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POC Elicit ($250)
Best for Going Fast
This drastically minimal performance shield is like wearable Zen. It weighs just 23 grams, with a single frameless, synthetic lens that stretches high and wide, so you’ll lose track of where the Elicit ends and your face begins. The color- and depth-enhancing lens encourages high velocity, because you see so much so fast.
Nathan Sunrise ($50)
Nathan designed its debut sunglasses for runners, but this street-sport crossover is a do-it-all option for any outdoors enthusiast. In quality and aesthetics, the Sunrise rivals shades twice the price. Polarized synthetic lenses yield a crisp view, while the light, springy thermoplastic frame fits snug but not too tight. (Grippy inserts at the ears help.) Plus, the medium-size frames offer ample protection and a classic Wayfarer look.
Smith Embark ($199)
Best for Trail to Town
Our love of the Embark boils down to color. Yes, with their bright blue detachable side shields, comically mismatched temple tips, and purple frames, these shades are eye-catching and fun. But it’s the brown-tinted, polarized lenses that make them stand out. The throbbing, vivid optics boost hues and contrast so well that one tester compared them to using hallucinogens.
SPY+ MONOLITH 50/50 (Polar $190, Non-Polar $150)
Built for the bold – MONOLITH 50/50 are the ultimate statement-making performance sunglasses. The oversized lens delivers an unbelievable field of vision while SPY+’s patented HAPPY® Lens tech is tuned to boost most and alertness. The durable and lightweight TR-90 frame features Scoop® venting for clearer vision as well as rubber nose pads for secure fit, making them the ultimate shades for any adventure.
Spy+ Genre ($120)
Best for Style
Super-wide, blocky temples mate to large, glossy black frames, creating a continuous band around the head. Surprisingly for such fashion-forward shades, the Genre perform decently on mellow outdoor missions. Thank the neutral, gray-green lenses that punch up depth but are easy on the eyes, so you can take them on and off without color shift as you move in and out of shade.
Costa Caleta ($206)
Best for Boats and Beaches
Many serious water shades look bulky or dorky. Not the Caleta. Costa’s designers snuck in seaworthy features without compromising aesthetics. Sizable but stylish cat-eye lenses make for ample coverage and unobstructed vision. Discreet pads add grip inside the frames, and wide temples block peripheral light. The polarized, gray-tinted glass lenses offer superb optics. Just remember that glass lenses, still the apogee of optics, are not meant for impact sports.
Rudy Project Agent Q ($250 and up)
Best for Extremes
When the wind gusts or mud flies, the Agent Q shines. On its own, this sleek wrap is like any standard pair for cycling or running. But it comes with myriad add-on features like snap-in gaskets around the lenses that breathe but stop particulates; removable side shields; and a detachable elastic head strap. We tested the version with photochromic lenses, which automatically adjust from 26 to 91 percent blockage and are rated to military standards for impact resistance. (Not all versions have these lenses.)