Although I spend a minimum of 3-4 hours out on the trails in the Alps, for me sunglasses have always been reserved for stops at cafes, or at a push if I’m running on snow where looking both at the ground and at the route ahead can be blinding. I always opt for a visor otherwise, which protects me somewhat from the UV rays, while also giving me a clear enough view of the trail ahead whether I’m out on an open path across an alpage, or under dense tree canopy. I’ve always disliked fumbling around to try and take on and off glasses when in and out of shaded areas, and find the momentary blindness when I step into the shade with glasses on, really puts me off my stride.
When testing out my Julbo sunglasses, I chose not to read the in-depth information available as to what the individual features did, as I didn’t want to be persuaded before having even put the glasses on. I’ve broken down my review into fit, function, form and features.
These are nice wrap around frameless glasses that really do cover everywhere in my field of vision. The adjustable arms hug the glasses to the face. When running the only slight niggle I felt was that the nose piece felt quite harsh against my skin when I was bounding along and the glasses rose and fell a small amount with my stride. To be clear, the movement was negligible, as overall the glasses hung on very well, but I do know that the slight abrasion I felt after 3 hours, may have felt more accentuated had I been out for much longer. On returning home I played around with the adjustable nose piece further, and although I still maintain that it feels a little harsh, the adjustability does offer far more flexibility than other glasses I’ve worn. The glasses felt super light, and a good fit on my fairly narrow face.
Had I read the blurb beforehand, I would have understood that the ‘Zebra’ photochromic lens specifically is designed to transition you from dark to light and light to dark without that momentary blindness I allude to above, when running under tree canopy or patchy shade. Having set out without this knowledge, I was immensely impressed how well the glasses maintained my vision on an outing that was approximately 50% in tree cover of some description. I usually find my stride shortens the first few steps into the shade, but with these glasses I kept stride throughout the patches of light, and never once felt my ability to see the trail was compromised. A real testament to this is on my arrival back home, where I walk through a windowless garage to get into the main house, negotiating unlocking 2 doors, I didn’t even think to take off my glasses till I was settled back in! Given that minutes earlier I had been staring up (not squinting) at the snow-capped slopes of Dome de Miage, that’s impressive! The Zebralite lens transitions from almost clear to a category 3 lens tint (the standard tint for most sunglasses on the market). The slight pink tinge of the glasses when in near clear state possibly is a little off-putting for some, but variations of the lens are available.
The lens also boasts of anti-fog technology, which on the whole I thought was very effective. This slipped up twice however. The first time was when I took out my refreshment coffee flask, and cleverly blew on the scolding liquid to cool it down, finding myself in a momentary fog. Not the glasses fault! The second was near the end of my run, by which point I was perspiring pretty heavily as the days heat was really creeping up, and a 3-hour run in the mountains is enough to get me sweating on even my best day. I was descending a very steep section of trail, and the glasses developed a small fog patch right in my line of vision on the left lens. For some reason, this side the glass fits slightly nearer my face (I’m guessing I’m not quite symmetrical), and while looking directly down with my head bent over, clearly not enough air could pass through to allow the anti-fog to work. This is a minor point, and as I said, was an issue for all of about 20 seconds out of a 3hour initial test run. The lenses are made of a material called NXT which is more optically correct that cheaper polycarbonate lenses meaning a distortion free view of the world. The other advantage of this material is that the reactive photochromic technology is built into the lens itself rather than just a coating as with some competitors which means that it gets a lifetime performance guarantee as it can’t wear off or out.
The glasses themselves are slick looking, and certainly do look the part. I don’t think I’ll be winning any fashion awards anytime soon with any of my chosen running gear, but as someone who will nearly always choose fit for purpose sportswear I can’t fault them. For all the features they hold, Julbo have produced a lightweight, smart looking pair of glasses, not being too bulky or cumbersome on a lady’s head. My pair have a mix of dark and light blue arms, and nose bridge.
Now for this part I will confess to receiving help from the Julbo website to explain some of the more technical terms, and actually find out the capabilities of these glasses. The glasses I tried were a women’s fit, but with the “light red zebra” photochromic lens. To all intents and purposes, the lens looks pretty pink to me, but maybe compared directly to the pink lens, the difference is more obvious. As mentioned above, the photochromic element means the glasses get lighter or darker depending on the intensity of the light (category 1-3) regardless of temperature. The anti-fog coating means no condensation, and maintenance just washing in soapy water. The air venting also allows the air to flow through the glasses also reducing fogging. Oil repellent coating allows water to bead and run off rather than sitting on the lens. Grip technology and 3D nose allow personalised sculpting of the glasses to your own face, and the air-link temple system features a shock absorbing elastomer inset at the end of the temples for comfort and lightness. To you and me this means a softer rubber arm sitting over the ear which should reduce bounce! I didn’t notice them bouncing at along the arms at all (only slightly on the bridge of my nose), so seems that works! The glasses are also panoramic with broad lens for improved vision. I did find this very impressive compared to other glasses I’ve used. The website states the glasses weigh 22g, but lacking accurate enough kitchen scales I can’t verify this, and this number sounds astonishingly low to me, though believable given how they feel on.
All in all, I’ve been hugely impressed. It seems my one reason for never running in sunglasses has been well and truly put to bed with this photochromic technology. As with all things adjustable, it will probably take me about 10 goes before I make all the adjustments for the sunglasses to fit me perfectly (at which point someone will pick them up and mess around with them no doubt), but a really comfy and lightweight pair of glasses straight off the bat. My eyes have never felt so well looked after!
Written by Karin Voller, Logistics Director and Trail Runner
SRP of the glasses is £135.00, there are also options with standard non reactive sunglasses lenses (cat 3 called Spectron 3) in the same build for a more budget friendly £75.00. For further information check out the Julbo website.