Running is a unique motion that causes specific stressors on your body. One of these is the impact that constantly wants to jar your headphones out of your ear, force you to stop your rhythm, and reinsert them properly. Many a great track star has been thwarted by ineffective earbuds or cords that slapped them in the face while they moved. Despite the fact that manufacturers have known about running for a while now, and have had some time learning about earphones, many still can’t produce a decent pair for joggers, sprinters, and cross-country fiends.
Digging through the chaff of the headphone market, it’s tough to know which so-called “athletic headphones” are actually going to be able to hold on and stay comfortable when you’re staring at mile 26 and have hit the wall. A decent set could go to hell after a burn in, and those that feel really great during your lifting routine are making your ears bleed after just a few warm-up sprints. To protect you, your hearing, and your time on the trail, on the road, or on the treadmill, we’ve found the 7 best headphones for running.
MEE Audio M7P
Pro: Easy to forget you’re wearing them
Simple Mobility: MEE Audio has a knack for finding a way to make simple, stunning. The M7P really don’t reinvent the wheel, they just manage to stay where they’re put without giving you serious earaches or flopping all over the place. A wide array of tips come in the box for any ear canal, and the over-ear placeholder doesn’t hurt your small bones during movement. As for sound, the staging is strong and dynamic thanks to the moving coil and 8mm driver. Audiophiles will find a little to complain about, but runners will enjoy a comfortable ride with minimal hassle.
Sol Republic Shadow
Pro: Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX
Con: Pairing difficulties with some iPhones
True Seal: Sol Republic is a scant 5-years old, but they’ve carved out a niche making some of the most ergonomic audio solutions ever seen. We’ve been around enough Sol to know that they do good work, but the Shadow surprised us. An interesting little disc around the earbuds keeps them in place while also creating a seal that traps the audio inside, so you don’t need to blast it to hear it over the sound of your labored breathing. The mic and music controls feel intuitive, and – due to the odd little neckband – gives you 8 hours worth of battery life to go along with the resonant sound. Piped and reverberated, the drivers work hard and sound good, so long as you give them a good burn-in.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit
Pro: Highly sophisticated software update system
Con: Bluetooth range can be spotty
Revived: The BackBeat Fit have been landing on lists of exercise headphones since they made it to market. These are the new model. The loud yellow/green from the Ultimate Warrior is still around, but it’s muted and a little more subtly executed for a more adult look. Beneath the exterior, Plantronics upgraded and improved, but did not make too many changes to the original. They’re still flexible, entirely sweat-proof, and don’t block out ambient noise, which is great for runners who have to worry about traffic. The audio is very clean with mids and highs getting a little more of the attention than the bassline, but a nice, round audio experience for most.
Monster iSport Victory
Pro: Often need no adjustment during an extended run
Con: Controls are shabbily constructed
Apple Affection: Monster’s Victory works spectacularly for anyone who uses an Apple device for their workout audio. iPods, pads, and phones all work with the Victory, and you’ll get real flexibility with how they function based on how well you know your device. Meant more for those who are not going to be heading onto busy streets, you’ll get complete sound isolation with the bulbous but yielding tips. The Victory goes beyond sweatproof to be fully washable, which is more hygienic for your ears. When it comes to sound, the Victory is based more on power than refinement. Keep your jams simple and you’ll never be disappointed.
Red Fox Wireless EDGE
Pro: Stay put when wet
Con: Terrible customer service
Beautiful Mind: The most striking things about the EDGE is its high degree of technological savvy. These pair seamlessly with the operation of most devices if you feel like using voice commands, harassing Siri with impossible questions, and work with Google voice. Made for the cyclist, hiker, and runner, the one-touch answering and audible operation is easy to use when your hands are busy slamming protein bars or trying to keep your bike on the mountain trail. Trail runners might find the band a little heavy if going up and down inclines, so those who go off the beaten path should probably look elsewhere. Audio is piped through well, but the Bluetooth can get a little choppy if you’re doing calisthenics or anything more complex than straight jogging.
Jaybird X2 Sport
Pro: New ear flanges are more comfortable
Con: Design is the same as original
Mover & Shaker: Go over your ear, under, or around, the Jaybird X2 is geared toward giving you as many options as possible to fit your running style. The Bluetooth connectivity on the X2 Sport works well, even in rain or wind, meaning minimal skips so long as you don’t tuck your phone too deeply into a pack. A variety of ear tips in both comfortable Comply foam as well as silicone help you find the fit and feel that goes with your marathon. An excess of accessories is included and geared toward giving you a better fit, but you may have to mix and match to find it.
Powerbeats 2 Wireless
Pro: Powerful sound
Con: Break easily
Call Me Thumper: The Beats brand has finally realized what it is worth now that the hype has gone to the dogs. Today, buyers can get the Powerbeats for a price that’s actually reasonable. Since these are done by Dre, they’re excellent for keeping a rhythm and giving you a heavy downbeat to set your pace. The over-ear hook is comfortable enough, though it can wear after a few miles, so you might consider padding it. Quick charging, a 5-hour battery, IPX4 water resistance, and controls that don’t slip when you’re sweaty all help give the Powerbeats a little more than bump, adding some refinements to sweeten the deal.