Fitting sports frames with prescription lenses is a different ball game from fitting everyday frames. The high wraps and performance lens materials require a novel approach to measuring and fitting patients, with an eye for providing optical performance in varying conditions.
Who better to provide a playbook of Rx sports eyewear dispensing strategies than two ECPs who have been working exclusively with performance eyewear for years?
BRET HUNTER is the owner of Sports Optical in Denver, CO, a sports eyewear mecca for professional and weekend warrior athletes who take their vision performance seriously. He also has a shooting and safety eyewear division called Tactical Rx.
MIKE HILEMAN, LDO, opened his Eye Gear Sport Optics in the middle of a bike shop—literally. Located inside The Bike Shop in Henderson, NV, Eye Gear Sport Optics specializes in cycling eyewear (naturally), but carries eyewear and fits athletes for a wide range of sports.
Read on for these sports Rx experts’ inside views on how to meet the challenging Rx issues presented by sports eyewear—and get ideas for creating a sports niche for your own practice.
USE RX PROGRAMS
Optically, sports frames present challenges. The typical wrapped curvature of the frame means the prescription must be compensated (recalculated) to avoid distortion in the peripheral and a general “fishbowl” visual effect. It’s a tricky thing that needs to be done perfectly to preserve optical clarity.
Many premium sports eyewear brands now offer their own Rx programs and a lab that will handle all the calculations and free-form surfacing necessary to get the Rx spot-on—all while preserving the authenticity of the brand’s proprietary lens material, coatings, and more.
“Get with the reps and pick out a program—Rx program and types of frames—that best fits your patients and your needs,” suggests Hunter. “They have the experience; they have the prescription parameters already set up.”
Rx Program Tip: “There are often specific lens tints, tones, and mirror coatings that are unique to that brand,” says Hileman. “And, it’s a lot easier to get that product in its authentic and expected color and quality when the manufacturer itself is doing it. They are set up for that.”
Still, those Rx programs have parameters, and when an Rx lies outside those ranges, you’ll have to go rogue. Hileman urges others to not skimp on lens material or design. Find a digital lab that has the sports lens expertise you need.
“The office needs to be committed to premium digital lens products,” says Hileman. “Because I have high expectations of the products I’m ordering (through a private lab), I’m going to be ordering a free-form, digital product in a premium material. I push for Trivex as much as I can. And then if I have to go into a 1.67 I will.”
MOVE THE PAL
Thanks to digital lens designs and free-form surfacing, there’s no reason not to fit your athlete patient with a multifocal lens. Runners, cyclists, and golfers need their near zone during their sport, and others just don’t want to limit the use of their eyewear by not being able to read when wearing them. However, the placement of the “add” is often determined by the sport.
“You need to talk to them about what position they’re going to be in, so you can see how they’ll be looking through their lenses,” says Hunter. “But be careful, you don’t want to set the progressive so extreme so that it’s only good for riding a bike if they’re going to also be wearing the frames while driving. Because that won’t work at all.”
Cycling Patient Rx Tip: Have the patient bring the bike into the shop so you can measure while they’re in riding position.
Brown for golf, red for cycling? Probably. But not necessarily. Though there are guidelines for specific tints for sports, a simple rule is to go for the tints that provide the most contrast in whatever environment they’ll be worn (often that’s browns and ambers; but not always). Be flexible and encourage the patient to figure out what they like best.
“Different sports have different requirements. But it really comes down to personal preference,” says Hunter.
Tint Tip: Hunter recommends keeping a range of samples on hand and bringing the customer outside to try a variety in real-life conditions. The “proper” lens tint is whatever one your patient likes best.
GO POLAR OR DON’T
Opting for polarized lenses should be a no-brainer for sporty customers—especially those playing on or near reflective surfaces, such as water sports. But understand there may be instances where polarized lenses aren’t a safe choice.
Hunter doesn’t recommend polarized lenses for environments where it’s important to see the glare reflecting off ice, such as mountain climbing and skiing (in certain icy conditions). Some road cyclists have also eschewed polarized lenses, as they believe it reduces their ability to discern road surface variations, such as puddles and ice.
TALK THE TALK
In sports eyewear, you don’t have to walk the walk. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of a range of sports. Your patient does, though. So, ask him.
“The person coming in for sports eyewear loves to talk about their sport. If you don’t know much about the sport, just ask them about it,” says Hunter.
“I take the time to find out how it’s going to be used, what environments they’re going to be in,” Hileman adds.
Many of today’s popular sports frames feature changeable lenses to allow the wearer to adjust to lighting conditions or uses. But some athletes just don’t want to have to deal, and would rather just throw on a different pair of specs.
Enter the perfect moment (and opportunity) for a multiple-pair sale.
“Like all customers, you’ll get some people who don’t want to spend a lot of money, and others who want the best of the best,” says Hunter. “A guy with a $20,000 gun isn’t going to care that much about a few hundred dollars for an extra pair of eyewear.”
Get in the Game!
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