The Most Durable Eyeglass Frames

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Rounding up the most rugged, RX-able, 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 to help you pick the right eyeglass frame material that is strong and flexible for your needs. Note that we dive deeper into frame materials in the coming sections so stay tuned.

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®metalThe Flexon® frame is a titanium-based alloy, very strong, hypo-allergenic but not as versatile as other materials.
#4Stainless SteelmetalVery strong and quite versatile but could be allergenic.
#5NylonplasticNylon frames have good 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 is Protective Eyewear Important?

If you’re an active individual, your physical activities may put you–and your eyes–in danger. Whether you’re blazing bullets in the armed services, drilling concrete in construction, or ripping down the side of a mountain, extreme activities without durable protective eyeglasses leave your eyes vulnerable.

To suit your thrilling adventures, you want a pair of rugged eyeglass frames that can protect your eyes and make it to the other side in one piece–ready for your next adventure, and the one after that.

You want a durable frame material that can do everything and go anywhere. That means wrap-around debris protection, glare-defending UV-light blockers, and a flexible RX-able frame for prescription lenses.

These protective features sound great. But, that’s not completely why you’re on Rugged Ratings. You’re here because you agree 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).

We felt the exact same way. That’s why we’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, we’ll 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.

We’ll guide you through everything you need to know in order to find your next pair of protective glasses that work just as well on the airsoft field as they do in parent-teacher meetings.

Consider this your one-stop-shop for your next durable eyeglass frame that can do it all without compromising much fashion. 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 are 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.

Should you pick plastic frames or 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.

So, which one should you pick? Metal frames or plastic frames? It ultimately depends on your preference, who you are, and the 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(unlikely to cause an allergic reaction).

We’ve put tables together summarising the properties of various frame materials, separated into Metals and Plastics for frame types. Each material will be given a ‘strength score’ based on its performance in durability tests and how brittle they tend to be. And, a ‘versatility score’, will describe the material’s ability to accommodate different colors, shapes, and styles.

However, let’s go over the most popular and durable eyeglass frame materials more in-depth before getting to the short-list:

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Choosing the Best Eyeglass Plastic Frame

Before deciding on the best plastic eyeglass frame, let’s consider and learn about different options that may be valuable to us depending on the situation:

Zylonite Plastic Frame – Zylonite, AKA, Cellulose Acetate (CA) is actually a type of natural plastic–manufactured from purified natural cellulose (an organic compound). The hypoallergenic material is inexpensive and lightweight, coming in many colors to complement your style.

Cellulose Acetate Propionate (CAP) – is a nylon-based thermoplastic that’s also hypoallergenic. CAP is like a variant of CA, except it is tougher and more expensive. The nice thing about CA/P is that they kind of offer the best of both worlds (plastics and metals). Nylon frames can make for a strong and flexible pair of eyeglasses. However, CA frames are more expensive and can be distorted in extreme heat–unlike frames made from metals.

Blended nylon frames are often found in wraparound styles so they’re a popular choice for sports. Nylon frames are generally deemed strong and lightweight, but they become brittle with age. So, traditional nylon materials have been replaced by blended nylon composites like polyamides, copolyamides, and gliamides – which are more durable.

Optyl is a brand of epoxy resin and is a kind of memory metal. When heated, it loses its original shape and becomes very malleable. This typically makes molding the frame to your face’s shape easier, too.

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.

All the listed plastic material bases are 100% hypoallergenic, so those with skin sensitivities should look no further.

Plastic Frames Comparison Table

wdt_ID Plastic Strength Score Versatility Score Hypoallergenic
1 Zyl (cellulose acetate) 2 5 Yes
2 Nylon 4 2 Yes
3 Cellulose propionate 3 5 Yes
4 Kevlar® 5 1 Yes
5 Optyl 3 3 Yes
Plastic Strength Score Versatility Score Hypoallergenic

Choosing the Best Eyeglass Metal Frame

Before picking a favorite, let’s go through our durable metal frame options:

A titanium alloy metal frame is a mixed blend of titanium and other metals like nickel or copper. They’re very high in tensile strength (frames can be twisted) and fairly lightweight, too. Lastly, the fact that the titanium allows for corrosion-resistant properties and can withstand crazy heat makes them a solid pair of durable, compact eyeglasses.

Stainless steel metal frame is a melt of other raw metals like iron, chromium, and more. Adjoined and processed, stainless steel framed eyeglasses are strong and lightweight–but just not as light as titanium.

Monel Metal Frame Like stainless steel, Monel comes from a mixture of metals like nickel. They’re moderately flexible and corrosion-resistant, but, the metal frame can cause allergic reactions in sensitive-skinned people. However, these days, most Monel frames are coated to protect the skin.

The Beryllium Metal Frame is a great option. Not only does it cost less than titanium, but it’s considerably lightweight, flexible, and strong. Not to mention, Beryllium is incredibly corrosion-resistant, making these metal pair a good choice for those who spend lots of time near saltwater. Lastly, Beryllium frames are not bad for fashion, as they’re quite versatile in colors and sizes.

Flexon® frame has a unique memory-metal titanium alloy for sturdy eyeglass frames developed by Marchon Eyewear Inc. Flexon frames are known to be twisted and bent up to 90° and return to their original shape–thus earning them the nickname ‘memory metal’. The titanium alloy also makes Flexon corrosion resistant.

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

Again, since Nickel may be in some metal alloys, you should be cautious if you have skin sensitivities when buying any metal-framed eyeglasses.

Metal Frames Comparison Table

wdt_ID Metal Strength Score Versatility Score Hypoallergenic
1 Monel 4 3 No
2 Titanium 5 4 Sometimes
3 Aluminum 4 1 Yes
4 Beryllium 4 4 No
5 Stainless steel 5 3 Sometimes
6 Flexon® 5 2 Yes
Metal Strength Score Versatility Score Hypoallergenic

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The Real Test – Durability Standards for Eyeglass Frames

So, you should have a vision by now of what type of frame material best suits the no-holds-barred activities you’re involved in. Now, you need to switch your focus on the eyewear’s durability standards.

Fortunately for us, there are nationally recognized criteria that categorize the toughness of protective glasses so that we choose a pair that will stand up to our personal needs. Durable eyeglass frames go through rigorous testing procedures and come out virtually unscathed before earning badges.

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

#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: civilian standards and military standards.


GROUP ONE – Civilian Standards

Eyeglass frame materials related to these standards are approved for use in non-military industrial and recreational activities that pose risks to the eyes. For example, athletes or construction workers may tend to favor these pairs.

ANSI Z87.1
A durable eyeglass earns the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) Z87.1 standard if it sufficiently protects the wearer from one of the following hazards:
● Low-velocity blunt impact (flying fragments)
● Heat (hot sparks or high-temp exposure)
● Dust
ISEA Z87.1
The international equivalent to ANSI Z87.1, which uses identical durability procedures to test frame material and therefore offers a comparable level of eye protection.
CSA Z94.3
The Canadian equivalent to ASNI Z87.1. Uses a slightly different testing protocol but is approved to offer equivalent protection. An eyeglass frame with this seal is expected to resist the impact of a ¼ inch steel ball traveling at 46.5m/s. Impressive stuff.
ASTM F.803
The ASTM F.803 standard guarantees eyes protection from common hazards in a specific selection of sports 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 wringer, 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 a sturdy pair that are sanctioned for service, look no further.

MIL-PRF 31013
A military standard durable eyeglass 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 and still not break, 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), the most durable eyeglasses 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)

Okay, so now you’re familiar with the most durable frame materials and know all the civilian and military-grade durability standards for your protective eyeglasses.

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

The bad news – there’s a daunting amount of options out there. Thousands. The good news? We’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.

We’ll 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 battlefield, 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

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Bestseller No. 1
Oakley Men's OO9236 Valve Rectangular Sunglasses,...
  • Made in US
  • Plastic frame
  • Plastic lens
  • Polarized, 100% UV protection coating, Lens width: 60.8 millimeters, Bridge: 16 millimeters, Arm: 133...
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Last update on 2021-09-18 at 04:39 / 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

For 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 manufacturer 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

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SaleBestseller No. 1
Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses, Matte Black Frame/Warm...
2,653 Reviews
Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses, Matte Black Frame/Warm...
  • Case included
  • Lenses are prescription ready (rx-able)
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Bestseller No. 2
Oakley Holbrook Sunglasses 57MM Matte Black...
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  • Non-Polarized
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Last update on 2021-09-18 at 04:58 / 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.

High-quality engineering and style on an eyeglass frame are a given with Randolph Engineering, 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

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Bestseller No. 1
Randolph USA | Matte Chrome Classic Aviator...
307 Reviews
Randolph USA | Matte Chrome Classic Aviator...
  • HOW TO FIND YOUR SUNGLASS SIZE: Looking in a mirror, hold a ruler horizontally across your face. Measure...
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  • RANDOLPH USA: Authentic sunglasses worn by pilots. We’re also honored to be worn by icons, legends, and...
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SUNGAIT Men's Military Style Polarized Pilot...
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  • Lens Height: 47mm/1.85inch; Lens Width: 55mm/2.17inch; Nose Bridge: 19mm/0.75inch; Arm: 150mm/5.91inch...
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Last update on 2021-09-18 at 04:58 / 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 for a durable eyeglass frame is Smith Optics. They’re a snowsport-centric manufacturer of eyeglasses 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 offers select models made from 100% recycled materials.

Reviews of eyeglasses from this company 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

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Last update on 2021-09-18 at 04:58 / 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 frames 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. 


FAQ:

Which are the most durable prescription sunglasses brands?
Randolph Engineering, Smith Optics, Wiley X and Oakley. All these popular brands manufacture durable models with military standards, RX-able (with prescription lens insertion options), multi-purpose, and prone to last a life-time. #BIFL

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What to check next: The Essential EDC items from the LAPD. The latest tactical everyday carry products for law enforcement officers. We thought we’d take a look at the top EDC items used by the officers that make up one of the largest police departments in the US ­– the LAPD.

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