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AccessoriesGear Reviews

Roka Eyewear: Finally, Eyeglasses for Runners

What You Need To Know

  • Performance eyewear for athletic endeavors
  • Designed around a secure fit and lightweight construction
  • Sunglasses? Prescription? Oh yeah, Roka’s got you
  • Available now from Roka Eyewear

THOMAS: Glasses suck. When I was in grade school and had to wear glasses, I felt like a huge dork (I know, literally every kid with glasses experience). My 3rd-grade school photo is basically an audition call for an ass-kicking: “Beat this kid up, give him a wedgie, empty his pockets, give him a swirly, and finally pants him in gym class (with wedgie still intact).”

I started wearing contacts as soon as my parents let me, but before that, I would rather walk around half-blind than wear my glasses. In one of my more crushingly embarrassing moments, I tried out for baseball without the use of glasses. As my father watched, I blindly swung at pitches, missed ground balls, and waited in the outfield for something to make a noise around me.

At last, I heard a ball thud, chased the noise, picked up the ball, and threw it to what I guessed was home plate (it wasn’t). Immediately thereafter, my dad got the news that I wasn’t Little League material. As tears welled in my eyes, my dad negotiated with the coach to let me try out again with my glasses; however, by that point, I was too humiliated and let my dad know my quest to become the next Reggie Jackson had come to an end.

I finally got contacts and eventually had Lasik surgery, but ultimately, with age, my eyesight began to blur once again. But sometime between that dreadful baseball tryout and now, glasses and nerds kind of became cool. At first, my vision wasn’t that bad. I could use glasses for some farsighted focus and run without glasses. However, time went by, and I noticed I started having a more challenging time making out the faces of other runners as they ran by. To Meaghan’s frustration, I would wave enthusiastically to strangers and run right past friends (Robbe has been a victim of this). Finally, I got contacts for running.

Glasses were out of the question— my regular glasses suck for working out because they fog up, slide down my nose, and feel heavy while running. Forget about doing any exercises that required jumping or things like burpees. Until I tried the Roka Eyewear RX glasses, I just assumed there would never be a place for prescription frames on the run.

roka collins
Roka Collins ($270)

ROBBE: Like Thomas, I grew up in the glasses zone from the ages of 7-14. This may come as a shock to culture historians, but it’s impossible to look grunge with oversized glasses and parted-in-the-middle hair that doesn’t go past the top of your ears because your parents won’t let you grow it out. Of course, nowadays, those glasses and my beloved elementary-school turtlenecks are all the rage among the hipster elite, so I guess you’re welcome, Brooklyn.

I always loved putting on those glasses, walking confidently through the doors of Lower Dauphin Middle School, and immediately trying to disappear to play Pogs in the bathroom. My near-decade of daily shame finally drew to an end once I got contacts in ninth grade. However, I accidentally lost one at one point and felt bad since they cost so much. So, like Thomas, I went a few months wearing only one contact, because once you go ‘tact, you don’t go back. I also attempted to play baseball half-blind and missed about every pitch for the first four weeks of the season. Finally, I got a replacement contact and hit .450 the rest of the season. Weird how that works.

I should also point out that, yes, Rec Specs existed in my youth, but Chris Sabo wasn’t exactly the poster boy of cool when compared to the roided-out, mulleted Bash Brother-duo of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

Clearly, I have never worn glasses during athletic endeavors, which extends to running, for several reasons: 1) I’m not paying for eyeglasses when I have contacts, 2) they just fall off and fog up, and 3) my vision is horrendous, so most lenses are just glass bowls held in front of my face by cheap plastic frames.

So when Roka contacted us about reviewing their eyeglasses, I was highly skeptical. Yeah, I’m sure they work for people who can read a stop sign from ten feet away without glasses, but you’re talking to someone who can’t identify his wife from across the kitchen table (for those in the know, I have a -9.00 prescription). Side note: a whole colony of floaters magically decided to be part of my vision field a few years ago, so that’s been a nice addendum to the “Tales of Astigmatic Horror” novel I’ve been working on for the last 30 years.

In any case, Roka Eyewear reached out to test the glasses. As a father of two boys who have eyeglass/sunglasses amputation procedures ingrained into their DNA, I immediately said yes.

So let’s get into the real Roka and why we love these eyeglasses for running (and everything else).

See also: The Best Running Sunglasses for 2022

What’s Different About Roka?

THOMAS: So what makes Roka Eyewear different? In a few words: fit, construction, and quality.

Roka was founded in a garage in Austin, Tex., by two former Stanford All-American swimmers who wanted to redefine the standard for performance design. Like we said, glasses for sports sucked. Since launching in 2013, they’ve built an industry-leading and award-winning in-house design and development team with the goal of engineering the most technical eyewear and gear on the planet.

As you’ll see, the quality is phenomenal, but the prices are kept lower by selling direct to consumers. In a move popularized by other D2C eyewear brands like Warby Parker, you can try four different frames at home for a full week, then send them all back. Any handling charges are included in your purchase.

We went all-in on the glasses, sending Roka our vision prescriptions and measuring our frame sizes with their mobile measuring tool.

Fit and Performance

roka eyewear side

THOMAS: Roka sent two frames, one with a standard high index lens and one pair with high index progressive lenses (progressive is the new way to say “bifocals” without sounding like you’re as old as Gandalf the Grey).

I picked out the Halsey ($215) in black matte and Lockhart ($245) crystal frames constructed from TR 90 nylon. The frames are lighter than the traditional plastic used in most brands. The glasses stay featherweight even with my medium to heavy right lens (-2.75). Light is great, but staying put on your face is critical for exercise.

Roka Eyewear uses a patented Geko no-slip rubber for the nose and ear contact points. I have completed double-digit runs and gym workouts in comfort. The best part is that the super clear lenses are much sharper than my contacts. The only negative is that, despite the anti-fog coating, they’re not totally fogproof. On today’s run in the mid-50F range with high humidity, there was some fogging. I mean, at the end of the day they’re glasses, not Dumbledore’s bifocals. Other features include a two-year warranty, a set of extra nose pads to dial in the perfect fit, and a fingerprint-resistant coating.

The above details are good features, but unless the styles and colors are on-trend, the glasses will end up in a bin with my old sports goggles next to my baseball mitt. I like the way the glasses look on my face. Both the black and clear frames are fashionable without being intrusive and should last for years to come. They pair well with running apparel and everyday wear, so I will definitely be using them across the board.

roka eyewear
Roka Lockhart ($245)

ROBBE: I went with the Collins style ($270) with a red frame, because why not? (Currently, the red style is sold out, but black and tortoiseshell styles are available).

The frames are incredibly lightweight, but the construction quality is excellent. I’ve described this before when reviewing Article One sunglasses, and people who wear glasses all the time know what I’m talking about— there’s a certain weight or feel in the hand when you know a pair of glasses are high-quality. I can’t explain it, you just know it when you know it. When I hold a pair of Roka, I feel that quality.

The Collins, in particular, features a TR-90 nylon frame and beta-titanium temples that won’t warp. The frame materials are significantly lighter, stronger, more durable, and chemical resistant than industry-standard materials like acetate.

Because of my terrible eyesight, I opted for the high index lenses ($90), the thinnest lenses you can get from Roka Eyewear. Compared to my current eyeglasses, the lenses appear to be a touch thicker, though the “bending” effect in the periphery is much improved over typical lenses with a -9.0 prescription. It’s not perfect, but it’s manageable, and I can go through daily life just fine.

One thing that was obvious (and took a little getting used to) was the clarity of the lenses. It was almost shocking how clear they are. (Note that you can also upgrade your lenses with blue light blocking ($60) or photochromic options ($100) as well).

Fit-wise, Roka Eyewear practices what they preach. The Geko pads on the nose bridge and the arms tips hold the glasses securely in place. I always like to test glasses by doing pushups and seeing how they perform against gravity. They didn’t slip off. That said, that grip doesn’t come without a cost. It leaves a hell of a mark on the bridge whenever you take them off.

Style-wise, I love these glasses so much. The geometric design is a nice twist on the classic round-frame eyeglass design. The angularity of the frame helps the Collins to stand out just the right amount. Of course, the red colorway pushes the package over the edge, but if you mute it with an all-black running kit, it comes together nicely.

Geko Nose Pads

Roka Eyewear: Final Thoughts

THOMAS: Overall, the styles are hot, the quality is even hotter, and whether it’s eyeglasses or sunglasses, you’ll be able to find a Roka Eyewear product that works with your mug. I can practically guarantee it. When I see you running now, I’ll actually know who you are, and I’ll give you a big smile and a nerdy wave.

ROBBE: I’m all-in on Roka Eyewear, both on the run and off. I’m not sure I can go back to regular eyeglasses anymore, so hopefully my kids don’t get ahold of these. I forgot to note that each pair does come with a really nice case, spare parts, and top-notch packaging, including a signature card from the employee who assembled them in Austin. Those touches are what separates a truly great brand from the rest.

If you want to get serious about eyeglass performance and comfort on the run, you have to try Roka. You can shop their eyewear at the link below.

Shop – Roka Eyewear

roka eyewear black

Robbe is the Senior Editor/Review Manager for BITR. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and two sons and runs with the Faster Bastards. When he’s not running in weird places or getting injured in odd ways, he can be found hiking, camping, bikepacking, or hanging with friends.

3 Comments

  1. Any experience with Roka’s prescription sunglasses in particular? Looking at a pair to serve running, cycling, and driving needs (maybe SL, tho, I don’t prefer that look outside of riding.)

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