Sports and glasses don’t always mix, so runners sometimes wonder whether they should run and race wearing prescription glasses, and, if so, what’s the best way to do it.
You can definitely run with glasses on – many runners do – and you may well prefer it to wearing contacts or relying on your imperfect naked eyes. If you do choose to run in your glasses, you’ll want to consider how to deal with different weather conditions and find a pair with the best comfort and durability.
Keep reading for tips and tricks for deciding whether and when to run in glasses, common pitfalls, and some ways to make it work best for you.
Is it OK to run with prescription glasses?
About 75% of the world uses vision correction of some kind, runners included. Former USA Track and Field (USATF) CEO Craig Masback ran a 3:52 mile in specs (said to be the fastest in glasses), and British legend Sydney Wooderson set several world records in them.
Even if you’re not breaking any records, it is perfectly fine to run in your prescription glasses. However, just like with any gear – it might require some special attention or extra planning.
Many people find running in glasses is just easier and quicker than hassling with contacts, or a nice change after wearing contacts all day. And some people just get that glasses are cool.
Running in the rain with glasses
Rain can be a major annoyance when running in glasses.
Drops on the lenses impair visibility, and humidity can make the glasses fog up or start slipping off your nose and ears. This can seem worse than wearing no glasses at all. And unless you’ve tucked a cleaning rag inside your shorts, you don’t have anything but your sweaty clothes to clean off the lenses.
To avoid running blind in the rain, you can:
- Wear a baseball cap or visor. Fogging may still be an issue, but it’s better than nothing.
- Spray or wipe your lenses with anti-fog products or water repellent. You can try one of these (although cleaning lenses with dish soap or shampoo may be just as effective), or invest in lenses with a hydrophobic coating.
- Carry a little microfiber lens-cleaning rag in your shorts inside pocket.
- Keep a small supply of daily-wear contact lenses to use when rain is in the forecast.
Running in the sun with glasses
On sunny days, running with glasses can be a good way to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays; good UV protection is like sunscreen for your eyes.
For prescription glasses, transition lenses can be a great way to protect your eyes from the sun while still seeing well. Or you can go all in and wear prescription sunglasses.
Without transition lenses or prescription sunglasses, you may face some glare from your regular lenses, but you can offset this with a cap or visor. Many runners, of course, also like to wear non-prescription sunglasses, and there are many options for lightweight, very effective running sunglasses out there.
Whether in the sun, snow, or rain, glasses provide extra protection from the wind, also keeping dirt or sand out of your eyes. The protection is even better the more the glasses wrap around the sides.
Or, for pure style, you can look to sprinter Ato Bolden’s futuristic Oakley OVERTHETOP shades at the 2000 Olympics.
Fun fact: 400-meter hurdling legend Edwin Moses’s iconic dark shades, worn while winning every title you can imagine, were actually prescription lenses because his eyes were so sensitive to sunlight.
Running in the dark with glasses
Darkness generally should not be an issue when running in glasses.
In fact, if you have poor vision, it makes a lot of sense to wear your glasses on a night run to help you better see obstacles or bad road conditions, and thus avoid needless injury.
That said, you may see halos around streetlights or other distorting effects from your lenses – though you can get these with contact lenses too.
How do you make glasses stay on while running?
If you do wear glasses, depending on the fit, it can be very annoying to have the sense that the glasses are always about to fall off (and possibly break!), especially as you sweat or your head bounces around.
Here are some ways to stop your glasses from slipping off mid-run:
- Wear a sports strap around the back of your head. It’s old school — cheap, low-tech, and effective
- Wear glasses with no-slip nose pads
- Wear glasses with rubber grips or another adhesive on the temple pieces
- Wear glasses with temple pieces that wrap around the ear
- Wear a headband to reduce sweat on your nose and ears
- Wear glasses with a close (but comfortable) fit
Tips for running with prescription glasses
While running while wearing prescription glasses may seem awkward at first, there are several things you can do to make it feel more natural.
Here are 13 core takeaways for running with prescription glasses:
- Consider using a spare or specialized pair rather than your main pair, as long as the prescription is recent. Running takes a toll on your glasses, and you don’t want to wear out your main ones needlessly.
- Value safety over vanity. If you need glasses for daily life and don’t want to wear contacts, then you need glasses for running.
- Take care in selecting your running glasses. Little things like no-slip nose pads or special grips on the temple tips can really boost your comfort.
- For combatting the sun, consider transition lenses or prescription sunglasses .
- Look for lenses with high UV protection.
- Check the weather so you’re ready for wet or snowy lenses (and can take steps to avoid them).
- Make sure you’ll be able to read your watch (some may need bifocals, others won’t; people who only use glasses for reading may need a watch with a large bright display), or use a watch that talks through your earbuds.
- Make sure you have a snug fit.
- Keep those running glasses clean, including the hinges and temple arms, to minimize damage from dirt and sweat.
- Remember that the more the glasses wrap around the sides, the better visibility and eye protection you’ll get.
- If sweat makes your specs intolerably slippy, wear a headband.
- If you consistently train with glasses, then race with them too.
- Hate running in glasses? Disposable contacts and Lasik surgery keep getting better and easier.
The best prescription glasses for running
So if you’ll be wearing glasses while running, can you do anything special when you get your next pair?
Not surprisingly, there are some high-tech options out there with amazing modern features. You may not look as impressive as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the ‘80s, but you certainly can look sharper than Kurt Rambis.
The best prescription glasses for running are from:
- The Rudy Project – This brand offers an impressive line of prescription sports eyewear. Besides using ultralight material, their glasses offer sports-driven features like the ability to easily change out lenses for different conditions, sturdy frames that act as “bumpers” (with the option to add peripheral shields), the ability to move your lenses to create vents that prevent fogging and allow airflow, and adjustable nosepads and temple tips.
- Roka – Roka specializes in eyeglasses for running. It offers ultralight frames, a custom retention grip system on the temple tips, and lenses that have 100% UV protection and are anti-scratch, anti-fog, anti-reflective, hydrophobic, and oleophobic (meaning they resist smudging from finger oils).
- Nike – Nike Vision offers prescription glasses designed for high performance and a comfortable fit during sports, including prescription sunglasses for running.
- Oakley – This popular sunglasses brand offers well-designed prescription glasses and sunglasses. These include technology to reduce glare and improve clarity, and a material on the nose pads and temple pieces that makes them get stickier and tackier as you sweat more. And, of course, they are made to be lightweight and durable.
To shop across a range of the top options for prescription running glasses/sunglasses in one place, you can also check out SportRx, which provides deeper details and pricing for all the top models and brands.
- About the Author
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Joshua Bartlett is a professional amateur when it comes to running – basically, he takes his mediocre running ability very seriously.
As the Editor-in-Chief at Saltmarsh Running, it is his job to make sure that readers get only highly-researched and comprehensive questions to all of their running questions.