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Published Dec. 13, 2021

Whether you are a marathon runner or a casual jogger, you’re going to need a good pair of running headphones to listen to your favorite pump-up playlist. In recent years, with the introduction of Apple AirPods, many headphone companies have abandoned their cords and gone completely wireless. This has enabled runners to go hands-free, keeping phones in a pocket, with no need for annoying cords flying about. 

When it comes to running headphones, the options are now seemingly endless. From noise-canceling headphones to bone conduction headsets and wire-connected earbuds, there are ample pairs to choose from. Whether you are looking to prioritize audio quality, comfort, or battery life, one of these running headphones is bound to join your list of fitness equipment you need in your gym bag.

Best Overall

A top-rated contender in the world of wireless headphones, the PowerBeats Pros are a great alternative to Apple’s AirPods when it comes to running. Like AirPods, this Beats product pairs seamlessly with IOS, making them a go-to for iPhone users, and the on-ear controls are easy to use. They also feature close-fitting ear hooks, which will keep the headphones in place whether you’re jogging on a treadmill or dodging rough terrain on a trail. And if you tend to sweat a lot when you run, no need to fret: with a water resistance rating of IPX4, these headphones have got you covered.

Additionally, these headphones deliver well-balanced, rich audio, and — with a battery life of nine hours — they last longer than most headphones on the market. The main complaint about this product is, compared to other wireless headphones, their charging case is massive. But, on the plus side, the case provides an extra 18 hours of battery life, and it’s quick to recharge. If you are willing to spend a few extra bucks for a quality fitness product, the PowerBeats Pros are a great pick for you.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 9 hours, 27 hours with charging case
  • Weight: 0.72 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Good, secure fit with ear hooks

Well-balanced audio

Pairs seamlessly with IOS

Easy to use controls

9-hour battery life

CONS

Pricey

Big charging case

These sporty JBL wireless headphones are a great budget option, and even though they are cheaper than most other headphones, they still offer high quality sound and a secure fit. With customization stability fins and buds, this option won’t pop out while you’re running, and the wire that connects the headphones around the neck makes them harder to lose. They also are ready for you to sweat hard, with a water-resistance rating of IPX5. As if that wasn’t enough to sell you, the cable is also reflective, helping you remain visible on those nighttime runs.

At 10 hours of battery, the Reflect Minis have a slightly higher battery life than even the PowerBeats Pros. On the downside, they don’t come with a charging case and need to be powered up the old fashioned way, with a USB cable. The controls are also on the wire, rather than on the ear pieces, and their fit may not be for everyone. But, for the low price, these versatile headphones may just be worth a try.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • On-ear controls: No
PROS

Affordable

Good, secure fit

Harder to lose, with wire connection

Reflective cables for nighttime visibility

10-hour battery life

CONS

Don’t have charging case

Heavier than other models

This pair of wireless earbuds has quickly risen to fame in the fitness realm. At just 0.2 ounces each, these earbuds are so light, you’ll forget they are in your ears. They have no ear hooks or wingtips, yet they are designed to stay snug in most ears. They also offer excellent sound quality, customizable from the Jabra+ Sound app. Users can play with base levels or adjust the amount of ambient noise they can hear with an active noise cancellation feature. While trail runners may want to stay attuned to the natural noises around them, this noise cancelling feature can be great for running on a treadmill indoors.

These headphones also excel when it comes to rain and sweat — they have a IP57 rating, meaning they can withstand up to one meter of fresh water for 30 minutes. They also have a relatively long battery life of 7.5 hours, with up to 28 hours of life with the charging case. This is slightly lower than our other top picks, but it’s still enough to get you through most workouts.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 7.5 hours, 28 with charging case
  • Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Secure fit

Customizable sound with app

Water- and sweat-proof

Option for active noise cancellation

More affordable than many competitors

CONS

Shorter battery life than competitors

Most Secure Fit

These earbuds from audio staple Bose are sure to stay in your ears on the sweatiest of runs. They come with three sizes of StayHear Max tips, enabling users to customize the buds to their ears, and they are kept in place with flexible wings rather than ear hooks. Everything touching the ear is made of soft silicone rather than hard plastic, making this option comfortable for long workouts. Additionally, these sport earbuds offer superior sound quality and pair easily with Bluetooth 5.1, offering rock-solid connection.

The Bose Sport Earbuds are also relatively waterproof, with a IPX4 rating, though this will only protect against splashes of water. They are not protected against full submersion, like some other models. These earbuds’ battery life is also relatively short, at five hours with only an additional 10 hours with the charging case. And while Bose does offer its Bose Connect app, it doesn’t offer any additional features, like bass level adjustments or active noise cancellation.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 5 hours, 15 with charging case
  • Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Extremely secure fit, personalizable

Excellent sound quality

Connects with Bluetooth 5.1 for stable connectivity

CONS

Not as waterproof as some competitors

Relatively short battery life

Limited features

Best Wire-Connected Running Headphones

For those that prefer the security of a wire connecting their headphones, the Sennheiser CX Sports are a great option. These headphones feature a wire that can go around the front or back of the neck, making them harder to lose than your wireless headphones. They’re also easy to spot with a stand-out neon color scheme. Additionally, this option also offers a customizable fit and includes ear fins to keep the buds in place. Perhaps most notably, these headphones provide excellent sound quality, with full-bodied bass to keep you running that one extra mile. And, at under $100, they are also relatively affordable compared to many other sport headphone options.

Like most wire-connected headphones, the remote controls are on the wire, rather than the earbuds, which could be a pro or a con depending on personal preference. They also feature a IPX4 splash-proof rating, which is lower than many competitors. The Sennheiser CX Sports only have a battery life of six hours, so they aren’t the best option for marathon runners.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 6 hours
  • Weight: 0.53 ounces (both headphones and wire)
  • On-ear controls: No
PROS

Customizable, secure fit

Harder to lose than truly wireless headphones

Full-bodied bass and well-balanced audio

Relatively affordable

CONS

Not as waterproof as some competitors

Relatively short battery life, no charging case

Best Truly Wireless Running Headphones

These Jaybird headphones are a great pick for anyone looking for a truly wireless, durable product. They are branded as “earth proof,” with a IP68 water and sweat proof rating and a MIL-STD-810G certification. The fit is also secure and comfortable, with customizable eartips and fins. Additionally, the charging case is light and compact, complete with a braided loop so you can easily attach it to your backpack or other gear. The audio quality is solid and can be adjusted from a Jaybird app on either iOS or Android devices.

This product boasts a relatively long battery life, at eight hours, though some competitors do offer longer battery lives. This option also does include SurroundSense technology, which allows users to choose how much of their surroundings they want to tune into. The Jaybird Vista 2 headphones also include active noise cancelling, though some reviewers say they are less successful at this than other models.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 8 hours, 24 with charging case
  • Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Durable design

Compact charging case

Good, customizable fit

Well-balanced sound, customizable

CONS

Not best active noise cancellation

Best Truly Wireless Earbuds With Ear Hooks

Though not as popular as options like the Powerbeats Pros, these Skullcandy earbuds are a more affordable option if you are looking for truly wireless headphones with ear hooks. Their design provides a comfortable, secure fit throughout your entire workout. Available in fun colors, these buds have a IP67 dust and waterproof rating. They also boast 40 hours of battery life with the charging case, though the earbuds themselves only last for six hours. Skullcandy also installed Tile finding technology into the buds, so you can use an app to find them.

On the downside, these earbuds don’t do a great job at tuning out external sound, so they won’t be ideal if you are working out in a loud gym. They also offer pretty average sound quality. At 1.76 ounces per bud, this product is heavy compared to its competitors, and the changing case is relatively large and bulky.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 6 hours, 40 with case
  • Weight: 1.76 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Affordable

Extra secure fit

Flexible ear hooks

Earbud locating technology

Lange battery life with case

CONS

Large case

Doesn’t tune out external sound

Heavy

Best Lightweight Running Headphones

Finally, we get to the iconic Apple AirPods, which popularized wireless headphones. At only 0.15 per earbud, the third generation AirPods are great for runners looking for a lightweight option. It’s well-known that AirPods tend to not fit all ears, but many reviewers report improvements with this most recent upgrade. The stems are shorter than previous versions, and the buds feature an open ear design, so you can still hear your surroundings. This is a contrast to their counterpart, the AirPods Pros, which seal in sound with a silicon tip and feature active noise cancellation and transparency modes. We picked the third generation Apples AirPods because, oftentimes, trailrunners like to still be able to hear their surroundings.

Many users have reported that, compared to previous AirPod generations, this pair has much better sound quality, with spatial audio that’ll make you feel like you are at a concert. This version now finally has a water resistant rating, though they are not completely waterproof like some of their competitors. Still, some people may still struggle with the fit of these AirPods, so give them a try in the store, before spending a few extra bucks.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 6 hours, up to 30 hours with case
  • Weight: 0.15 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Rich sound

Lightweight

Water-resistant

Highly compatible with iOS

CONS

Some people struggle with fit

Don’t tune out external sound

Spendy

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Runners

These Beats earbuds are great for runners looking to block out external noises around them. With a sealed design, the Beats Fit Pros feature the same active noise canceling that AirPods do, since Beats is owned by Apple. This means these earbuds are also highly compatible with iOS devices and include features such as the Find Me setting on the Beats app, which allows users to easily locate their earbuds. Unlike the Beats Powerbeats Pros, these earbuds rely on wingtips for a secure fit, rather than ear hooks. This means they have a more minimal look, while still remaining in place. They are also water resistant enough for your average run, though they are not as waterproof as some other options.

Even though these headphones are none for their noise-canceling abilities, they also offer a hear-through option to tune into external sounds. Some reviewers reported that, with this option, it can be hard for runners to tell where sound is coming from, and folks may be better off running with just one earbud in.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 6 hours (with ANC on), 24 hours with charging case
  • Weight: 0.2
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Active noise canceling

Highly compatible with iOS

Find Me setting on app

Secure, flexible fit

CONS

May be hard to hear where sounds coming from with HearThrough feature

Best Running Headphones for Android Users

If you are looking for easy integration with Android devices, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series earbuds are a great pick. They are a good value option, costing under $100, and they are one of the lightest truly wireless earbuds on the market. Like many options on this list, they utilize ear fins to stay in place, and they offer pretty rich sound for the relatively low price. They also are certified splashproof, just like AirPods, so don’t try submerging them in any water.

Since these headphones don’t include active noise cancellation, they instead offer an adaptive sound feature, adjusting the volume depending on the sounds in your environment. While some runners prefer this to total noise cancellation, others have found it disorientating. At just five hours, the battery life of these earbuds is also not up to par with some of their competitors. They also don’t have volume controls on the ear pieces themselves, but you can easily ask your Google voice assistant to adjust the volume.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 5 hours, 24 with charging case
  • Weight: 0.17 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Great compatibility with

Android devices

Affordable Lightweight, secure fit

Find Me feature

CONS

Relatively short battery life

No active noise cancellation

No volume control on buds

Best Running Headphones Under $50

A fantastic budget option, the Aukey EP-T32s are a good choice for runners not looking to break the bank. Despite their low price, they are still a high quality product, with ear hooks that will keep the headphones secure throughout your run. They are also extremely durable, with a higher sweat and waterproof rating than many spendier earbuds; with a rating of IPX8, they can endure immersion in water deeper than one meter. The sound quality, slightly bassy, is great to motivate you on your run.

On the downside, these earbuds don’t let in much outside sounds because they are sealed around the ear, and they offer no hear-through mode. This means runners may have trouble tuning into their surroundings. This Aukey option also doesn’t have volume controls on the buds themselves, and the charging case is fairly large.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 7 hours, 35 with charging case
  • Weight: 0.37 ounces
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Affordable

Secure fit with ear hooks

Extremely water resistant, durable

CONS

No hear-through mode

Large case

No volume controls on earbuds

Best Bone Conduction Headphones

The best conduction headphones on the market, the AfterShokz Aeropex headphones are our top pick for runners looking to listen to music without blocking out the sounds of their environment. AfterShokz is the leader in bone conduction technology, which sends vibrations to the inner ear, leaving the eardrums open to surrounding noises. This headset, which wraps around the back of the neck, is great for runners looking to stay alert to potential dangers. Available in two sizes, this headset offers a slim, secure fit, and it’s fairly water resistant.

These headphones provide eight hours of battery life, more than most AfterShokz products. Although without a portable charging case, this is much lower than most truly wireless headphones. As far as sound quality goes, these headphones provide decent audio, though they don’t compare to the immersive experience that in-ear earbuds provide. You also may feel a little bit of vibration when listening to music at higher volumes.

Product Specs
  • Battery life: 8 hours
  • Weight: 0.9 ounces (whole product)
  • On-ear controls: Yes
PROS

Good situational awareness with bone conduction technology

Comfortable, secure fit

Customizable sizes

CONS

Vibrate slightly at higher volume

Short battery life, with no charging case

Why you should trust us

A long-time runner myself, I understand the need for a quality pair of headphones. I have been slow to transition to wireless headphones, so reviewing these products was a great opportunity for me to familiarize myself with what’s on the market before purchasing a pair myself. I understand the trade-offs runners face when it comes to headphones: do you want to block out all outside noise so you can focus on pushing yourself, or should you stay attuned to your surroundings to avoid potential dangers? I pride myself on being able to find the highest quality products out there, for the most affordable price, so when it comes to choosing running headphones, you can trust that I will lead you to the right place.

Types of running headphones

Truly wireless 

This type of headphones has no cord whatsoever. These can come in many shapes and sizes; some rely on ear hooks to stay in place, like the Beats PowerBeats Pros, while others have little fins that stabilize the earbuds within the ears, like the Bose Sport Earbuds. Some options, like the popular Jabra Elite Active 75t, stay snug in most ears without ear hooks or wingtips. 

These options come with a charging case that often provides a couple more full charges, and they are often lightweight enough to forget they are even in your ears. The downside of wearing wireless earbuds is that they can be easy to lose. Luckily, many of these options have a corresponding app that will locate them at a moment’s notice.

Wire-connected earbuds

This type of running headphone features two earbuds connected by a wire that rests in front of or behind the neck. They often still utilize Bluetooth, as most of these headphones no longer have a cord that plugs into the phone. This option can be good for people worried about losing small wireless headphones to a sewage drain or having them chewed by a dog. They also often come with ear hooks or ear fins for extra security. 

Popular versions of this type of headphones include the JBL Reflect Mini 2 and the Sennheiser CX Sport, both of which are made for active wear. 

Bone conduction headphones

This type of headphones has come about to let users listen to music or podcasts, while also staying attuned to their surroundings. These headsets are even required now in some running races, as headphones that cancel out outside noise completely can put runners at risk. That’s why AfterShokz has pioneered bone conduction headphones, which emit sound by sending vibrations to the inner ear, rather than resting inside the ear. This leaves eardrums open to hearing external noises and keeps runners alert to potential dangers. 

While AfterShokz has a variety of similar products, we picked the AfterShokz Aeropex as the best bone conduction headphones since they provide a slim, secure fit and offer great situational awareness.

Key features of running headphones

Battery life

While traditional headphones with a cord may not require any charging, when it comes to wireless headphones, battery life is something to keep on your radar. Most of the truly wireless headphones come with a charging case, which can offer a couple of extra full charges. With these options, users just need to charge the case once in a while with a USB, and then the earbuds themselves will charge whenever they’re in the case. Wire-connected and bone conduction headphones typically just charge via USB.

Out of all the headphones reviewed above, battery life for one use varies from five to 10 hours, though this can be extended to up to 40 hours with a charging case.

Awareness

Many top-line headphone models feature active noise cancellation, which allows users to tune out external noises like construction sounds or loud gym music. These options typically seal into the ear, and their effectiveness can vary depending on which brand you choose. 

Some of these headphones also have a hear-through feature, which enables users to choose how much they want to tune into their outside environment. This can be especially helpful when you are running outside and want to stay attuned to your surroundings. Wearing bone conduction headphones, in particular, will ensure you can hear what’s happening around you while grooving out to your music.

Durability

Running headphones are made to be extra durable. Most options these days are sweatproof and waterproof to some degree. Oftentimes, these headphones can withstand being dropped in a puddle or being worn in a torrential downpour, though make sure to check out their water-resistance rating to understand what they can handle.

Benefits of running headphones 

Sweat and waterproof

As stated above, sporty headphones are often made to withstand sweat and be resistant to water. This means that you can be free to push yourself to your limits, without worrying about ruining your headphones. For a great “earth proof” option, look towards the Jaybird Vista 2, which have a military-grade certification.

Cord-free

Take the leap and leave that annoying headphone cord behind. With wireless headphones, you can finally jog hands-free and keep your phone tucked away in a running backpack or pocket. 

Increased focus

A good pair of headphones can make all the difference when you’re running. Whether you are motivated by heavy bass or, like me, you are motivated by adventure podcasts, a quality pair of headphones  can be a lifesaver when you are running on a treadmill in a monotonous setting and can be the key to distracting yourself into running that extra few miles.

Running headphones Pricing considerations

Budget

There are plenty of great headphones out there for under $50. We recommend the JBL Reflect Mini 2, a wire-connected option, or the Aukey EP-T32, a truly wireless choice. These are both great value deals, with secure fits and high durability, and are great choices for casual runners or gym users. Though you will get great bang for your buck, don’t expect all the fancy features that spendier headphones have.

Mid-range

These headphones range from $50 to $150. This includes high-quality options like our editors pick, the Jabra Elite Active 75t, along with the Bose Sport Earbuds, the Sennheiser CX Sport and most of the other options on our list. You can find truly wireless, wire-connection, and bone conduction headphones in this category. These options have a wide range of features, from active noise cancellation to lengthy battery lives.

Premium

These headphones typically cost more than $150. This includes popular picks, such as the third generation Apple AirPods or the Beats PowerBeats Pro. These options have top-of-the-line features, superb iOS compatibility, and excellent audio quality. If you are willing to spend a few extra bucks, these are the running headphones for you.

How we chose our top picks

When choosing our favorite running headphones, we first considered which product excels in each category, looking at factors such as sound quality, comfort, battery life, and waterproof level. We identified the best of each category of running headphones, from truly wireless earbuds to wire-connected or bone conduction headphones. As someone who has only used Apple AirPods myself, I knew there were better products out there, made specifically for fitness. So, I surveyed my contacts in the running world and scoured product reviews online in order to identify my top picks. I made sure to look at several sources for each product, including the New York Times’s Wirecutter, TechRadar, Runner’s World, Tom’s Guide, and more.

FAQs on running headphones

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. How do you know if running earbuds fit well?

A: Your earbuds should feel snug and comfortable in your ear, so when you shake your head, they won’t fall out. With most earbuds, you will also notice that — if they fit properly — they are blocking out some surrounding noise. If your earbuds come with several tips and/or ear fins, make sure to customize them accordingly before taking off on a run.

Q. Do headphones for running need to be water-resistant?

A: They don’t have to be water-resistant, but this can help if you are a heavy sweater or if you run in the rain. Check out the waterproof rating on headphones before purchasing, and make sure to spring for a weatherproof option if you know you will be running in downpours.

Q. Do software features matter when picking out workout headphones?

A: It depends on what you are in the market for. Some of our picks for running headphones have a corresponding app with features like adjusting the bass levels or locating your earbuds if lost. However, headphones with additional software features are typically pricier, so if you are someone that just goes on a jog once in a while, these may not be as important. 

Q. Do headphones fall off when running?

A: Yes, headphones can fall out while running, so make sure to find a fit that works for you. Many headphones now come with several earbud tips and/or ear fins, so you can customize them to fit your ears.

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Hanna Merzbach is a journalist living in Bend, Oregon. She writes everything from breaking news and magazine features to outdoor gear reviews. Her writing on housing and homelessness and the uneven impacts of climate change has appeared in The Atlantic, High Country News, and Mother Jones. She has also done reporting stints with Lookout Santa Cruz and Portland’s NBC affiliate, KGW. In her free time, you can find her scaling rock walls or backpacking in the mountains.

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