You might be looking for the best running headphones but what follows is the list of the best workout buds, best sports headphones, and the best earbuds for gym, sports, CrossFit, cycling… and, of course, the best headphones for running. The below sport headphones were designed to outlast your sweatiest workouts and longest running sessions, no matter what.
The best headphones for sport have every feature you might need for your workouts: they're rain- and sweatproof, have long battery life and charge quickly. They're also comfortable to wear yet secure, so they don't pop out when shit gets intense.
Naturally, a lot of us are working out at home more, but a pair of the best workout headphones is still a better option for most folk than using even the best wireless speaker, and where outdoor exercise is possible, they're more essential than ever. If you are heading to a swimming pool, try the best swimming headphones on for size instead.
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.
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The best running headphones and best workout earbuds for gym, sports and fitness
I recently revisited the Beats Powerbeats Pro. Often returning to something you loved after a long break can be rather disheartening and part of me was expecting to wonder what I ever saw in Beats by Dr Dre's true wireless workout earbuds. But no! If anything, their absence had made my heart grow fonder, and I was immediately wowed all over again by their musical punch and perfect fit.
So, three years on from their release, you still can't beat these Beats and this is why they won the 'Best Fitness Headphones' prize at the T3 Awards 2021!
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.
Or if you can't quite afford them, get the newer, not-true-wireless-actually Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats. They don't quite have the all-conquering prezzy vibe of the Pro but the sound as good and stay in place just as well. That one little wire joining the buds is one too many, especially after you've sampled Powerbeats Pro.
For more, read our full, 5-star Beats Powerbeats Pro review.
I haven't had these very long… but I've had them long enough to know they are real class. In fact, if you are put off by the unusual 'sawn-off spectacles' design of the Powerbeats Pro – I love them but that's just me – then these should be your next running headphones.
Vista 2 improve on their predecessor in almost every way, without losing the excellent fit and advanced water and muck proofing that made them so special. Sound quality is way better, and there is now both effective noise cancelling and the option to use a 'SurroundSense' mode so you can hear what's going on around you, over your motivational workout soundtrack.
Battery life isn't bad at 6 hours – or 8 hours if you don't want noise cancelling or SurroundSense – and the battery case will top that up to a full 24 hours with judicious recharges.
Skullcandy's Indy ANC is an amazing piece of workout kit for the price. It combines the Audiodo technology with digital active noise cancelling (ANC), making it possible to listen to your playlists in the gym without having to crank up the volume to the max.
This is how it works: you open the Skullcandy App and find the earbuds. Then, in the environment you want to use the headphones, you run the Audiodo test: it's basically listening to sounds played in each ear and marking which sound you hear in the app. Based on this info, the Skullcandy Indy ANC will tailor the sound it emits to your hearing, making it possible to hear sounds you've never heard before.
Combined with ANC, it enables you to listen to songs and podcasts without the volume being on maximum setting, probably saving you from deafness in the long run.
Like this wasn't enough, the Skullcandy also has a long battery life to match its excellent sound output: with ANC on, the buds will work for 5 hours and there is another 14 hours of charge in the wireless charging case. Without the ANC, they will work even longer, 9 hours on the buds and another 23 hours in the case.
The buds can control playback via touch gestures, something that can be a bit confusing at first as the left and right buds often have different functions. For example, swiping the left bud will lower the volume while swiping the right one will increase it. Same goes for skipping songs: long press on the left bud will jump back a song, long pressing the right bud will move the songs forward.
The only downside of the Indy ANC from a workout point of view is the IPX4 rating: it certainly won't like very sweaty workouts. However, for jogging and resistance it's more than adequate and thanks to the wing tips, the Indy ANC will stay firmly in place.
Powerbeats (without the 'Pro' bit) are almost £100/$100 cheaper than their big daddy, and they sound identical – which is to say they sound superb for workout music. And, come to that, superb for non-workout music.
Since they're not true wireless Powerbeats also boast a longer battery life (15 hours to the Pro's 9). Yes, yes, there is that little bit of wire between the buds but because the in-ear fit is also identical to the market-leading Powerbeats Pro, the wire is less irritating than on the many similar-looking buds of this type – you don't feel the snag and drag that you sometimes get.
At this price what you're looking at a very premium, high-quality product that you could still just about call affordable – especially compared to its more illustrious, true wireless big brother. They're similarly excellent for making calls and controlling Siri, too.
If you're after a great true wireless headphones for running, but can't stretch to Powerbeats Pro, Jabra's Elite Active 75t 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 these and the Powerbeats Pro, I would now not willingly go back to even the most minimally wired Bluetooth headphones.
For workout purposes the 75t sound great. Actually, they sound pretty even if you are not working out. 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.
Impressively, Jabra has also now added active noise cancellation via a software update. This is perhaps not from the very top tier of noise reducing technology, but it's a handy and welcome addition nonetheless.
Perhaps even more than the audio, for runners and workout warriors, it's the comfortable yet unshakeable fit that makes the Jabra Elite 75t really essential.
Once you've tried any true wireless for running and workouts, it's hard to go back to having a wire joining your buds, snagging on your neck or running vest. These, however, are exceptional in terms of fit and comfort. Perhaps they are not quite as comfortable or secure as the Beats buds, but the 75t – and their case – are much more compact, and also rated IP57 for dust and water resistance – the Powerbeats are IPX5. As well as this impressive water and sweat resistance, the Elite Active 75t also has a special coating so it 'sticks' in the ear a little better. Jabra really has thought of everything with the Elite Active 75t.
In fact in terms of fit, the only tiny 'criticism' I have is that the 75t are so compact that you need to do a little bit of digging to get them out of their case and, sometimes, your ears. At 7.5 hours per charge and with a case that takes total battery life to 28 hours, there are no issues with the longevity here, either.
One final note though: Jabra has some new workout buds coming very soon…
It doesn't get much safer for runners and cyclists than wearing bone conducting headphones, such as the Aftershokz Aeropex. 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 Aftershokz 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 (or 33 feet) 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.
While they may not compete with the most expensive headphones on this list, the JAM Audio TWS Athlete will be perfect if you're on a tight budget.
With flexible plastic ear hooks to keep them secure, they won't budge so you can be sure you won't lose one when you're out running. They'll also be able to handle sweat and light rain, while the bass-heavy sound is sure to get you pumped.
They may not be the most attractive earbuds but they'll get the job done. Plus, the battery life is great - 6 hours from a single charge, which is boosted to 30 hours with the case. That should mean you'll never get caught short.
For more, read our full JAM Audio TWS Athlete review
Full marks to Bose for giving their latest buds a very self-explanatory name, and also for improving on their true wireless workout-friendly predecessor, SoundSport Free, in every way. Where those buds were quite ridiculous looking in the way that they protruded from your ears, these look relatively normal.
Bose Sport Earbuds are still quite bulky, but they sit firmly yet comfortably in your ear. The audio is up to Bose's usual standards. While I was a bit surprised that Bose left noise cancelling out of this product – practically everything the brand puts out has ANC nowadays – it's arguably not wanted on running headphones. Thanks to the way they fit, noise isolation is excellent. The on-ear touch controls are not all that great if you're in the middle of a vigorous workout, however.
Overall, I'd say these are a solid hybrid of everyday listening earbuds – they sound great – and running ones. A less diplomatic way of putting that is that they're a bit under-baked for workouts, and kind of ugly and short on battery life, if you want musical buds that can also stand up to sweat and activity. That means they probably won't appeal massively to anyone other than ardent Bose-philes – but then there's certainly no shortage of them. The price is quite reasonable, though.
• Read our full Bose Sport earbuds review
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. Liberty Neo are listed at just £70/$70 but are often on offer for less than that, since Anker does frequent voucher deals via Amazon. 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 the price they are very good and for what you'll actually pay for them, they're remarkable.
When it comes to running headphones, wireless earbuds have rather taken over from their on-ear siblings but on-ears do have advantages: you’re less likely to lose them, they naturally tend to offer better battery life, and – bonus – they keep your ears warm on chilly days. Another handy bonus is that people can clearly see you are wearing them, and so they don't come over and ask you stupid questions when you are trying to lift god damn it.
Also, some people just don’t like the feel of in-ear buds. That’s where the RPT-01 Sport On-Ear Headphones come in. Despite Adidas' description of them as on-ear, I would say they sit somewhere between being slightly large on-ear headphones and relatively compact over-ear ones. But perhaps that is splitting hairs.
The design of these headphones is quite striking, with removable, washable knitted covers on the ear cushions and headband that give the headphones a softer look, though they still feel rugged enough to throw into a gym bag.
The RPT-01s are a collaboration between Adidas and Zound Industries – also responsible for Urbanears and Marshall headphones – which explains why they deliver some serious bass. Unfortunately their 'sonic signature' is much closer to Urbanears' 'lots of bass and nothing else' sound, rather than Marshall's more balanced approach.
In use, the headphones are tight enough that they’re unlikely to fall off when you’re running or exercising. However, this is managed without making you feel as though your head is gripped in a vice. Adidas has done its best to make the RPT-01 as light and non-sweaty as possible, but clearly if you're running on a hot day, you're ears will get much hotter than if you were sporting in-ear buds.
There’s a control button on each side of the headphones. The one on the right allows you to skip and pause tracks, adjust the volume, and pick up (or reject) calls, while the action button on the left is customisable with the Adidas Headphones app to do things like change equalizer modes and start and finish activities in the Adidas Running app.
Battery life comes in at a massive 40 hours, the headphones are sweatproof and splashproof (IPX4-rated), and charging is via a supplied USB-C cable. There’s no 3.5mm audio input or cable, but running or lifting with cabled headphones would be rather foolhardy, wouldn’t it?
I didn't necessarily expect much from the Urbanears Stadion headphones from hipsters' favourite, Stockholm's Urbanears. However, this is actually a great pair of headphones for running. Because the Stadion has a solid (but not uncomfortable) neck band, and springy, coiled cables, running to hooked earbuds, it pulls off the unlikely feat of an unshakeable fit, without totally blocking out the world around you.
Personally, I don't like hearing the world around me, but I know many runners and cyclists would like to be able to hear large, wheeled objects bearing down on them when on the roads, and some people, more bizarrely, even want to be able to hear the ambience of their local gym.
Well, the Stadion is just the ticket for those people. Add perfectly decent audio (the fact that a dose of ambient sound is allowed in means that by definition it's not amazing), plus 7 hours of battery life per charge and a choice of attractive colourways, and you have a winner. I can even forgive the bizarre design flaw that plants the control buttons, mystifyingly, on the part that sits directly on the back of your neck, thereby rendering them almost entirely unusable when you're running.
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 and NuForce sports headphones are not sufficient to justify the price, which tends to be considerably higher.
Traditionalists may want to consider the wired version of the SoundSport. They're very similar, the cable aside, and a fair bit cheaper. And there's also the SoundSport Pulse with built in cardio tracking – I'd give that one a miss, if I were you.
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).
1a. IP ratings. This is how officially water resistant the buds are, according to science. All you need to know is that IPX4 is usually water and sweat resistant enough for most people's purposes. However, if you really do sweat like an extremely sweaty person, or you like to go running in the rain, you may want IPX5 or above. Once you hit IPX7, you can fully immerse your buds in water or, indeed, sweat. What a lovely thought. What is that 'X' in the rating, you ask? The first digit of an IP rating refers to its protection from solid objects. Many running headphones use an X here to signify that they have no such protection. It's largely an irrelevant metric as you need to get to IP5 to be protected from dust and sand, which is useful. Below that, your buds are just considered to be protected from fingers, wires and screwdrivers. But why on earth would you be trying to stick any of those things into your nice, new earbuds?
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 Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 are the best but again, 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, here we go.
So what ARE the best running headphones?
My advice for a while now to anyone picking the best running headphones for their workouts has been to go true wireless. Right now The Mother Of All True Wireless Gym Buds is ready for you to buy: Beats by Dr Dre. Powerbeats Pro, to give them their full title. These 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.
Powerbeats Pro were the clear standout option when it comes to the best running headphones and/or workout buds but there's also now a cheaper version with a wire running between the buds. Called simply Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats, this boasts the exact same, near perfect fit as the Pro model, sounds just as good and costs WAY less. So on that basis, it's now my top recommendation.
There are also several other supremely good true wireless alternatives. Most notably Elite Active 75t. Those who don't like a tight fit might like the excellent-sounding RHA TrueConnect, while those on a budget should look no further than Anker Soundcore's Liberty Neo – they're cheap to start off with, and can often be found further discounted.
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 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 or Vangelis, it'll be more of an issue, but I think you may be in a minority, there.