Are Affordable Sunglasses Worth the Savings?

Lester Tan shares his feedback on the Sunday Shades as he ponders on its effectiveness on runners.


Disclaimer: Sunday Shades is a proud supporter of Ironproject2019 and generously provided a pair of shades for several athletes on the team. The pair that I am reviewing here was borrowed from one of the athletes who graciously loaned me the shades for the Twilight Ultra Challenge 2019. I have since used it on several pavement pounding and trail blazing adventures. Alas, I’m not the original owner of the shades as I’ll not be racing at IRONMAN Langkawi. What follows here is my personal feedback on the product.

As athletes who spend a significant duration of time outdoors, protective eyewear is pretty much a necessity for us. Ever since my LASIK surgery 2 years ago, sunglasses has become an essential part of my daily attire. Due to my interest in outdoor activities, I have developed a stringent list of requirements that I demand from sunglasses (in order of importance):

  • Lens must be UV protected (Polarized lenses a bonus but not necessary)
  • Sunglasses must not slip nor bounce around during activities (For safety and comfort)
  • Lens must be scratch-resistant (To ensure UV protection isn’t compromised)
  • Frame material must be durable enough to withstand outdoor elements (Humidity etc.)
  • Sunglasses must fit Asian features (Specifically, having a deeper nose bridge)

Given these criteria, it’s no surprise that I developed an interest in Sunday Shades after seeing my IRONPROJECT teammates wearing them for training and racing. Not to mention the numerous local athletes sporting them on the brand’s Instagram page. The shades appear snug-fitting and come in diverse shades of mirrored finishes. Pretty attractive, to say the least! The pair I borrowed is listed as ‘Carbon Matte - Wave Classic’: black frame with blue mirrored lenses.

Appearance-wise, they definitely look more like lifestyle shades than the sporty wraparounds we’re more accustomed to seeing on cyclists and runners. Depending on your personal preference, this can either be a good or bad thing. I personally like the casual look of Sunday Shades as it adds versatility; I can use them for both sports and daily wear. In short, I’m getting more value for money. But how do the shades hold up as performance wear?

Sunday Shades are polarized, meaning that the lenses help reduce glare from reflective surfaces. Note that polarized lenses do not equate better UV protection. Unless you spend lots of time near water bodies (fishing, canoeing etc.) or skiing in the snow, I do not think polarized lenses are necessary for the average sportsperson. However, it’s nice to have and I treat polarized lenses as an added bonus for my outdoor activities. Polarized lenses may affect the contrasts of colours, hence the decision by companies specifically opting not to add polarized lenses for several sunglasses models. More isn’t necessarily better; get the product that suits your needs. (Side note: To check if your lenses are polarized, tilt it at an angle when facing LCD screens. The screen would appear significantly darker. Alternatively, look at your smartphone through polarized lenses. Colors may appear dispersed. As such, polarized lenses are a safety hazard for certain professions.)

As far as UV protection goes, Sunday Shades has you covered up to Category 3. Category 4 protection is typically reserved for professional activities that require an exceptional degree of sun glare reduction and UV protection. Space exploration, maybe? Personally, I find that Cat. 4 is overkill and unnecessary for most outdoor athletes. With Cat. 3, you can pretty much perform almost every outdoor activity with 100% UV protection. No worries there!

Sunday Shades uses ‘Triacetate lenses with anti-scratch technology’. In layman's terms: multi-layered lenses that feature several protective coatings (polarization, UV protection, shock-absorbency, impact and scratch resistance). While the lenses do work as advertised, I discovered numerous minor scratches on the lenses upon closer inspection. I’d show them to you, but they don’t show up on my camera. The scratches can be seen if you observe the lenses closely in reality. Even so, the scratches do not cause a noticeable difference when the shades are in use. They are at worst an aesthetic eyesore. Concerned parties should be aware that ‘anti-scratch’ does not mean ‘scratch-proof’. Please take care of your shades! Rinse them with water after any sporting activities to minimise damage to the lenses (salt, humidity etc.) Avoid wiping the lenses with your tee, fingers, or soap.

Sunday Shades are constructed with a polycarbonate frame . I love it! So very light and grips ever so snugly! I am extremely sensitive to my sunglasses bouncing up and down my face when I run. Bouncing and slipping annoys me greatly and so I typically look for shades that come with silicone grips. Needless to say, I had my doubts when I learnt that there’s not a hint of rubber on Sunday Shades. To my pleasant surprise, the matte finish works! The shades stuck like glue on my face to the extent that I completely forgot I had them on by the end of my ultramarathon. And when you forget you’re wearing sunglasses, that’s when you know you’ve got one that’s suited for you. It gets the job done and doesn’t interfere with your activities. Perfection!

Secondary annoyance: sunglasses that touch your cheekbones when you smile. Typically occurs when you’re wearing shades meant for European facial features. Sunday Shades are Asian-friendly insofar as the cheekbone issue is non-existent (for me, at least). Hooray!

Closing Thoughts

I really like Sunday Shades as they meet almost all my sporting demands. Sports sunglasses have traditionally been really expensive and I’m glad that smaller brands are popping out to compete against corporate giants.

Forget those ridiculously overpriced, over-hyped and over-engineered shades. Go with something that gets the job done and doesn’t break the bank. A David vs. Goliath scenario is unfolding right now and I’m excited to see where it leads. Whereas for me, my adventures with Sunday Shades will come to a close the day the shades are returned to their original owner. Or perhaps I may get a pair for myself ... ?

The future is bright. Shades out!


Lester Tan’s interest in long-distance events primarily stem from a desire to test the limits of human endurance. While many may dread the longer distances for a variety of reasons, he views it as a cathartic experience. He says, “Endurance racing liberates my mind of the stresses of daily life and teaches me to appreciate the joys derived from the present moment.”



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