Sunglasses are a must to protect the eyes from harmful rays.

The Best Sunglasses for Every Sport

If you’re spending every moment you can outdoors, welcome to the club. But that means most of your activities probably involve being out in the sun. And whether your plans involve a picnic in the park or an activity such as hiking, running, or biking, you need as much sun protection as possible. But many people don’t realize that your eyes are just as vulnerable as your skin when it comes to sun damage – and need special protection from the glare to stay healthy.

The problem is, not all sunglasses are created equal when it comes to protecting the eyes from macular degeneration and other types of sun-related damage. Here’s what you need to know to choose the right ones.

What to Look for

For optimal eye protection, you’ll want to choose sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Be cautious about sunglasses that do not provide a UV protection rating or are labeled as cosmetic eyewear.

Lens shape is also important for optimal protection. Try on several pairs from different brands to see what fits your face the best. Pick something that will be comfortable to wear all day, and keep in mind that wider-reaching lenses that wrap around your face will provide more complete protection from all directions.

If you’re wearing sunglasses while exercising, fit will be even more important. Look for a pair that won’t slip off when you’re running or doing a sport that involves your hands, such as kayaking. When planning a bike ride, you’ll want to find a pair that fits well with your bike helmet.

The Lowdown on Lenses

You’ve probably noticed the little stickers that come on the lenses of sunglasses, but that doesn’t give you all the information you need to make the right choice. Here are the different types to consider:

• Polarized lenses reduce glare and light reflected off of water, snow, metal and other reflective surfaces. Polarized sunglasses are great for driving, fishing and any activity in which you’re on or near the water.

• Photochromic lenses become darker in bright light and lighter in shade in low light, so they are versatile in changing light conditions. Photochromic lenses are helpful when your day’s activities will take you through different micro-climates or extend from the dimmer light of morning to the bright light of mid-day.

• Polycarbonate lenses are lightweight and can be fairly flexible.

• Glass lenses are heavier but more scratch resistant.

There are different types and qualities of both glass and polycarbonate lenses, and quality sunglass brands offer their own proprietary lens materials.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.