The best running headphones need to be capable of more than just pumping out tunes. Just as a long run can push your body to its limit, running headphones are subject to additional punishment that require special attention to address.
That means needing a solid, secure fit, so they don’t fall out of your ears or off your head as you jog along. It means long battery life, so you don’t have to worry about losing your music — and your motivation — halfway along your route. And it ideally means they’re waterproof, or at the very least sweatproof, so that sudden rain or heavy perspiration doesn’t interfere with operation.
This might sound like a lot to ask, but the best running headphones will be capable of all of it and more. Let’s find out which models make the cut, based on our own extensive testing; and remember that all of these will make good companions for the best fitness trackers as well.
What are the best running headphones?
Our current top pick of the best running headphones is the Jabra Elite Active 75t. This set of true wireless earbuds is wonderfully light and, despite the lack of ear hooks or wing-tips, manages to maintain a secure and dependable fit. Add in good battery life, high audio quality and full waterproofing and this will serve you well on any run.
In second sits the Beats Powerbeats Pro, which uses the same Apple H1 chip as the superb AirPods Pro for fast and seamless connections to iPhones. The Powerbeats Pro also exhibit a more balanced sound signature than more Beats headphones, and while it doesn’t support active noise-cancelling (ANC), you can get this for cheap on our great-value third pick, the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC.
The best running headphones you can buy today
Rich-sounding, compact and stylish, the Jabra Elite Active 75t is a fantastic pair of wireless earbuds in general, but there’s a lot here that also makes it a near-perfect set of running headphones. First is the fit: it’s unusual to find a pair of true wireless buds with no wing-tips or ear hooks that manages to stay planted so securely in the ear.
Then there’s the weatherproofing, which scores an IP57 rating: enough to completely protect against dust and even full submersion in shallow water. Sweat or a spot of rain, as such, poses no threat. Battery life beats that of the AirPods Pro, too, and Jabra’s buds even offer ANC for a lower price.
See our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.
The Beats Powerbeats Pro might not look like it, but do take strong inspiration from Apple’s AirPods headphones. In fact it even uses the same Apple H1 chip as the AirPods Pro, so shares the ability to instantly pair with iPhones. And, if you’ve updated to iOS 14, you can instantly switch to other iOS and Mac devices you might have at home.
That’s all well and good, but how does the Powerbeats Pro handle running? Extremely well, it turns out. Those ear hooks keep each bud in place during strenuous jogs, the sound signature is suitably powerful and an IPX4 rating notes the inclusion of water resistance. It’s not fully waterproof, but the Powerbeats Pro will stand up to sweat well enough.
Read our full Powerbeats Pro earbuds review.
At $99, it’s hard to find a better noise-cancelling bargain than the JLab Epic Air Sport. Sound quality is JLab’s best on a pair of true wireless buds to date, and battery life is excellent: we got 9.5 hours of ANC playback time from a full charge. Just don’t trust the remaining charge percentages your phone tells you.
Crucially for running, it also provides a sturdy fit, and feels more comfortable to wear for long periods than the Beats Powerbeats Pro. IP66 protection covers you for the worst of rain showers, and if you want to briefly switch away from noise cancellation to listen for traffic, the Be Aware transparency mode will give you that extra awareness without you needing to take an earbud out.
Not unlike the Jabra Elite Active 75t, the Jaybird Vista provides a solid, run-friendly fit in a compact true wireless earbud package. To help achieve you your own perfect, the Vista doesn’t just include swappable tips, but a choice of wing-tips as well. This will help accommodate a range of ear sizes.
The tough, waterproof buds also contain powerful 6mm drivers that deliver a fun, bass-heavy sound signature. The extremely strong passive noise isolation is both a blessing a curse: it’s great for letting you enjoy your music without interference from nearby noises, and without the added battery drain of ANC, though you will need to take a bud out if you want to listen for cars or strike up a conversation.
See our full Jaybird Vista review.
Consider the Amazfit Powerbuds if you want a pair of running headphones with extra smarts. The most impressive special feature is an integrated heart-rate sensor, something that’s since been copied by bigger headphones makers like Philips, and could help you take a more data-led approach to fitness without needing to wear a separate fitness band.
The accompanying app also includes a variety of tracking fields, from step count to calories burned, and with up to 8 hours of battery life you’ll run out of charge before the headphones do. Admittedly this is not the most comfortable pair of running headphones ever — partly because the heart-rate sensor presses into your skin — but it’s still a good choice for those who are particularly serious about getting and staying fit.
If you’re at all familiar with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, you might have an idea of what makes the Sport Earbuds so good. This pair doesn’t have the same ANC functionality but adopts a similar winged design that keeps the Sport Earbuds locked securely in your ear canal, not matter how vigorous your running style.
It’s also smaller and lighter than the QuietComfort Earbuds, while the detailed sound impresses during exercise and resting alike. IPX4 water resistance adds to the list of fitness-friendly features, and the 5 hours of battery life should be good for almost any exercise session even if it’s well short of buds like the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC.
The two earbuds of the Beats Powerbeats are connected by a cable that runs behind the back of your neck. Some runners don’t like this design as the wire can bounce around distractingly, but otherwise this pair of headphones is a viable lower-cost alternative to the true wireless Powerbeats Pro.
Aesthetics, build quality, sound quality and call clarity are all significantly upgraded from the old Powerbeats 3, and the looped design is just as effective at keeping the buds in place as it is on the Powerbeats Pro. And long battery life and an accessible price are just two more reasons to outweigh that errant cable.
Read our full Beats Powerbeats 4 review.
Another set of semi-wired earbuds, the Jaybird Tarah Pro use a now-familiar wing-tipped design for extra stability while going above and beyond on waterproofing. With an IPX7 rating, the Tarah Pro isn’t certified for dust protection but is completely sweatproof and can survive a dunk in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
It also stands out for its long battery life, offering 14 hours between charges. Impressively, it can even save on unnecessary drain by automatically switching off when inactive for 15 minutes. Depending on how much you run, it could be a couple of weeks before you need to top up again.
Read our full Jaybird Tarah Pro review.
You might be thinking that there’s no point buying the Jabra Elite Active 65t when its successor is available, and at the top of this list no less. But to our ears the Elite Active 65t sounds just as good as the Elite Active 75t. It also shares the same quality of having a secure, steadfast fit — not even the toughest sprint will dislodge these earbuds.
Paying more for the newer buds will net you longer battery life and better waterproofing (the Elite Active 65t “only” offers IP56 water resistance), but this does have one more secrete weapon. An integrated accelerometer allows the Elite Active 65t to act as a step counter, so you can track your runs without a dedicated fitness tracker.
Read our full Jabra Elite Active 65t review.
How to choose the best running headphones for you
You might prefer an earbud design that hooks over your ear, or sits entirely within your ear. For running, we generally found there’s not much inherent difference between the two styles in terms of stability, though if you wear glasses the addition of an ear hook might mean its gets in the way of your specs.
Even if you’re adverse to running in the rain, we’d strongly recommend a pair of running headphones with come certified water resistance to protect against sweat. An IP rating of IPX7 denotes full waterproofing, while IPX4 represents basic moisture resistance; consider what you’ll need and what the risks are your headphones getting seriously wet.
A lot of the best running headphones feature ANC, but this isn’t necessary for running. In fact you may want to turn if off for better situational awareness near traffic and pedestrians — it will depend on how much you want the absolute best sound quality when exercising. ANC lets you focus on your entertainment but may need to be paused occasionally for safety.
How we test the best running headphones
Like any kind of headphones, we test running headphones by listening to a wide range of music genres — including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronic — and will use them for at least one 2-hour session over the course of a week. This lets us both give a fair appraisal of how they sound, and how comfortable they are when worn for long periods.
For running headphones specifically, we’ll take them out for a few runs to see how they hold up when exercising. This includes judging how well they stay in place, as especially with small earbuds, a seemingly stable fit when relaxing can come undone when running ad otherwise working out.
Once all our testing is complete, we rate running headphones on a five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). The very best running headphones are awarded an Editors’ Choice badge.
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