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How to Find the Right Prescription Sports Glasses

A Buyer's Guide


Article first published: April 2023

The right sports glasses are an important element of proper sports equipment. It protects the eyes from external influences and ensures the best possible vision even in difficult lighting conditions. Different types of frames and lenses are suited to different types of sports. This article gives an overview of factors to consider when buying sports glasses.

Why is it so important to see well when you’re doing sports?

No matter what your goal is, good vision is just as important for amateur athletes as it is for professionals. Recognizing obstacles and details, being able to move easily from the shade to the sun, and being able to perceive surroundings with high contrast gives athletes confidence and prevents accidents and injuries. Sports glasses are available for spectacle wearers with the appropriate correction for the respective refractive error.

What you should look for in prescription sports glasses

Lenses should meet various requirements to ensure good vision during sports. Athletes should ask themselves three basic questions before choosing glasses:

  • Which visual ranges are particularly important for the sport? 
  • In which environment is the sport mainly practiced? 
  • What are the prevailing lighting conditions?

In principle, sports lenses from ZEISS are available both as single vision and progressive lenses. The same principle applies as for regular glasses: The more often sports glasses are worn from the start, the faster the eyes get used to them. When changing lens power, all lenses should be changed to the new optimal correction. 

It is also recommended for contact lens wearers to wear sports glasses without a prescription for many sports to protect the eyes from external influences and improve contrast vision.

ZEISS sports eyewear is also available with single vision or progressive lenses.
ZEISS sports lenses are available both as single vision and progressive lenses.

Sunglasses for sports and sports glasses with tints

When it comes to sunglass lenses for sports, protection and performance are key. Lenses should protect against sun, wind and water in extreme outdoor light conditions while providing clear, dynamic vision. With the right tint, sunglasses for sports improve color and contrast perception and reduce unpleasant glare from bright sunlight or distracting reflections on surfaces like water or snow.

The tint level of the lenses should be adjusted to the requirements of the particular sport. It’s important to note that tint and UV protection are not related. How to protect your eyes from UV radiation. At ZEISS, all lenses – with or without a tint – offer reliable protection from harmful UV radiation up to 400 nm ZEISS UVProtect.

The recommended tint level for sunglasses for outdoor sports is between 50 and 90 percent. In extreme light conditions with strong glare, tints of up to 95 percent are also possible.

Category 0                    

Either bright or very bright

Light absorption:
0 - 20 %

Ideal for protection against insects or the wind

Category 1

Bright to semi-bright

Light absorption:
20 - 57 %

Ideal for cloudy skies and some sunshine; contrast-enhancing

Category 2

Dark

Light absorption:
57 - 82 %

Ideal for normal sunlight, e.g. in summer

Category 3

Very dark

Light absorption:
82 - 92 %

Ideal for winter sports, spending time in the mountains or on the beach

Category 4

Extremely dark and/or with a reflective coating

Light absorption:
92 - 97 %

Ideal for light conditions on a glacier, on the water or in the desert (but not suitable for driving!)

Certain functional tints provide athletes with comfortable and relaxed vision regardless of the environment. And did you know that there are even colors that positively impact our mood, performance and sense of well-being? ZEISS BioChrome

Picture of the color sweet violet.
Sweet Violet: Recommended for cycling.
Picture of the color spicy red
Spicy Red: Suitable for activities in the snow or in bad light conditions.
Picture of the color sunset violet.
Sunset Violet: Recommended for shooting sports.
Picture of ProGolf
ProGolf: Reduces light intensity and increases contrast perception.
Picture of ProGolf with gradual tint
ProGolf (gradual tint): Reduces light intensity and increases contrast perception.
SkyLet® sport
Skylet® sports: Dark brown tint with 90 percent light absorption for strong glare, e.g. recommended on a glacier, in high mountains, on the water or when flying.
SkyLet® fun
Skylet® fun: Orange-brown tint with 70 percent light absorption, especially recommended in bad weather conditions and hazy visibility, e.g. skiing, gliding, hiking or water sports.

Polarizing sunglass lenses

Reflected light creates and thus impairs visual performance. This phenomenon is particularly well known among water sports enthusiasts. Polarizing sunglass lenses can provide a solution here. It minimizes these light reflections, reducing the annoying glare. It makes a significant contribution to relaxed, clear vision even in strenuous light conditions, e.g. when sailing, surfing or skiing.

Picture showing vision without polarisation filter Picture showing vision with polarisation filter
Without polarisation filter
With polarisation filter

By moving the arrow, the effect of polarized lenses becomes visible.

Self-tinting lenses

Photochromic lenses, often referred to as self-tinting lenses, offer a special form of sun protection. They automatically adapt to changing light conditions: When the glasses are not exposed to the sun or UV radiation, the lenses are clear; in sunlight, they darken. Photochromic lenses from ZEISS. Alternatively, the base lens can also be specified with a base tint of medium sunglasses strength that darkens when exposed to sunlight. ZEISS AdaptiveSun. When selecting self-tinting lenses, the speed of darkening and brightening should be considered. Self-tinting lenses are less suited to particularly fast and dynamic sports where the light conditions change quickly between shade and sun.

A specialized optometrist will be able to advise which sports lenses are best suited for a specific sport, or for the athlete’s personal needs. Both the visual needs and the requirements of the respective sport will be addressed: Find an eyecare professional near you

Photochromic lenses, often referred to as self-tinting lenses, offer a special form of sun protection. They automatically adapt to changing light conditions: When the glasses are not exposed to the sun or UV radiation, the lenses are clear; in sunlight, they darken. Photochromic lenses from ZEISS. Alternatively, the base lens can also be specified with a base tint of medium sunglasses strength that darkens when exposed to sunlight. ZEISS AdaptiveSun. When selecting self-tinting lenses, the speed of darkening and brightening should be considered. Self-tinting lenses are less suited to particularly fast and dynamic sports where the light conditions change quickly between shade and sun.

A specialized optometrist will be able to advise which sports lenses are best suited for a specific sport, or for the athlete’s personal needs. Both the visual needs and the requirements of the respective sport will be addressed: Find an eyecare professional near you

Sports glasses: The right frame

When you pick up different frames, the differences in material, feel and weight are often immediately noticeable. Sports glasses made of lightweight plastic are not only comfortable to wear, but also offer a better grip, as lighter frames slip less from the nose than heavier ones.

The suitability of a sports eyewear frame for a particular sport depends on several factors: How well do the glasses fit? How do the glasses feel when I wear a helmet? And most importantly, how large is my field of vision? Do I opt for a classic pair of sports glasses or goggles with a full visor? A detailed consultation and trying on different models is worthwhile and is possible at specialized optometrists: Find an eyecare professional near you

Basically, the following points should apply to sports eyewear frames:

  • Pleasant and safe wearing comfort 
  • Soft, well fitting nose bridge 
  • Soft face support and good ventilation system

Which glasses for which sport

The athlete must feel comfortable with the chosen glasses. Fit and geometry must correspond to the wearer's anatomy, eye distance and nose size. Frames with large lenses often work well because they maximize the field of vision. Small lenses are less suitable because the rim of the glasses quickly restricts the field of vision when looking down or to the side.

Active lifestyle. Two athletes - a cyclist holder of safety glasses before the start of the competition

For cycling or inline skating, sports glasses with straight temples are suitable because it fits better under helmets. In addition, larger lenses that fit closely to the face protect the eyes from wind, insects or dust. Lenses in the colors Skylet or Sweet Violet allow for higher-contrast vision, making it easier to see bumps. Gray lenses reduce glare and reproduce colors faithfully.

Runner fit athlete man running in triathlon suit training for Iron man on Hawaii. Fit male triathlete exercising endurance cardio on road.

When jogging or Nordic walking, frames made of lightweight material work best. Temples that go around the ear give additional support. Lenses in shades of purple, red or pink are also suitable here to improve contrast vision.

Pensive dreamy men of different ages sailing yacht together and enjoying floating on river, they looking around

For water sports enthusiasts, there are so-called polarizing lenses that make it easier to see on reflective surfaces. Wrap-around goggles are good because it keeps out splashing water, glare and reflections that might otherwise enter the eyes from the sides or below.

freeriders on steep slope ready to drop in fresh powder snow

Snowboarders and skiers opt for sports goggles with a wide field of vision or full-face goggles. The goggles should fit snugly, yet be breathable. Certain filters increase contrast vision in the snow and make it easier to see irregularities such as bumps and hollows.

Man playing golf at club

Golfers need to move their eyes constantly and quickly between the sky and the green. Tints like the Sweet Violet or Spicy Red color improve contrast on the green.

The right lenses and the right cut for sports glasses

Many requirements arise when it comes to producing lenses for sports glasses. For a wide field of vision, large lenses with stronger deflections are often required. These should be placed obliquely in front of the eye. This can lead to aberrations and blurring in the periphery, which must be compensated. ZEISS has developed a special optical design for this ZEISS Cosmetic Edge Technology, so that clear vision in all directions is also possible with these frames. Since large lens diameters often lead to externally very thick prescription lenses in cases of severe myopia, ZEISS offers technology that enables an aesthetically appealing edge design even with very large frame shapes. The design can be used for all sports eyewear with a prescription - including single vision or progressive lenses.

Sports glasses for women, men and children

Sports glasses for women and men do not differ in function. Trying on different frames is the easiest way to find the right sports glasses for your individual face and head shape.

kids on a bicycles in the sunny forest. children cycling outdoors in helmet
Sports glasses are available for every age.

Why sports glasses make sense

The eyes are by far our most powerful sensory organs. We can absorb much more information in a very short time with our eyes than with any of the other senses. The sense of sight provides us with about 80 percent of all information from the environment which we process in the brain.

During sports, our body is exposed to a special situation: coordination, balance, concentration and reaction are put to the test. Our eyes play a central role in this. Blurred vision and glare from the sun distract us from the actual goal and pose a risk of accidents that can lead to injuries. The right sports glasses create the right conditions for an unrestricted sports experience while protecting the most important sensory organ. 

If you would like to check your eyesight before you visit an eye care provider, you can use the ZEISS online eye test: ZEISS Online Vision Screening. Please note: All checks are classed as initial screenings and a follow-up visit with your optometrist is recommended. A thorough eye test can only be performed by an eye care professional, and this is an essential part of buying the best sports glasses for your needs.

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ZEISS Vision Care
Sarah Kopp
International PR: Eyeglass Lenses, Coatings and Materials
Mail: sarah .kopp @zeiss .com

Phone: +49 (0) 7361 591-1248

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