The 12 Best Headphones For Running

Jul 9, 2020

Category: Tech

More so than any other piece of gear, kit, or tech, headphones hugely enhance and improve the experience of working out, from pumping you up and motivating you, to distracting you from the burn of exercise. Traditional over-ear headphones and earbuds, however, seldom lend themselves to working out, as their fitment is rarely adequate enough to stay in place during physical activities. Knowing this, a slew of electronics manufacturers and tech brands have designed various headphones models that are made specifically for running and exercise.

Regardless of what style you’re interested in or whether you want a wired or Bluetooth item, there’s no shortage of solid running headphones currently on the market. The influx in popularity in this sector has given way to an increasingly competitive market, and a number of fairly-game-changing models — as well as copycat versions that often improve on the originals or offer similar, more accessibly-priced versions. Now that this space has had ample time to develop, a selection of models have, for one reason or another, risen above the rest, so to help shine a light on those particular offerings, we’ve rounded up this buyer’s guide to the best running headphones.

Photo: Aftershokz Aeroplex Bone Conduction Headphones

The Running Headphones Rundown

A Look At The Various Factors And Features To Consider When Buying Workout Headphones

Like any headphone genre, there are a handful of elements that should be taken into account when shopping for running and/or workout headphones. Below, we’ll dive into what those aspects are — listed in order of importance — before finally jumping into our picks for the 12 best running headphones currently on the market.

Headphone Type: In-ear (or “earbuds”) and “ear-hook” headphones are the most common styles of running headphones, as these typically allow for the firmest and most comfortable fit in exercise applications. Nonetheless, there are over-ear models — and even true wireless models — that are purpose-designed for running and/or working out. So, while earbuds (and hooks) do admittedly lend themselves particularly well to running, don’t feel like these are the only options when shopping in this area.

Fitment: This is almost certainly the most important element involved in determining a pair of headphone’s overall quality and conduciveness to running and workout applications. Well-designed running headphones will firmly keep in place in, on, or around your ear, without being uncomfortable or causing pain after being worn for extended periods. Having an earbud constantly falling out or head-shells frequently slipping off during a workout can be insanely frustrating, so it’s vital for running headphones to afford precise and snug fitment, as they have to withstand the bouncing, shaking, and lateral motions that come with common forms of exercise.

Wired Vs Wireless: Today, the term “wireless” encompasses a wide spectrum of cable-free offerings, from wireless models with earbuds tethered together, to Airpods-style true wireless headphones and everything in between. While a properly-routed cabled pair of headphones can be perfectly adequate for running, wireless headphones offer an added level of convenience and a much more free range of physical movement, though they do have the drawbacks of having to worry about battery life and (typically) coming at a steeper cost.

Waterproofing & Ruggedness: Unlike travel headphones that are made for stationary use throughout long-flights and layovers, running and workout headphones are used out in the wild, and consequently are exposed to a host of potential hazards. For this reason, it’s hugely important that running items offer a fairly rugged design that can stand up to dirt, dust, and countless sessions of sweat. And while most IPX4 to IP67-rated headphones will have no problem surviving even the nastiest of downpours or the sweatiest of wearers, there are also headphone models that are legitimately 100% waterproof and as such can freely be utilized in swimming pools or in the ocean.

Photo: Aftershokz

Sound Quality: Another element that should be factored into the equation no matter what type of headphones you’re purchasing, audio quality hugely impacts the overall listening experience, whether you’re working out to audiobooks or ‘80s hair metal. And while high-fidelity sound and super deep bass were once reserved for studio monitors and over-sized DJ head-shells, advancements in transducers and related tech have enabled engineers to cram ultra-rich sound into highly-compact packages like wireless earbuds.

Materials: While not every manufacturer will readily advertise the materials and construction used in their respective headphone models, you can rest assured that if a company has gone through the effort (and shelled out the added money) to utilize a premium material such as aluminum or titanium for a headphone’s case, hinge, or chassis, they will make this fact known. Obviously the use of more high-end materials will almost always result in an overall more premium, durable, and long-lasting product.

Battery Life: This area doesn’t just concern how long a pair of headphones can operate, but it also reflects how often you’ll have to recharge them. When shopping for running headphones — or really any type of headphones — it’s important to review the playback time a pair of headphones offers, rather than a battery’s standby time.

Weight: This particular area isn’t all that important if you’re considering ear-hook-style headphones or earbuds as even the heaviest offerings in these categories weigh negligible amounts, though the same can’t be said for over-ear and head-shell-style items. Unless you’re specifically trying to beef up your neck muscles, chances are the last thing your workout needs is additional weight added to the area around your head and neck.

Supporting Features: No matter what brand or model you opt for, every pair of running headphones will perform the same basic task of providing your jog or workout with a soundtrack. There are running headphone models, however, that also pack several other tricks up their sleeve, boasting cutting-edge features such as noise-canceling, hands-free control, wireless charging cases, or other supplementary amenities. These are all well worth being on the lookout for when shopping.

Versatility: There are several modern headphone models that, while not specifically designed for exercise, happen to lend themselves incredibly well to workout applications. These can be a stellar option, as they afford ample versatility, capable of being used in a much wider range of settings, and therefore offering a better overall value. If you’re shopping on a budget, this is a fantastic area to thoroughly consider.

Sennheiser CX Sport Wireless Earphones

Sennheiser’s CX Sport headphones see the company’s famed proprietary transducers packaged in a workout-friendly form with three ear fin sizes and four ear tips that help to ensure a precise fit no matter the size and shape of your ears. And, with a 112dB output, your soundtrack will never be drowned out by busses, construction, or other background noise (as a point of reference, an ambulance siren rings in at around 120dB). Tipping the scales at just 15 grams (or 0.033lbs), these Bluetooth headphones offer a six-hour battery life, though they can also receive a one hour charge in only ten minutes.

Weight: 15G
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 6 Hours

Purchase: $100

Adidas RPT-01 Bluetooth Sport On-Ear Headphones

Adidas’ RPT-01 is one of the most unique running headphone models in existence. Not only is the RPT-01 of the on-ear variety, but its headband and ear cushions are also adorned in a special knitted material that’s removable and washable. IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance, these Adidas headphones are charged via a USB-C cable and offer an absolutely enormous 40 hours of playtime. These headphones weigh in at less than half-a-pound, despite their size, too. In addition to connecting to your smartphone via Bluetooth, the RPT-01 can also be linked to the Adidas Headphones Smartphone App to access supplementary features such as setting action buttons and adjusting the headphone’s EQ.

Weight: 209G
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 40 Hours

Purchase: $118+

JBL x Under Armour UA Flash True Wireless In-Ear Headphones

This take on a modern set of true wireless headphones was born out of a collaborative effort between American gear and activewear brand, Under Armour, and the audio gurus at fellow US-based outfit, JBL.
Paired with a rugged aluminum charging case that offers a collective 25 hours of battery life, the UA Flash is IPX7-rated, allowing it to survive torrential downpours and the like, and is also sold with a variety of earbud sizes and wingtips to help ensure a precise fit. The use of Ambient Aware technology blocks out background noise while still allowing car horns, human voices, and other important sounds to be heard. The use of noise-canceling microphones also results in super clear audio on the other end, no matter how noisy your environment.

Weight: 8G Earbuds / 102G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX7
Music Playback Time: 25 Hours

Purchase: $130

Phiaton Bolt BT 700 True Wireless Earbuds + Speaker Charging Case

Phiaton’s Bolt BT 700 true wireless earbuds offer a more affordable alternative to their Apple-made counterparts while still yielding a collective 20 hours of battery life (with the charging case), IPX4-sweat and water resistance, integrated microphones, and surprisingly high-quality audio thanks to the brand’s use of custom-made PHIATON-sourced balanced armature drivers. What separates this product from other offerings on the market is its true wireless charging case which also happens to double as a portable Bluetooth speaker, giving you the option to share your workout playlists with friends and training partners for up to eight hours on a single charge. The earbuds themselves weigh only 6.5 grams (or 0.14lbs), too, while the case itself is 93 grams (or 0.21lbs) with the earbuds.

Weight: 6.5G Earbuds / 93G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 20 Hours

Purchase: $140

Aftershokz Aeroplex Bone Conduction Headphones

Another incredibly unique workout headphone model, albeit for completely different reasons, Aftershokz’ Aeropex uses bone-conduction technology to deliver rich audio with deep bass and minimal background noise. Sold in four colors, the Aeropex is IP67-rated for water resistance, meaning it can handle anything short of swimming laps, though should water manage to get in, these offer a built-in moisture detection alert. This particular generation of Aftershokz headphones also benefits from the brand’s PremiumPitch 2. 0+ which delivers markedly higher decibel outputs, 50% less sound leakage, and an overall more dynamic audio experience. Touted as the world’s lightest bone conduction headphones at just 26 grams (or 0.057lbs), the Aeropex also packs an eight-hour battery life and dual noise-canceling microphones.

Weight: 26G
Water Resistance: IP67
Music Playback Time: 8 Hours

Purchase: $160

Master & Dynamic MW07 GO True Wireless Earphones

Master & Dynamic’s Red Dot Design Award-winning MW07 true wireless earphones were already a stellar alternative to Apple’s Airpods Pro, though the New York-based audio outfit’s MW07 Go-spec takes things to the next level, bumping battery life up from 14 hours total to 22, and replacing the standard model’s acetate construction with an extremely-durable TR90 composite material that allows the earbuds to weigh in at 7.4 grams (or 0.16lbs). Sold in four colors and paired with a technical knit fabric-wrapped wireless charging case — which weighs 76 grams (or 0.16lbs) —the MW07 Go also packs custom 10mm beryllium drivers and a patented silicone wing design that provides an incredibly secure yet comfortable fit.

Weight: 7.4G Earbuds / 76G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX6
Music Playback Time: 22 Hours

Purchase: $167+

Google Pixel Buds

The tech powerhouse’s answer to the Apple Airpods, the Google Pixel Buds are high-performance true wireless headphones that are light on price and heavy on tech and amenities. With the case, this offering affords a collective 24 hours of music playback time or 12 hours of talk time, though a ten-minute charge allows for a cool two hours of music. The Google Pixel Buds are also equipped with an IPX4-rating, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, passive noise reduction, dual beamforming microphones, voice detecting accelerometer, custom-designed 12 mm dynamic speaker drivers, a pair of infrared proximity sensors that enable the audio gadgets to automatically pause when removed from the ears and play when reinserted, and capacitive touch sensors for controlling calls, music, and Google’s smart assistant.

Weight: 5.3G Earbuds / 56.1G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 24 Hours

Purchase: $179

Jaybird Vista

Unlike most leading true wireless earbud models, Jaybird’s Vista was purpose-built for running and exercising. Winner of Runner’s World Editors Choice 2019 (for best running headphones), the Vista sports special gel ear-tips that afford them what is widely considered to be class-leading fitment and comfort. But it doesn’t end there, as, on top of offering pretty solid audio quality, this true wireless model’s charging case — which boasts a low-profile form designed to reduce bulk and stay out of your way — allows for a collective 32 hours of music playback time, plus can be juiced up for one hour of music playback in only five minutes. Meeting the MIL-STD-810G standard, IPX7-rated, and backed by a one-year warranty, the Vista is also drop-proof, crush-proof, and practically impervious to any dust, grime, sweat, or water.

Weight: 20G Earbuds / 58.9G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX7
Music Playback Time: 32 Hours

Purchase: $180

Bose Soundsport Free Wireless Headphones

Regardless as to whether you’re shopping for noise-canceling travel headphones or a set for the gym, if you’re in the market for premium headphones it really is hard to go wrong with almost anything from Bose, and the American company’s SoundSport Free wireless headphones are by no means an exception. Like the previous entry, the Bose SoundSport Free was designed from the ground up, specifically for workout applications and, as such, boasts a remarkably precise fitment helped along by a trio of tip sizes. IPX4-rated, these earbuds hold a five-hour charge that the wireless case can replenish twice before needing another charge itself, plus there’s also an integrated tracking device embedded in each earbud should you misplace them. These are also sold in orange, purple, and all-black color options if the blue and green scheme seen here isn’t for you.

Weight: 9.07G Earbuds / 79.3G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 15 Hours

Purchase: $199

Jabra Elite 75t True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

With 37 years of experience producing headset models and Bluetooth devices, Jabra had no shortage of R&D or tech to call upon when developing its cutting-edge Elite 75T true wireless earbuds. On their own, these IP57-rated earbuds yield 7.5 hours of playback time while the case allows for 28 hours in total, plus a 15-minute charge affords up to an hour of music playback. Between the four built-in microphones, noise-isolating fitment, and the use of the latest digital signal processing and beamform tech, the Elite 75T offers incredibly crisp and clear calls. In addition to being compatible with Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant, these true wireless earbuds can also be linked to Jabra’s smartphone app where they can have their EQ adjusted and receive firmware updates, amongst other features and customization options.

Weight: 5.5G Earbuds / 35G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IP57
Music Playback Time: 28 Hours

Purchase: $200

Apple Airpods Pro

First released in late October of 2019, Apple’s Airpods Pro needs no introduction and is the true wireless headphone model that all others are measured against. Boasting Apple’s usual pedigree of cutting-edge tech, these IPX4-rated earbuds pack an advanced noise-canceling “transparency mode” that scans your surroundings some 200 times per second in order to drown out noise accordingly. This, paired with the Airpods Pro’s adaptive EQ ultimately results in crisp, high-quality audio that’s entirely unadulterated by ambient noise. The headphones offer a 4.5-hour charge on their own, while the case puts forth a collective 24. And, more so than any other model in existence, the aftermarket sector has countless options for case covers, chargers, and other Airpod accessories for the all-white gadget.

Weight: 5.4G Earbuds / 45.6G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 24 Hours

Purchase: $249

Beats PowerBeats Pro

Beats’ latest attempt at a workout-focused pair of true wireless earbuds, the Powerbeats Pro forgoes the standard earbud design in favor of an adjustable reinforced hook configuration. The model’s potent Lithium-ion batteries allow for a cool nine hours of playback time plus a collective more than 24 hours when drawing energy from the wireless charging case. Interestingly, this Beats offering utilizes Apple’s H1 chip, which is also found in the Airpods Pro and, like the Google Pixel Buds, the Powerbeats Pro uses integrated sensors to detect when the buds are removed from the ear, at which point music playback is automatically paused, and then resumed when the buds are put back in. The Powerbeats Pro also packs the rich walloping bass that the brand’s headphones have become famous for.

Weight: 10.15G Earbuds / 130G Charging Case
Water Resistance: IPX4
Music Playback Time: 24 Hours+

Purchase: $250

The 20 Best Running Gadgets To Fine-Tune Your Technique

Interested in further building out your running kit? Well, our guide to the best running gadgets to fine-tune your technique is packed with all the gear, apparel, and tech you need to take your running game to the next level.

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