Guest Blog · On The Run

The Importance of Eye Protection For Runners

We are usually quick to lather our skin with sun screen lotion when we head out for a run, but how many of us consider the need to protect our eyes as well? I, for one, am very guilty of not doing much. I usually wear a cap but with my runs getting longer and more frequent, I’m starting to feel that a cap alone is not enough especially as most of my runs are in broad daylight. But as I don’t look good in sunglasses, I find myself asking if they are really necessary? How harmful are the sun’s rays to our eyes? How important is it for us to protect our eyes on the run? To answer these questions, Dr Ninani Kombo is guest blogging for me today. Dr Kombo is a graduate of the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale Residency in Ophthalmology. She specialises in comprehensive ophthalmology, ocular immunology and inflammation. She is also the Director of Medical Student Education for Ophthalmology at the Yale School of Medicine.

Photo Courtesy: Yale School of Medicine

She is an awesome mum of three and although not a runner (yet) she was an avid sportswoman at High School and College, and played tennis for Botswana, representing the country in several tournaments including the Federation Cup. If you are wondering how I have access to such a specialist, she’s also my amazing sister-in-law, Ditiro’s older sister, and without batting an eyelid 😉 she graciously agreed to write this post for us. She focuses on the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun and then briefly looks at what we can do to protect our eyes.

We Only Get One Pair!

Eye protection is one of my favourite topics. Let’s start with the eyelids. Just like the skin on the rest of your body, they are susceptible to damage from ultra violet (UV) rays, especially the lower lids. Over the years, this can lead to skin cancers called basal and squamous cell cancers.

The whites of your eye are covered with a thin membrane called the conjunctiva. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause the conjunctiva to become red and irritated. This gives you that red-eye appearance. Prolonged UV exposure can cause thickening in the inner and outer conjunctiva causing lesions such as pinguecula and a wing-shaped lesion called a pterygium. Pterygia can grow onto the clear part of the eye, the cornea. They can affect your vision by causing astigmatism (irregular shape of your cornea) and in some cases, a pterygium can actually grow large enough to cover the visual axis which can cause severe decrease in vision. In both cases, surgery is needed to remove the pterygium.

Our eyes have a natural lens that sits right behind the colored part of your eye, the iris. The lens helps us focus images on the retina. UV rays can accelerate clouding of your lens known as cataract. The back of our eye is made up of the retina. The central part, called the macula, is responsible for our sharp vision. The macula can sustain damage from UV rays and develop macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of loss of central vision.

It’s not just UV rays we are worried about. Windy conditions and dry air can irritate the eyes by drying them out or blowing debris into them.

To protect your eyes, before you go out on your next run:

  • Get yourself a pair of sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Try them on at the store to ensure a good fit so they can withstand the constant movement during your run. Ensure they are comfortable as chances are you’ll quickly stop wearing them, if they are not. Make sure the sunglasses are close to your brow and wrap around the sides to provide full eye protection but without being too tight.
  • Wear a cap for extra protection.
  • If you run in windy conditions, use an artificial tear at the end of your run to help rinse out the debris.

Happy running!

Thank you to my nephew Lucito for being our gorgeous sunglasses model! And thank you Ninani for sharing why it’s so important to protect our eyes on the run. I loved how you explained the harmful effects to the different parts of the eye and I think having that understanding will force many of us to take eye protection more seriously. You’ll be pleased to know your brother wears his religiously when running, cycling and driving. He also varies his lenses, using lighter coloured ones for his cloudy or lowlight runs, clear glasses for nighttime and darker ones for his daytime runs. Now I just need to get myself a good pair!

How often do you protect your eyes on the run? Do you wear sunglasses for running? If yes, what did you take into consideration when buying them?

I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining a new link-up, Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy, and Faux Runner! Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!

41 thoughts on “The Importance of Eye Protection For Runners

  1. Thanks, Shathiso and Ninani, for this informative post! I always wear sunglasses on my runs here in Cape Town but I’m not good at wearing them on other occasions. I think that’s partly because they are dedicated running sunglasses, with the right UV protection, covered sides and even an elastic band to keep them in place. I need to buy another “everyday pair” to wear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good idea. Have your running pair and then another pair that can be for just walkabouts or driving. I need to take this a lot more seriously. I’m so glad Ninani laid out the realities. I’ve always been more concerned for my skin and neglected my eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I seem to remember you once did a post on the shades you wear too! I’m struggling to find a pair I feel suits me, but I think I need to look for comfort and function first, and not worry about the look. At least my eyes will be protected.


  2. Great post! I’m generally pretty good about sun glasses because the squinting from sunlight can sometimes give me a headache. So that’s another reason for eye protection 🙂 I hadn’t thought about the artificial tears after windy runs. That’s a really good tip.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think eye protection is SO important! The only times you’ll find me without sunglasses is if it’s really cold & they’re just going to fog up & annoy me. Because my sight isn’t that great to start with I try to be very protective of it (also I already have cataracts starting — despite all those precautions!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well done for being so protective of them and hopefully you’ll be able to get those cataracts sorted. I think Ninani’s words have scared me into action. Time for me to take better care of mine. Even when I’m driving there is so much glare, and I still don’t wear them. So this weekend will be all about finding a couple of good pairs.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, the cataracts don’t need surgery for quite some time, probably. My husband is in the same boat.

        I definitely run with sunglasses (99% of the time) and drive with them too. I have multiple cheap ones like everywhere, and it’s my go-to expo purchase.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes eye protection is so important! Just like sunscreen we need to be more vigilant about protecting our eyes too. I do wear my shades a lot but not always during the winter on cloudy days. Thanks (in advance) for joining the Wednesday runners roundup

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I LIVE in sunglasses. Part of it is that we live in Florida, where the sun is STRONG, even on a cloudy day. I have shades for running and for regular wear, several pairs of each. Not having a pair of sunnies can absolutely derail a run or a day, quite frankly. My eyes can’t take the brightness and the glare.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve always been an advocate for sunglasses, both for running and just everyday stuff. I have very sensitive eyes, so any protection from wind or cold air is much appreciated in the winter. And in the summer? Duh! 😉 Not only do I want to keep the sun’s rays outta my eyes, I really don’t want to squint any more than necessary…#NoWrinklesWanted 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such an amazing post–I love how you had such an expert to guest post! I have to admit that even though I know I need to wear sunglasses when I run, I don’t often do it. I have plenty of pairs to choose from, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was initially not going to admit she was my sister-in-law and just present her as the expert! So glad she agreed to guest post. You and me both lady – I just keep resisting when it comes to wearing sunglasses. But this was a reality check. My eyes are not sensitive but with time and all this exposure, I need to get serious.


  8. Great info! I usually wear sunglasses when I run but honestly I am not even sure what level of protection they have. I’m also not good about taking care of my eyes after a windy run. Thanks for sharing this and for joining the link-up!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m ever so slightly obsessive about sunglasses, even though I HATE glasses (decided I’d never wear a pair of specs again after getting Lasik nearly 14 years ago, although age is catching up to me again…), because I really don’t want wrinkles! And I see how many lines my friends who don’t regularly wear sunglasses while running have developed compared to me. So here’s to looking younger wearing sunnies!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My hubby got me a pair of sunglasses for eye protection while I run that I usually neglect to put on. I just don’t like to wear glasses, ever. After reading this good article, I will be more conscientious about wearing them. I do want to protect the only pair of eyes I will ever have. Thank you for the information!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post and very informative! I will admit that I never wear sunglasses. I cannot see well without my regular glasses and I never run with my glasses anyway. Add in sunglasses and I wouldn’t be able to see much. I guess I need prescription sunglasses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the same as you. I wear glasses but never wear them on the run. And I find sunglasses kind of blurs my vision even more. That and the fact I just don’t look good in them. But prescription sunglasses are an option. My optician actually says you can get a pair for running and then they can add the lens. It just has to be a particular shape for it work properly.


      1. I am sure you look fine in sunglasses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that doesn’t look good in them. Yes, sunglasses blur my vision too – I feel the same way. That is interesting on what the optician says. My nephew has/had transition glasses. Not sure if those will be “safe” or dark enough for running.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I run and wear sunglasses almost all the time. I wear contacts and my eyes are sensitive to light and wind.

    I love GOODRs – so light and comfy fir running.

    Otherwise I have cheap ones because I tend ti lose them.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Don’t mind me — I found this tab open. Oops.
    I wasn’t good about eye protection until I got transition lenses. They’ve made a huge difference in race planning as well as day to day convenience. Never thought about protecting my eyelids from skin cancers.
    Thanks to your sister in law for this helpful info!

    Liked by 1 person

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