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Last Updated on Aug-11-2023.
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.
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.
|Comparable in strength with Flexon®, however more versatile* than Flexon®. In some cases could be allergenic.
|Not as strong as Kevlar®, but more versatile than Kevlar® . Also hypo-allergenic.
|The Flexon® frame is a titanium-based alloy, very strong, hypo-allergenic but not as versatile as other materials.
|Very strong and quite versatile but could be allergenic.
|Nylon 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
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.
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.
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 badass 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:
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
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
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.
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.
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  (APEL), so if you’re a soldier looking for a sturdy pair that are sanctioned for service, look no further.
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.
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:
We’ll compare brands based on three qualities;
- PRICE ($, $$, $$$)
- VARIETY (Ok, Good, Great)
- #BIFL – Buy-It-For-Life Rating (1 to 10).
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  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
Advertisements – WileyX Bestsellers:[amazon bestseller=”wiley x glasses” items=”3″]
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.
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 – $$
Variety – Great
Advertisements – Oakley Bestsellers:[amazon bestseller=”oakley glasses” items=”3″]
Randolph Engineering deserves special mention.
An American-made company (Randolph is so named after the Massachusetts town) that over 48 years of operation still manufactures and sells their frames from the US – all by hand.
They also act as the primary contractor for Aviator glasses to the US military.
High-quality engineering and style on an eyeglass frame are a given with Randolph Engineering, and we couldn’t help but notice an encouraging tagline on their website:
“Engineered to last a lifetime. Or two.”
… and they’re not kidding. Every pair of frames they sell comes with a promise to repair or replace any broken joints, flex hinges, or spring hinge, for the entire lifetime of the frame. That’s what we like to hear! That does, of course, come with a hefty price tag though.
Price – $$$
Variety – Good
Advertisements – Randolph Engineering Bestsellers:[amazon bestseller=”randolph engineering glasses” items=”3″]
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  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
Advertisements – Smith Optics Bestsellers:[amazon bestseller=”Smith Optics glasses” items=”3″]
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.
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.
What is the most robust material for glasses?
Titanium: Extremely resilient and corrosion-resistant, titanium is also hypoallergenic and weighs 40% lighter than other metals. Available in various color tones, titanium is an ideal material for eyeglasses.
The most durable eyeglass frames are pure Titanium (metal) and Cellulose Propionate (plastic). The titanium alloy metals arguably produce the most durable eyeglass frames globally. Titanium alloys are objects in which titanium is configured with nickel or copper. Their quality of productivity is second to none.
Are titanium frames worth it?
If durability, comfort, and corrosion resistance sound good to you, it might be worth investing in titanium glasses. Consumers are willing to do the same for products made of titanium, such as golf clubs and bicycles.
What is the most durable brand of glasses?
When investing in a high-quality and durable product, the best brands are Randolph Engineering, Smith Optics, Wiley X, and Oakley.
Are Stainless Steel frames worth it?
Stainless steel frames are light and strong. In addition, they offer greater flexibility, and they are also very durable. The best thing about stainless steel glasses is that they are hypoallergenic. Stainless steel also happens to be much harder to manufacture, so its cost is generally higher.
Which frames are better, plastic or metal eyeglass?
Metal frames are better than plastic variants when it comes to fit. Metal frames are usually more in place and are less likely to need readjustment now and then, unlike plastic frames. Glasses with metal frames come with nose pads to help you keep them in place.
Metal frames are usually lighter and more durable than plastic frames, so they may be the best choice if you’re rough with your glasses.
What type of eyeglass frames should I wear?
The key to finding the right frames is to remember that opposites attract. Special eyeglasses contrast your facial contours and bring symmetry and balance to your prominent features. At Eyeconic, you can virtually try on hundreds of eyeglass frames to see which styles compliment your appearance.
Are Flexon frames worth it?
Flexon frames are a great option if you’re looking for lightweight, flexible, durable glasses. The unique metal in Flexon frames is designed to last longer and feel much lighter on your face compared to other materials used to make glasses frames.
Are nylon frames good?
This frame material is still occasionally used. Nylon is strong, lightweight, and flexible but could become brittle with age.
What are the most comfortable eyeglass frames?
Believe it or not, metal frames tend to be lighter on the face than plastic eyeglasses because the frames are thinner and have less bulk, making them far more comfortable. They can also form into more pleasing and fashionable shapes, making them a preferred choice among eyeglass wearers.
Are plastic eyeglass frames toxic?
Some of them are and could be allergic. You need to look for frames made from Zyl (zylonite or cellulose acetate). It is a plant-based plastic made from wood pulp and has been used for decades. Other frames are made from propionate, a nylon-based plastic that is hypoallergenic and non-toxic.
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