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Running Accessories • May 31, 2024

Smith Motive Sunglasses Review: Easy On The Eyes

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What You Need To Know


Shield-like, but with two lenses


Smith’s vibrant ChromaPop lenses



Introduction to the Smith Motive Sunglasses

REESE: Before diving into the review, let me take you on a detour. Trust me, it’ll all come together in the end. My dad, now retired, served in the Navy on a nuclear submarine, was an engineer, and an executive at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. When you picture a Federal government exec and engineer, “fashion icon” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. And you’d be right. He’s not exactly setting any trends. He still rocks jean shorts he bought from Sears in the early ’90s (are they even still around?).

Fashion has never been his forte — unless it involves fly fishing gear. However, one style anecdote has always stuck with me. He wears these atrocious glasses over his prescription when he goes fly fishing. Naturally, I had to tease him; my teenage self was mortified to be seen with him. But he couldn’t care less about the jabs. This is the part that has always stayed with me. He’d clap back at my snarky remarks and tell me to leave his BCGs alone. Confused, I’d ask, “Whattt?”

He explained that in the Navy, they issued glasses so hideous that sailors dubbed them Birth Control Glasses, or BCGs, because there was no way you’d attract anyone while wearing them. They were functional but mighty bad-looking.

KARL: It’s that time of the year again when the clock has sprung forward, and we’re left with an extra hour of daylight — which usually means warmer weather and longer training runs are on the horizon. Around this time, I’m usually scrambling to pick up a pair of sunglasses to not only look and feel good but also help prevent eye fatigue, thus making my runs more enjoyable. I’m rather sensitive to light, so I enjoy wearing sunglasses all year round.

When I started running three years ago, I never saw a point in paying more than a handful of bucks for sports eyewear. They can easily be lost, and you’re sweating all over them, so why would I bother spending top dollar on something that I can replace so cheaply? Well, I’m glad after three years and a half dozen “inexpensive” shades (which more or less equaled one pair of quality sunglasses), I realized that a good pair of sunnies goes a long way.

In my opinion, a pair of running sunglasses needs to be able to do three things well: It needs to be lightweight, not slip on the face when sweating profusely, and provide ample coverage while providing clarity to what you’re seeing. Luckily, the new Smith Optics Motive is one pair that ticks all those boxes.

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How durable are the Smith Motive Sunglasses?

REESE: This brings me to the Smith Motive, which favors function over form. Now, they aren’t on par with BCGs, but if you are a small human, they are pretty darn big, almost bug-eye-looking. And that’s saying something since I like big lenses, and I cannot lie. I also struggle to get on board with two lenses on sports sunglasses. I’m in favor of one gigantic lens. It’s not all bad, though. There is a lot to like about the glasses.

The construction is super high-quality. The Smith Motives are crafted from lightweight, high-impact-resistant TR90 nylon. The frame boasts a slight wraparound fit that offers both comfort and superior protection.

What lenses can you use with the Smith Motive Sunglasses?

REESE: One of the standout features of the Motive is its dual-lens construction, exclusively available with Smith’s proprietary ChromaPop lens technology. ChromaPop makes colors so vibrant. It’s the next closest thing to psychedelics (no, it’s not). It delivers enhanced color, clarity, and definition, making every detail pop with trippy vividness. The glasses come with two interchangeable lens tints — one optimized for bright sunlight and a clear option for low-light or night runs. This adaptability to varying light conditions is a significant advantage, ensuring optimal vision regardless of the time of day.

Ventilation is another area where the Motive excels. Vents in the upper corners of the lenses help dispel heat and moisture buildup, preventing fogging and ensuring clear optics throughout your run. The lenses are also coated to resist smudges and moisture, making cleaning a breeze and maintaining clarity even in sweaty conditions.

KARL: The Motive is a new addition to Smith’s ChromaPop lineup. What is ChromaPop, exactly? Well, it’s Smith’s patented lens technology, which is meant to “deliver enhanced color, clarity, and definition” (according to Smith’s own literature). There isn’t much technical information on their website, but according to Smith, “the eye has trouble distinguishing colors where the blue and green as well as green and red wavelengths cross over.” So ChromaPop essentially filters reds, greens, and blues and separates them, which it claims brings better definition, color, and clarity.

I received the Motive in Matte Bone and ChromaPop Black Gold Mirror, and I have to say I dig the look of it. The off-white and gold give off a bolder and more stylish look than just a pair of all-black sunglasses, but it also isn’t so outlandish or attention-grabbing as you’d get from brighter neon frames. As an owner of a ton of sunglasses that are mainly black/black or black/orange lens combos, this is a welcome addition to my collection.

The glasses come in a nice hard shell case that is just the right size (seriously, some of the case sizes these days are ridiculous). Inside is a microfiber pouch, as well as two bonus clear lenses.

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What is the visibility like in the Smith Motive Sunglasses?

KARL: I was very pleased with the clarity I got upon my first run. With a Visible Light Transmission of 10%, the Motive’s lenses are suited for very bright conditions. I received a black lens that has a very neutral image — so no warm or cool color cast like you’d find in other tinted lenses. This particular lens color choice also offers polarization, which helps cut down on glare in super sunny areas. One thing to note is that Smith offers replacement lenses for the Motive, so if you are so inclined, you can have different lenses to find what suits your taste the best.

Running on a sunny evening through downtown Baltimore proved to be very enjoyable. The high contrast offered me a great experience looking ahead, being able to dip and dodge pedestrians along the Baltimore Harbor promenade. The glare coming off the water in the harbor was also cut down considerably, which proved to be very helpful coming back as I found myself running towards the setting sun. The overall sun coverage is great. I didn’t experience any light leak but I also felt like there wasn’t too much lens on my face. Some glasses feel a bit overbearing, and there’s nothing worse than noticing you’re actually wearing them.

To me, these glasses really shined on the trail. I took them out for a 14-mile trail run, where the weather was sporadic with pockets of humid sunshine nestled in between periods of clouds and rain — it was quite the two hours for what should have been a standard Sunday long run. But this is where I really saw Smith’s ChromaPop come to life — being able to look down at the broken trail and all the little jagged rocks and noticing just how detailed they were. This was no technical trail by any means, but being able to clearly see muddy patches and uneven surfaces during those intensely sunny periods really helped to get through the run. Everything really did just “pop” more with little-to-no hazing.

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Are there any drawbacks to the Smith Motive Sunglasses?

REESE: While most Smith sunglasses offer the ability to adjust the nose pads, the Motive does not. I have a bony nose, and the set width of the nose grippers just never felt right. I would recommend testing them out to make sure they’re a good fit right out of the box.

At $175-185, the Smith Motive isn’t a cheap date. That said, each pair comes with two sets of lenses, a microfiber cleaning and storage pouch, and a hard case. You can pick up your pair and check out some other color options below.

KARL: The price tag seems steep at $185 (with replacement lenses sitting at $50), but I’ve easily spent that much on numerous pairs of cheaper sunglasses that had inferior lenses, image output, and construction. I know it may seem hard to justify for a lot of people, but I’m a big believer in the saying, “Buy once, Cry once.” As someone who’s bought multiple times, I’ve also cried multiple times realizing that I’ve spent equally the same amount of money on cheaper sunglasses than on one solid pair.

And, to be fair, the price point is also not the most egregious compared to the rest of the market, so I do think the value is there — especially since Smith Optics sunglasses come with a limited lifetime warranty. Because of the less aggressive styling, I find myself wearing the Motive out casually as well, which just adds to the value — I can’t say that a lot of the sports sunglasses I own.

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reese ruland - bio
Reese Ruland
Colorado Trail Reviewer
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Reese Ruland is a Fort Collins, Colorado-based ultra trail runner with over 15 years of competitive running experience. She has a penchant for PopTarts, a gear addiction, and is always taking photos of her two French Bulldogs, Loaf and Oatie. In addition to her athletic endeavors, Reese serves as an ambassador for Project Heal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accessible mental health care for those affected by eating disorders. She’s also one of the fastest women ever to run R2R2R (7:59).

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Karl Fernandez
Media Coordinator

Karl is the Media Coordinator for Believe in the Run. Prior to joining the team, Karl spent the last decade working in the media industry as a cinematographer, director, screenwriter, and editor. He’s also an avid musician and craft beer aficionado. If he’s not running, he’s recording music, watching movies, or wandering around with his photo camera.

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