Ask the FIT Professionals: Sunglasses for Winter Training

Dear FIT Professionals,

I was scanning a checklist of winter running gear—you know, thermal tights, YakTrax, balaclavas—when I came to a surprising item: sunglasses. Say what? I thought sunglasses were for hot summer days and jaunts on the beach, not for my run in sub-freezing temperatures. (I mean, I’ve never seen a Yeti wearing shades.) So what’s the deal? Do I really need sunglasses for winter running?

Cold As Eyes

SunglassesDear Cold As Eyes,

Don’t worry-- your checklist is kosher! Yes, indeed, sunglasses are a vital piece of winter training equipment. Far from being merely a device for midsummer runs and bright days at the beach, sunglasses play an integral role in optimizing your performance and protecting your eyes from harsh winter elements.

“Wait,” you say, “are you telling me sunglasses can make me a better runner?” Well, in a way, yes. Believe it or not, a runner can waste up to 3% of his or her total energy output through squinting. The high concentration of muscles in the face and neck makes squinting a tiresome enterprise that accelerates fatigue and causes headaches and stiffness. (Imagine tensing any muscle and then holding it for the duration of your run. Now multiply that by 40. Yeah.) Because wasted energy is lost time, speed, and effort, every runner should have a trusty pair of technical sunglasses in his or her arsenal. So, when should you grab your shades?
  • When it snows. Snow reflects and magnifies the sun, making the glare not only worse, but also inescapable (since the beams are being reflected at every angle).
  • When there is ice. (See above. Ditto.)
  • When it’s windy. Cold, blustery air dries and irritates the eyes.
  • When you hit the trails. Sunglasses aid vision by improving contrasts and definition. They also protect your eyes from stray branches.
  • When it’s sunny. UVA and UVB rays from the sun can damage the eyes, causing temporary discomfort and long-term vision problems, such as cataracts.
  • When it’s overcast. You know the old sunscreen rule about getting sunburned on cloudy days? Yep. Clouds trap and magnify the sunrays.
But all sunglasses are not created equal. Make sure the sunglasses you use for running (or cycling) are technical and sport-specific. They should offer UV protection, ventilation to avoid fogging, and a secure, comfortable fit. We’re big fans of Tifosi sunglasses. Not only do they exceed all the criteria for technical sunglasses, but they offer a variety of modern styles. Even better, they offer industry-leading performance and real-world pricing, making them the best value on the market. (Check out the Tifosi highlight for more info!)

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