The best headphones for running and jogging
Looking to soundtrack your path to fitness? These are the best running earphones to plug in and help you stay motivated whether you're hunkered down in a gym or out hitting the road, the track or quite literally running to the hills, like Iron Maiden. They're also suitable for cycling, pumping iron, hiking and anything else you can do whilst listening to music and sweating profusely.
A decent pair of sports headphones are a very worthy investment. Research has shown over and over that the right type and tempo of tune can keep you in the zone for longer, and we've all ran up park steps to a suitably bombastic soundtrack like we're Rocky. Even if we've then keeled over at the top.
The headphones and earphones here will keep you company on the long road to fitness, offering decent sound, a fit that stands up to the vibration and bumps of running and resistance to both rain and your ear-sweat.
The key here is a secure but comfortable fit, with sound performance good enough to keep you motivated and happy when you're pushing yourself to the limits.
The main option to consider here is whether you want traditional wired or Bluetooth wireless 'phones. The former offer an unshakeable audio connection with no battery life issues, but the latter gives more freedom, albeit at the expense of having one more thing to charge and occasional audio drop-outs. That's especially true when cycling as your body position can block the connection on less well-designed wireless models.
Trainer Ti100 • £150
We were fans of the original Trainer by Gibson headphones. And in fact, we still are, but we always prefer in-ears to on-ears for running, so we now feel like we slightly overrated those, and like these better. Yes, we're fickle.
The Ti100 is a comfortable, excellent sounding pair of earphones that's very light, well weighted, and comes with a choice of ear-tips. There's your more traditional silicone earphone tips (pointless for running, in our opinion, but whatever) and also the more athlete-specific, hooked style. The latter are far better, in our view, for running at any kind of pace greater than "British middle distance runner since Steve Cram retired".
Even with the hooked tips, unlike Monster's earphones, the Ti100 never feels absolutely, rock-solidly anchored in your ear. However, many people find that sensation unpleasant and disorientating (we don't but hey, that's just us), so we suspect the less "deep-penetration" feel of the Ti100 actually has more mass appeal.
Crucially, although they feel looser, like they could come out, they never actually did so during our testing.
As with the over-ear Trainer, build does not feel as robust to us as the likes of Monster, Jabra or Veho - the USB charger cover, in particular, feels like its days are numbered.
However, unlike the original Trainers, we haven't contrived to break these ones, yet. And, to be fair, our concerns could just be a perception thing because this weighs NOTHING (okay, 14g), and looks and feels very nice indeed compared to the chunky plastic aesthetic nightmare wrought by most running-specific earphones.
Gibson, for its part claims that its 'Zylon fibre-reinforced cable, the same used in cutting-edge F1 cars' means it'll actually last for ages. Time will tell, we guess.
What we can say after a month of testing is that the audio, fit, weighting and feel of these is exemplary. Audio quality is better than any of their rivals here, except perhaps the Sennheisers. The six-hours-or-so battery life? Well, that's acceptable given that these weigh only 14g.
If you're a non-ham-fisted runner who demands better audio, the Trainer Ti100 is right at the top of the heap, and merits its high price.
Monster Adidas Sport Response • £40/£60
At the opposite end of the spectrum to the Trainer by Gibson we have these excellent, few-frills in-ear headphones. The green ones (£60) have an in-line mic and buttons so you can make and receive calls and control volume and skip tracks. The blue ones (£40) do not.
The great thing about these, for those who aren't averse to shoving things down their ear canals, is that once in place they are pretty much impossible to dislodge, thanks to the hooks that sit within the curves of your outer ear. Despite this, they're not uncomfortable at all, and are able to withstand sweat, "look at me, I'm tired" head waggling and the usual tugging and shifting that you always get with wired earphones.
Sound quality, clearly, is not going to be audiophile grade, but full credit to Monster: these sound good for what they cost, with plenty of bottom end, though admittedly the upper mid to treble range is quite muddy. They do enough to carry a tune, especially if it's something forceful and rhythmic. We've happily worn these as day-to-day earphones, when not working out.
Continuing our habit of destroying headphones, we did once manage to kill a pair of these stone dead by putting it in a water-filled, post-shower ear. That was a bit disappointing, but at 40 quid, it's not like they're a stretch to replace, and the fact that we actually did get a new pair of these rather than switching brands is quite telling.
Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless • £149
In-ear headphones with a heart rate monitor and virtual personal trainer built in, these really are some of the best running buds you can buy. Clearly they're not exactly cheap, but they are £50 less than when they first hit the market.
They're wireless, so there are no cables to get caught up in your running kit and flailing arms, but it's the nifty pulse tracking that steals the show. Not only is it accurate enough to be useful - not something that can be said for every HR tracker that doesn't strap to your chest - but it also, via an Android and iOS app on your phone, gives live audio feedback on your current beats per minute and heart rate zone.
You can choose a workout beforehand and it'll tell you to work harder to push your heart rate up through the zones, and you can also call on your phone's GPS to get distance updates and map your run. Data collected is then available for further perusal, post-workout.
You can quibble about the accuracy of the GPS (though that's largely your phone's fault, to be fair), the cost and the short, four-hour battery life, but these are a great pair of cans. The icing on top is that sound quality is actually pretty good as well. It's not going to win any prizes for bass response but they're punchy, clear and easy to listen to. Nice one.
Sennheiser OCX 686G Sports • £50
Not to be confused with the 686G, which hooks over your ears and has slightly better sound quality, but for 30 quid more, this is another in-ear headphone that's for exercise (so anti-microbial coatings on the earbuds, resistance to sweat and fairly intrusive, hard-to-dislodge fit) yet doesn't compromise on sound quality.
High output drivers deliver super sounding noise, while a clever mix of cable routing and ear canal coupling reduces the background noise, letting you focus on your tunes and gym session. Ear clips keeps the buds secured even when you're running at speed and a reinforced cable adds an extra hit of durability.
Add an inline mic and volume/skip controls and you have a winning combo.
Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition • £40
Looking for some running buds that won't budge? These are for you. Twistlock tech keeps everything in place, sitting so snug in your ears that Yurbuds feels able to claim they will "never" fall out.
Multiple caps are included, with sets for more noise isolation or (a bit) more comfort, as you prefer, and the cord is constructed from Kevlar.
The sound isn't the best, lacking as it does bass and vibrancy, but they get the job done, are highly secure and feel as if they'll last a long time, although we think Yurbuds might be tempting fate by offering a lifetime guarantee - nothing's that indestructible. Anyway, at £40, they're no big deal to replace if lost or broken.
Monster iSport Wireless Superslim • £130
The lightest Bluetooth headphones you could get when launched (and as far as we're aware nothing has overtaken it since), these are washable, wireless and wonderful.
The Monster iSport Wireless Superslim has the same impossible-to-dislodge earhooks as the same brand's Adidas Sport Response and despite the light, 50g weight, audio is surprisingly good. There's a lot of bass, and enough mid and treble to carry you along, although it's not going to please lovers of soprano singing and the glockenspiel. For dance, rock, and what you might call 'motivational' sounds in general, the quality is absolutely fine.
Surely something has to give to get down to such a low weight and profile, and it's the battery life - you'll be lucky to get five hours. However, if you remember to charge up regularly, for most people who are at least semi-serious about fitness, that's about enough for a week's worth of running and gym-going.
The fact that you can literally rinse them under a tap to clean is another nice touch, and they seem very robust. Arguably the cable joining the buds together is a little longer than it needs to be, but that's better than being too short. We did find that Bluetooth dropped now and then, but that seems unavoidable with a wireless connection in an exercise context, and it wasn't frequent enough to become annoying.
Sure, this is a premium product, but come on, you're a premium guy. You deserve it!
Trainer by Gibson • £200
Endorsed by Usain Bolt, no less, these Bluetooth, wireless headphones are unusual in the fitness market in that they're on-ear rather than in-ear. First up, there were no issues connecting with Bluetooth whatsoever: very fast pairing and they almost never drop connection.
With Gibson's pedigree, it's not surprising to find that they sound excellent. In fact, easily the best out of the headphones on this list. There's plenty of volume if you need it, enough bass, without being overbearing, and exemplary clarity.
They're very light, but perhaps inevitably, comfort is not as good as with the best in-ears. We started to get a bit weary of wearing them after 45 minutes or so, but that's fine for most runs or gym visits.
They also don't stay in place as well as the best in-ears, although a second, pop-out headband does give impressive stability when you're being poetry in motion.
There are some negatives here. The main one being that we contrived to break the thin, pop-out band by putting it in a gym bag. It's still usable with just the main band, but you do lose the extra stability. Yes, we should have been more careful but fitness headphones should be able to take a bit of abuse. They also acquire a bit of an aroma if you sweat on them a lot.
Volume up and down buttons a bit on the small side and harder to find when running than we'd like, and there is a LOT of sound leakage, so wearing them on the tube to the gym might be ill-advised. Run instead.
So while we've got reservations, overall the Gibson Trainer genuinely made us look forward to a run. They sound great, feel comfortable when you're working out despite their comparative bulk, and battery life seems to be around 10 hours, which is fine.
A lot of people can't stand in-ear headphones. They should give the Gibson Trainer a listen - just don't batter it about too much when the second band is popped out.
Bose Soundsport II • £115
Bose isn't the first brand you'd think of when it comes to sporty audio, but it's actually the official provider of wireless headsets to coaches in the NFL, so there's actually quite the athletic pedigree to these (non-wireless) earphones.
The brand has covered these earbuds, which come in three sizes, with a hydrophobic cloth that keeps sweat out while not restricting the sound quality and flow. They come with an in-line mic and an extension cable for versatility, plus a carry case, because Bose. Does anyone actually ever use headphone carry cases? There's also a choice of five colours.
Sound quality is excellent and longevity looks promising so far, but do note that there's a model for iPhone and a model for Galaxy, and no model for any other phone, though that only affects the call receive and music buttons - they still work as audio products whatever your mobile of choice.
Skullcandy Method • £25
Suffer from ‘headphones slipping out your ear’ syndrome? Well Skullcandy has the solution, a nifty new ear gel tech that apparently makes these buds ’30%’ more secure. Now, we’re not sure how this is calculated, but we’ve tried them out and they do stay jammed into our ears very well.
They’re sweat resistant too, plus they sound pretty good, and there's a mic and volume/skip controls. You know: for making calls and controlling the volume/skipping tracks.
However, the main thing here is the price. At £25 (or even less if you shop around), it almost doesn't matter if your Skullcandy Method earphopnes wear out, get left in the changing room, or put through the washing machine.
Veho ZS-2 • £8
The water-resistant Veho ZS-2 has come down in price so much, they're now practically coming free with cornflakes. With a IP64 rating, the sporty buds are resistant to water, sweat and rain, so you can really push them during your workouts. The cord is designed to be tangle proof and the 10mm acoustic drivers pump out some good sound.
Overall: small, light, comfortable, come in a pretty natty yellow and black colour and cost practically nothing. What's the audio like? Not amazing. But what do you expect?
Denon AH-W150 • £60
Supporting wireless audio streaming from Bluetooth-enabled devices, these headphones are sweatproof and have an integrated amplifier to deliver great sound quality. The seven-hour rechargeable battery pack means they'll last you through a marathon, although we're not sure they're quite comfortable enough to want to do so.
They have (slightly fiddly) buttons and a microphone for making calls and controlling your music. Oh, and they have a reflective back band, so you're more visible for when pounding the streets at night. We weren't overly impressed with the robustness of the Denon AH-W150, and we did get the odd Bluetooth drop out, but they're hardly unique in that respect. At the price, which is about £80 less than their original RRP, they're a decent all-round deal, though not exceptional in any way.
SMS Audio BioSport • £111
This really is wearable tech, rather than just a pair of earphones; as with the Jabra Pulse, there's a built-in heart rate monitor in the SMS Audio BioSport. That means you don't have to strap one to your chest or wrist, which can only be a good thing.
Intel’s inbuilt optical sensor is sufficiently subtle that you wouldn’t guess these lightweight, waterproof headphones really can measure your heart rate as you exercise. But they can and they do so without the need of a battery - they draw power from your smartphone, which also displays your HR data via the RunKeeper app.
Even better, the monitoring is reasonably accurate, although if you're really into strict zone training, maybe not accurate enough. The fact that there's a mic and control button but no volume controls is irksome, as is the fact that HR tracking cuts out if you activate the mic, but the main problem with this is they sound fairly mediocre. However, they do deliver a lot of tech for your money, undeniably.
Bottom line: if you fancy Jabra's similar earphones but don't have quite the necessary budget, or are put off by their short battery life, these are a decent enough alternative.