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?
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It has to be said that the best running headphones are only going to serve to improve your runs, by serving up a soundtrack to keep you motivated and your energy levels high. But that also means you need your running headphones to be able to overcome a number of obstacles.
First and foremost, they need to provide great quality sound. You also need your running headphones to be able to survive against a barrage of sweat and maybe even rain, if you choose to head out on the road no matter the weather. Finally, they need to have a long battery life; there's nothing worse than having your music cu out mid-run when you're on course to smash your PB time.
Fortunately, headphone manufacturers understand your needs and you'll now find an incredible selection of running headphones to suit all musical tastes and budgets (and mobile phone operating systems).
For us, the best running headphones are those of the true wireless variety, but we understand if some runners will prefer to have a neckband or wire connecting the two earpieces together for added security. While the majority of running headphones will have been designed to stay in your ears for hours on end, it's always worth preparing for the worst, and you would hate to take a tumble and for your in-ear headphones to go rolling off out of sight.
We've rounded up our pick of the best running headphones, that will also feel right at home in the gym to soundtrack your workouts.
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.
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
The Jabra Elite 7 Active buds are a significant update over the Jabra Elite Active 75t and offer more personalised sound, better fit and even improved call performance thanks to the three-microphone-per-bud setup. Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) can be personalised via the Jabra Sound+ app. ANC benefits significantly from this, and as long as you set it up correctly – i.e. in a noisy environment – it will help keep unwanted sound away from your ears so you can get in the zone faster during your workouts.
The battery life on the Jabra Elite 7 Active is also excellent. In fact, taking into account the size of the buds, eight hours of continuous playback is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The case holds another 22 hours of battery life, enabling you to keep the buds and the case charger cable-free for 30 hours. The Elite 7 Active is significantly cheaper than the Elite 7 Pro, and the only thing you miss out on is the call quality (the Elite 7 Pro has a better mic setup), which might not be as crucial from a workout point of view anyway.
Read our full Jabra Elite 7 Active review
The Beats Fit Pro combines great fit, easy and intuitive pairing and controls, and excellent sound quality. The battery life is about as good as you ask for out of a pair of earbuds at this size, and the implementation of the active noise cancellation and transparency mode is phenomenal. Sadly, some of the features are only available to iPhone users, so if you have an Android phone, you might be better off choosing the Jabra Elite 7 Active – those buds also have ANC and transparency mode but lack the wing tips.
As expected from a pair of Beats buds, the Fit Pro has a sublime build quality and design. Unlike the Powerbeats Pro (featured further down), these gym headphones have a small enough charging case you can quickly slip into your pocket. You'll not be left wanting if you grab a pair of these for your next workout.
Read our full Beats Fit Pro review
The AirPods Pro 2 are easily Apple's best in-ear headphones to date, and they also make for some of the best running headphones that also function as a great accompaniment in the gym or for everyday use. For us, this actually makes them good value for money, as they tick off a number of uses, and performs well at all of them.
Apple has improved the noise cancellation compared to the inaugural AirPods Pro in-ears, so if you're looking for a truly effective way to block out external noises when out on a run or in the gym, look no further.
We know some people have complained about the silicone ear tips not providing a tight enough seal in the ear, causing the AirPods Pro 2 to fall out. Personally, we've not experienced this, but to help rectify any potential issues, Apple now includes four sizes of ear tips to help ensure you get the best possible fit.
Read our full Beats Fit Pro review
What makes true wireless headphones suitable for exercise?
A) They need to be water/sweatproof – The Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless is IP54 rated for dust and splashes. Check!
B) They must have a secure but comfortable fit – These headphones fit perfectly, although they aren't most comfortable for long-term wear
C) They should have decent sound quality – The SPORT True Wireless has excellent sound, better than some more expensive headsets
D) Offers some level of situational awareness – Thanks to the 'open' and 'closed' ear adaptor system, the SPORT True Wireless not only lets in more noise when required but can also isolate you from your surroundings if you'd prefer.
As you can see, the Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless is this close [holds two fingers up very close to each other] to being the perfect pair of headphones for running and workouts. Should it not be for the faff of having to change ear tips (and the bulky charging case), it might even reach the top of our running headphones guide.
What works especially in their favour is their price, which is around half the price of some other pairs on this list. For our money then, they offer incredible bang for your buck.
Read our full Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless review
The audio performance of the Beats Powerbeats Pro is beyond amazing – sound comes through the buds with the utmost clarity so that you won't miss a beat – pun intended – even if you are in the middle of the most challenging gym workout session. Thanks to the earhook design, the Powerbeats Pro headphones won't fly off your ears, no matter if you use them for running or kettlebell swings.
The only downside we 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.
As with the Beats Fit Pro, iPhone users stand to benefit the most from owning the Powerbeats Pro (they work with Apple's 'Find My' feature if you mislay them) but Android users can still revel in the incredible sound quality.
Read our full Beats Powerbeats Pro review
The Amazfit PowerBuds Pro are different from your everyday running headphones, and not just because they have an Apple AirPod-esque look. Amazfit's top-dog true wireless buds can measure heart rate and automatically detect running; better still, they can increase bass when you're running (a.k.a. Motion Beat mode) so you can hear the pounding bass in your ears better, no matter how loud the traffic is around you.
But wait, there is more! The Amazfit PowerBuds Pro have an independent acoustic module, LCP liquid crystal diaphragm, and dome pattern design which is said to provide deeper bass, calmer midrange and clearer treble for superior sound quality. Sound is, in fact, très bien, although it can lack power in the lower registers. Never mind, if you need more bass, all you have to do is start running!
Of course, too much bass might affect the sound quality and your hearing (in a bad way), but the PowerBuds Pro are here to assist you. They have a 'Hearing health' mode which recommends a weekly time limit to wear the buds based on in-ear volume. Pretty nifty!
There is also active noise cancelling and ambient modes; the former even does its job adaptively, meaning it turns ANC up and down based on how loud the environment is around you. This works okay, although we found the ANC slightly underwhelming in loud traffic. Maybe we just like to be completely sealed off from the outside world?
We were delighted with the Amazfit Powerbuds Pro during testing. There bring a number of exciting features to the table, and although they're not studio cans – you shouldn't expect a high-end audio experience – the sound quality is very decent. The buds are not super cheap, but you get a lot of features for your money. Highly recommended.
Read our full Amazfit PowerBuds Pro review
It seems as though Bose listened to feedback on the previous SoundSport Free model when designing the Sport Earbuds. They're fair less bulky and protrude far less from your ears, which is music to our, well, ears.
As found sound quality and performance when you're punishing your body, there's good things to say across the board. They deliver a lovely, bass-rich yet balanced sound that forms a soundstage far larger than their diminutive size would have you expect. Do note, however, that there isn't any noise cancellation here, only sound isolation caused by the snug fit in your ear canal.
Bose has once again supplied its in-ear silicone hooks (or fins, if that's what you'd rather call them) to provide a more secure fit, preventing them from moving or falling out during a run or workout.
The Bose Sport Earbuds represent the most affordable entry point into the world of Bose in-ears, although it must be said there are other pairs that either cost the same, or only a little bit more, that do offer ANC. If this is something that's super important to you, then we would suggest checking out other pairs of earbuds on this list.
Read our full Bose Sport Earbuds review