“Nobody said it was easy,” sings Coldplay’s Chris Marin over the pulsing piano and sparse string arrangements that defined the band’s 2002 hit ballad, “The Scientist.” Though Martin has always said the song was about fancying a gal, that one heartfelt line could just as easily be applied to exercising, or better yet, simply trying to keep your damn headphones in while out jogging around the block.
Headphones have an innate knack for falling out when exercising, regardless of how far we try to cram them into our ear canals before heading out the door. And while those comfy, faux-leather, over-the-ears headphones may sounds absolutely phenomenal sitting at your desk, they just don’t cut it when it comes time to get your body moving. Thankfully, there is a wealth of headphones perfectly suitable for providing that amped-up soundtrack to help you unleash your inner Prefontaine. Audio is an obvious factor to consider, but so is comfort, durability, style, and price.
Here are top picks for the best headphones for running so you can chase that high without fear of losing the tunes. Also, check out our selection of the best iPhone fitness apps and best Android fitness apps for the ultimate workout routine without actually hitting the gym. Again, “nobody said it was easy.”
Bose SIE2i ($150)
Bose has been a name synonymous with quality sound for as long as we can remember (never mind that assertion is highly contested by many audiophiles). The company’s most recent foray into the realm of exercise headphones has been a successful one, showcasing some high-quality American muscle when it comes to audio fidelity and ergonomic design. It’s true that the SIE2i — aptly titled after built-in iPhone integration and controls — runs pricey, but it touts solid audio performance for the price. The bass is plump and full, the highs crisp, and the the earphones remain distortion-free regardless of how high you crank the volume.
Audio is only half the battle when it comes to a great pair of running headphones. The SIE2i, with its flashy design and sweat-and-weather-resistant coating, sports a snug fit and remains comfy during longer endurance sessions. The three bundled StayHear tips offer users a snug variety of sizes, while the open-ear nature of the build allows a fair amount of sound to trickle in and helps create greater spatial depth. They aren’t noise-isolating by any means, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing given you’ll often subject yourself to environments while exercising that prove dangerous if you can’t hear.
Unfortunately the included Reebok armband isn’t compatible with the iPhone 5 or 5s, but the inline microphone and controls still let users control audio playback, adjust the volume and accept calls without ever having to reach for their device. They aren’t for die-hard audiophiles, but other than that, our only qualm is the steep price tag.
The headphones are currently available in four colors: green, blue, purple and orange.
Monster iSport Victory ($150)
Monster has really upped the ante in the last year or so. Both the noise-cancelling Monster Inspiration and the noise-isolating Monster Inspiration were an exceptionally balanced pair of headphones, a welcomed far cry from the bass-heavy Beats by Dre
and the company’s other similarly-equipped products. Like the Bose SIE2i, Monster’s offerings are not bargain-brand products, equipped with a heavy price point to match the impressive sound and quality build. The bass is natural and rich, while the high-end treble shines amid the immersive, noise-cancelling technology.
Monster’s OmniTip swivel nozzle provides a tight and comfortable fit, with multiple tips available for different fits, and an additional ear clip helps maintain the fit through even the most rigorous of exercises. The sealed housing provides an element of ruggedness and durability, protecting the inside components against perspiration and other liquid factors, while the inline ControlTalk features allows users to control iOS-compatible products like the iPad and iPhone. Other features, such as the flat chord and right-angle jack, help keep the headphones tangle-free when tucked away in the included clasp pouch.
The iSport Victory touts some of the most impressive sound isolation on our roundup, making them perfect for users who desire to keep intrusive noises at bay and shut themselves off from the rest of the world. And although complete sound isolation can be a hindrance on the run, it can also be a highly-beneficial feature those looking for absolute absorption. The earbuds will cost you a pretty penny, but they’re a worthwhile upgrade from Monster’s previous Immersion headphone lineup.
The headphones are currently available in two colors: black and lime green.
I can’t say we were big fans of the black-and-fluorescent-yellow design of Sennheiser’s PMX 680i. Luckily, the latest addition to the Sennheiser lineup showcases the same behind-the-neck design and lightweight construction of the aforementioned model, albeit this time in a royal blue that is far easier on the eyes. The 685i Sports barely slip into your ear opposed to some of the more canal-intrusive earbuds on our list, but still feature exceptional and well-balanced clarity due to the high-output drivers and surprising volume capabilities.
The behind-the-neck design proves practical and extremely secure, stabilizing the flexible headphones against your neck and ears, but they can leave your ears a little sore during extended use. Although we don’t recommend fully submerging the headphones, the moisture-protection system allows users to simply douse the headphones under the tap to remove the excess grime and sweat bound to appear after several sessions of intense activity. Other notable features include the integrated smart remote, compatible with iOS and Android devices, and the couple microphone.
The PMX 685i represent a significant leap over its predecessor when it comes to stability and sound quality. They lack the noise-cancelling prowess of the Monster iSport Victory, allowing a flurry of ambient noises into your ear canal at every turn, but they have enough oomph to overpower the general drone of traffic and provide clean, striking audio — at least for exercise headphones — via the 14-millimeter transducers. Plus, they’re becoming more affordable than ever before.
The headphones are available in one color scheme: black and blue.
A best headphones roundup would not be a best headphones roundup without a rock-bottom option for those looking to ditch the high-end headphones in favor of something that would break the bank (or your heart should you leave them at the gym). The Philips ActionFit SHQ3200/28 offer solid, and surprisingly good, performance for a less than $50. The 9mm drivers produce admirable bass tones — often at the expense of the upper and mid-ranges — and the headphone’s fit can be custom tailored more so than most thanks to the adjustable ear hook.
Although the lightweight SHQ3200/28 comes bundles with multiple silicone eartips, it’s the inner liner of the ear hooks that truly help with stability. Once the noise-isolating earbuds are properly in place, the plastic liner can be pulled down to further enhance the headphones’ locking mechanism and comfort, giving you free reign of activity without having to worry about losing your tunes. The headphones are also water-resistant, providing protection against both the elements and your own sweat, and can be washed beneath a faucet at the end of a grueling day of running. The inline microphone certainly isn’t the best, but it does provide a hands-free method of talking in a pinch.
The SHQ3200/28 isn’t a top-of-the-line headset by any means. You’re not paying for sound quality and call clarity, but rather for something capable that can be purchased on a tight budget and thrown haphazardly into your gym bag without concern of breaking. They’re durable, cheap and won’t fall out. What more can you ask for?
The headphones are available in four color schemes: orange and gray, purple and blue, white and black, pink and grey, and black.
Jaybird Freedom ($100)
There are few people who don’t like the sound of freedom, err the Jaybird Freedom. The lightweight earbuds offers fantastic versatility and wireless connectivity via the built-in Bluetooth, as well as top-notch sound with an emphasis increasing sub-bass levels and reducing the shrill undertones that often accompany upper treble. They sound nice, as they should given their price, and the on-ear controls allow easy access for pairing the device, answering calls, and controlling audio playback on Android, iOS, Windows and a variety of other audio devices sans wires.
The Freedom may not be the most snug fit on our list — that title is better reserved for the Sennheiser PMX 685i Sports or the Monster iSports Victory — but the multi-sized eartips and cushioned fins help lock the earplugs securely in place with little fatigue during everyday use. Rubber seals are also overmolded to the plastic housing help prevent sweat and light moisture from entering the device, but customers need not fret considering the product comes with a lifetime guarantee against perspiration.
Once paired, the Freedom offers remarkable hassle-free listening for up to 6 hours of extended playback, capitalizing on the latest in Bluetooth dynamics and honing in on our ever-increasing alliance to wireless technology.
The headphones are currently available in one color: black.
What do you think of our selections of the best headphones for running? What is your personal favorite for listening to tunes while pounding the pavement? Let us know in the comments below.