Although people tend to search for 'best running headphones' (or 'headphones for running'), what follows is also a list of the best buds for gym, work outs, sports, cross-fit, cycling and fell trekking, as well as running. Naturally, a lot of you are working out at home more now, but a pair of headphones is still a better option for most people than using a speaker, and where outdoor exercise is still possible, they're more essential than ever.
However, with our ever-updating price widgets, and workout bud and running headphones that range from under AU$60 to around AU$350, you needn't wait that long to get the best workout buds and running headphones deals.
Whatever your activities of choice, these buds and sports headphones will soundtrack your path to fitness. That's because they resist sweat, have Bluetooth wireless convenience and a fit that can stand up to the movement inherent in running, gym workouts and other physical jerks. We've listed all the lowest prices on the best running headphones below so you can be sure you're getting a good deal on your model of choice.
What are the best running headphones and headphones for the gym?
My advice for a while now to anyone picking the best running headphones for their workouts has been to go true wireless and right now, the Mother of All True Wireless Gym Buds is ready for you to buy: Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats Pro have better sound quality than any other true wireless bud and are not shakeable from your ears by anything short of a tsunami. They also have no-button access to Siri, if you want that and the same controls on both buds – that sounds simple but it's a masterstroke.
Once you get used to having no wire at all rubbing on the back of your neck and no snagging on things ever, it is bloody hard to go back to the more traditional styles of running/gym headphones, even older Bluetooth ones. Powerbeats Pro are the clear standout option but there are several supremely good, more affordable alternatives, such as Jabra's Elite Active 65t. Those on a budget should look no further than Anker Soundcore's Liberty Neo – they're cheap at around AU$90.
For supreme audio quality that also comes with the best active noise cancellation in the business look no further that the phenomenal Sony WF-1000XM3. These delightful buds will treat you to stunning music quality while blocking out everything trying to distract you from your purpose.
The various limitations of true wireless, which make them irritating to use as full-time buds, just don't apply if you only run, ride or work out in them. The battery life is usually short (although guess what? Powerbeats Pro will go for 9 hours per charge) but it’s more than long enough for gym and running, at least for anyone who's not doing ultra-marathons. The usually slightly poorer sound quality of True Wireless is also less important for pumpin', workout-style listening. Obviously, if you work out to Nick Drake, it'll be more of an issue, but I think you may be in a minority, there.
How to choose the best running headphones for you
A decent pair of sports headphones are a very worthy investment. Research has shown that the right type and tempo of tune can keep you in the zone for longer, and we've all run up park steps to a suitably bombastic soundtrack like we're Rocky. Even if we've then keeled over at the top.
There are four things to look for, really.
1. Waterproofing. Although a 'normal' pair of headphones can work well for exercise, if they fit well enough, they're just not built to stand up to heavy rain when running or, more importantly, sweat when doing any exercise. And sooner or later, sweat or heavy rain will find them. And it will kill them. All the headphones here are sweatproof and rain resistant, but not suitable for immersion (ie: swimming, or running in Manchester).
2. A secure but comfortable fit. You can get all sorts of fitness-oriented designs that wrap tightly around your head, over and around your ears, and then deep into your cranium. However in my experience, the best types of running headphones are actually either true wireless or lightweight Bluetooth in-ears with tips that go into the ear as usual, but with additional, curved, tapered 'hooks' that sit under the antihelix of your ear. For those of you who aren't ear doctors, that is the crater of cartilage that sits above your earhole. Of that type, pioneered (I think) by Monster and Bose, the Powerbeats Pro is the gold standard here, with a different approach that involves using spectacles-style, over-ear hooks.
3. Decent sound quality. Most people want to be able to hear/feel their tunes as they workout and be motivated by them, whilst blocking out the gym/the world. They don't necessarily want to be picking out hitherto undetected nuances in the string quartets of Brahms or the early works of Fleetwood Mac. So while three or four of the running headphones here sound really good, most just sound 'good enough', usually with a sound that favours bottom-end and mid-range tones.
4. Situational awareness. This is all-important for some people, who feel that effectively deafening themselves leaves them in danger of traffic or muggers when road running. If you are one of these people, have a look at the bone-conducting Aftershokz Aeropex headphones below. It is lighter and louder than its predecessor, although not ideal when the sound levels are above normal.
Whatever the sound you want, there is nothing more annoying than ear buds worming their way out when you're trying to stay focussed. The main causes of this are poorly fitting ear-tips, plus the vibrations through your body and movements of your head as you run or work out. Even the best running headphones can become annoying when their cable snags on the back of your neck or your clothing.
Okay. On your marks, get set, SHOP!
The best headphones for running, gym, sports and fitness
You can't beat these Beats. They share a name and, superficially, an appearance with previous Powerbeats buds but these true wireless powerhouses absolutely crush their predecessors when it comes to quality of sound and security of fit.
The only down side I can think of to Powerbeats Pro is that the battery case is considerably larger than most rivals. However, with 9 hours of life per charge and the ability to give them a charge that lasts a few hours, by plugging them in for just a few minutes, the case is a less essential item than it is with other true wireless buds.
For sheer sound quality and the way they are all but impossible to accidentally dislodge from your ears, Powerbeats Pro are the gold standard of wireless buds for gym and running. Buy some, would be my advice.
• Read our full, 5-star Beats Powerbeats Pro review.
UPDATE! If you can put up with a bit of wiring, the new Beats by Dre Powerbeats have the same unshakeable fit and brilliant sound as the true wireless Pro, for way less money. They are exceptional value.
Sony's fabulous WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones have gotten a true wireless counterpart, and they're every bit as solid as their over-ear siblings.
With state-of-the-art noise-cancelling, a crystal clear yet warm audio signal, and an impressive 24-hour battery life (when using the ANC and recharging with the case), these earbuds are worth every dollar spent on them. They also avoid the foibles of many other non-Apple true wireless buds by establishing a connection between each bud and your device individually, thus dodging the sometimes flaky signals that result from a single primary bud having to connect to both your device and a secondary bud.
The Beats are pretty high-end, and tailored for those who value good audio quality and fine engineering. The Anker Soundcore Spirit Sports are a bit scrappier in the musical department, but easily as good when it comes to running and workout essentials such as sweat-proofing, secure but comfy fit and solid battery life, and they can be had for less than AU$60. What can you get for AU$60 nowadays? Practically nothing!
The killer features here, besides the value for money, are the excellent fit (at least in my ears, although a variety of ear tips mean they should work for most people) and the fact that they're not just sweat-proof but actually submergible in sea water. There's no little cover over the USB charging socket, as on most such headphones, because the socket itself is water resistant.
Now personally, I would not advise going swimming in the sea in these because they will eventually corrode, but this level of protection does inspire confidence they will survive multiple sweaty workouts. I've had supposedly gym-friendly headphones literally explode because sweat got into the charging port, so know of what I speak, here. Sound quality-wise these are nowhere near as good as the Beats, Optoma Nuforce or Jabra buds. However at this price, you might well shrug and ask, 'who cares?'
The Jabra Elite 75t improve upon their predecessors, the Jabra Elite 65t, (below) in just about every way – except for tonal balance.
The headphones and charging case are much smaller, battery life makes an immense jump, catching up to the competition, and the customisation features we enjoyed in the 65t remain.
While they don't have the best sound quality and they lack active noise cancellation, neither stops the Jabra Elite 75t from being a solid pair of true wireless headphones to use, especially if you make frequent calls with your headphones on.
If you're after a great true wireless headphones for running, but can't stretch to Powerbeats Pro, Jabra's Elite Active 65t is your new workout bud. It's also great for gym workouts, cross training, cycling, spinning, rope thrashing and anything else where you get sweaty. Since I started using them, I would now not willingly go back to even the most minimally wired Bluetooth headphones.
For workout purposes the 65t sound great. At launch they sounded a bit 'off' but Jabra has honed the sound with a seemingly never-ending sequence of software updates since then. They're sufficiently bassy, great with pounding, workout-friendly music, and have a reasonable amount of musicality too. I've used them many times as headphones outside of a gym/run environment. There is actually an accelerometer in these, for counting reps and working in conjunction with Jabra's own fitness app. I don't recommend that – get a running/gym watch instead – but some people might find it useful.
It's the comfortable yet unshakeable fit, and complete absence of wires that makes the Jabra Elite 65t so essential for workouts. Once you've tried true wireless, it's very hard to go back to having that wire joining your buds, snagging on your neck or running vest.
One final note: this model, the Elite Active 65t, has a special coating so it 'sticks' in the ear a little better. Jabra's other model, the Elite 65t lacks that coating (there's also no accelerometer, but I'm not too bothered about that). As such, that's less recommendable if you work out outdoors, where there's a risk of them falling out and being lost forever – as, in fact, happened to me. It's otherwise a similarly excellent true wireless earbud.
Until recently, true wireless buds were either expensive, or a bit crap. Now Anker's Soundcore spin-off brand has got involved, that's no longer true. Usually just $87 on Amazon AU – and often on offer for less than that – the Liberty Neo offer excellently reliable Bluetooth connectivity, a great fit and just enough battery life to make them work for workouts. Audio is solid rather than spectacular and obviously overall they can't compete with Powerbeats or the other more expensive true wireless buds further up this chart, but come on – for under AU$100 they are very good... and for what you'll actually pay for them, they're remarkable.
While Jaybird has consistently offered some of the best bang-for-your-buck Bluetooth 'buds, the sport-centric company's first foray into 'Pro' territory proves that they're not just for the conscious.
Improving on almost everything that made its predecessors great, the Jaybird Tarah Pro offers excellent sound (tweakable via the simple Jaybird app), great comfort and fitting options, and all the conveniences you'd come to expect in the ultimate pair of wireless in-ears, such as a 14-hour battery life, magnetic driver housings, and a rugged design.
The way the Bose SoundSport Free buds protrude from your ears gives a look that is somewhat less than icy cool. But if you work out a lot, you probably value performance over appearance, and are well used to looking a tad 'off-beat'. And there is no doubt that at the gym, the SoundSport Free perform.
Sonically, these are a better true wireless option than the slightly artificial sounding Jabra Elite 65t. Like them, they give you five hours of battery life, with 10 more hours provided by recharging in their case. A quick-charge facility gives you 45 minutes use from 15 minutes charging.
Although perfect for the gym or home, I don't consider these great earbuds for running outdoors, or cycling. The fit is brilliantly comfy but less unshakeable than the Jabras, which is off-putting if you hit the ground like a runaway giraffe, as I do. The way they protrude also makes them impossible to wear with your hood up in winter, as they will catch on it. The real problem with the way they protrude, however, is wind noise. They whoosh quite a bit in a breeze and in a high wind, I'd go so far as to say they are unusable.
However, the weird fit is also why they're so comfortable, and with notably better audio than Jabra's Elite 65t, the SoundSport Free are among the very best true wireless buds for the gym and other sports where no wind is likely. Yes, you look a bit stupid wearing them but, come on, you're working out – you probably already look silly.
Curiously, calls only come through one SoundSport Free bud rather than both, so if you're buying these with the intention of making or receiving a lot of calls, bear that in mind. It is weirdly jarring.
The Monster iSport Victory Wireless headphones are an interesting counterpoint to the Sennheiser CX Sport headphones. Overall there's not a great deal to tell between them, and your choice could boil down to whether you value sound quality or firm fit, and what this week's best prices on each happen to be.
Thanks to a wide range of tips and wings, the iSport Victory can be made to sit pretty much unshakeably in your ears. As such, although they are slightly less comfortable than their rivals, they are arguably better suited to really vigorous exercise. They also pair via Bluetooth more quickly and reliably, with a clear voice announcing the battery level (high, medium or low) as well.
On the other hand, this is less musically gifted than its rivals, with Monster going for a more standard 'pumping' sound. But then, to be fair, most people don't listen to Vivaldi or Andrew Bird at the gym, and they do sound suitably 'motivational' when pumping out bass-laced power tunes. I just wouldn't use them for general, non-exercise-related listening, which I do with the NuForce.
One other thing to note: they actually only sound suitably motivational, pumping (etc) so long as the 'Sport' mode is activated (by pushing down both volume controls for a few seconds). In standard, 'Warm Up' mode they're a bit weedy. As I felt the need to permanently keep it in Sport mode, battery life also suffers slightly, although you still get a good 6-7 hours per charge.
Bose is yet another competitor in the 'lightweight buds joined together with a short wire' gym-and-run headphones stakes, and the Bose SoundSport Wireless pair of headphones is, again, very good. However, like the Sennheiser offering it's also somewhat more expensive than NuForce and Monster's takes on the style.
That aside, I don't really have a bad word to say about the SoundSport Wireless. Sound quality is very solid and you could use them outside the gym or after a run quite happily. They also pair and fit very well.
The usual, pleasingly forceful Bose sound quality is present, and the overall package is sweatproof, reasonably rugged and unfailingly comfortable. My only reservation is that the marginal gains over the Monster headphones are not sufficient to justify the price, which tends to be considerably higher.
It doesn't get much safer for runners and cyclists than wearing bone conducting headphones, such as the Aftershokz Aeropex, for outdoor activities. If you haven't tried bone conducting headphones before, these devices go around the ear and resonate the cheekbones to create sound, leaving your ears uncovered.
To describe the effect, listening to music with the Aftershokz Aeropex is like playing music in the background with a speaker: essentially, you will be able to listen to music without compromising your spatial awareness.
Let's crunch some numbers: the Aftersholz Aeropex is 30% smaller and 13% lighter than its predecessor, weighing only 26 grams in total. It has a battery life of up to eight hours and a charging time (from 0 to 100 percent) of two hours. These Bluetooth headphones have a range of 10 metres and an IP67 water rating, meaning the Aftershokz Aeropex is completely sweat and waterproof. It even has a moisture detection alert to let you know if the headphones are too wet to charge.
As for sound quality, I was pleasantly surprised how clear the Aftershokz Aeropex sounds. This is probably due to the PremiumPitch 2.0+ technology, combined with angled transducers that "ensure optimal placement on the cheekbones, delivering deeper bass, less vibration, and louder volume". There you have it.
On the downside, once the sound levels increase around you, it will quickly overtake the sound coming from the Aeropex, regardless of the volume. It might be louder than previous models, but still not loud enough for people to isolate themselves from the outside world. Saying that, it wasn't designed for that purpose anyway, but this also means you won't be able to hear a thing riding the tube, for example.
If you are a safety conscious runner/cyclist, however, who also happen to love listening to music as they exercise, you'll love the Aftershokz Aeropex.