Transition contact lenses just became available and I gave them a test drive training for a half marathon.

By Shannon Bauer

I've been a contacts lens wearer since eighth grade, yet I'm still wearing the same type of two-week lenses that I started with 13 years ago. Unlike cell phone technology (shoutout to my middle school flip phone), the contacts industry has seen little innovation over the years.

That is, until this year when Johnson & Johnson launched their new Acuvue Oasys with Transitions, a lens that adjusts to changing light conditions. Yes, just like the eye glasses that morph into sunnies. Cool, right?

I thought so too and with a half marathon less than a month away, decided it was the perfect time to test them out and see if they are as revolutionary as they seem. (Related: Eye Care Mistakes You Don't Know You're Making)

According to the brand's research, about two in three Americans are bothered by light on the average day. I wouldn't have considered my eyes "sensitive to light" until I thought about the fact that I have a pair of sunglasses in every bag I own and wear them on a daily basis year round. The new transitional contact lenses work by transforming from a clear lens to a dark lens and back again to balance the amount of light entering the eye. This reduces squinting and disrupted vision due to bright lights, whether from sunlight, blue light, or outdoor lights like street lamps and headlights. (Try one of these Cutest Polarized Sunglasses for Outdoor Workouts.)

This experiment started with a visit to my optometrist to get an updated contacts prescription and a sample pair of lenses to test. The only difference between my previous contacts and these ones are the slight brown tinge. They insert, remove, and feel just as comfortable as my normal two-week lens. (If you're a daily disposable contacts kinda gal, your experience might be a bit different.)

When it comes to running—rain, wind, snow, or sunshine—I always wear either a baseball hat or sunglasses to shade my eyes. I began training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon in mid-April and knew this training cycle and fickle spring weather would be no different. To get my miles in, at least two mornings a week, I'm up to run before work. Often I start my runs at dawn and I'm finishing with the sun fully out. The contacts were perfect for that scenario. I had full vision while it was dark and didn't need to carry sunglasses for the bright, morning sun. Fun fact: all contact lenses block some level of UVA/UVB rays but because of the dark shade in sunlight, the transitions offer 99+% UVA/UBA protection. (Related: Eye Exercises You Should Do to Improve Eye Health)

The lenses take about 90 seconds to fully transition to the darkest shade but honestly I couldn't even tell the process happened. At one point I thought they weren't working because I didn't "see" the adjustment, but then I realized I wasn't squinting into the light and when I took a selfie, my eyes were tinted darker. A possible downside to the contacts is that they do tint your normal eye color because the lenses get darker. That didn't bother me and my friends mentioned it didn't appear creepy or Halloween costume-esque but rather like I had brown eyes (I have blue eyes naturally).

Over the course of the month, I wore the contacts nearly every day. On short walks to the subway I often forgot to put on my sunnies, and can already tell I'm going to love them for summer days at the beach. The decision about whether or not to risk yet another pair of sunglasses to a wave will be a no-brainer. Amateur and rec league athletes alike could get a step up on their competition for outdoor games and better visibility at the beach or pool. Since I live in New York City, I very rarely drive and didn't test that function during my trial but can absolutely see the benefit for clearer driving, especially at night when halos and blinding headlights are a common problem. (Related: Can You Swim While Wearing Contacts?)

Don't wear contacts and feeling jealous? Even if you have 20/20 vision, you can reap the light adapting benefits by purchasing the lenses without correction. Personally, I'm going to buy one box of transitions for the summer (a 12-week supply) and stick with my traditional lenses for the rest of the year.

Come race day, waiting at the starting line, I looked at the Brooklyn Museum to my right and sunny, blue skies to my left and was once again amazed how clearly I could see. And no squinting! I did make the decision to put on sunglasses too because the course was in direct sunlight for most of the run. (Which TBH, the lenses were not designed to fully replace sunglasses.) Now, I won't give the new contacts all the credit, but those early mornings runs *did* lead to a five minute half marathon PR.


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