Oakley SubZero running sunglasses review: a super lightweight champion returns

The super-lightweight Oakley SubZeros are high-performance sunglasses for running, riding and other active pursuits

Oakley SubZero
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

A retro, yet still somehow futuristic, pair of high-performing and ridiculously lightweight sunglasses, available for a premium price.

Pros

  • +

    Unbelievably light

  • +

    Excellent Prism lenses

  • +

    Secure and comfortable temple and nose grips

  • +

    100% UVA and UVB protection

Cons

  • -

    Large nose grip is visible to wearer

  • -

    Bug look not for everyone

  • -

    Expensive

Why you can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Oakley SubZero running sunglasses: first impressions

If these distinctive shades look familiar, you could be giving away your age. Oakley SubZero sunglasses were originally launched in 1992 and, despite being discontinued just three years later, they became iconic. And now 30 years later, Oakley are re-launching this classic design.

Specifications

• RRP: $244 (US) /£201 (UK)
Gender: Unisex
Polarized: No – but Prism lenses offer excellent definition
Weight: 24g / 0.85oz
• Frame size: Standard
• Frame colors: Matte Black / Planet X Blue / Carbon Fiber
Lens colors: Ruby Matte / Sapphire / Dark Golf
Extras: Rigid carry case

The big boast of these glasses – then and now – is that they weigh under 1oz. Now that isn’t less than zero, of course, but let’s not split hairs, because it is very, very light and was especially so back in the early ’90s. Other running sunglasses come close to competing in terms of being lightweight these days, but when you try on the SubZeros they still immediately impress with their barely there-ness. 

Much of the weight savings comes down to the fact that, besides the arms, there is no frame, and the physiomorphic geometry of the large lenses allows the glasses to adapt to the shape of the wearer’s face. This does result in a bug-like, futuristic look (still, three decades after their initial release), but you’re either going to love that or hate it (it may depend on how often you can put up with people saying you look like Bono – other types of sunglasses for trail running are available).

They are statement sunglasses – there’s no getting away from that, from the prominent (and cleverly design-integrated) logo, to the overall chic.

Oakley SubZero running sunglasses: on the trails

Oakley SubZero

Excellent, super-lightweight sunnies for running where the streets have no name (or other places) (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

In the heady days of the early ’90s, many of us cheerfully assumed we’d be running around in hovershoes by the 2020s, but alas, we’re still waiting for those, and to compensate it seems that we’re going back to the futuristic designs that were popular three decades ago. 

To be fair, while the look of the SubZero sunglasses might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they are a high-performing pair of glasses, with a lot of good features. And they have been updated, rather than simply re-released.

I’ve been running in the new SubZeros along the South West Coast Path in Devon, across open beaches, over bare hills and through the more shady woods in the coastal hinterland, and Oakley’s Prism lenses are genuinely excellent at coping with changing light levels you encounter in such conditions. They deliver amazing definition and color contrast, as well as complete protection from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.

Oakley SubZero

Back to the Future: Oakley SubZero sunglasses still look futuristic even though the design is 30 years old (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The grip on these glasses is also excellent, both at the temples and nose, and you can shake your head around or look down as much as you like without fear of them falling off. The “no-slip” Unobtainium nose grip is pretty chunky, however, and while it might feel unobtrusive, I could definitely see it while wearing the glasses, which was a little distracting and made me go a bit cross-eyed until I managed to convince my brain to ignore it.

In terms of pure performance, though, providing protection from glare and enabling clear vision in a range of quickly changing light conditions, these are fantastic lightweight sunnies for running, fastpacking or taking on any other active pursuits.

Writer, editor and enthusiast of anything involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing adventure stories. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon (opens in new tab) and Dorset (opens in new tab), and once wrote a whole book about Toilets (opens in new tab) for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades here (opens in new tab).