Outdoorsy types know the benefits of wearing polarized sunglasses: they knock down the haze and glare of reflected sunlight, thanks to a special filter on the lens. They’re pretty much a necessity for water and snow sports. They’re also just a plain-old good idea for anyone who spends a lot of time outside in the sun.
The biggest downside to polarized sunglasses is the price. If you’re in the market for a pair, that usually means kicking down a third of your paycheck for some high-end face candy, or spending $10 on a pair that’ll either blind you or fall apart when you look at them funny.
Neither proposition is exciting, so here are a few pairs of shades that are tough, effective, and well under $100.
Ryders Eyewear Uzi
Sporting a hard-edged version of the classic aviator style done up in a nickel-alloy frame, the Uzis make you look like a badass even if you’re not waving the namesake weapon around while hanging from a helicopter.
The weightiest of the three glasses tested, the Uzis feel sturdy enough to survive a few drops (which they did, admirably), while lounging around outside of Starbucks or commuting to work on the roadie. But their weight, combined with hard plastic nose pieces, gives them a tendency to slide down your face during shakier pursuits. In a bike or a car, however, these work great. Any glare reflected from other cars or puddles was cut down by the polarized lenses, while spring-loaded hinges and fully rubber earpieces made them plenty comfortable and sturdy enough for a casual bike ride.
Suncloud Optics Profile
A subsidiary of Smith Optics, Suncloud knows a thing or two about sports sunglasses. The Profile’s polarized lenses did a great job of cutting down glare reflected off of cars during cycling sessions, and their frameless design allows for a wide range of peripheral vision, which comes in handy when you’re cycling and you feel a car sneaking up on you. The open design also means a lot of air motion, which makes lens fogging nearly nonexistent.
During some bouncy trail runs, the super-lightweight design prevented any sore spots on the ears, and the grippy rubber on the nose and earpieces kept them on my face despite the copious amounts of sweat I was oozing. The Grilamid plastic construction is tough yet flexible, allowing the frames to bend (and not break) when you take a dive over your handlebars or faceplant on a downhill.
The only complaint I have about these shades is that they look terrible in any nonathletic situation. I couldn’t wear them anywhere near a man-made structure without looking like a douche-bag “sports guy.”
get-gadget Lightweight and comfortable. Great peripheral vision. Open design curbs fogging.
TIRED They don’t look right on your face unless you’re sweating.
Live Eyewear Quattro Yukon
The Yukons aren’t top-of-the-line sports glasses, and they don’t exactly epitomize high fashion, either. But they work well enough in both athletic and social situations, and for $50, that’s more than you should be able to ask of them.
The polarized lenses cut glare way down, and the wraparound lenses provide total coverage. The ear- and nosepieces lack rubber, but remarkably, the frames still don’t slip much. I wore them during some backcountry snowboarding runs and down shaky mountain bike descents, but the glasses stayed put.
The clean lines are also simple and unassuming enough to wear just walking around town, which means you can get away with a single pair of shades for both your downhill session and for the après-stoke brew on the sun deck.
get-gadget Solid on both trail and pavement. Total eye coverage.
TIRED Peripheral vision is lacking. Full-wrap design makes them fog up.
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