I find that although there tends to be less overall daylight during Fall as the winter solstice approaches, my need for eyewear actually increases because the sun appears lower in the sky and seems to shine directly into my eyes.
Regardless of the time of year, I almost always wear sunglasses when hiking or running and, as a result, have tried many pairs over the years. Here are some of the best I’ve been using this year.
Goodr – $25-35
Goodr sunglasses are, well, pretty good. Their motto is “No slip. No bounce. All polarized. All fun” and they have become the go-to for many runners and hikers alike. They have six different styles and lots of colors and themes, not to mention names like “Sunbathing with Wizards” and “Whisky Shots with Satan“. What’s more they ring in at only $25-$35 per pair, making them one of the most affordable options available and, I would argue, the best value for the money. I’ve owned five pairs of Goodr sunglasses and continue to use them on a daily basis for running and traveling.
The downside of Goodr sunglasses is that what you get in upfront features like polarized lenses and fun designs, you pay for in durability. I’ve found that the colored and mirrored lenses tend to scratch very easily which causes the polarization to wear off and leave dark, discolored spots. This has happened to multiple pairs or mine and I found that unless I leave them in the soft case that they come in, they are going to get damaged. I’ve also experienced peeling on the frames themselves after extended use.
Still, if you are prone to losing sunglasses or just generally like to get new pairs often enough that dropping a ton of cash doesn’t make sense, Goodr sunglasses are the way to go.
Nathan Sunrise – $50
Nathan Sports is well known in the running community for its hydration packs, but they have recently dipped their toes into the eyewear industry by releasing a handful of running-focused sunglasses.
Offering a single retro-square style in four color schemes, each pair features a lightweight frame made of TR90, a flexible and durable thermoplastic, and polycarbonate polarized lenses. Unlike less expensive models (like those from Goodr) which use a less-durable film over their lenses to provide polarization, the models from Nathan use polycarbonate lenses which sandwich the polarized film between two layers meaning it cannot wear out. What’s more, they have rubber grips on the arms near the earpiece which provide additional comfort and slip resistance – all for just $50.
As mentioned, Nathan offers several frame and lens colors for their sunglasses and I picked up a pair of the Sunrise model with a tortoise shell pattern which I prefer for everyday use. I’ve been wearing these for two weeks straight and like them a lot. While the overall longevity of both this pair of sunglasses and Nathan’s foray into the eyewear industry is yet to be determined, I appreciate the upgraded features and lens durability over my Goodr models which will likely mean me reaching for these more often than not.
Maui Jim Hema – $190
Maui Jim has always felt like more of an overpriced-surfer-lifestyle type of brand to me, but they do indeed make some nice sunglasses. My wife bought a pair of their Lighthouse sunglasses last year and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t quite impressed with them. The biggest advantage they offer over other brands and styles is that they are the lightest I have ever seen – weighing in at less than 1/3 of an ounce. The frames are made of a nylon compound that is malleable yet retains its shape and include “MauiPure” lenses that are thin, pliable, and polarized.
I have used these on lots of occasions when I forget my own pair or when I simply want a super-lightweight pair of sunnies and I often forget I am wearing them – they simply melt away by being so light and comfortable.
The downside of these sunglasses is that because they are so light, I am liable to lose and or break them. I find that when I put them on top of my head or hat, I totally forget they are there and am afraid I will snag them on a branch and never see them again. Second, these are the most expensive sunglasses I have ever purchased (even though my wife actually bought them). As someone who is hard on sunglasses, it would really hurt to have to replace these if I accidentally stepped on or lost these in a race.
Smith Flywheel – $149
The latest addition to my eyewear arsenal are the Smith Flywheels. Smith is renowned for its sports eyewear products and continues to be a top contender in the marketplace. Yes, they make me look like a cross between Robocop and a 1990s professional wrestler – and I’m fine with that. Though these sunglasses are technically for cycling, they work for all sports and the shape provides maximum coverage like a goggle but with the airflow and comfort of sunglasses. I mainly picked them up for their ChromaPop lenses, which is a “a proprietary technology from Smith that enhances clarity and natural color beyond normal capacity to allow for better visual detail”. In essence, it brightens up the colors to make the scenery more vivid and defined. Pretty neat.
While the ChromaPop lenses won’t give you night vision or any such phenomenon, the difference in clarity is absolutely noticeable. I specifically like these sunglasses for running in the fall because there tends to be a lot of shadows cast on the trails from overhanging trees which makes everything a little darker. When I would normally have to put on and take off my sunglasses multiple times during a run, I can simply leave the Flywheels on all day without significantly altering my view. The lenses also liven the Fall foliage and make the leaf colors pop, which looks fantastic.
The frames on the Flywheel are made from the same TR90 material as the Nathan Sunrise mentioned above, but they have extra sports-focused features like a stiff nosepad and auto-lock hinges which mean you can easily take them off and put them on with one hand. Though not as lightweight as the Maui Jim Hemas, there is no extra bulk and I find them extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
The downside of the Flywheels is that because of their curvature, they do not fold down flat and could get damaged during travel (they don’t come with a hard case, either). Second, they are not very practical to wear in everyday settings. These are, without a doubt, sports sunglasses and would not pass in any professional or non-ironic casual situation as many others would.
I love running in the Fall in Maine for its crisp morning weather, warm afternoons, and falling leaves. There is nothing quite like cruising down the trail, still in a t-shirt despite being October, with an explosion of red, orange, and yellow all around.
Because the days are shorter and the sun is lower, I find myself wearing sunglasses on most of my runs and discovered that there are many decent brands and styles that work well in these conditions at every budget. For me personally, I will stick with Goodr or Nathan sunglasses for short jaunts and everyday wear while strapping on the Smith Flywheels for longer efforts and to take advantage of the ChromaPop technology and rad (ha!) styling.
What are your favorite shades for Fall runs?
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Brandon Chase is a writer, endurance athlete, and guide based in Maine. He is a former Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and spent nearly a decade overseas serving at embassies in Egypt, Cyprus, and Pakistan.
Along with a 98-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, he has summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, hiked the West Highland Way, fastpacked in the Himalayas, and trekked around New Zealand and South Africa. He also regularly competes in ultramarathons at the 50k, 50-mile, and 100-mile distances.