A lot of runners will tell you that they can’t go on their morning jog or nighttime trek without a pair of reliable running headphones. Not every pair of earbuds are suitable for running, though. Wired headphones, for instance, might become a nuisance after a few minutes.
Our team went the distance for this roundup, merging the expert opinions of our combined 50-plus years of audio industry experience with our serious fitness bench depth to finally land on our winning headphones. We’re extremely confident that thewireless earbuds are the best running headphones for most people, but we’ve also assembled a list of alternatives in case they’re not right for you.
Each of these options has specific strengths, so consider your needs and decide accordingly. The selections below are the best headphones for running but also kick-ass for general fitness, too.
The best running headphones at a glance:
- JLab Epic Air Sport ANC (2021)
- Sony WF-SP800N
- Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd-gen)
- AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Headphones
- Jabra Elite Sport
- Jaybird Vista 2
Why you should buy them: A well-rounded mix of features and some grippy ear hooks keep these buds firmly in place, making them our top choice for runners and their budgets.
Who they’re for: Those who want it all — great battery life, comfort, sound quality, noise cancellation, and IP66 sweat-proofing — at a price that won’t force you to cancel your gym membership.
Why we picked the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC:
JLabs has been a reliable option for affordable sports earbuds that still provide plenty of jogger-friendly features, but these, the latest version of the company’s tried-and-tested Epic Air Sport earbuds, take things to the next level. Not only are these sports earbuds affordable at under $100, but JLab has upped the ante by adding active noise cancellation (ANC) with three modes — ANC On, ANC Off, and Be Aware, a transparency mode that that allows more ambient noise in so you can pay attention to surroundings while you jog. The addition of the JLab Air ANC app gives you a wide range of customization with the Epic Air Sport’s ANC, with sliders to set the level of noise cancellation and outside sound to perfectly suit your preferences. The app also allows for four EQ presets for further sound customization, whether you’re running jam is metal, dance hits, or podcasts.
Of course, the app isn’t always going to be the easiest thing to access while on a run, so the Epic Air Sport ANCs also have a range of touch controls on the earbud’s surfaces with sensors that support single and multi-tap options to control a variety of settings, including play, pause, volume, call answer/decline, activation of Siri or Google Assistant, EQ preset change, and to cycle through the buds’ ANC modes.
The Epic Air Sport ANC includes time-saving features like automatic detection and connection to phones via Bluetooth 5.0, but let’s talk about one of the stars of the show here — battery life. Another strong suit for the brand, the Epic Air Sport ANCs impreses with 70 hours of total listening time with ANC turned off and 50+ hours with it turned on. Each bud delivers a whopping 15 hours per charge without ANC and a still-impressive 11 hours with.
If you’re worried about fit, thecome with a selection of both gel and foam tips to experiment with so you can find the right option for avoiding slippage, and the aforementioned ear hooks keep the earbuds firmly in place during even the most rigorous runs and workouts. The IP66 resistance rating is also well-suited for outdoor workouts, protecting the earbuds from sweat and dust no matter where you’re at.
Why you should buy them: These earbuds have the battery life and sound quality serious athletes need.
Who they’re for: Fitness fans who are ready for long workout sessions but need their favorite tunes by their side.
Why we picked the Sony WF-SP800N:
Combing a single-charge battery life of up to nine hours with excellent active noise cancellation, these earbuds are the perfect fit for someone who wants to focus on their training and isn’t worried about their surroundings. The true wireless buds also come with a charging case that has enough juice for a full extra charge.
The IP55 resistance rating makes sure that sweat or rain won’t be a problem, and the bass boost adds some deep beats if you love using your music to get motivated. A built-in microphone ensures that you can still take calls while also supporting Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant voice commands for a variety of tasks.
Theare also comfy earbuds, equipped with cushioned arc support that helps keep them in place while you are working out. The handy tap controls on the design are similar to how AirPods work, with a variety of taps and tap-and-hold features to control playback, switch off noise cancellation, activate voice assistants, and more.
Why you should buy them: Glorious sound quality with a battery that’ll outlast even the longest runs.
Who they’re for: iPhone users who want truly wireless earbuds that give them hands-free Siri and sweatproof performance.
Why we picked the Beats PowerBeats Pro:
iPhone users who wanted a set of truly wireless earbuds that could take full advantage of everything their smartphone could offer only had one choice until the PowerBeats Pro were launched: Apple’s own AirPods. With middling battery life, no ability to deal with sweat or lots of movement, and sound quality that impressed no one, AirPods weren’t exactly a runner’s first choice. The Beats PowerBeats Pro changed all of that.
With a gargantuan nine hours of playtime on a single charge, it’s unlikely these earbuds will need to stop for a break before you do. They’re also more than able to deal with the moisture generated by even the most vigorous workout (though you should probably shower without them), and they’ve got that classic Beats sound: Punchy in all the right places, especially in the low end.
The PowerBeats Pro offers a comfortable yet secure fit, keeping the over-the-ear clip design of the not-fully wireless PowerBeats 3 while managing to improve on that formula. Siri can be summoned simply by calling her name (or pressing a button), and the included volume rocker switch is a huge improvement over AirPods, which lack such a feature.
These earbuds don’t offer pass-through audio from the embedded microphones, so you’ll have to be cautious when working out near traffic or other hazards, but they do have an excellent (and customizable) auto-pause feature when you remove an earbud, which at least makes stopping for a chat more convenient.
Apple’s AirPods Pro, with their IPX4 rating and pass-through audio, are an excellent alternative for iPhone users, though we think serious joggers will prefer the more secure fit of the .
Why you should buy them: These headphones are built from the ground up for running but won’t make your wallet sweat.
Who they’re for: Serious runners who want a good pair of headphones under $100.
Why we picked the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100:
If you’re looking for a more affordable audio option that still doesn’t skimp on running-friendly features, Plantronics workout headphones are right for you. They’re waterproof and sweatproof, have a very secure fit, and include a reflective finish around the band so that you’re easier to see when jogging at night. The eartips in the wireless earbud are also designed to let in a certain amount of ambient sound so nothing easily surprises you.
A full charge of the battery will last for up to seven hours. Keep in mind, with the ambient sound design and low cost, audio quality isn’t going to be perfect all the time, but it’s good enough to enjoy music while working out.
The BackBeat app is also capable of some cool feats, including the ability to tap on theto begin a preset timer and playlist without ever pulling out your phone. You can also use this as a stopwatch for more aggressive training calculations, and with a wireless range of 33 feet, your device doesn’t necessarily need to be at your side while you work.
Why you should buy them: Comfortable and secure, they give you hands-free access to Alexa, making them a great jogging companion.
Who they’re for: Android users looking for a set of true wireless earbuds that have a bunch of running-friendly features for a reasonable price.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd-gen):
We don’t know for a fact that Amazon designed the Echo Buds for runners, but it sure feels that way. These compact true wireless earbuds have a variety of fit options thanks to three different ear tips and a sealed-in ear design to help limit sound even when not using the Active Noise Cancellation mode. They’re also designed to be significantly smaller than the first generation and use a small vent to reduce ear pressure, so they’re more comfortable to wear as well.
Their IPX4 water resistance may not be as hardy as some other models on this list, but as long as you don’t try to swim in them, they should handle even the sweatiest workouts. Each bud also includes three individual mics to pick up your voice, and a Passthrough mode to allow environmental noise to filter in while you’re on a jog.
There are two features that will make you appreciate the Echo Buds as a jogging companion, too: Hands-free access to Alexa so don’t have to constantly raise your hand to your head to do simple tasks like skip tracks, change the volume, answer a call, or even trigger pass-through mode when using the excellent Active Noise Reduction.
These features combined with great sound quality, five-hour battery life for music playback (with a case that can hold 15 hours of charge), and a price tag that means you don’t need to scrimp on your next set of kicks, make thea fantastic choice for runners.
Why you should buy them: You want unique headphones with strong sound that still keep your ears open.
Who they’re for: People who don’t want to compromise on their running headphones and are willing to try innovative technologies.
Why we picked the AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Headphones:
“Bone conduction” headphones use vibrations on bones near your ears to transmit sound, leaving your ears free for comfort and the ability to hear ambient noises while you are out jogging. This particular model uses small tabs that rest tightly on your cheeks just beside your ears, while early versions struggled with bass and definition. AfterShokz has made steady improvements to audio quality in newer models with notable improvement and less audio leakage.
Thecan last up to eight hours on a single charge, and they are fully water and sweatproof (no swimming, though). They’re also surprisingly lightweight and comfortable despite the unique design. The experience isn’t exactly like traditional headphones, but this option keeps you safe while still allowing you to enjoy any music or podcasts you want when out and active.
Why you should buy them: Between fitness tracking, sound quality, and full wireless design, the Jabra Elite Sport are decked out with features that serious athletes want.
Who they’re for: Runners who want the best mix of sound, features, and durability.
Why we picked the Jabra Elite Sport:
When looking for headphones you can wear while running — or engaging in any exercise — you’re likely looking for the lightest and least cumbersome option that also sounds great. Jabra’s true wireless Elite Sport headphones are all the above and are some of the best fully wireless headphones we’ve had the pleasure of testing. They are waterproof, offer great performance, and have a flexible-yet-secure– fit that puts them a cut above most other true wireless earbuds on the market.
In terms of performance, not only do the Elite Sport sound great, the lack of a wire eliminates that annoying jostling sound you get when wearing a pair of wired headphones that tend to ruin your listening experience. The lack of wire actually allows them to stay firmly in place in your ears, too, as there isn’t an annoying cable pulling on them while you run.
Jabra went an extra step in making them great for runners by putting a heart-rate monitor in the right earpiece. When paired with Jabra’s Sport Life app, the headphones provide heart-rate readings during workouts — you can even add and track specific workouts for more in-depth statistics.
We’re hoping Jabra releases an update to these buds soon — we love everything about them except their 4.5-hour battery life. These days (as you can see from this list) it no longer ranks among the best. That said, if you’re laser-focused on running, it should still be plenty to get you through your workouts. Their charging case has enough juice to recharge them fully twice. To top it off, the IP67 waterproof, so rainy runs, or even short swims, are a go.are
Why you should buy them: The addition of safety features and excellent damage resistance makes these earbuds a good pick for adventurers.
Who they’re for: Users who don’t want to worry about dropping, squashing, stepping on, or accidentally throwing their wireless earbuds during a workout.
Why we picked the Jaybird Vista 2:
We already liked the fit (including three gel tip sizes) and performance of the first Vista earbuds, but the second generation elevates them with even more useful features. One of the most notable is the hefty IP68 durability and MIL-STD 810G that combine to make these earbuds waterproof, sweatproof, dustproof, protected against freezing, and protected against shock or impact. You don’t really have to worry about something going wrong here.
But the design is clever in other ways, too: The 6mm milled drivers offer excellent audio, plus the ability to customize some EQ profiles for your preferred sound. If you need to make calls, the beamforming mics will pick up your voice and are specifically designed to block out the wind from movement or weather so your voice isn’t muffled. Controls also are easy with a two-tap method to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and SurroundSense.
About those last two modes — the Active Noise Cancellation is great to see, but SurroundSense is one of those newer modes appearing on outdoor-oriented earbuds: It reduces cancellation features so that you can hear your ambient noise in your surroundings, ideal for watching for cars or others when going for a jog. Finally, thealso received a battery boost with a new eight-hour battery and a case that can hold up to two charges.
Research and buying tips
- Do running headphones have built-in storage?
- Can I use running headphones with a smartwatch?
- Should I buy wired or wireless headphones?
- Should I buy waterproof headphones?
- Do running headphones offer a heart-rate monitor?
- How do I find running headphones that fit my ear?
Not usually. Most modern running headphones stream music from your phone or smartwatch via Bluetooth.
Yes, as long as your smartwatch features Bluetooth and supports local music storage and/or streaming music apps. Some may have more advanced compatibility than others, depending on the models you get.
If you’re planning on being active, it’s usually best to get wireless headphones, as there are no cables to get in your way. Keep in mind that true wireless earbud models also remove the cable connecting the earbuds together.
Should I buy waterproof headphones?
Not everybody needs waterproof headphones, although many people appreciate the assurance they provide. Runners’ headphones often end up covered in sweat and also tend to be exposed to the elements, such as rain. Waterproof headphones offer the most protection against moisture, but water-resistant ones will at least offer some protection.
Water resistance is a ratable feature on headphones, and it appears as an IP rating on the product details. Before you purchase anything, make sure to figure out what these IP ratings mean (and what rating you should aim for). If you need more resources, consider checking out our best headphones for swimming list, since these should do the trick for runners, too.
Do running headphones offer a heart-rate monitor?
While some headphones offer heart-rate monitors, they are nowhere near as accurate as conventional heart-rate monitors that you would strap to your chest or wrist. If you want the most precise heart rate reading, we would still recommend relying on chest-based monitors or even a smartwatch.
How do I find running headphones that fit my ear?
Headphones don’t have to envelop your entire ear to ensure they will stay on. Most modern running headphones come with various ear tips and ear fins to suit ears of all sizes. Still, we recommend trying on the headphones you plan to buy whenever possible since an in-person fitting is the best way to ensure a good, comfortable fit.
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