Joel Hunter, MD Refractive Surgeon, Hunter Vision Updated 02/15/21 11:00 AM
Contact lenses come in lots of varieties, but the most common — by far — is soft. Hard contact lenses are a distant second, followed by all the other types that we won’t be talking about today. Every now and then, you’ll meet someone who wears hard contact lenses, and I can only assume that’s happened today if you’ve found this blog through a Google search.
Why would someone wear hard contacts? Put simply, they’re better. They’re better at everything except for one key metric: comfort. In my experience, about a third of people can handle hard contacts after they get used to them. The other two thirds will feel like you’ve put a handful of sand in their eyes.
Hard contacts are a lot like barefoot running. (Every now and then, I wonder if I’ve written a sentence that’s never been written before, and I think that last one has a good shot.) I remember reading for years about barefoot running: the muscle activation, the soft tissue stimulation and improving support, the natural gait and alignment that it allows… so I decided to try it. The next morning, as I collapsed on the floor trying to get out of bed, I thought, “barefoot running must be better for people who aren’t me.”
With hard contacts, they do just about everything better optically. The fact that they have a perfectly rounded shape to vault over an inevitably imperfect cornea means that they can reduce any minor or major astigmatism down to almost zero. They can be kept cleaner and more polished because they require meticulous care and can’t be left in overnight (without your eye catching fire). They can perfect the vision for even the most challenging case. They’re better.
But like barefoot running, none of that matters if you’re collapsed on the floor. Soft contacts can be almost as good for most people. If hard contacts are a 10/10 visually, then soft contacts can usually hit 9/10 with ease. So for a lot folks, that’s an easy choice.
People wear hard contacts for three reasons: they see great with them, they had an eye doctor that knew how to prescribe and fit them, and they felt perfectly fine in their eyes. They are the barefoot runners of the contact lens world, achieving perfection through an iron constitution that many of us can only admire from a distance. So if your friend wears hard contact lenses and you wear soft, you’re both achieving the same goal through different means. If they wear hard contacts and can run barefoot, your friend may also be an undercover superhero.