The best pair of running headphones you can buy are essential for soundtracking your workout and boosting your performance.
If you want those headphones to stay in while you pace it around the track, be unaffected by sweat or rain, and stay comfortable while you do it, you'll need to do better than the average off-the-shelf earbuds – especially if you want the music to sound half-decent too.
We believe that a good pair of headphones doesn't just make running less boring and more bearable, but can improve your performance significantly – there's actually plenty of research that proves music can enable you to run and exercise better.
Of course some people enjoy the quiet solitude of running, but for many running is arduous, dull and even more difficult without the sound of music or a podcast keeping you going. And just as waterproof headphones are best for swimming, so too are running headphones optimized for the unique challenges of staying secure while you pound the pavement.
Thankfully there are plenty of great options, some of which don't involve breaking the bank either. For our pick of the very best running headphones out there, you'll have everything you need in the guide below.
If the most important aspect of running earphones for you is the audio quality, these wireless earbuds from Sennheiser could be a fantastic choice.
With a lively, bass-heavy presentation, and a comfortable fit, the Sennheiser CX Sport wireless earphones can really bolster your running performance through sound quality alone.
They don't come with a heart rate monitor, but the inclusion of ear fins and sporty neon color scheme makes them ideal for casual workouts.
With a battery life of six hours, they're great for your average running session, or even your daily commute – but marathon runners will want to look elsewhere.
Read the full review: Sennheiser CX Sport Wireless earphones review
Our sole on-ear entry hails from the relatively obscure start-up 66 Audio and stands out in several key facets. Firstly, the BTS Pro earphones offer a ludicrous 40+ hours of continuous playback from a single charge along with an stunning wireless range of 100-feet.
Most Bluetooth headphones give you about 30-feet of leeway, but thanks to the aptX 3D antenna tech you can wander much further away from your mobile device, which is especially handy for track sessions.
For runners who like as much control over sound equalization as they do their fitness levels, the Motion Control app allows effortless control of the sound output.
The native apps (there’s also one for Apple Watch) also have a useful ‘Find My Headphones’ feature too. But most importantly, the sound is phenomenal for the relatively low price and they offer noise-cancelling microphones.
This product is only available in the US at the time of writing – UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium wireless headphones.
Replacing the AfterShokz Trek Titanium is the newer Air model. These are a touch more expensive, but they're lighter and we've found the sound quality has improved as well.
AfterShokz specialize in making wireless options designed in a way that particularly suits urban runners. Sound is delivered through your cheekbones, thanks to bone conducting tech which leaves your ears open, free to hear the traffic around you.
You can keep chatting with those around you easily and if you're in a race you'll be able to hear the cheering from the sidelines too.
What really sets these headphones apart is they're one of the few sets that are 'race-legal' in some countries, as they allow you to hear the commands of marshalls and traffic on open-road courses. If you want to run with music in smaller races, these are really your only option.
We found the Air to be more comfortable than previous AfterShokz models so if you don't mind shelling out a little extra money these will be one of the best for you. Plus they're sweat-proof, have a good secure fit and they can't fall out when you're jogging either as there aren't any earbuds.
Read the full review: AfterShockz Trekz Air review
Now committed to a yearly refresh of the popular mid-range model, the Jaybird X4 manage to outdo both the previous Jaybird X2 and Jaybird X3 wireless Bluetooth earphones, with an upgraded IPX7 water-resistance rating. Whether you're sweating buckets or running doggedly through the rain, the X4 will be able to cope with it.
The Jaybird X4s also manage to keep the series' surprisingly good sound. These earphones are certainly fitness first, but that doesn't mean the other things people look for in a pair of earphones – you know, like music – have fallen by the wayside.
Jaybird's excellent app also provides easy EQ customization as well as the ability to make your own sound profile, with various ear tip sizes to boot. A great all round choice for runner who don't want to skimp on sound – or be wary of the weather.
Alternatively if you're after an even more premium experience, the Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds offer higher-quality audio and materials for a somewhat higher $159 £139 / AU$229 price tag.
Although we're still big fans of the Jaybird X4 headphones, take a look at the Jaybird Vista true headphones further down the list – they're our top pick if you're in the market for a pair of true wireless earbuds.
Read the full review: Jaybird X4 review
Whoever came up with the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ never used the KuaiFit Sport headphones. With 8GB of storage they’re a music player, fitness tracker, heart rate monitor, real-time running coach and a pair of wireless headphones all in one.
KuaiFit sells fitness plans created by Olympic athletes and verified coaches as part of its offering, and its headphones will store and deliver voice notifications based on your progress towards goals – all while leaving your phone at home.
The KuaiFit app for iOS and Android will store all your data and, if you want to link up to your phone, play music from Spotify too – although we do wish that was supported offline too...
If you need your power song to push you through that extra mile, then the Bose SoundSport might give you that extra force you’re looking for. With the unmistakable sound signature of the audio heavyweight, these lightweight earbuds feature a comfortable and secure fit thanks to the StayHear+ tips.
For runners with NFC-enabled smartphones and music players, the SoundSport buds can be paired in the blink of an eye. The Bose Connect app also allows music sharing with more than one pair of earbuds, ideal if you’re out running with a buddy (and we love that they name which device is connected, something that's great if you're carrying around a phone, media player and tablet).
The SoundSport range comes in two flavors. For an extra $50 you can pick up the Pulse edition which features a built-in heart rate monitor. Depending on your training method, this could be a worthwhile investment as we've found their heart rate monitor to generally be fairly precise from the ears with these.
After true wireless earbuds instead? Read our Bose SoundSport Free review
The Under Armour True Wireless Flash earbuds are a solid entry into the true wireless market, with strong audio, ergonomic design, and a hefty battery life (25 hours, including the case's four extra charges) to really make your purchase last throughout the week.
There's also two smart noise technologies that that help these earbuds stand out. Tapping the left earbud once will activate Talk-Thru, which quietens audio for momentary conversation or when you need to be on alert, while Ambient Aware (tap the left earbud twice) recreates outside noise using external microphones.
UA has gone for stamina rather than convenience, though, and the charging case can feel like a bit of a brick to carry around – especially during exercise. You also won’t get any speed charging features here, meaning you shouldn’t wait until five minutes before a workout to plug the case into the wall. But for the sporty among you, the pros should certainly outweigh the cons.
Read the full review: Under Armour True Wireless Flash review
There’s wireless, and then there’s true wireless, and the top-end Jabra Elite Sport are the latter. Beyond the cordless design, the headline feature is the Hear Through tech that allows you to control the way the buds let in or filter out ambient noise – with just a quick button press.
The on-the-go charging case provides 13.5 hours of battery life in total, but with just 4.5 hours available from a single charge, slower marathon runners will probably want to jog on – although for 99% of your training, this won't be an issue.
Although not marketed for swimming, they’re also IP67 certified water resistant. The companion app also utilizes the built-in heart rate monitor to enhance your workouts, along with the internal accelerometer to monitor your reps of squats, lunges and the like.
These are expensive buds, but the amount they can do is incredible – for many, they'll be your go-to choice.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport review
The PowerBeats 3 running headphones are yet another pair of Beats headphones that aim to keep your tunes pumping while you keep your legs pumping. They may come with the high price that is a signature of the Beats and Apple brands, but they offer a lot for runners, and especially for Apple users.
With a 12-hour battery life and a quick charge function that can add an hour of battery life in a few minutes, the PowerBeats 3 should rarely run out of juice in the middle of anything short of an insane ultra-marathon. They’re also ready for all the sweat from your brow, and can even handle a run in the rain.
While they may not top some of the other wireless headphones on this list for features, the PowerBeats 3 headphones will truly shine for major Apple lovers. They feature Apple’s W1 chip, which makes the Bluetooth pairing process with multiple iCloud-linked devices incredibly easy in addition to boosting wireless range.
Read the full review: Beats PowerBeats 3 review
The Jaybird Vista earbuds are the latest true wireless headphones from Jaybird, an audio brand focused on making products for real and budding athletes – or those of us who just want the best fitness gadgets out there.
They're truly astonishing in what they achieve. Despite being fitness-first headphones, they still manage to offer incredible audio alongside water and sweat resistance like the best of them.
They’re certainly at the premium end of the market. But the combination of stark coloring, compact and lightweight design, and premium sound makes them a no-brainer for your next true wireless earbuds – whether you’re training for a marathon or just walking briskly to the office.
Read the full review: Jaybird Vista true wireless headphones review
Best running headphones at a glance:
- Sennheiser CX Sport wireless earphones
- 66 Audio BTS Pro Wireless Headphones
- AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones
- Jaybird X4 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
- KuaiFit Sport Headphones (US)
- Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones
- Under Armour True Wireless Flash Earbuds
- Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Earbuds
- Beats PowerBeats 3
- Monster iSport Victory In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones
- Jaybird Vista True Wireless Earbuds
How to choose the best running headphones
There's lots to consider when it comes to buying a new pair of running headphones. Firstly, make sure that your new buds have an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they'll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain.
Fit is also really important, particularly if you opt for true wireless earbuds, which can be prone to falling out – if that's a worry look for earbuds that sport fins to keep them securely in your ear, or better yet, a pair of neckbuds that are connected by a wire.
You'll also need a battery life that will last your longest runs and workouts, as well as your daily commute if your new running headphones will double up as your regular cans.
These are the basics – some of the best running headphones also go one step further with features like heart rate monitors and AI personal trainers, which means they double up as some of the best running gadgets on the market in 2020.
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Source: TechRadar - All the latest technology news
By: Kieran Alger,Henry St Leger,Olivia Tambini