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How to buy good sunglasses


That rack of $10 sunglasses at the local discount or drug store? Walk right on past that thing while repeating after me: “You get what you pay for, you get what you pay for … .”

Buy cheap sunglasses and you’ll get cheap sunglasses — poorly made ones that won’t offer good vision, won’t last long and, worst of all, might not protect your eyes from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun.

But buy quality ones — not necessarily pricey ones — and you’ll take care of your eyesight.

“Anytime you’re in the outdoors, especially around snow, water or rocks, there’s going to be lots of glare and reflection,” professional whitewater kayaker Brad Ludden says. “Since I spend 90 percent of my life outdoors, I’m at risk for eye problems such as establishing cataracts early on. That’s why I wear sunglasses whenever I can.”

Whether you wear shades to protect your eyes or simply to look like a rock star, here’s the good news: Sunglasses can be functional and cool—without you spending a king’s ransom. You just have to be a smart sunglass shopper. Here’s how.



“Never shop for shades on a street corner.” Ludden says. “You know, where they sell ‘Jokeleys’ (fake Oakleys).”

Sunglass-specific shops or outdoor stores usually have knowledgeable staff, and you don’t have to worry about buying fake or counterfeit sunglasses.

Plan to spend at least $30 to get a quality pair of sunglasses. Cheaper shades are likely to be of questionable quality. But don’t overdo it, either; over $100, you’re probably just paying for a trendy brand name.



Before you go shopping, consider what you’ll be using your shades for. Look at your hobbies. Are you around the water a lot? Do you love to ski or hike in the snow? Is cycling your thing?

“Figure out what you want before you go in the store,” Ludden says. “Then have them show you a few that match your criteria and fit your face the best.”



For most outdoor sports, shatterproof polycarbonate lenses are best. Glass lenses are recommended only for low-impact activities like fishing or chilling out.

Also, make sure the lens provides 100 percent UV protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Most have a sticker on the lens to let you know.

“If you buy glasses with cheap lenses they can give you headaches, almost like a prescription that’s not right for your eyes,” Ludden warns. “It can also throw off your depth perception, and whether you’re kayaking or mountain biking or whatever, that’s really important. It’s worth spending a little extra money for better lenses.”



Polarization is a lens technology that reduces glare and the dangerous rays that can cause cataracts at a young age.

Get polarized lenses if you spend a lot of time around water or snowy conditions. Insist on glasses with polarization that’s sandwiched between two lenses — avoid those with spray-on polarization (it can wear off over time).”


Some frames are metal, but most sports sunglasses have durable and lightweight plastic frames.

Take a look at the frame and make sure the joints are strong. The arms and earpieces should feel sturdy and stay put on your face — but not so tight that it hurts or gives you a headache. The lenses should be close to your face so glare can’t seep in along the sides between your cheeks.

For high-speed sports or extra bright conditions, look for wrap-style shades that provide maximum coverage. Too close to your eye can be bad because you’ll get the dreaded eyelash bash on the lenses.

“You don’t want to know they are on your face,” Ludden says. “You want sunglasses to be so comfortable that you forget about them.”


Unless there’s a good reason not to wear a strap — say, while mountain biking, where it could snag on a limb — it’s wise to add a retainer. You paid good money for good sunglasses; you don’t want your last look at them to be them sinking to a river bottom.”

71 Comments on How to buy good sunglasses

  1. Just get a pair of aviators.

  2. I just go to my local roofing supply store because most glasses don’t have uv protection + they are safety glasses

  3. need shades to put over prescription glasses that not look dum

    • Just saw these today, “Cocoons.” A bit pricy ($35.00) but really nice; I bought a pair. Black wraparound polarized sun glass wraps. Spendy because of polarization feature and safety glasses approved. Great for fishing or walking across a snow / ice field. Composite frames so very light. Bought mine at Lens Crafters.

  4. You’re welcome!

  5. Delta Force // August 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm // Reply

    Well Sly Fox my wife and kids got me a quality pair of shades for my Birthday. I cant BELIEVE they spent $100 on sunglasses! And that was on sale! The bought me a pair called the Polarized Bottle Rocket by Oakley. And I must say, they are the nicest sunglasses I have worn in a while. They better last a few years if they spent that much money! It appears that you were mostly right, high-end shades are all around better then Wal-Mart ones… But still…one hundred BUCKS!!

  6. Look again at Ray-Ban. Because they are not the “in” brand any longer you can purchase them for a lot less and get everything you could want in eye protection.
    I use “Explorers” for most outings, especially winter treking. They are glass lensed (Less scratching than plastic) and are anti fogging. They used to cost $180.00 and now go for $65.00. That’s thrifty.
    My son’s “Dragons” that are similar in function cost him $260.00

    • Delta Force // April 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm // Reply

      wow I wish I had enough money that I could waist it on sunglasses too. anyways I had a really nice pair when I was in Afghanistan but I forget what they are called. Now I just use $15 walmart glasses. why spend $250 on glasses when you can get a perfectly good pair for 15 bucks?? sounds like overkill to me.

      • General Hammond // June 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm //

        $15.00 at Wal-mart, hmmmmm. Lasic surgery after wearing those in a sunny situation will cost those you advised this to a lot of money and pain. Much like the $600.00 paratrooper boots you boasted about, proper eye wear is even more important. Cheap sun glasses are simply colored plastic coatings and not uv protective which is what you need and the costly part of the glasses.

      • Delta Force // July 5, 2012 at 8:55 pm //

        Let me explain… whenever I buy a $15 to $20 pair of sunglasses I make sure it says “100% UV Proof” so really you have no say in this argument. It just seems pointless to buy $200 sunglasses. And as I explained to Sly Fox the Government bought my boots not I. Oh and yes I am proud of those boots, they saved my feet not once, not twice, but five times. what do I mean by saved… Well I think you can figure it out.

      • As a consumer, everyone has a say in all purchases; to buy or not.

      • Delta Force // August 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm //

        Yes that is correct. But I really dont see what’s so hard about this, let me spell it out for you. I…THINK…IT…IS… POINTLESS…TO…BUY… $150-$200…SUNGLASSES… WHEN… YOU… CAN… GET… A… UV…PROOF… PAIR… FOR…$15-$20. Do I need to say it again for you?

      • Delta Force // August 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm //

        Yes, he can say whatever he wants but if what he says isn’t true then its quite pointless isn’t it.

      • There is a point where the cost of the price out weighs the possible features that could be gained, with my budget that would be around 90$. On the flip side cheep is cheep. If you spend 15$ on some glasses that break on the trail or at camp you are without them for the rest of the week. Although it may not ruin your eyes it is definitely unpleasant and can give some of us migraines. Considering this I would spend 50$ on the low end for some shades that will last. Overall I personally would spend 50-90$

    • General Hammond // August 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm // Reply

      Excuse me! I did say what’s true. Eye ware from Wal-Mart is plastic and cheap ; check the manufactures discription. Let’s see, you want scouts to buy paraboots worth $600.00 and something scouts can’t afford or even get and then you boast about getting them for free to boot. Then you suggest sun glasses worth next to nothing. I sure hope you’re a tenderfoot with time to grow, if not you should be ashame.

      • Delta Force // August 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm //

        “100% UV proof. Made of shatter-resistant polycarbonate.” This is what it says on all the labels of all the Wal-Mart shades I have ever bought. As for my boots, I did not directly recommend them. I am aware of how expensive they are and was only trying to tell of my experiences with them and that they are a super good boot. I did not brag about getting them for free I merely told sly fox that I did not buy them.

      • Delta Force // September 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm //

        As for you accusing me of being a Tender Foot, I was the first to become an Eagle Scout in my patrol. My best friend (R.I.P.) soon followed, we both served as Para-rescue men. He gave his life for my country and because of him I can enjoy scouting today.

  7. Karate kid // March 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm // Reply

    I like the sport-specific sunglasses. Becase im going to do a tri!!!
    I can not waet !!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Really?…I know that the name-brand stores’ sunglasses are sold at at least twice their cost! Most sunglasses probably cost about $20 wholesale.

  9. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) // October 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm // Reply

    I have a $5 pair that I go from Wal-mart works good.

  10. EscapeArtist // July 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm // Reply

    I got a pair for about $50 at Eddie Bauer. Best sunglasses I’ve ever had.

  11. I like the sport-specific sunglasses. They look so cool!

  12. i have a problem with buying sunglasses i have glasses and i cant see with out them but i really need sunglasses does any one know about any sunglasses that would work for me

    • If you have a “Sam`s Club” in your town go to the eyeglasses section they have sunglaases that can fit on your glasses.If you don`t have a “Sam`s Club” in your town by glasses that change color if your in sunlight or inside

  13. Staten Island Scouter // March 27, 2011 at 9:47 am // Reply

    Always buy eyewear from a reputable dealer. The Gear Guy is 100% CORRECT. If you wear regular glasses go to the Optomitrist that made your glasses and they will help you pck the right ones. Lens color, shape, materials are all different and each activity needs their own. After you know what to look for then buy them and wear them.

  14. go to costco and but there kirkland sunglass they are made by quality manufactorer but cheper because they do not carry there brand name they are about 40 bucks but work and last i have a pair that i have used everywhere for everything

  15. i have a pair of cheap welders glasses and they work fine

  16. bobthecactus // December 23, 2010 at 7:33 pm // Reply

    ocean waves are really good but EXTREMELY pricey.

  17. get oakleys

  18. got some smith&wesson shooting glasses that protect from the sun but also are so heavy that you can shoot them with a shotgun and they are fine, crazy, although the arms are a little loose of them now but the screws are still tight, dunno why that is, still great glasses and they look cool, but i know that someone can shoot at me with a pellet rifle and it still wont break my glasses

  19. tifosi and nike are the best

  20. I wonder how that Lifetime warranty stuff really works out if you break your sunglasses…

  21. I don’t have to worry about buying sunglasses, I found my polarized pair sitting in the snow while was hunting coyotes.

    But you guys have to buy a pair!

    HA HA !!!!!

  22. Italian Artist // January 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm // Reply

    GO WITH OAKLYS ALL THE WAY!!! i have 3 pairs of oaklys because my dad gets 60% off because hes a firefighter/SWAT team medic. but OAKLEYS are so duable they work great but there expensive!

  23. purchased ray bans and the customer service is terrible, hope you never need it.

  24. Longhorns 3-0 // September 20, 2009 at 7:08 pm // Reply

    I have the same oakleys troop520, mine r orange. Oakleys and raybans are the best.

  25. Cool Dude with the gang // July 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm // Reply

    I really like one way mirror sunglasses. They really block the glare of really bright light on sensitive eyes. Automatic polarization sunglasses sometimes work and sometimes they don’t darken enough to block really bright glare of sunlight.

  26. I have a pair of aviator raybans. they are polarized, shatter, and scrach proof, and I wear them everywhere.

  27. I got a pair of Oakley m-frames for christmas a few years ago. These are extremely tough and offer great protection. I use them and take them everywhere I go. However they are kind of pricey.

  28. I like the polarized sunglasses! 🙂

  29. try flyingfisherman

  30. Knife boy 10 // October 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm // Reply

    I have a $70 pair of SPY glasses but im afraid i’ll break them what should i do?

  31. try ocales

  32. It’s not possible to get completely clear polarized lenses that turn dark out doors, but it would be cool. :/

  33. i bought awsome glasses from hot topic there black and blue checkered

    there awsome for tennis 🙂

  34. Jesus follower // April 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm // Reply

    I got a nice blue one at walmart for $10 and i love them!

  35. Does anyone know where to buy the sunglasses featured on this page?

  36. Costa Del Mar is the best brand of sunglasses. I love mine. I have TP2 with Shiny Tortoise frames and Blue Mirror 580 lenses,

  37. HillsongUnited rox // February 8, 2008 at 6:56 pm // Reply

    i lost a $25 pair of sunglasses jet skiing the second day i had them

    • EscapeArtist // July 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm // Reply

      They sell strings that attach to the ends of sunglasses, and I’ve gotta tell you, they work!

  38. cool shades

  39. i got mine at Dollar General too

  40. Geez, I just shop at Dollar General for the offbrand kind. It still works for me!

  41. I wear glasses that are regular inside but transition into polarized sunglasses outside

  42. Nice sunglasses! Is walmart a good place to shop for sunglasses

  43. umm… is target a good store for glasses? 😉

  44. whoa nice glasses 🙂

  45. i have polarize glasses not only that they look cool they are amazing for fishing because polarize glasses can tell if there are holes in the water and a good fisherman knows that holes is the best home for a big 36 inch long catfish!!!!!!!!

  46. You only get one pair of eyes, protect them as best you can.

  47. I don’t think I would pay OVER fifteen for a pair of sunglasses!

    • Listen to these words: you get what you pay for. Buying polarized and polycarbonite sunglasses is a good investment.

  48. You Have to be willing to spend a good some of money on glasses. Look for dependable brands like Native, Smith, Oakley, Mauie Jim, or Rudy Project. Most of them will come with Lifetime warrentie, so if you scratch the lends or break them all you have to do is pay shipping. I would also suggest that if you have the money, that you should buy polorized. They help as lot.

  49. I like the sport-specific sunglasses. They look so cool! 😀

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