Why do speed skaters wear glasses?

Why skiers and snowboarders wear goggles or goggles might seem a little obvious, especially if you’ve ever hit the slopes yourself. Sunlight reflected from snow can make it difficult to see, and UV rays can even damage your eyesight. Also special colored lenses create a contrast, so your whole path won’t look like a flat expanse of whiteness. Not to mention, the goggles protect your eyes from the snow you move (or the wind blows in your face).

Olympic speed skaters, on the other hand, race indoors on smooth ice. So why do they wear glasses?

According to NBC Olympics, goggles can also increase visibility on indoor tracks, and some skaters’ lenses are tinted to help with this. And though the ice may look smooth from afar, those sharp blades can heave ice cream fries which could cause problems if they get into your eyes. In the event of a crash, unbreakable glasses also protect skaters eyes from stray blades and body parts.

But the number one reason speed skaters opt for goggles might just be their speed. Short track speed skaters (who race around approximately 111 meter track) can go as fast as 30 miles per hour or more, and long track speed skaters (whose track is 400 meters long) sometimes hit 35 miles per hour. The wind resistance generated by such speed – in a freezing arena – is enough to make any skater’s eyes water. Imagine sticking your head out the window of a car going about 35 miles per hour on a cold day: you’d probably want to wear glasses too.

That said, the glasses are not a requirement, and you will sometimes see speed skaters with uncovered faces. The Belgian Stijn Desmet, for example, ran in Beijing without glasses, as did the Chinese Zhang Chutong.

Sarah C. Figueiredo