Sports + Leisure

Our top 10 tips for sports eyewear

What should you keep in mind when purchasing sports eyewear? Learn more about how to improve your athletic performance while still protecting your eyes.

16 October 2019
  • People at the beach playing beach volleyball

There are a few factors to keep in mind so that you get the most from your sports eyewear, including a suitable tint and a snug, comfortable fit. Off-the-rack sports eyewear is often sufficient – but for certain types of sports or special visual impairments, individually fitted eyewear can generally do a whole lot more, particularly if contact lenses aren't an option. But what should you pay attention to when purchasing sports eyewear? And how do you distinguish between sports eyewear and a normal pair of glasses? BETTER VISION has 10 tips to help you make the right purchase.

  • Here are all the categories at a glance – the five different protection levels for sports eyewear

    Generally a distinction is made between five different protection levels with lens tints. The following table will give you an overview of the different eyewear options and the suitability of each category for particular conditions.

    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


    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!)

  • What is the best material?

    The most important thing when purchasing sports eyewear is selecting the right material for both the lenses and the frames. Injuries when playing sports can cause severe injury to the eye, but sports eyewear can help. Although the type of sport determines which eyewear is best for you, the basic principles are the same.

    Your eyewear should be as durable and lightweight as possible with a snug, but comfortable, fit. Your glasses should be close enough to your eyes that no stray light gets through – at the same time, your eyelashes should not touch the lenses. The material should not splinter and be as durable as possible while still remaining malleable and flexible. These properties reduce the risk of injury, i.e. when falling, because your eyewear 'gives way' instead of breaking. Choosing the right material also significantly affects wearer comfort.

    Here's a rule of thumb: the lighter the eyewear is, the more comfortable it sits on your nose. For this reason, and because it reduces the risk of injury, eyewear made of plastic (such as polycarbonate and polyamide) should be your first choice: compared to lenses made of glass, they can be manufactured to be up to 50% lighter.

    Note: when choosing your frames, make sure they don't contain any elements which could injure you, i.e. glass or metal parts. Also: a hard coating for your plastic lenses is always a good idea to protect them from scratches.

  • What tints are available? And which tint is best for which type of sport?

    What tints are available?

    First of all: not only do tints reduce the intensity of the light hitting the eye, but they also change its spectral composition because of their colour properties. Colour sensitivity varies from person to person, and each of us perceives tints very differently. Selecting the right tint is thus a very personal choice, and not every spectacle wearer will feel comfortable with every tint. When selecting a tint, take your time and try out different options at your optician.

    But no matter what tint you select, ensure that it's not too dark. The intensity and colour must fit the type of sport and the expected brightness. The different protection levels can give you an overview (see 1). The amount of solar radiation tends to be higher when skiing or playing water sports than with many other outdoor activities. For this reason, the tint should be a bit darker. An additional mirror coating is also recommended. Water sports enthusiasts as well as fishermen may benefit from a polarisation filter in the lens. The special coating reduces irritating reflected light, i.e. when sunlight hits a wet road, snow, water or metallic surfaces. The result: fewer annoying reflections, giving you clear, comfortable vision – even in bright sunlight. A special tint such as ZEISS Skylet can provide additional visual comfort: the sunglass lens improves contrast and colour perception. This makes it easier to see, particularly in challenging vision situations such as in the mountains or on the water.

  • Playing sports often requires additional equipment such as a helmet. In this case, you should bring your equipment with you when visiting your optician. This way they can assess the situation and find the ideal solution for you. The wearer's posture during use is extremely important for the lens design and the subsequent fitting. A suboptimum visual point could mean that you might not enjoy excellent vision with your new eyewear. Marksmen, golfers, hunters and archers should ideally have their eyewear fitted on-site, i.e. at the shooting range or on the golf course followed by a trip to their optician for final adjustments.

    Note: progressive lenses, sometimes also called varifocal lenses, are a good choice for most types of sports, including biking and gliding. However, they are not suitable for golfing. Progressive lenses are fitted to perform in a very particular position, but golfing requires you to switch your gaze as you line up your shot, meaning your head moves and your posture changes.

  • Protecting your lenses from scratches, making them easier to clean and providing UV protection – useful coatings

    Protecting your lenses

    Sports eyewear is more likely to be damaged because it undergoes a lot more wear and tear than a typical pair of glasses with corrective lenses. Sports eyewear is subjected to different ambient conditions and must endure being transported in a gym bag – all of this puts the material to the test on a regular basis. Thus an appropriate coating to protect against scratches is a must-have for sports eyewear. Remember: if your eyewear is scratched, you should replace it immediately – that's why it's a good idea to prevent scratches in the first place. A hard coating such as ZEISS DuraVision Platinum not only protects your lenses against damage, but also effectively repels dirt and water, simplifying daily lens care. This way your lenses remain dirt-free for longer and are easier to clean. Another must-have: 100% UV protection against UV-A and UV-B radiation. Most spectacle lenses and sunglass lenses supposedly feature UV protection, but unfortunately there are always some which aren't quite up to par. Your optician can check how reliable your sunglasses' UV protection really is. This isn't a problem with quality products (e.g. from ZEISS). Ask your optician about appropriate solutions for you – they'll be happy to help.

  • More importantly, fogged-up eyewear can quickly become a risk or cause a competitive disadvantage during a game or competition. When purchasing your sports eyewear, make sure that it allows for effective air circulation. This prevents your lenses from fogging up. A special coating can also ensure that your lenses stay clearer for longer.

  • Wrapped eyewear is indispensable: it provides effective all-round protection against dirt, sunlight or small dust particles in the air while ensuring razor-sharp vision, even in the peripheral zones.

    But please note: in spite of the wrapped shape, your own visual impairments must still be perfectly corrected to prevent visual distortions. Even with a large lens diameter and strong wrapped frames, the lenses for your sports eyewear should still be flat and stable (e.g. with ZEISS Cosmetic Edge®).

  • To ensure that you'll enjoy your sports eyewear for a long time to come, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind. Just like other pairs of glasses, sports eyewear doesn't like being subjected to extreme heat for a longer period of time. High temperatures or temperature fluctuations can damage the frames and the coating. Thus it is recommended that you always keep your sports eyewear in a case when you're not using it. And avoid leaving it in your car on a hot sunny day.

    It all comes down to this: the more careful you are, the longer you'll be able to enjoy your sports eyewear. Use the appropriate accessories – these make cleaning easier and help ensure that your new eyewear will last for a long time to come.

  • It's not always necessary to purchase sports eyewear in addition to your everyday pair of glasses. For skiing and water sports, for example, daily contacts or sports eyewear with your prescription could be a convenient alternative. Did you know that you can even wear your dailies when swimming without any problem? The vacuum ensures that the contact lenses sit securely on your eyes. However, a degree of caution is required – contact lenses do not offer sufficient protection against UV radiation because they only cover a portion of the eye. That's why contact lens wearers should always have a good pair of sunglasses featuring UV-A and UV-B protection handy.

  • There are three important features which affect the wearer’s comfort when it comes to contact lenses: the quality of the lens, a professional fitting and careful lens care using a high-quality cleaning agent. No matter what kind of contact lenses you choose, contact lenses should be fitted by your optician – just like your glasses. Your optician will determine your visual performance, measure the corneal surface of your eye, and check the condition of your tear film so that they can recommend the ideal contact lenses for you.

    Remember: cleanliness is the be-all and end-all for contact wearers! Insufficient hygiene or inadequate care can lead to eye infections caused by germs, viruses or bacteria. These not only are painful and reduce wearer comfort, but can also permanently damage your eyes. When it comes to cleanliness, contact lens wearers should make no compromises.

Do you require special sports eyewear? Do you have a special request?

Your optician will be happy to help if you require special sports eyewear or have special visual requirements. Many ZEISS opticians are sports eyewear specialists and offer comprehensive experience with sports eyewear – just ask!

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