What’s the best bone conduction headphones? These relatively new devices are finding fame among runners and, just lately, with swimmers also. Just the phrase ‘bone conduction’ will put some on edge, but there’s nothing to be worried about. All it means is that instead of having headphones physically in your ear you wear a headset with small transducers that sit just in front of them, and send sound waves directly to your inner ear. Simple!
The reason that bone conduction tech is popular with runners is their open-ear design. With no headphones blocking ambient noise, runners can get their entertainment while also staying completely aware of their surroundings. That’s useful when running along busy roads and in urban areas. So much so that many races now ban the use of old-fashioned in-ear headphones.
The best bone conduction headset is the Shokz OpenRun Pro, which has the best sound quality and the longest battery life at 10 hours. They’re closely followed by the slightly lighter Shokz OpenRun, which are more affordable yet retain many of the same qualities.
How to choose the best bone conduction headphones for you
Before you decide which bone conduction headset is the best one for you, consider exactly what they do well and what you want to use them for. All bone conduction headsets are flexible and tend to be covered in a soft-touch silicon, so grip to skin and hair and tend to stay completely still while you run. However, if you have a lot of hair you may find them extremely annoying; we’ve seen some runners get in quite a tangle.
Although the latest and priciest bone conduction headsets do have a longer battery life, that’s not necessarily important. After all, how often do you go running for 10 hours?! Cheaper models manage six hours at least, which is enough for anyone.
That said, also think about how they recharge. While older models tend to use micro USB and USB-C slots to recharge – likely using a cable you commonly already use for other devices in your home – newer models have transitioned to using magnetically-attaching proprietary charging cables, which may or may not appeal to you.
It also depends on whether you’re a runner or a swimmer and/or whether you like to run with your smartphone. Almost all bone conduction headsets stream music from a phone over Bluetooth, but there are some that also act as MP3 players for phone-free running and – if they’re waterproof – for swimming, too.
Choose wisely and you’ll get years of hands-free, safety-first music and podcasts from the best bone conduction headsets while you run, hike and swim.
The best bone conduction headset 2022
The best bone conduction headphones for most people are the Shokz OpenRun. If you’re keen to get some of the best bone conduction headphones around but can’t quite stretch to the asking price of the Pro version below then consider this (only very slightly) pared-down model. Formerly called the AfterShokz Aeropex, they offer a decent eight hours of battery life and have a handy quick-charge feature that sees them go for an hour and a half on just a 10-minute charge.
They don’t sound quite as good as the OpenRun Pro, but it’s not a big issue. They’re actually a few grams lighter than their big sister and their flexible silicone-coated metal headband is always comfortable to wear. They recharge using a magnetic charging connector beside some very tiny control buttons. For all the details, see our Shokz OpenRun review.
The new queen of bone conduction headsets? The first Shokz product to be built using ninth-generation bone-conduction technology, the OpenRun Pro boasts the best sound quality yet for music. It actually weighs a tad more than the OpenRun, though that’s down to a larger battery (which stretches to a whopping 10 hours) and slightly bigger buttons. It also recharges via a magnetic charging connector on the rear of the product.
Should you just go for an entry-level bone conduction headset? There are a few corners cut on the Shokz OpenMove when compared to the brand’s high-end options, but their slightly less comfortable polycarbonate ear hooks, slightly less clear sound quality aside and shorter battery life, you'll struggle to see where.
Sometimes its entry-level status works in its favour. For example, a so-called ‘upgrade’ on the OpenRun and OpenRun Pro that doesn’t feature on the OpenMove is a magnetically-attaching charging cable. Upgrade or an annoyance? If you don’t want to have to travel with a proprietary charging cable then the OpenMove’s simple USB-C slot will appeal to you …. and you might want to snap this one up before it fades from Shokz’ arsenal.
A bone conduction headset with reflective detailing on the headband? Genius! Considering that bone conduction gear is mainly used for running this brand’s safety first ‘Alula’ clip-on reflective strip feature is welcome, but there’s a lot more to like about this challenger brand’s debut product.
IP67-rated weatherproof, the Mojawa Mojo1 has a good build quality and the same soft-to-the-touch silicon coating on a flexible headband as found on rivals. It also has a similar magnetically-attaching proprietary charging cable, though the link isn’t strong. The Mojawa Mojo1’s audio is distinctly different to Shokz products, with more bass - thanks to its larger transducers – and a little less treble clarity. Find out more in our Mojawa Mojo1 review.
If you swim a lot you’ll know how great it is for fitness … and how utterly tedious it can be. Cue the OpenSwim (formerly called the AfterShokz Xtrainerz), the best waterproof bone conduction headset out there that is nevertheless a different beast to most of its land-lubber rivals.
Since Bluetooth doesn’t work underwater the OpenSwim is actually an all-in-one MP3 player that requires you to drag-and-drop MP3 files onto its 4GB innards. You don’t have any MP3 files anymore? No, nor do we, but you can quite easily source podcasts as MP3 files.
Used with some supplied earplugs the OpenSwim works really well underwater, where bass levels are excellent, though it does slightly lack in volume. It’s a shame they don’t have Bluetooth for the walk home from the pool, but these remain the best swimming headphones available; find out why in our Shokz OpenSwim review.