Why You Need To Protect Your Eyes On The Run

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For many runners, a cap and a pair of sunglasses act as nothing more than a convenient way to hide bed hair or conceal the aftermath of a rough night out. And while there’s nothing wrong with implementing these life hacks on an early-morning run, the true purpose of caps and sunnies should never be underestimated.

Because while they do help to cover up what’s best left unseen, they also provide crucial protection to one of the most neglected parts of a runner’s body: The eyes.

Why do our eyes need protection?

But is it really that important to protect your eyes on the run? Isn’t the body equipped with enough built-in mechanisms to fulfill this task without any help? Unfortunately not. While eyelashes and brows, combined with the sunken position of the eyes in the eye sockets, offer some protection against the elements, runners may need more. Why? Because spending long hours outside, doing what we love, may, over time, take its toll on these frail organs.

So what exactly do the eyes need protection from? Apart from keeping environmental irritations, like bugs, pollen, and dust at bay, proper eye protection also shields the eyes from the potentially harmful effects of the sun. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, excessive ultraviolet (UV) exposure could potentially have the following detrimental impacts on the eyes over time:

  • The formation of skin cancer lesions on and around the eyelids.
  • An increased risk of developing cataracts, which could lead to impaired vision and even blindness.
  • The development of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which affects the part of the eye that allows you to see detail.
  • The development of temporary snow blindness, especially after overexposure to UV rays while running at the beach or in the snow.
How to best protect your eyes on the run

So how do you best protect your eyes on the run? Is it as simple as plopping on the nearest pair of sunglasses and heading out? Not quite. Here are some tips for getting the most bang for your buck:

  • Choose sunglasses that offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Carefully read the label on your preferred pair before taking the plunge and also make sure that protection is offered up to 400 nm (also indicated as UV 400).
  • Choose a pair that wraps around your face in order to block UV rays that come from both the front and the sides.
  • Consider investing in sunglasses with polarised lenses if you often train near water, snow or light-colored sand. Although pricey, these lenses will help reduce glare.
  • The chances are good that you’ll be working up a sweat on the run, so be sure to choose sunglasses with a frame that offers good ventilation. Alternatively, consider investing in anti-fog sprays or coatings.
  • Make sure that your sunglasses of choice are lightweight and bounce-free. Heavy sunnies that keep sliding down your nose are sure to cause irritation and may even cause you to avoid wearing them altogether.
  • Buy your sunglasses from a reputable dealer in order to ensure that they meet industry standards in terms of both lens and frame safety and quality.
  • Also invest in a cap or visor with a long, wide brim in order to intercept UV rays that would have reached the eyes from the top of the sunglasses. And yes, wear both the cap and your sunglasses while running.

Additional perks of wearing eye protection

And while wearing a good pair of sunnies provides protection against the harmful effects of the sun, it offers some pretty neat side perks too.  First off, it can help prevent you from squinting into the sun. Which, in turn, could help avoid extra facial tension that could lead to wasting energy on the run.

Secondly, wearing a pair of sunglasses while running could also help you maintain good form. How so? According to retired running hero, Meb Keflezighi, sporting a pair of sunnies on the run can help you keep your head at just the right level. “If you’re wearing sunglasses when you lower your head, they’ll start to slide down your nose. When that happens, it’s a cue to return your head to a level position, looking 20 to 30 meters down the road,” Keflezighi explains.

Do the right thing

So, don’t just save your cap and sunnies for covering up bad hair days or concealing the effects of a late night of partying. Do the right thing and wear proper eye protection on every, single run. Yes, even on cloudy, rainy days. And even if you don’t run during the hottest or sunniest parts of the day. Not only will this help safeguard you against potential eye-health issues in future, but it may just benefit your running performance and style in the present as well.


  1. Allie Burdick, The Importance Of Protecting Your Eyes On The Run, Online publication
  2. Ashley Lauretta, Runners: Here’s Why Sunglasses Are Essential, Online publication
  3. Lizzie Crouch, Sun 'can harm sight as well as skin', Online publication
  4. United States Environmental Protection Agency Staff, Protecting Our Eyes and Skin from Too Much Sun, Online publication