Getting motivated to lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement can be challenging enough, but millions of devout joggers and marathon runners will tell you that they can't do it without the sounds of their favorite 125-BMP tunes pushing them along. But to do this, you need a firmly-fitting and great-sounding pair of running headphones.
Not every pair of earbuds are suitable for running, though. Wired headphones, for instance, might become a nuisance after a few minutes, and poorly designed earbuds can quickly fall out with a little sweat or movement. When shopping for a good pair of running earbuds, you want to consider several things: do you want to block out the world around you with active noise cancelation or do you want features like transparency mode so you can hear traffic or other potential obstacles? What kind of water resistance do you need — IPX4 and higher will fend off sweat and light rain. How easy are the controls to use while you're in stride?
We consider all these things and more in our roundup of the best earbuds for running. Let's go.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC 2nd Gen True Wireless Earbuds
- Easy setup
- New Find with Tile feature
- Excellent battery life
- IP66 rating
- Updated JLab app
- Average call quality
- Mediocre ANC
JLabs has been a reliable option for affordable sports earbuds that still provide plenty of jogger-friendly features, but these, the second generation of the company's tried-and-tested Epic Air Sport ANC earbuds, continue to impress, maintaining their top spot on our list of the best running earbuds.
Taking an "if it's not broken, don't fix it" approach, the second-gen of the Sport ANCs only have a few notable differences. They're affordable at under $100, and JLab's active noise cancellation (ANC) still features three modes — ANC On, ANC Off, and Be Aware, a transparency mode that allows more ambient noise so you can pay attention to surroundings while you jog.
The JLab Air ANC app has been rebranded as the JLab Sound app, and still 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 three EQ presets for further sound customization, whether you're running jam is metal, dance hits, or podcasts. Plus, you get EQ slider controls for Bass, Mid-Range, and Treble to dial it in even more — and you can even adjust the presets to customize them as well.
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 cycling through the buds' ANC modes.
New for the 2nd gen is the addition of a "Find with Tile" feature that allows you to locate a lost earbud or both with the Tile app.
Another strong suit for the brand, the Epic Air Sport ANCs impresses with 70 hours of total listening time with ANC turned off and 50-plus 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, the Epic Air Sport ANC 2nd gen come 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.
It's worth noting that the first generation of the Epic Air Sport ANCs are nearly identical and are still available if you want to save a few bucks.
JBL Reflect Aero TWS
- Excellent IP68 resistance
- Some of the best ANC we've seen
- Eight-hour battery life
- The compact design may not be a secure fit for everyone
Our previous JBL pick, the Reflect Flow Pro, was an excellent set of earbuds with some of the best noise-cancellation features that we've come across, in a new compact design that could even withstand swims in saltwater. Our current pick, the Reflect Aero TWS, has many of the same advantages but at a notably lower cost, allowing you to save some money while still picking up a remarkable pair of sports earbuds.
The adaptive noise canceling uses four mics with Smart Ambient technology to constantly monitor your current environment, and it's very good at its job. There's another set of beamforming mics to help eliminate additional noise if you are taking calls and want to be heard. And that remarkable IP68 resistance rating means the earbuds are dustproof and can go up to 5 feet in any kind of water (although we note that's a great way to lose an earbud).
The design is made to be minimal, with small tips and compact fins for stability, but inside, the 6.8mm drivers are doing serious audio work, so you won't be skimping on sound quality. The eight-hour battery life is also great to see, and the case holds another two charges in reserve. These are incredibly well-rounded earbuds that make a particularly good pick if you play a lot by the ocean or on dusty trails.
Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Class-leading battery life
- Water resistant
- Secure fit, sleek design
- Bold, vibrant sound
- No basic battery gauge
- Massive case
- Intermittent connection issues
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 Powerbeats Pro.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
- Super comfortable
- Great sound quality
- Excellent call quality
- Very good ANC and transparency
- Good battery life
- Wireless charging
- Tons of customization options
- Excellent water/dust protection
The Jabra Elite 7 Pro true wireless earbuds have performed their way on to several of our best earbuds lists, including still maintaining the top spot on our best wireless earbuds list, period.
Why? In a nutshell, they sound amazing, they're super comfortable for all-day use, they're excellent not only for running but for music and other things, and they're highly customizable with a feature-rich app.
Let's break these down then: sound-wise, bass can often be the most challenging thing for earbuds, but the Elite 7 Pros were good out of the box. Perhaps too good, as our reviewer noted, but with adjustable EQing, presets, and an intelligent MySound feature in the Sound+ app that adjusts the sound to suit your own hearing profile, there are ample ways to tune the earbuds to sound perfect for you. Add to that some decent, customizable ANC and transparency mode abilities and the Elite 7 Pros cover things nicely in the sound department — use the app to tune in or out as much outside noise as you want, which is important for runners wanting to be aware of their surroundings.
As for how they fit, in our review, we called them "the most comfortable noise-canceling true wireless earbuds you can buy right now," and are targeted at those who are going to use them for high-intensity activities, such as running. Read: they don't budge. This is a good thing, because they have a battery life of up to eight hours (30 total with the charge), and while your run isn't likely to last that long it's good to know that they'll keep going after you've hit the showers.
While they are a little pricier than others on our list, the Jabra Elite 7 Pros are one of our favorites of last year and continue to impress us in 2023, too.
Anker Soundcore Sport X10
- Comfy fit and stability
- Rugged durability
- Good sound quality
- Solid ANC and ambient performance
- Great app support
- Wind can break through
- No aptX support
- No wireless charging
Anker has updated its sports-friendly line of earbuds to include a version that finally has ANC, offering impressively solid cancellation with an effective ambient mode. The dynamic acoustic system is designed to pump up the bass without interfering with other ranges, while the IPX7 rating ensures that sweat, rain, and water are no obstacle to your workout tunes.
One of our favorite features of these earbuds is the set of ear hooks, which are both quite flexible and have a 210-degree rotation. That allows you to keep adjusting the earbuds until you find the perfect spot in your ear for them to rest, then hooking them in place. Everyone's ears are different, and if you often have trouble with earbud placement (especially when running), you may appreciate the adjustability of the Sport X10s.
Battery life on these Anker buds is also solid, with up to eight hours on a single charge and a case that can hold up to three additional charges. We also really enjoyed our time with the SoundCore app, with a 21-preset EQ to play with, an eight-band equalizer for customization, and even programs for breathing while you stretch for your workout.
Shokz OpenRun Pro
- Open-ear conduction design
- Durable titanium design that still manages to be comfortable
- 10-hour battery life
- Bone conduction design isn't for everyone
"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.
When Aftershokz became Shokz, they updated their design and created the OpenRun Pro, a better and more comfortable model than ever before, with a titanium frame to keep the headphones from slipping. The new battery lasts for up to 10 hours for music or calls and features a five-minute quick-charge option so it will be ready for your runs whenever you are.
The OpenRun Pro is also fully waterproof and sweatproof (no swimming, though). They're also surprisingly lightweight and comfortable despite their 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.
Jaybird Vista 2
- Fully water and dustproof
- Compact and secure fit
- Great sound quality
- Wireless charging
- Very poor call quality
- ANC struggles with wind noise
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, however, it's best to keep it indoors. Even with the presence of what Jaybird calls WindDefense fabric and beamforming mics specifically designed to block out the wind from movement or weather, our reviewer Simon Cohen found the wind to be an issue during calls.
Controls on the Jaybird Vista 2 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 ambient noise in your surroundings, ideal for watching for cars or others when going for a jog. Finally, the Vista 2 earbuds also received a battery boost with a new eight-hour battery and a case that can hold up to two charges.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not usually. Most modern running headphones stream music from your phone or smartwatch via Bluetooth.
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. But that can also make it easier for earbuds to slip out during exercise. Some models help solve this problem with ear hooks or bands.
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, since these should do the trick for runners, too.
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.
Headphones don’t have to envelop your entire ear to ensure they will stay on, and earbuds often come with multiple tip sizes to try 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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