THE BEST WOMEN'S SHADESHot shades for summer

A good pair of sport glasses makes doing what you love just a bit easier. If you've ever suffered a bug to the eye on a training ride or forgotten to pack your shades on a hazy morning that turned to terrorizing sunlight, you understand.

But the latest sport optics do more than protect against harmful rays and debris. By pushing the engineering envelope, sunglass makers are creating mega-strong materials with super-crisp polycarbonate lenses that perform as hard as you do. And, in many cases, sport glasses are outfitted for every light condition imaginable.

Sound too good to be true? Read our review, and then put them to the test yourself.

Specialized Cortina

Specialized Cortina
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Who says one lens can't meet all your needs? Specialized's Adaptalite lenses need just 15 seconds to adjust from intense sunlight to cloud cover, without ever lifting a finger. Lenses -- vented at the edges to shut down fogging -- are made from NXT, an ultra-light optical polymer that comes with a literal bulletproof claim.

We put it to the test with a few swift strikes with a hammer. The damage: not even a scratch. A wide profile makes these frames perfect for medium to larger faces, but they may overwhelm a more petite wearer. Available in pink, steel blue, silver and black.

Ryders Crystal

Ryders Crystal
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If you have a sunglass fetish, here's an invitation to stock up. At this price you'd be hard pressed to beat Ryders' performance features. Ultra-techie Grilamid Nylon frames mean they're near Gumby-like (no cracking or losing shape under pressure), and anti-slip nose and ear pads hold them in place as you sweat. You also get crisp, polycarbonate lenses. The hitch: Frames come in four color options (Light Blue Fade pictured) but lenses come only in grey, meaning they perform in bright to moderate light but will make cloudy days seem bleak.

Zeal Optics Rush

Zeal Optics Rush
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Suitable for sport or after sport, the Rush gives small to medium faces peripheral coverage in hipster style. Keep it simple with a single frame and lens option, or opt for multiple lenses to meet changing conditions (mix and match six frame colors with nine lens options online). All great, but sometimes the smallest details score the biggest: In this case, reversible nose pads that keep your eyelashes from hitting the lenses. Swapping lenses is slightly trickier than with other styles, but like anything, practice makes perfect. Prescription lenses available.

Uvex Eyepod EP5-1

Uvex Eyepod EP5-1
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Uvex proves versatility doesn't have to break the bank. Its new Eyepod line integrates three styles of sport frames with a four-lens system. Each frame -- from the superhero-styled EP5-1 pictured to the low-profile EP5-3, good for smaller faces -- comes in three color choices with grey, gold, clear and brown lenses, all for $80.

Scratch-resistant polycarb lens "pods" snap in and out with ease. What's missing? Temple and nose grips. But just try to get these lightweight beauties to slip. We couldn't. Polarized and Rx lens options are in the works.

Anatomy of a lense

For most sport purposes polycarbonate -- a thermoplastic material that's virtually unbreakable -- lenses are the way to go. In addition to being lightweight and durable, the latest generation of lenses rivals that of glass in terms of clarity.

A good lens should block 100 percent UVA and UVB rays (all glasses in this review do) to protect against cataracts, glaucoma and other degenerative eye diseases.

Polarized lenses are a good choice to filter bright light reflected off snow and water. Choose another option for lowlight conditions, however, since polarized lenses decrease contrast and perception, potentially compromising safety.

When deciding what tint is best, let this be your guide:

Lens TintConditions How it Works
GrayModerate to bright lightEliminates glare without distorting colors
BrownAll-around light conditionsCuts down glare, highlights details, contrast and perception
Yellow/amberLow to moderate light, adverse conditionsEnhances contrast and depth perception in flat light
RoseAll-around light conditions, especially cloudy, low lightBrightens and adds contrast
MirroredIntense or bright lightReflects light as it hits the lens and cuts down glare
ClearUltra low to night lightProtects from UV rays and debris

Christina Gandolfo is editor and chief of Her Sports. Her book The Woman Triathlete (Human Kinetics) was published in December.

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