Shoes & Gear

Julbo Ultra

Julbo Ultra

I had all my gear laid out for my trip north the following morning to run in the Flagstaff 50 Endurance Runs, put on by Aravaipa Running, when the doorbell rang. Much to my surprise FedEx was making a 5:00 p.m. delivery on a Friday afternoon. The surprise got even better when I opened the box and found a pair of Julbo Ultra sunglasses inside a sturdy carrying case. Now I had a new toy for my run!

Before I had a chance to pack them with my other gear I had to wrestle them away from my wife who was drawn to the style and lightness of the frames. At this point I had to hear how heavy her current (and expensive) sunglasses are from a company based in Hawaii. “I can’t run in the one’s I have, I need these” she insisted. “I’ll share them with you after I use them tomorrow”, I promised.

My wife was right, the Julbo Ultra’s are light. The spec sheet on the JulboUSA website says they weigh 20g, that means absolutely nothing to me so I found a grams to ounces converter on the internet, 0.705479240 ounces!


Flagstaff 50 Endurance Runs by Aravaipa Running

Photo credit: Aravaipa Running

Not only at the Julbo Ultra’s lightweight they are very comfortable and stay in place throughout the day on even the roughest terrain. Bouncing around on steep rocky descents the last thing you want to do is mess around with sunglasses that keep slipping on your face. The Julbo Ultra stays in place by use of an adjustable nose piece and curved, wrapping temples that are shaped and cut for better hold with sharp and repeated movements. After 9 hours on the trails in Flagstaff last week the Julbo Ultra were still very comfortable without any nose or temple areas being squeezed too tight (you know what I mean, when I took them off I didn’t have those “dents” in my nose from the nose piece being too tight), in fact throughout the day I actually found myself a few times unconsciously reaching up to make sure they were still in place. Also, the Julbo Ultra is considered to have Full Venting, which allows complete air circulation to avoid fog, this feature also kept sweat from running down behind my sunglasses, a common problem when I wear my normal glasses or other sunglasses.

The ladies reading this will be happy to know the Julbo Ultra fits my wife nicely too, my 10 year old daughter has even worn them but they are just a little looser on her than I would recommend.

The Lens

Julbo Ultra Zebra Light LensLet’s face it, being out on the trail in 8, 10, 12 hours of sunshine requires the best possible protection you can get for your eyes. The Julbo Ultra features their latest technology, the Zebra Light® Photochromic Lense. Huh? That means they’re not only light weight they also get darker or lighter in accordance with light intensity. According to the JulboUSA website the visible light transmission rate for the Zebra Light® lens is 16 – 80%. All Julbo lenses are also optical category 1, guaranteeing 100% protection against UVA, B and C rays.

As trail runners we often times start running in the dark, run in moderate light at sunrise and dusk, run through bright sunlight, run through shadows and run through cloudy times…all in the same day. Julbo Ultra light comparisonThe Zebra Light® lens handles all light conditions effectively and quickly. Throughout my run in Flagstaff I encountered all light intensity conditions and never had a time when I felt the lens was too dark to see rocks and roots in the shadows or too light in sunny open areas. To illustrate the light sensitivity of the lens I snapped a couple photos on a recent run near my home (see photos on the right). My local trails are 99% exposed to sunlight. The photo on the left was taken after 20 minutes on the trail running in bright sunlight, the photo on the right was taken one minute after getting back in my home. Big difference in the darkness of the lens isn’t it?

One last footnote on the light sensitivity. In the past I’ve been forced to wear my Transition lens everyday glasses versus contacts/sunglasses on runs because I run early mornings when headlamps are often required. With a headlamp around my visor band it prevents me from resting my sunglasses there until I can put them on my face. With the Julbo Ultra I could wear the glasses and have the headlamp on my visor both, that’s a big advantage over other normal lens sunglasses.

Julbo speak lens highlights

  • The photochromic lens gets darker or lighter in accordance with light intensity. Protection category 1 to 3. (1 is least amount of protection, 4 is most protection)
  • Exceptional anti-fog coating: no condensation, maximum longevity
  • Hydrophobic coating on the outside: prevents marking and facilitates the removal of water.
  • Soft material: less risk of injury during falls
  • Brown tint: accentuates relief.
  • Optional Optical Clip: ideal for those who require optical correction and do not wish to wear contact lenses, can be removed if necessary.

Lots of Pros, one Con

I can’t say enough good things about the Julbo Ultra for trail runners, it’s very close to the perfect pair of sunglasses considering the conditions we run in. But there is one negative comment, for some people it would be a big deal and for others it wouldn’t matter at all. I found the Julbo Ultra to be a little too big to fit nicely under my visor when running. I’ll be the first to admit I normally don’t wear a visor but there are occasions I do and I know several running partners that run in visors. I also like to pull my visor down very low over my eyebrows, it makes me mysterious and easier to not make eye contact with people that annoy me. The size does have a purpose though in added protection from both light leaking around the edges and protection against bugs that chose to end their short lives by slamming straight into my lenses at warp speed.

If you think the size is a problem for you I would suggest comparing them with their smaller sibling, the Julbo Trail. The Trail has the same great Zebra Light® lens in a smaller version than the Julbo Ultra.


This is one great pair of sunglasses for the trails. I know a lot of trail runners also mountain bike and this would be a great pair of sunglasses for mountain biking also. The Julbo Ultra comes in three different colored frames, the Anthracite / Lime version (like mine), all Black and the White / Red version popular with the fussy triathlon crowd (ok I’m only kidding…sort of).

If you’re in the market for new sunglasses I would highly recommend including the Julbo Ultra in your short list of trail running sunglasses to research and purchase.

Note about Aravaipa Running. All of us in Arizona are spoiled by the quality events hosted by Aravaipa Running throughout the year. As the race season winds down around the country in Arizona the race season just started. If you’re looking for a break from the snow and ice this winter I would highly recommend checking out the events hosted by Aravaipa, they’re always guaranteed to be first class. But don’t screw around until the last second, they almost always sell out!

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