Sunglasses have seemed pretty unattainable to me since I started wearing prescription glasses in the third grade. I have a very strong prescription (-6.75 in the left eye / -7.25 in the right eye). Thus, any lens I would have, had to be flat. Wraparound sports oriented eyewear was never a possibility. Notice all the past tense here? Good, because now, thanks to some fancy new technology, I have a lovely pair of wraparound sunglasses.
Gaze past the break for the breakdown.
First off, lets start with some company information. These Oakley Fuel Cell’s came to me courtesy of ADS Sports Eyewear. The company was founded by Dave DuMais in 2002. Like many of us, Dave is very active. He has done the RAGBRAI 500 mile bike ride across Iowa, is an avid skydiver, rides motorcycles, and he is a snow boarder too. At the time the company was started, options for prescription wraparound sunglasses were practically nonexistent. The goal of ADS Sports Eyewear was to push the limits of prescription sunglasses. With that goal and active lifestyles to motivate them, they did just that. They are now able to offer full wraparound prescription sunglasses to those of us with a stronger that average perception power.
Working with ADS Eyewear has been a great experience. The first step in ordering my sunglasses was a visit to their site to get an idea of what makes and models I would prefer. Once I had it narrowed down to a few pair of frames, I used their “Try Before You Buy” option. Having narrowed down my choices to the Oakley Fuel Cell frames ($120), I worked with their staff to decided what lens options and tint color would be best. In the end we went with a durable polycarbonate single vision Free-Form Digital Lenticular lens ($299) with a bronze polarization tint (+$110). We went with a bronze tint to the lens, because lets be honest, here in the pacific northwest I will be riding in the rain and cloudy or overcast conditions pretty often. The bronze tint has the advantage of making things feel brighter in less sunny conditions, and adds additional contracts as well. That said, the bronze tint is still very usable on bright sunny days. It also handles the transition from shadows to bright spots (common on trails off road) very well. With all the details worked out, the order was submitted and in about 3 weeks I had my sunglasses in hand. The quality of customer service received throughout this process has been top notch.
ADS Sports Eyewear is able to accommodate such high prescription powers by using lenticular lenses and Free-Form Digital surfacing. Lenticular simply means that the corrective section of the lens does not extend all the way to the outer edge of the lens (see the above image). By limiting the corrective section of the lens, they are able to make a much thinner , distortion free lens that will work in wraparound sports oriented frames. More details can be found here.
In a Free-Form Digital lens, your prescription is recalculated at every point on the lens, effectively eliminating the fishbowl effect you would find on a traditionally cut lens placed in a wraparound frame. The best way to illustrate this is to use a sandbox analogy. Think of your shoulder as the pivot point, and then scoop out a cup of sand. That is how a traditional lens is made. To create a Free-Form lens from the same sandbox, you would remove one grain of sand at a time. Each one would be placed in the exact spot to most effectively direct light to the exact point on your retina to produce the corrected vision needed.
Prescription eyewear needs vary greatly. ADS Sports Eyewear may surprise you with the amount of options they can accommodate. They offer both Lenticular ($299) and standard ($119 single vision / $349 progressive) Free-Form digitally surfaced lenses. Lens materials include polycarbonate, Trivex, and High Index. Trivex has improved optics, but is a bit thicker, and thus was not a good option for me. High Index can produce a thinner lens, but is easier to break, so it isn’t recommended for sports eyewear. However, it is recommended in extreme cases such as +/- 10 RX power. Different tint colors, polarization, plus an anti-reflective coating are available. ADS also offers frames from a wide selection of popular makers, or the customer can order lenses and send in their own frames. If you know what you want, you can place the order online. If you are like me, and need a bit of assistance, you can always call them at (800-381-9083).
So, do they work or what? Yes! Amazingly well. I have used these on sunny days cruising, wet road rides, mountain biking, hiking, and driving. The optics are outstanding. My vision is clear and distortion free. The bronze tint does indeed enhance definition. It works well in very bright sunlight. And, as mentioned earlier, on the trails the sunglasses work great when going from shade to sun. I was a bit worried that the polarization on the lenses would make my cycling computer and phone harder to read, but fortunately the effect is minimal and I have no trouble seeing the displays. I have not experienced any eye fatigue or strain when wearing them on five or six hour rides, or on longer road trips in the car. The Oakley Fuel Cell frames are physically comfortable as well, and I never find them slipping down my nose. The lens coverage over my eyes is enough to block wind and rain very well. Both the frames and lenses have proven very durable. I have had these for the better part of a year now and there are no scratches or damage to speak of.
In the past I have had wraparound sunglasses with RX inserts, as well as high end prescription sunglasses with flatter lenses. Hands down, the Lenticular Free-Form Digitally surfaced lenses made by ADS Sports Eyewear are the best of the lot. It is very clear that this company is dedicated to providing a quality product to meet the needs of those with high power prescriptions. If you are in need of a quality pair of prescription sunglasses look no further than ADS Sports Eyewear.