The Most Durable Eyeglass Frames

Rounding up the most rugged all-purpose frames on the market

At a glance…

In our opinion, the most durable eyeglass frames are pure Titanium (metal) and Cellulose Propionate (plastic) when you consider material strength, allergic reactions, and material’s ability to accommodate different colors, shapes, and styles.

Especially if you’re looking for RX-able (prescription) sunglasses, the best brands to consider are Randolph Engineering, Smith Optics, Wiley X and Oakley.

Check the table below for an overall comparison and pick the right eyeglass frame material for your needs.

top 5MaterialtypeEditor notes
#1TitaniummetalComparable in strength with Flexon®, however more versatile* than Flexon®. In some cases could be allergenic.
#2Cellulose PropionateplasticNot as strong as Kevlar®, but more versatile than Kevlar® . Also hypo-allergenic.
#3Flexon®metalA titanium-based alloy, very strong, hypo-allergenic but not as versatile as other materials.
#4Stainless SteelmetalVery strong and quite versatile but could be allergenic.
#5NylonplasticGood Strength – not as strong as Kevlar®, but slightly more versatile than Kevlar®
*Versatility : describes the material’s ability to accommodate different colors, shapes, and styles

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Why We Need Protective Eyewear

What you do isn’t always safe. Whether it’s honing in on a target for your job in the armed services or ripping down the side of a mountain, extreme activities naturally expose our eyes to the elements and could severely compromise them at any time.

Accordingly, you want a pair of rugged eyeglass frames that can protect your eyes and make it out the other side intact, ready for use on your next adventure. And the one after that. 

Wrap-around debris protection, glare-defending UV-light blockers, and RX-able frames for the insertion of prescription lenses – you want a sturdy frame material that can do everything and go anywhere.

And that sounds great, but you’re probably here on this website because you agree with us when we say that the products you buy should last as long as you. Especially considering some of the hefty price tags attached to these things, you want multi-purpose eyewear that you can buy once and never have to buy again (#BIFL). 

I felt the exact same way. That’s why I’ve taken a deep-dive into the most durable eyeglass frames available on the market, and found the absolute best of the best.

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In this article, I will go through exactly what it takes for a pair of glasses to meet the strict criteria of ‘extreme durability’; from frame design and materials to their performance in standardized resiliency tests.

I will guide you through everything you need to know in order to find your next pair of eyeglasses that work just as well on the airsoft field as they do in parent-teacher meetings. 

This is a one-stop-shop for your next choice of the most durable eyeglass frames that can do it all whilst looking easy on the eye at the same time.

So, let’s jump in. 

Frame Material

Swiss Army Recruit wearing plastic eyeglass frames. Image Credit: Jan Abellan
Swiss Army Recruit with Protection Glasses. Image Credit: Jan Abellan

When we talk about the ruggedness of protective eyeglasses, the type of material used for the frames will tell you almost everything you need to know. 

The good news is, there’s lots of choices out there. You can make frames out of almost anything, the two most commonly used materials in the manufacture of protective eyewear are plastic and metal.

Are plastic frames better than metal frames? Generally speaking, metal frames are almost always stronger than their plastic counterparts, and they have the added benefit of being fire-resistant. However, your stylistic choices become limited with metal, as they are a lot less versatile in the manufacturing process when it comes to manipulating shape and color.

Which one should you pick? Metal frames or plastic frames?

Well, it largely depends on who you are and in what kind of situation you’re putting your protective glasses through.

Professional shooters and those serving in combat zones should stick to metal or strong plastic frames for guaranteed protection in truly dicey situations. Adrenaline junkies and athletes, you guys are safe with plastic and should base your choice on the relentlessness of your chosen pursuit.

But that’s not all. As bad-ass as you may feel bending metal with fire or shielding your eyes from stray fragments, an allergic flare-up could put a quick end to that. Only some materials are naturally hypoallergenic.

I’ve put tables together summarising the properties of various frame materials, separated into Metal and Plastic frame types.

Each material will be given a ‘strength score’ based on their performance in durability tests and tendency to avoid getting brittle with age, and a ‘versatility score’, which describes the material’s ability to accommodate different colors, shapes, and styles.

So, take a look and start narrowing down your perfect pick.

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Choosing the best Eyeglass Plastic Frame

All the listed plastic material bases are totally hypoallergenic, so those with skin sensitivities should look no further. 

Within the plastics category, Cellulose Propionate performs best with the highest combined strength and versatility score, making it a solid first choice.

Nylon frames, Kevlar®, and Optyl bases follow closely behind with respectable strength and versatility that may end up being a little easier on the wallet than Propionate.

The Zyl frames gets the lowest approval rating from us, sacrificing its strength utility for the sake of a broad variety of colors and form-factors. They might be a good, inexpensive choice for children engaged in (hopefully not too dangerous) outdoor activities, but don’t make the cut in our Buy It For Life golden rule.

Plastic Frames Comparison Table

wdt_IDPlasticStrength ScoreVersatility ScoreHypoallergenic
1Zyl (cellulose acetate)25Yes
2Nylon42Yes
3Cellulose propionate35Yes
4Kevlar®51Yes
5Optyl33Yes
PlasticStrength ScoreVersatility ScoreHypoallergenic

Choosing the best Eyeglass Metal Frame

Due to the potential inclusion of Nickel in metal alloys, care should be taken before those with skin sensitivities buy any metal eyeglass frames.

 Titanium glasses frames and Beryllium frames top our list, boasting impressive strength scores. More so, both materials stand up well in corrosion resistance, making them ideal for use in extreme weather. 

It should be noted that Flexon®, a titanium alloy developed by Marchon Eyewear Inc. specifically for the application of sturdy eyeglass frames, has the unique quality of strength combined with flexibility – the frames can be twisted and bent up to 90° and return to their original shape, earning them the nickname ‘memory metal’.

Metal Frames Comparison Table

wdt_IDMetalStrength ScoreVersatility ScoreHypoallergenic
1Monel43No
2Titanium54Sometimes
3Aluminum41Yes
4Beryllium44No
5Stainless steel53Sometimes
6Flexon®52Yes
MetalStrength ScoreVersatility ScoreHypoallergenic

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The Real Test – Durability Standards for Eyeglass Frames

So, you know exactly what type of frame material best suits your extreme needs based on the kind of no-holds-barred activities you’re involved in. Now you need to switch your focus to the eyewear’s standards of durability.

Fortunately for us, there are nationally recognized standards that categorize the toughness of protective eyewear so that we choose a pair that will stand up to our personal needs. Durable eyeglass frames are awarded these standards by undergoing a rigorous testing procedure and coming out the other side virtually unscathed.

Frame durability standards go a long way in determining how much damage these suckers can take, so pay attention if your glasses are coming with you to an active combat situation, or a hazard-filled jobsite.

#BIFL
Testing generally has three main components, each one sounding more fun to conduct than the last:
  1. Ballistic impact test
  2. Radiation and chemical exposure test
  3. Flammability and Corrosion test

Interpreting the standards for sturdy eyeglass frames can be a little confusing, so I’ve dug into the technical stuff and compiled a list for your convenience. The standards can be grouped into two categories based on the intended use.


GROUP ONE – Civilian Standards

Eyeglass frame materials with these standards are approved for use in non-military industrial and recreational activities that pose risks to the eyes.

ANSI Z87.1
Durable eyeglasses can benefit from the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Z87.1 standard if they sufficiently protect the user from one of the following hazards; low-velocity blunt impact (flying fragments), heat (hot sparks or high-temp exposure), and dust.
ISEA Z87.1
The international equivalent to ANSI Z87.1, which uses identical durability procedures and therefore offers a comparable level of protection.
CSA Z94.3
The Canadian Standard equivalent to ASNI Z87.1. Uses slightly different testing protocol but is approved to offer equivalent protection. Can resist the impact of a ¼ inch steel ball traveling at 46.5m/s. Impressive stuff.
ASTM F.803
This standard guarantees protection of the eyes from common hazards in a specific selection of sporting activities that include ‘racket sports, women’s lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, baseball, and soccer’.

GROUP TWO – Military Standards

Eyewear in this category is put through the ringer. Designed to survive the harshest punishment, including ballistic projectile fragments.

It should be noted that the US military has and periodically updates an Authorised Protective Eyewear List [1] (APEL), so if you’re a soldier looking for sturdy frames that are sanctioned for service, look no further.

MIL-PRF 31013
Military standard of spectacles that can withstand up to 7x more impact energy than those of the ANSI Z87.1 standard. This means that MIL-PRF 31013 specs can survive a 0.15 caliber shot at 640 feet per second!
MIL-PRF 32432
This standard was defined under the Military Combat Eye Protection program (MCEP), which is designed to encourage greater compliance in the use of protective eyewear for servicemen and women. MIL-PRF 32432 eyeglasses can eat a 0.15 caliber shot at 660 feet per second, which is comparable to a shotgun blast from a distance of 33 feet!

Additional Markings

It doesn’t end there.

As well as bearing the Standard code (e.g. ANSI Z87.1), some frames have additional symbols that represent even further durability claims.

#BIFL
Look out for the following:

         “+” = High velocity impact rating 

         “U” = UV protection rating

         “W” = Welding protection rating

         “R” = Infrared light filter rating

            “S” = Special lens tint

         “Z87-2” = Prescription lenses

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Brand Face-off: the most durable prescription sunglasses (rx-able)

You’ve selected your perfect frame material. You know exactly which durability code your protective glasses should have and why.

In the last step, we will be entering into the vast world of the most durable eyeglass brands

The bad news – there’s a daunting amount of options out there. Thousands. The good news? I’ve searched every corner of the market and have zoomed in on a select few brands offering eyewear that does all of the following:

#BIFL
  • Offer sanctioned protection to the eyes
  • Are Rx-able, with prescription lens insertion options
  • Are multi-purpose
  • Should last a lifetime.

I will compare brands based on three qualities;

  • PRICE ($, $$, $$$)
  • VARIETY (Ok, Good, Great)
  • #BIFL – Buy-It-For-Life Rating (1% to 100%).

#BIFL Rating 80%
WileyX Boss Kryptek Rx-able Glasses | RuggedRatings.com
WX Boss is one of Wiley-X Best Sellers. Also available with prescription (Rx-able) | Image Credit: Wileyx com

Wiley X is a good place to start your search. Founded by a US Army veteran, the company focuses primarily on ‘tactical’ eyewear fit for the battlefiel, but they also carry civilian sunglasses and traditional eyewear with prescription lenses.

More so, ALL of their products are considered PPE and meet the ANSI Z87.1 [2] standard at a minimum, meaning you can’t go wrong with this brand in terms of safety.

A reviewer for a pair of Wiley X sunglasses said the following:

“It seems Wiley is one of the few companies left out there producing a high-quality product at a fair price.”

Price – $

Variety – Good

Bestseller No. 1
Wiley X Sleek Matte Black Frame with Grey Lenses
  • The small-framed WX SLEEK fits snugly on your face and meets the ANSI Z87.1 safety standards for high...
  • WITH EXCEPTIONAL PROTECTION AGAINST SWEAT, DEBRIS AND WEATHER, THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO WHAT YOU CAN DO....
  • UNPARALLELED PROTECTION: Founded on a commitment to protect, Wiley X frames and lenses meets ANSI Z87.1...
  • LENS TECHNOLOGY: Wiley X sunglass lenses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection with distortion free clarity....
  • PRESCRIPTION READY: Almost every Wiley X frame can be filled with a custom prescription lens.
Bestseller No. 2
Wiley X Nash Matte Black Frame with Polarized Grey...
  • Our WX NASH features rubber temple grips to prevent slipping and are ANSI Z87.1 rated for distortion-free...
  • PUSHING BOUNDARIES AND SURPASSING LIMITS ARE WHAT OUR ACTIVE SERIES ARE BUILT FOR—PERFORMANCE...
  • UNPARALLELED PROTECTION: Founded on a commitment to protect, Wiley X frames and lenses meets ANSI Z87.1...
  • LENS TECHNOLOGY: Wiley X sunglass lenses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection with distortion free clarity....
  • PRESCRIPTION READY: Almost every Wiley X frame can be filled with a custom prescription lens.
Bestseller No. 3
Wiley X Valor Matte Black Frame with Grey, Clear...
  • Changeable lens capability allows maximum light condition versatility
  • Shatterproof lenses block 100% of UV rays
  • Meets GL-PD 10-12 MCEP standard, superseding MIL-PRF-31013 ballistic standard
  • Certified to ANSI Z87.1-2003 high impact and optical performance standard
  • Rated as OSHA grade occupational protective eyewear

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 02:20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Oakley

#BIFL Rating 50%
Oakley Holbrook Rx-able Sunglasses | RuggedRatings.com
Oakley Holbrook, one of our All-time favorite models. Also, available with prescription (Rx-able) | Image Credit: Oakley com

I’m sure you’ve heard of  Oakley before, and for good reason.

For 45 years they’ve been offering a huge range of glasses and other lifestyle equipment in almost every niche you could think of.

You can find Oakley glasses designed for Football, Surfing, Road Biking, Mountain Biking, and a hell of a lot more. They even have a dedicated website for Military gear.

But its greatest power is a slight weakness for our requirements – you can get a pair of Oakley glasses for basically any individual activity, but you will struggle to find one pair that can do it all.

The upside (and the reason we included the brand in our top-choice list) is that, with the sheer size of the company, they are able to offer a pretty agreeable price for a lot of their models.

So, if you’re looking for reasonably rugged glasses in a specific niche that won’t break the bank, Oakley is your go-to. 

Price – $$

Variety – Great

Bestseller No. 1
Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses 57MM Matte Black...
472 Reviews
Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses 57MM Matte Black...
  • Non-Polarized
  • 100% UV protection coating
  • Lens width: 57 millimeters
  • Clean lenses with the lens cloth and keep in case.
  • Case included^Lenses are prescription ready (Rx-able)^Case included^Lenses are prescription ready...
Bestseller No. 2
Oakley Men's OO9236 Valve Rectangular Sunglasses,...
  • Lenses are prescription ready (Rx-able)
Bestseller No. 3
Oakley Men's OO9247 Chainlink Rectangular...
  • Lenses are prescription ready (Rx-able)

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 02:31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Randolph Engineering

#BIFL Rating 100%
Randolph Engineering Aviator Bayonet
Randolph Engineering Aviator Bayonet. Rx-able, Polarized, and Made in USA with Life Time Warranty | Image Credit: RandolphUSA com

Randolph Engineering deserves special mention.

An American-made company (Randolph is so named after the Massachusetts town) that over 48 years of operation still manufactures and sells their frames from the US – all by hand.

They also act as the primary contractor for Aviator glasses to the US military.

So high-quality engineering and style are a given with this brand, and we couldn’t help but notice an encouraging tagline on their website:

“Engineered to last a lifetime. Or two.”

… and they’re not kidding. Every pair of frames they sell comes with a promise to repair or replace any broken joints, flex hinges, or spring hinge, for the entire lifetime of the frame. That’s what we like to hear! That does, of course, come with a hefty price tag though. 

Price – $$$

Variety – Good

Bestseller No. 1
AO Eyewear American Optical - Original Pilot...
  • The 52mm frame is perfect for medium size faces
  • Made in USA! Issued to millions of U.S. soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen since 1958
  • Metal frame with bayonet temples, engineered to rigid military specifications for comfort, performance...
  • These are the first sunglasses to land on the moon
  • worn by Commander Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 in 1969
Bestseller No. 2
Randolph USA | Sportsman Aviator Authentic...
3 Reviews
Randolph USA | Sportsman Aviator Authentic...
  • GUARANTEED FOR LIFE: Handcrafted in our USA factory, 6 weeks, 200 steps. Lifetime warranty on all frames....
  • HOW TO FIND YOUR SUNGLASS SIZE: Looking in a mirror, hold a ruler horizontally across your face. Measure...
  • WHAT'S INCLUDED: Genuine embossed hard case & microfiber cleaning cloth.
  • BRAND HISTORY: Randolph is family-owned and operated, handcrafting the finest eyewear with top-grade...
  • RANDOLPH USA: Authentic sunglasses worn by pilots. We’re also honored to be worn by icons, legends, and...
Bestseller No. 3
Maui Jim Baby Beach Aviator Sunglasses, Silver...
  • Click the Maui Jim link above to visit our brand store, where you can find our entire catalog of...
  • All Maui Jim sunglasses feature PolarizedPlus2 lens technology that go beyond shielding your eyes from...
  • Enjoy ultimate UV protection combined with premium style, incredible durability, glare-free vision, and...
  • Neutral Grey lenses offer the highest available light reduction and are most useful in bright, direct...
  • Lenses made with MauiPure material for crisp optics and excellent shatter & scratch resistance

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 02:31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Smith Optics

#BIFL Rating 80%
Smith Optics Chamber Elite | Rugged Ratings
Smith Optics Chamber Tactical Rx meets ANSI Z87.1 standard for optics and MIL-PRF-31013 standard for impact | Image Credit: SmithOptics com

The final brand in our top-choice list, Smith Optics is a snowsport-centric manufacturer of eyewear in a variety of formats, including Rx-able (prescription eyeglass), safety glasses, and sunglasses.

Their Elite Eye Protection range boasts ANSI Z87.1 optic standards and MIL-PRF-31013 [3] impact standards, making them good all-rounders in terms of protection. Plus, following their love and respect for the environment, Smith Optics is the only brand on the list that offer select models made from 100% recycled materials.

Reviews of eyewear from this brand often mention the clarity of the optic, making them great shooting glasses. And as for toughness, one Amazon review said this:

“I wear them all the time and the lenses haven’t scratched at all, even though I’ve dropped them.”

Price – $

Variety – OK

Bestseller No. 1
Smith Optics Lowdown XL 2 Sunglasses, Matte...
179 Reviews
Smith Optics Lowdown XL 2 Sunglasses, Matte...
  • CHROMAPOP POLARIZED. Our ChromaPop Polarized lenses are optically tuned to give you visual comfort and...
  • SMITH POLARIZATION cuts glare off of horizontal surfaces like snow, water and asphalt and reduces visual...
  • EVOLVE Eco-Material Construction. Our proprietary Evolve material incorporates 53% bio-based material...
  • HYDROPHILIC Megol nose pads for a secure fit and all day comfort. Placed at the nose, Megol gently grips...
  • Medium fit / large coverage; Auto-lock hinges; 4 base frame; Rx Compatible; Includes microfiber storage /...
Bestseller No. 2
Smith Outlier 2 Sunglasses, Matte Tortoise /...
  • SMITH POLARIZATION cuts glare off of horizontal surfaces like snow, water and asphalt and reduces visual...
  • HYDROLEOPHOBIC - water and oil proof coating repels moisture, grease and grime. A barrier between your...
  • ANTI-REFLECTIVE coating. Vacuum applied, Anti-Reflective coatings on the back side of the lens will...
  • EVOLVE Eco-Material Construction. Our proprietary Evolve material incorporates 53% bio-based material...
  • Large fit & coverage; Anti-slip Megol nose pads and temples for a secure fit; 6 base frame; Auto-lock...
SaleBestseller No. 3
Parallel Max 2 Carbonic Polarized Sunglasses,...
87 Reviews
Parallel Max 2 Carbonic Polarized Sunglasses,...
  • Polarized Carbonic TLT Lenses
  • Included: Extra Ignitor Lens, Small case and microfiber bag
  • Medium fit / large coverage
  • Hydrophilic megol temple & nose pads for a secure fit and auto-lock hinges
  • TR90 frame material

Last update on 2021-04-13 at 02:33 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Conclusion

So, there you have it. The ultimate guide for choosing the perfect pair of all-purpose durable eyeglass frame that can do almost everything and last a lifetime. 

Frames Infographic 1 | titanium frame | stainless steel frames | aluminum frame | combination frames | flexon frame | beta titanium | plastic eyeglass frames
Most Durable Eyeglass Frames | Infographic | Rugged Ratings

You probably already picked your perfect pair, but if you haven’t, here are some additional resources that host many of the thousands of durable eyewear brands:



What do you think? Do you have a different opinion on the Most Durable Eyeglass Frames? Be sure to share this article with anyone and everyone in the market for #BIFL durable eyeglasses. We regularly post guides similar to this one all about products that last a lifetime, so stay posted if you agree with the Buy It For Life golden rule as much as we do. 


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