type of light for the retina.
On the flip side, if blue light was eliminated, we would lose the ability to recognise colours. One of the challenges for good sunglass lenses is to balance blocking nasty, glaring blue light, while sharpening contrast without distorting colour perception.
Ultraviolet is the most dangerous type of light, threatening damage to the cornea and membranes within the eyelids. Most of the UV rays are absorbed by the atmosphere before they reach the earth, however the ones that get through must be protected against.
Effectively heat rays, long periods exposed to bright sunlight can induce burning or stinging sensations in your eyes and a sense of fatigue.
A first line of defence for your eyes is often sunglasses, and the tint of your lens can do much to combat unwanted effects of glare. Different colours cause different visual impressions actually enhancing your sport performance.
Green is generally considered the best all-rounder. In fact, quite often a lens that you would presume black is actually a very dark green for this reason. They adapt well to changing light conditions, offering low colour distortion and absorbing UV and infrared rays well. Darker shades reduce strain on eyes, and generally cut brightness from sunlight.
Ideal sports for use of green lens in your sunglasses: Cycling, Running, Driving, Fishing, Golf and Water Sports.
The most neutral of tints, grey is probably the most popular shade. Reducing the amount of light evenly, hard-working grey lenses flatten light and allow colours to remain true. Ideal for both bright and dim days, they perform well in low light conditions and exceptionally in very vivid light. The Bottle Rocket Oakley lenses are a good example.
Ideal sports for use of grey lens in your sunglasses, similar to green: Cycling, Running, Driving, Fishing, Golf and Water Sports.
Although brown lenses cause a little colour distortion, they benefit from increasing contrast and making everything seem brighter, and are the most effective for giving you accurate depth perception and visual sharpness. Great for variable light conditions, brown lenses are popular for driving.
Ideal sports for use of brown lens in your sunglasses: Cycling, Running, Driving, Tennis, Skiing, Snowboarding and Golf.
Mainly a fashion shade or used by some for dietary reasons e.g. turning the colour of food to an unappetising blue. Blue lenses do little to help your eyes other than provide basic shading against UV rays. They rate among the worst for colour and depth distortion.
Ideal sports for use of blue lens in your sunglasses: Tennis (endorsed by the USPTA for tennis professionals and were provided to linepersons in the 2000 French Open. Blue is a contrast lens and reduces glare from visible white light (such as light reflected from mist, fog, snow, water so is a good minimal lens for glare).
These bright lenses increase both contrast and depth perception and are primarily used by sportsmen and pilots. They work especially well in low light conditions (including cloudy or foggy weather and dawn/dusk driving), where they brighten the outlook; although it should be noted that they provide less overall brightness protection.
Ideal sports for use of amber, yellow or orange lens in your sunglasses: Driving, Night driving, Cycling, Running, Golf, Skiing, Snowboarding and Shooting.
Though it may seem confusing, clear lenses can be protective against UV rays, but they do not protect at all against glare. Typically used to protect the eyes from impact, debris or dust, they are not suitable in anything other than very low light conditions or for indoor or fashion use.
Ideal sports for use of clear lens in your sunglasses: Safety for Driving, Motorcycle glasses, Cycling, Running, Shooting, Water sports, Indoor sports such as Squash (Racquetball) and Badminton.
If you would benefit from a rosier view on life, then rose-tinted lenses are both pretty and practical. Great for driving, they brighten your outlook in low light conditions and increase contrast. Ideal for picking out contours in the snow for skiing and also very good for anti-glare computer glasses helping soothe the eyes from bright screens.
They effectively filter those nasty blue light rays, and provide a very comfortable (and philosophical) outlook hence the saying ‘Seeing the world through rose coloured lenses’ to make one happier and raise one’s spirit.
Ideal sports for use of rose lens in your sunglasses: Driving, Motorcycle glasses, Cycling, Running, Shooting, Golf, Skiing and Snowboarding.
But what colour lens should you buy is not the only thing you should be asking yourself. There are also other features to consider that affect the lens and make sports sunglasses for different activities more or less useful depending on the situation.
The lens coating of choice for keen anglers, but also very useful for water and snow sports. Polarized lenses prevent light glare from hitting you directly in the eye. They do this by having a vertical filter, so only direct light can pass through the openings. Glare is typically horizontal light and so is blocked by polarized lenses.
Any colour lens can be polarised and they make a huge difference on eye tiredness particularly if you are spending a day somewhere with lots of glare. It also enables you to see through the surface of water to what lays beneath which is very useful if kayaking or paddle boarding in shallow conditions. On the downside they can play havoc when trying to look at your mobile.
A favourite of snow-sport enthusiasts, American cops and GGPoker players, mirrored coatings are second only to polarised lenses when it comes to deflecting glare. With a reflective outer coating combined with a tinted lens, they improve colour contrast and depth perception in the wearer.
They are versatile in terms of colour, too. Any mirrored coating colour can be applied to any lens colour; for example a blue mirror coating can cover a rose lens, or a brown lens can have a silver coating therefore hiding the tint or in some cases Rx inserts to the vain conscious person. Suitable for all sports where bright sunlight occurs and in addition to suitable coloured lenses.
Gradient lenses are a dark shade at the top (often a grey or brown) that filters down gradually into a lighter shade. In addition to being a fashion accessory, there are a number of practical applications. Firstly, they offer the most protection overhead, where the light is the brightest.
Even though the bottom segment of the lens offers little protection (and can be uncomfortable when glare reflects up off wet roads or pavements), they are great for reading on holiday, piloting planes or driving, as they allow the wearer a clear view of the page/instrument panel/dashboard. Double gradient lenses are dark at the top and bottom, but lighter in the middle.
Some sports sunglasses feature interchangeable lenses. This means that either the glasses come with multiple lenses, or additional lenses are available for purchase. Getting the best of all worlds, interchangeable lenses means you can have the right lens for every occasion, and avoid the cumbersomeness of carrying several pairs of glasses.
Easy to whip out and replace, lenses can be swapped easily and allow the wearer to adapt to different activities or light conditions quickly and very effectively. Suitable for various sports depending on choice of lens colour.
Finally you can also get photochromic lenses that adapt to the light meaning that in theory you always have the right shade of lens for the conditions. Of course this does not change the colour just how dark the particular tint is. Photochromic ski goggles are incredible when on the mountain in changeable conditions.
We hope you found this guide to sports sunglasses for different activities useful. Did we help answer what colour lens should you buy? If so let us know in the comments. And feel free to check out these awesome action sports sunnies by Cab9.