Gear Review: Polaroid Vector Running Sunglasses

There is a character in Douglas Adams’ wonderful book ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’ who, unbeknownst to him, is a Rain God. Wherever he goes, the clouds follow him, and water him.

Which makes him pretty much the opposite of my good self.

Yep, all it takes is for me to idly wonder where my shorts are and all precipitation will magically cease in order for the sun to put his hat on to make me as hot and sweaty as possible.

So, as an inveterate plodder with a faulty thermostat, lightweight sunglasses that will stay in place regardless of the rivers of sweat pouring down my face are something of an essential buy.

For the last year or so, such duties have fallen to the darkly handsome Polaroid Medal sunglasses reviewed here. However, having enjoyed their lightweight comfort for a full 12 months now, I couldn’t resist trying out the new, improved and even sexier 2010 incarnation, the Polaroid Vector 99 P7007A.

First impressions? They’re sex on legs…

While they’re far from cheap, you always get a bang for your buck when you buy Polaroid sunglasses.

Open up that slinky case and your first thought is ‘Cool, they’ve wedged three pairs of sunglasses in there by mistake!’

But no, as you’ll quickly find out, they’ve stuck three pairs of running sunglasses in there completely on purpose. Okay, so there’s only one set of lightweight legs, but they come with one-piece brown tints fitted, and alternative sets of orange tint and clear lenses slotted into protective foam in the case.

What’s really clever about the Vectors though, is how quick and easy it is to switch between the three sets of lenses. Simply bend one side of the top frame up slightly, and the silver section that holds the lenses slides out, before your replacement lens clicks into place.

The result is a very robust arrangement, which really belies the waif-like weight and proportions of the Vectors. Polaroid don’t give an official weight, but they appear to be about 25g, which is next to nothing in the grand scheme of things.

These are also strikingly good-looking sunglasses to my mind, if a little bit on the ‘bling’ side. In fact, to be honest, my Good Lady Wife has started to refer to me as ‘Puff Daddy’ in front of the kids when I’m wearing them. Though that’s actually an improvement on the Ray Charles jibes I’ve endured while wearing the Polaroid Medals over the last 12 months.

But does even P Diddy need three different lenses? Well, yes. As the weather has been mildly atrocious since these things rocked up here at Jelly Baby Towers, I’ve run through golf ball-sized hailstones, where the clear lenses were simply a godsend; the deep gloaming of a late afternoon run at the beach where a slight miscalculation with regard to sundown made my choice of the orange tints an inspired one; and now that the weather has picked up a bit, I’ve enjoyed a sunny, sweaty traipse through the dunes where the brown tints showed that Polaroid really know their stuff when it comes to clarity of vision.

Second impression, they’re pretty clever too…

Well, when it comes to running sunglasses, lightness, comfort and fog-resistance are even more important than clarity of vision.

So while the Polaroid vectors undoubtedly keep UV at bay, that would be to little avail if they didn’t perform when the heat is on.

Fortunately, someone at Polaroid has obviously rethought the whole concept of sunglasses for runners, and incorporated a couple of superb design details.

The first of these is the adjustable rubber fitments you’ll find on the leg. The soft little things can be slid up and down the leg to allow perfect adjustment behind your ears, ensuring that the Vectors stay firmly in place while you’re running, without rubbing or chafing at all.

The second great design detail is that the lenses ‘float’ beneath the frames, pulling off the difficult trick of giving you all round protection from the sun, while ensuring plenty of airflow to prevent the lenses misting up.

The sweaty but slightly smug conclusion…

I must admit that while I acquired the Polaroid Vectors for athletic purposes, they now live in my car, because the orange tints make the most superb driving glasses I’ve ever had. When the sky turns black and the rains come down, putting these on is like making the sun come out. They’re also great for evening runs.

But it’s when the clouds part and it’s time to take my ageing, sweaty body out in the sunshine for a run that these things really come into their own. The vision through the brown tints is perfect, they’re so light and comfortable that you forget you’re wearing them, and best of all, with all that ventilation and a hydrophobic coating, it’s impossible to steam them up.

Even as I type this post, sweatier than a Lee Evans encore, after my first hot weather ten-miler of the season, I can see the screen of my Mac as clear as day through the Vectors.

And so, having given the previous incarnation of Polaroid’s sunglasses for runners a rare 5 Jelly Baby Rating, I’m afraid that the Vectors are such a massive improvement, I’m going to have to give them the whole damn bag.

Technical Specification

• Polaroid polarized lenses
• 100% UV400 protection
• Filter category 3
• Weight 25g (Unofficial)
• Specially designed ear fittings for better hold
• Unique construction with lenses secured at the nose
• Clear, brown and orange easily interchangeable lenses
• Clear and orange lenses are non-polarized
• Comes with padded, zipped Polaroid case
• Inside frame width 130mm, lens height 39mm
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Gear Review: Polaroid Medal 9239A Running Sunglasses

polaroid medalAccording to the Met Office, the hazy days of Summer this year will be caused by heat rather than sleet.

And so, as someone who can overheat in a snowstorm and develop sunburn beneath a 60 Watt light bulb, I have begun preparations for my Summer running a little earlier than usual this year.

A process that began with the retirement of my gaudy, mirrored skiing shades, and the acquisition of some serious running eyewear, in the shape of some new Polaroid Medal running sunglasses.

Yes, having been informed by my Good Lady Wife that the orange mirrors of my usual running eyewear make me look like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, I decided to picked up something a tad more conservative, yet, apparently, much more suited to Summer running. Enter the Polaroid Medal 9239A sunglasses for runners.

Aesthetic Considerations

Well, having donned my new Polaroids and asked the GLW for a verdict, I was a tad miffed that having made fun of my mirrored shades on many occasions, she declared the Polaroids to be: “a bit like something Ray Charles would run in.”

So yes, point taken dear, these aren’t the sort of flashy, bling shades you’ll find the triathlon crowd running in. Instead, they’re dark, understated and fairly conservative. But then, so am I. And I’m gorgeous. So your point would be what exactly?

The Lenses

As you might expect, the Polaroid lenses offer not just 100% UV protection, but also a superb level of visibility. While the lenses look dark from the outside, they’re great in any conditions from low light right through to the brightest sunlight, making them excellent for the car as well as out on a run. Unlike the cheap shades I usually favour, these really do enhance your vision rather than degrade it.

But you don’t get just one pair of lenses with the Polaroids. You get a dark set for bright conditions, and a lightly tinted set for less sunny conditions. While I think that I’ll be using the dark lenses most of the time, the paler lenses are a handy addition for dull or rainy days and are pretty quick and easy to swap over. They’re also easy to store, as both the rugged, zipped hard case and the additional cloth case feature storage compartments for the lenses you aren’t using at the time.

Comfort on a Run

picture-6While the great vision provided by polarised lenses is as good a reason as any to opt for serious sunglasses, they wouldn’t be much use if the sunglasses themselves weren’t light and comfortable.

Yet out on a trail through the dunes on a very sunny day, the Medals were supremely wearable, the soft rubber legs keeping them firmly in place without rubbing, and the one-piece moulded nose section meaning that I didn’t end my run with either indentations or discomfort to my somewhat prominent proboscis.

Beating the Heat

As regular readers will know, I have a slight overheating problem, allied with an unerring ability to only run big races on days when the sun will have his hat on. So like many runners, perhaps even more importantly than lightness and clarity of vision, I need sunglasses that won’t steam up when the heat is on. And so, my chosen test route meant 3 miles of sand dunes into the wind and the sun, before turning around and running Northward again: a section that usually means my eyewear steaming up as I’m no longer running into the wind.

picture-51Yet the elongated and ventilated lenses of the Polaroids meant that not only were my eyes more protected from both wind, sand and UV rays than usual, but that no matter how hot I became, the lenses stayed absolutely free of misting.

Though the extended lenses may not have been the only reason for this, as, according to the blurb, the Polaroids also come with ‘hydrohobic coating to prevent fogging.’

Hydrophobic? Isn’t that the same thing as rabid? Or is that hydrophobia? Whatever…

The Big Self-Important verdict

Frankly, even for a shade over £70, the Polaroid Medals seem like great value for money, as they’re clearly going to make my Summer runs far less of an ordeal than usual. If I’m honest, while I went out for a hot weather 6-miler simply to test them out for review purposes, I kept forgetting I was wearing them.

5jellybaby2Which fact, while it may perhaps make me look a bit simple-minded as a reviewer, is actually a pretty good recommendation for the quality of the Polaroids as running sunglasses. So the £73.99 they cost, may well turn out to be something of a bargain.

Now, if I can just get my other half to stop singing ‘Georgia’ whenever I wear them, these may also turn out to be the perfect sunglasses for my Summer runs.

Technical Specification

• Two sets of interchangeable lenses for bright and neutral conditions

• Extended lenses for complete eye coverage

• Superior anti-reflective coating plus hydrophobic coating to prevent fogging

• Filter category 4

• Polaroid polarized lenses

• 100% UV protection

• Complete with zippered Polaroid hard case and inner lining for sunglasses and additional lenses