Looking for some sport sunglasses? We researched 100+ pairs before selecting the 14 best to buy and put through meticulous, side-by-side testing. We spent months — in some cases, years — wearing these shades during cross-country road trips, summertime swimming, and sunny Caribbean boating. Our eyewear enthusiasts evaluated lens quality and comfort across a wide range of face sizes and shapes. We scrutinized each pair's coverage and durability, as well as their stylistic appeal for a variety of users. From sunny seasides and high-altitude adventures to evening driving and patchy-sun lake paddles, we pushed each pair to their limit and beyond. If you're ready to ditch drugstore shades for something more stylish and functional, we'll help you find that perfect pair.Related: Best Cycling Sunglasses
Best Sport Sunglasses of 2021
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|Pros||Great clarity, excellent contrast, minimal color distortion, very comfortable, look good on pretty much everyone||Great color retention, superb coverage, quality construction, fits many face sizes, great case and cleaning cloth||Good lenses, secure frames, pretty universally stylish||Lightweight, comfortable, stable, good on many faces, nice case||Lightweight, comfortable, secure, good balance, versatile, look good|
|Cons||Peripheral coverage not ideal, can still bounce a little||Heavy, large lens "look", weird inside reflective patch||Colors are distorted, can see through mirror coating||Not overly stylish, run small, temple grips could be cleaner cut||Hinges loosen, brown lenses are yellowy|
|Bottom Line||Exceptional lenses in impressively comfortable frames that manage to be extremely functional while still looking casual||Top-notch coverage and superb color retention make these large-fit shades well-equipped to protect your eyes from water-reflected light||A pretty good pair of shades with super-enhanced colors that look good on most faces||These sunnies are light and comfortable for your face and eyes and a bit easier on your wallet||A solidly versatile pair of comfortable shades that are easy to wear and a great price|
|Rating Categories||Kaenon Clarke||Costa Del Mar Rincon||Smith Lowdown 2||Native Eyewear Wells||Suncloud Rambler|
|Lens Quality (30%)|
|Frame Quality (20%)|
|Style And Versatility (15%)|
|Specs||Kaenon Clarke||Costa Del Mar Rincon||Smith Lowdown 2||Native Eyewear Wells||Suncloud Rambler|
|Lens Tested||Ultra Brown 12||Grey 580P||ChromaPop Polarized Bronze Mirror||Crystal Grey||Brown|
|Ideal Lens Light Conditions||Bright light||Bright Light||Bright Light||Medium to bright light||Medium to bright light|
|Visible Light Transmission (VLT)||12%||12%||14-15%||12%||15%|
|VLT Protection Index||Cat 3||Cat 3||Cat 3||Cat 3||Cat 3|
|HEV/Blue Light Protection (claim)||None||100% HEV blockage||None||90%||None|
|Infrared Protection (claim)||None||None||None||40%||None|
|Neutral/Contrast||Increased contrast||Neutral||Increased contrast||Neutral||Increased contrast|
|Lens Material||Plastic - "SR-91" polycarbonate||Polycarbonate||ChromaPop polarized polycarbonate||Plastic polycarbonate||Plastic polycarbonate|
|Protective Coatings||Anti-reflective back, hydroleophobic, anti-scratch||C-WALL (anti-scratch, hydroleophobic)||Anti-reflective, hydroleophobic, mirror||Anti-scratch, hydroleophobic||Anti-reflective|
|Can take prescription lens?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Hinge type||Standard/barrel||Spring||AutoLock barrel hinge||Standard/barrel||Standard/barrel|
|Case Included||Semi-rigid zippered case, microfiber bag||Semi-rigid zippered case, microfiber bag, microfiber cleaning cloth||Microfiber bag||Semi-rigid zippered case, microfiber bag||Microfiber bag|
Best Overall Sport Sunglasses
The Kaenon Clarke are the sunglasses that continue to impress us with their ability to seemingly do it all. We've now tested two different colors of lenses and frames and find both to be superb. Their Ultra Brown 12 lenses are everything we want in a brown lens — top-notch clarity, exceptional contrast, and superb protection all with minimal color distortion. These 29-gram shades are well-balanced and were very comfortable for our entire team of testers. We wore them on long driving days, high-altitude hikes, sweaty trail runs, and bright paddle adventures, always with great pleasure. And with the Clarke, there's no need to sacrifice style for sports-specific performance when you can have both. These Medium-Full fit frames seem to look and feel good on everyone we asked to try them on.
Of course, as you can probably tell from photos of these shades, they're a bit flat, allowing the sides of your eyes to be a little more open to the elements. Yet they still manage to find our ideal balance between a flat style that looks great with just enough curve to hug your face and not leave you feeling overly exposed. This same fashion-forward design can let them bounce a little on your nose under extreme duress, though the cleverly embedded rubber nose pads kick in with the first sign of sweat, helping to better secure them on your face. Overall, the Clarke glasses are the sport sunglasses best equipped to truly "do it all".
Read review: Kaenon Clarke
Best Bang for Your Buck
Native Eyewear Wells
The Native Eyewear Wells are an excellent pair of sunglasses that cost a lot less than you might expect. They're lightweight, at just 26 grams, and fit pretty comfortably on both wider and narrower faces alike. Embedded rubber nose pads and textured rubber temple grips help hold them in place — even if you want to do a cartwheel. Their polycarbonate lenses are light and impact resistant while providing some of the best protection on the market, blocking out fatigue-inducing near-visible wavelengths of light and maintaining excellent clarity and contrast. Their Crystal Grey lenses have a blue shiny finish that's a tad sporty-looking but still works.
Those of our testing team who aren't as big of fans of the sportiness of these particular lenses still really like the Wells in brown. One of our longtime testers owns the brown version, letting us directly contrast the two colors — both of which have their merits. They're advertised as a Large fit, and though they fit our team pretty well, we'd say they're more of a Medium size. While the rubber temple grips certainly do their job securing these glasses to our faces, they also let them raise off some of our testers' noses when smiling (but not all). These little textured sections are our only durability concern with the Wells, as their edges stick up a bit from the frames. Still, we've had these glasses for a couple of years now and still love them as much as the day we first bought them.
Read review: Native Eyewear Wells
Best on a Tight Budget
The Suncloud Rambler have continued to be a favorite of ours for some time now. They're lightweight, at just 25 grams, adding to their already impressive level of comfort. Their specific shape of wrap helps them be secure on the face, aided by embedded rubber nose pads. Going yet another step further, the Rambler's have excellent balance, making them easy to wear for long periods of time. Their brown lenses are protective and, overall, they offer an aesthetic and fit that's well-liked by our team of testers.
The brown lenses are a bit more yellowy than we'd like them to be. While this does add something to their contrast, it can be a bit color-shifting in ways we aren't always big fans of. We've had these shades for a couple of years now, and find their hinges also need regular tightening — which is easy to do with a small screwdriver, just a little annoying. All in all, they're a pretty solid all-around set of sport sunglasses at a great price, making them tough to beat when it comes to value.
Read review: Suncloud Rambler
Best for Water Sports
Costa Del Mar Rincon
The Costa Del Mar Rincon are a large pair of water-specific shades meant to fit even wide faces. They offer everything we want in a grey lens, maintaining excellent color without compromising on contrast. These super protective sport sunglasses also boast some of the highest levels of protection, advertising limited levels of both blue light and infrared blockage, both of which have been tied to eye fatigue. In practice, this translates to very comfortable eyes — from both lens protection and coverage — even as we spent long afternoons paddling sunny high alpine lakes. Though they're large, even our narrow-faced testers appreciate their flexible fit, comprehensive coverage, and cool style. We also love the Costa cleaning cloth, as it's both thick and large, making it extremely functional and pleasant to use.
At 33 grams, the Rincon are some of the heaviest sport sunglasses we tested. They're very well balanced on our faces, but still noticeably heavier than almost all the rest. Most of our testers enjoy the large-lens aesthetic, but not everyone appreciates this look, and with the Rincon's, there's no getting around how big they are. We tested a particularly shiny version of these frames (the Black/Shiny Tort) and noticed that the inside of the nose pad is so shiny that we could clearly see objects reflected in it. Not a dealbreaker, but certainly an oddity. At the end of the day, there's no other pair of glasses we tested that we are more excited to reach for when heading out on the water than these supremely protective and comfortable shades from Costa.
Read review: Costa Del Mar Rincon
Best Wrap-Style Shades
Maui Jim Spartan Reef
If your lifestyle is begging for a really high-quality pair of wraparound sunglasses, the Maui Jim Spartan Reef are hands-down our favorites. They have crystal clear glass lenses with the ideal amount of contrast enhancement without skewing colors. They do a superb job blocking light, both through the lenses and with a fit that seems to meld perfectly to our faces. We mean this in the best way possible — wearing the Spartan Reef is like wearing a pair of sports goggles. They're that protective and comfortable. Their snug fit blocks out the sun and even most wind. We also love their semi-rigid trifold case that can be folded flat when empty.
With their glass lenses, the Spartan Reef are by far the heaviest pair we tested, weighing 44 grams. This weight is definitely noticeable, though, to their credit, they're also very well balanced with secure rubber nose pads and temple grips, keeping them in place even on long sweaty trail runs. If you're not a fan of the wraparound feel or style, these are unlikely to change your mind. They touch the face in tons of spots to create that coverage we're so impressed by and have a far more "sporty" vibe than most other, more versatile-looking models. But if you know you need a pair of wraparound sunglasses that can truly keep you protected and comfortable, these are what you've been looking for.
Read review: Maui Jim Spartan Reef
Fashion-Forward Sport Functionality
Tifosi Swank SL
If your ideal sport sunglasses include the descriptors "lightweight", "stay put", "not sporty looking", and "inexpensive", then the Tifosi Swank SL are probably your jam. These performance-focused glasses are just 23 grams, with the right combination of embedded rubber nose pads and perfectly matte-textured frames to hold them securely in place. Yet their shape and ability to "float" above the nose make them look much more like an everyday pair than a sports-specific set. For those who don't like the feel of sunglasses touching a whole bunch of spots all over their faces, these are a dream. The Brown Polarized lenses we tested also increase contrast without drastically altering colors.
They are a bit smaller than we expected though and seem to look more at home on narrower faces — though they still fit our larger-headed testers. The Swank SL lens shape is a bit more rounded and almost bulbous on the bottoms, creating a rather unique aesthetic that not all of our testers love. And as a flatter pair that sits up farther from the face, there's quite a bit of room around the edges for the sun to find its way in. Still, we love a good incognito pair of shades that offer sports-worthy performance in a fashion-friendly, budget-friendly package.
Read review: Tifosi Swank SL
Why You Should Trust Us
As an eyeglasses wearer since the age of four, our main tester, Maggie Brandenburg, is adamant about keeping her eyes protected. She typically spends more time outdoors than in, from leading high-alpine backpacking trips to teaching in the sunny Caribbean and kayaking on hyperreflective waters. For the past eight years, she's led global adventures for teens and adults, from backpacking the Andes and Sierra Nevadas to trekking through the African Savannah and paddling equatorial waters. Every adventure demands a lot from her eyes. In turn, she demands a lot from her eyewear. An avid eyewear junkie, she keeps up with the latest protective options and tries on every pair she can. Maggie has tested and reviewed hundreds of products for GearLab since 2017.
Over the span of two sunny springs, three summers, and one warm fall, we wore these sunglasses incessantly. Our testers napped on beaches and boat decks. We rode mountain bikes and water taxis. We wandered the streets, markets, jungles, beaches, deserts, and mountains of nine different countries on four continents. We judged each pair on their functionality, quality, fit, and versatility. And, because we like to be thorough, we asked dozens of our friends and family to wear them. They told us how they fit, how comfortable and stylish they are, and how much they like the lenses.
Related: How We Tested Sports Sunglasses
Analysis and Test Results
The five metrics we used to test these sport sunglasses are weighted by their importance. We go far beyond what these glasses look like and delve deep into their technical specifications and specific usages.
The size and fit of your specs make a huge difference for more than just style. Arms that are the right length will keep them attached to your face while you play. A narrow bridge holds glasses up on a narrow nose. A pair that is wide enough for your head will help prevent headaches. It's important to look at frame and lens sizes before you buy a pair of glasses. Not sure what size you wear? Grab a pair of shades you already know and love and measure those or read their measurements on the inside of the bow.
We recognize that price is an important factor when making a purchase decision. We tested options with a huge range in price and found that it doesn't necessarily correspond with performance. Glasses with the highest value in this review offer solid performance at a below-average price. For example, the Native Wells offer some seriously impressive performance for a comparably low cost. If even that modest price is too much to swallow, the Suncloud Rambler offers reasonable performance for an exceptionally low cost. However, if price is no obstacle, the Kaenon Clarke cost a pretty penny but offer first-rate performance that we found to be well worth the investment.
One of the most important attributes of any pair of shades is the quality of the lenses. Since the whole point of wearing them is to protect your eyes — from UV, glare, dust, etc. — we weight this metric heavily. We considered all aspects of lens quality, including the types of light they can handle, color enhancement or color-changing properties, clarity, and reflections or glare.
The best lenses we've ever had the pleasure of wearing are the Ultra Brown 12 lenses with the Kaenon Clarke. They're everything we want in a brown lens, with perfect clarity, superb contrast, and exceptional true colors. They have the least back glare of any pair we tested, stopping us from seeing our own faces looking back. Similarly, the Costa Del Mar Rincon Grey 580P are excellent grey lenses. They're extremely protective without casting a dreary shadow across the world, keeping our eyes from fatiguing in even the harshest lighting conditions. The Smith Lowdown 2 ChromaPop Polarized Bronze Mirror are also very excellent lenses. These brown beauties stand out for doing exactly what their name suggests — making certain colors and highlights seem to pop from the landscape, imbuing them with an almost neon-like quality.
Also excellent are the Crystal Grey lenses of the Native Wells. They offer impressive protection powers from near-visible wavelengths of light, helping to keep you from experiencing eye fatigue after long days outdoors. The Maui Jim Spartan Reef HCL Bronze lenses are the only glass lenses we tested, in a sea of polycarbonate options. They are superbly clear, with excellent contrast and color retention. The Oakley Holbrook Prizm Tungsten lenses are similar to the ChromaPop of the Smith Lowdown 2, adding an extra splash of vibrancy to your vision. Finally, the Tifosi Swank SL Brown Polarized lenses aren't quite on the same level but are still great brown lenses with solid color retention and above-average clarity.
Comfort matters quite a bit for a piece of gear you're going to wear nearly every day and potentially for 12 hours at a time. Even the best lenses aren't helpful if the frames they're in are uncomfortable to wear for longer than an hour. This metric relies a lot on the feels, and getting input from a wide variety of testers with different face shapes and sizes was very important. We considered how each pair felt across the bridge of the nose, above and behind the ears, riding on top of the head, and whether or not they tend to contact cheeks, eyebrows, or eyelashes. We wore sunglasses for full days to see how comfort changed or remained consistent over time. We also considered whether each pair is prone to sliding or moving around, especially as you bounce around on a run or bend over to pick up your kayak. Another important aspect of comfort is how heavy and balanced these shades are. We weighed each pair, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Medium-weight glasses that are front-heavy are more annoying and less comfortable than a heavier pair that balances the weight between the frame and the arms.
The Kaenon Clarke proved themselves to be the most universally comfortable pair of sport sunglasses we tested. While many others were well-loved or work outstandingly on certain face types, the Clarke's won sweeping praise across the board. They're just over average weight, at 29 grams, but are well-balanced, with matte frames and ideal rubber nose pads that maintain security without compromising comfort. The Costa Rincon are built for large and wide heads, yet still ended up surprisingly comfortable across all our testers, with their flex hinges and smooth frames. The Tifosi Swank SL are also comfortable, with their low weight of just 23 grams, though they're a bit smaller than many others.
The Under Armour Assist are glossy and smooth, with a shape that works well and stays comfortable across many faces. The Smith Lowdown 2 were quite comfortable for our panel of testers as well. They're a bit taller, touching a little bit more of the face, but their matte finish and overall shape help them stay comfortable across a wide range of faces. The Suncloud Rambler are also surprisingly comfortable, despite their slightly smaller frame size. A low weight of 25 grams, as well as a thin, flexible, well-balanced frame, make them another crowd favorite. The Native Wells are also lightweight and quite comfortable for long-time wear.
Frame quality is a big part of durability. We researched and assessed each model, and put them through the wringer to find out which ones are the most likely to hold up through constant usage. We spent a lot of time jamming these sunnies in bags and cars and flexing frames to see how well they withstand the pressure. We noted anything that scratched or failed to perform as intended. We looked at each frame's materials and construction, paying particular attention to the hinges to see if they're a standard barrel hinge (i.e., don't overextend) or a spring hinge (i.e., are made to overextend). We also carefully examined any nose pads or bow grippies and their attachment points.
Both the Kaenon Clarke and Costa Rincon are superbly well-designed and well-built sport sunglasses. They both feel and perform very well. The Clarke's have a matte finish and just the right level of flexibility, with sturdy hinges that have no wobble and didn't come loose even a little bit, despite having worn these sunglasses for a couple of years now. The Rincon's are glossy on the outside, built thickly, and have flex hinges that allow them to easily accommodate overextension. The Smith Lowdown 2 are also impressively built, with a similar matte finish to the Clarke's, and a small amount of flex in their thinner but taller bows.
The Maui Jim Spartan Reef are also very solid, with strategic rubber patches that are firmly attached. The Native Wells are lightweight yet durable, and have withstood a couple of years of regular use and extended testing without looking any different than the day we first bought them (well, they may be a little dirtier now). The Oakley Holbrook also have sturdy, thick construction that's above average. Even the Suncloud Rambler impressed us with the performance of their frames. Despite needing periodic hinge tightening, they have maintained their integrity for multiple years of regular use and abuse.
Style and Versatility
As much as we wish there was a magical formula for style, there isn't. There's no objective test for how you'll look in any of these glasses, but we know it matters. Because it doesn't exist, we didn't rate these using an objective style guide. However, we asked many people with different styles and face shapes to try them on and tell us what they thought. Every tester took a peek in the mirror and rated how likely they would be to wear each pair in public based on looks alone.
Though the category of sport sunglasses isn't necessarily the first place you think of finding a fashionable pair of glasses, it's also really nice to have one pair of shades you can wear for a lot of different activities. Here again, the Kaenon Clarke blew us away. They manage to look like a pretty "normal" pair of sunglasses, rather than a sport-specific set. The Suncloud Rambler are also far more fashionable than average, while still offering solid performance across sweaty activities. The Smith Lowdown 2 and Under Armour Assist are also on the more fashionable end of the sporty-chic spectrum. We also like the looks of the Sunski Yuba, though recognize that their smaller size works a little better on narrower heads. Similarly, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Costa Rincon offers a cool vibe but in a wide frame with large lenses.
The Native Wells and Oakley Holbrook are both sunglasses we've tested in multiple colors of frames and lenses, with very different looks. In both cases, we think that their brown lenses look less sporty than their grey, blue, or mirrored lenses. However, regardless of colors, we still think both these pairs are great. The Tifosi Swank SL is another pair that looks good on specific faces. Some of our narrow-faced testers really liked how they look, while wider-faced teammates found them just okay.
If you want to protect your eyes outdoors, you'll want your shades to offer good coverage. You know, so they actually do protect your eyes from sun, dust, and debris. The glasses we tested offer different degrees of coverage. To compare them, we analyzed the shape and size of their frames and lenses to see if they adequately filter sun, glare, and flying dirt from any angle. We paid attention to arm width by the temple to see if it blocks light as well. We also noted which face shapes and sizes left overly large gaps for unwanted light and foreign body entrance.
Curved frames and lenses that contour around your face offer better coverage than flat models. In that vein, the Maui Jim Spartan Reef are not only wraparound sunglasses but do such a great job hugging a variety of face shapes. They're almost like (and we say this fondly) wearing a pair of sports goggles instead of glasses. In a slightly different way, the oversized Costa Rincon provide excellent coverage. Not only are their lenses very large, but they also manage a great curvature that further minimizes gaps and points of light entry. In the same way, though marginally less so, the Native Wells, Suncloud Rambler, Under Armour Assist, and Oakley Holbrook also provide great coverage through smart curves and large lenses.
The Kaenon Clarke offer pretty good coverage. Their lenses are smaller but they have a helpfully shaped curve that goes a long way toward adding coverage. The Smith Lowdown 2 and goodr BAMFGs both have oversized lenses that protect your eyes but are flatter than most of the others, leaving some side gaps.
A good case can really have an impact on the longevity of your shades. It's not impossible to find an aftermarket case that may provide more protection for your investment, but if you're spending a sizeable amount on a piece of gear, it's nice if it just comes with a case that does the job.
A lot of the sport sunglasses we tested come with semi-rigid zippered cases, including the Costa Rincon, Hulislem S1 Polarized, Native Wells, Kaenon Clarke, and RIVBOS Polarized. All of them also include at least one other component of microfiber to clean the lenses — some have just a cloth, some have a bag, and a few have both. The Maui Jim Spartan Reef come in a trifold case that then can be folded flat when it's empty. All the rest arrive in just a microfiber bag of some sort, which helps in cleaning the lenses and is certainly better than no case at all. The Hulislem, RIVBOS, and Duduma Polarized all include some sort of clip or carabiner on the case and the Clarke's have a loop for you to attach your own. And while all the microfiber bags and cloths we received work to clean lenses, the Costa Del Mar cleaning cloth is by far our favorite, with its large size and perfect thickness.
There is a seemingly endless array of sunglasses available today, and it can be difficult to figure out which are the right choice for you. It's always our goal to help make your decisions easier by spending hundreds of hours testing the best products on the market side-by-side. We had a ton of fun testing and modeling these sunnies for months to discover each pair's best and worst attributes. We hope that our expertise and experience help you find the perfect pair of shades for your next adventure.
— Maggie Brandenburg
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