You might be looking for the best running headphones, but what follows is the list of the best headphones for workouts, gym sports … and, of course, the best headphones for running. At the end of the day, exercise is exercise, and all of the listening devices below should survive your sweatiest workouts and most intense running sessions.
The best sports headphones have all features you might need: they're often rain- and sweatproof, have long battery life, charge quickly, and are comfortable to wear while providing a secure fit. Most sports headphones go the extra mile by offering active noise cancelling (ANC), personalised sound, a bacteria-busting case, solar charging and more.
Whatever your activities of choice, rest assured these buds will soundtrack your path to getting fit this year! If you're seeking further sonic inspiration, we also have roundups of the best wireless headphones and best wireless earbuds. More wearable options can be found on T3's best running watches and best fitness tracker guides.
Open-ear workout headphones are having a moment, with companies such as Cleer Audio and Shokz rolling out their own versions left-right-centre. These headphones allow for better spatial awareness, which is ideal when you're out and about running or cycling in traffic. Of course, you can always just get Transparency Mode-enabled earbuds, which also often have active noise cancellation, giving you the best of both worlds.
The best running headphones to buy right now
Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
The 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 LG Tone Free fit UTF8 took us by surprise. Not that we didn't expect LG's dedicated workout to sound good, but these compact buds offer so much more than just excellent sound quality. Despite the small form factor – the Tone Free fit UTF8 are some of the smallest workout headphones we've tried – the earbuds sound exceptionally clear. Better still, they have ANC and Ambient Mode, so you can use them for both indoor and outdoor training.
And you will use the LG Tone Free fit UTF8 quite often since they are just so comfortable to wear. There are three wing tips and ear tips included in the box, although we have appreciated a few more as we have slightly larger ears. That aside, there is hardly anything else you could criticise about the earbuds. They are IP67-rated and can be washed under the tap after use. The case also has what's called UVnano technology that shines a blue light on the buds, which is said to kill 99.9% of the bacteria.
Another one of our favourite features is the 'Plug & Wireless' mode, which lets you use the charging case as a Bluetooth transmitter; just connect the case to the treadmill (or whatever) else via a 3.5mm jack to the USB-C cable and listen uninterrupted to the instructions coming from the running machine. Overall, the LG Tone Free fit UTF8 are excellent compact noise cancelling earbuds for running and workouts.
Read our full LG TONE Free fit UTF8 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 such 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 built quality and design. Unlike the Powerbeats Pro, these gym headphones have a small enough charging case you can quickly sink in 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.
As far as open-ear workout headphones go, the Cleer ARC II Sport is pretty much perfect. It offers long battery life, crisp sound, a comfortable yet secure fit, and an IPX5 water rating. It produces a good enough sound to please audiophiles and is resilient enough for workouts. We loved the stereo effect of the headphones and the fact we could listen to songs with such clarity without compromising spatial awareness while out running.
For the price of the Cleer ARC II Sport, you can buy decent noise-cancelling wireless buds (with transparency mode), narrowing down the pool of potential buyers. However, it's worth noting that even the most sophisticated transparency mode can't match the spatial awareness of open-ear headphones. Plus, few sports earbuds in this price bracket have such balanced sounds as the Cleer ARC II Sport.
Read our full Cleer ARC II Sport review.
The Jaybird Vista 2 headphones are a real class act. They managed to improve on their predecessor, the excellent Jaybird Vista, by adding ambient sound mode (called SurroundSense) and improved audio performance without losing the buds' signature robust build quality. The Jaybird Vista 2 has an IP68 rating, so it should be able to withstand even the sweatiest of your workouts.
Battery life isn't bad at 6 hours – or 8 hours if you don't have noise-cancelling or SurroundSense on – and the battery case will top that up to a full 24 hours with judicious recharges. The Vista 2 also has a quick charge function; 5 minutes on the charger will replenish 1 hour of playtime. The Jaybird Vista 2 has excellent sound quality, and you can further customise the sound in the Jaybird App. Pro tip: if it feels like the Vista 2 buds aren't loud enough, it could be because the buds' volume is not connected to the Bluetooth volume. Pressing and holding the multifunctional button will increase the volume.
Read our full Jaybird Vista 2 review.
The Shokz OpenFit open-back headphones provide an intriguing listening experience. The open-back design allows for excellent ambient sound transparency, perfect for runners and cyclists who must be aware of their surroundings. However, the lack of noise isolation and sound leakage may be drawbacks for those seeking a personal listening environment. Overall, the Shokz OpenFit open-back headphones are recommended to active people who prefer to know what's happening around them and don't mind sacrificing some privacy or care much about noise isolation.
Read our full Shokz OpenFit review.
What makes true wireless headphones suitable for exercise? They need to be water/sweatproof, must have a secure but comfortable fit and decent sound quality. The IP54-rated Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless ticks all the boxes and even offers some level of situational awareness, thanks to the 'open' and 'closed' ear adaptor system.
In fact, the Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless is this close [holds two fingers up very close to each other] to be the perfect 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.
Read our full Sennheiser SPORT True Wireless review.
The Adidas RPT-02 SOL delivers an experience you'd expect from similarly priced premium headphones: they sound good, have long battery life and have the perfect fit for workouts. The on-ear design provides excellent passive noise cancellation, maybe a bit too excellent for those who like to hear people and traffic around them. A small price to pay for better sound quality! Not to mention, you can always turn the volume down to hear your surrounding better.
The sporty fit is amazing for runs and workouts but not ideal for all-day wear, something you'll soon find out after putting the headphones on. People with glasses will feel the pressure even sooner, so if you're looking for cans to put in the office and hammer away on the keyboard all day, look elsewhere. As for light charging, you'll need a strong light source to activate the Powerfoyle cells, although it's not impossible to top the otherwise crazy-long battery life up using other light sources than the sun.
Read our full Adidas RPT-02 SOL 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.
Read our full Beats Powerbeats Pro review.
How to choose the best running headphones for you
Performance headphones must sound good and stay in place during the most intense exercise sessions; otherwise, you could just get 'standard' wireless earbuds or wireless headphones. Therefore, before buying your next sports headphones, you must consider the type of exercise you prefer to do and the sound performance you're after.
Runners often choose bone-conduction headphones as they allow them to hear ambient sound, making it safer to run in areas with a lot of traffic. That said, many premium running headphones have a 'hear-through' feature, allowing the buds to let sound in.
Cyclists are in a tricky situation; they can't use bone-conduction headphones as there is too much wind noise, so they must use in-ear headphones when they ride. They are also limited in terms of design. For example, ear hook models would be ideal for cyclists to ensure they won't lose them – you really don't want headphones falling out of your ears when you're zooming down a slope at 40 mph – but since they often wear cycling sunglasses, the ears are already taken, so to say. Cyclists should use in-ear buds with excellent grip and adjustable eargels and wingtips.
Gym bunnies and buffs often use over-ear headphones to cancel out ambient noise and help them stay in the zone without having to fiddle around with how the buds fit. They don't have to worry about cars coming their way when they lift; their main concern is maintaining the mind-muscle connection.
How we test the best running headphones
Our running headphones testing process involves listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks during sweat-inducing workouts to see how well they can distract our attention from the pain caused by working out too much. As well as putting the sports headphones through their sound quality paces, we also pay particular attention to fit and how well they cope with intense head movements during HIIT workouts and sprints.
It's simply the worst when buds fall out of your ears during a run or lifting workout; as such, headphones that don't fit well can't be included in this guide. Finally, we test running earbuds' durability and sweat resistance and whether they live up to the claims manufacturers made in their promo materials. And yes, sometimes this involves taking a shower while wearing swim-proof headphones. Grow up, people.
Read about how we test at T3 by clicking on the link.
Which type of headphones is best for sports?
Many runners prefer bone-conduction headphones for running as those leave the ears uncovered and the person more aware of their surroundings. For the same reason, these headphones might not be the most ideal in noisy environments since they let in too much ambient noise, making it hard to hear what's being played in the headphones.
Running headphones with ambient mode are a good alternative as these buds often also have active noise cancelling (ANC). When the ambient mode is turned on, the earbuds use their microphones to feedback sound from the outside world so that you're more aware. When running indoors – e.g. on a treadmill – you can activate ANC and block out sound, so you can get in the zone easier.
What are the best waterproof headphones for running?
Technically speaking, the best waterproof headphones for running is the Jaybird Vista 2, as it's IP68 rated. In fact, unless they change the ingress protection rating system, no future buds can be more resistant to solids and liquids than the Vista 2s.
That said, just because some headphones aren't IP68-rated doesn't mean they are suitable for sweaty workouts. For example, the Jabra Elite 7 Active have an IP57 rating, so unless you need headphones for swimming, they should be more than okay.
Bone conduction headphones often have an excellent ingress protection rating as they haven't got speakers – instead, they vibrate your cheekbones to produce sound. The Shokz OpenRun have an IP67 rating, so you can rinse them under the tap after workouts without any issues.
For comparison, the Beats Fit Pro are IPX4-rated, and even those headphones are said to be sweat and water-resistant. To summarise, unless you want to keep your running headphones underwater for prolonged periods of time, any headphones with at least an IPX4 rating should suffice.
Are over-ear headphones better for running?
Many runners use over-ear headphones as they provide a more robust sound and often a more secure fit than in-ear buds. It's true – it's less likely that over-ear headphones will fall out of your ear unnoticed. However, they will make your ears warmer (not ideal for long runs) and block out ambient noise, which also isn't ideal when you run in traffic. So, as they say, you win some, you lose some when you wear over-ear headphones for running.
Is it better to run with earbuds or headphones?
Modern earbuds produce a fuller sound and provide a secure fit, making them better suited for running and workouts. Considering the small form factor, these listening devices can be worn longer than headphones, improving comfort levels. On the other hand, headphones produce a more robust sound, thanks to their larger drivers. Some people also prefer them for their noise-isolation properties; it's easier to stay in the zone when your ears are covered with huge cans.
Do noise cancelling headphones work in the gym?
Gyms are noisy environments. Loud music blares from the speakers, weights and machines clank, and people talk and groan, which can be quite a lot to cope with both for people and headphones. Are the best gym headphones able to cope with such noise levels? Yes and no.
There are different types of noise cancellation technologies and features, including noise isolation and active noise cancellation (ANC), to name a couple. Over-ear headphones often provide at least noise isolation, as they cover your ears, naturally filtering out some of the ambient noise.
While smaller earbuds also offer some noise isolation – they sit in the ear canal, after all – they are better at providing ANC, which uses noise-cancelling speakers to reduce unwanted background noise. Premium headphones brand Bang and Olufsen uses microphones that "listen" to the sounds outside and inside of the earphones. Based on this, the ANC chipset inverts the soundwaves, and a speaker inside the earphone cancels the outside sound by neutralising the soundwaves.
This can be quite effective; some headphones can cancel out up to 42dB of noise. This is enough to make the outside world quieter, albeit not completely silent. Even if there were headphones that could completely silence all outside noise, we wouldn't recommend these in gyms, as you do have to pay attention to your surroundings in case of an emergency. Some noise isolation r cancellation is fine, though.