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Best bone conduction headphones

The bone-ified best.
By
April 19, 2022
Shokz OpenRun
By Shokz
7.3
Check price
Positives
Bluetooth 5.1, and multipoint connectivity
Comfortable and lightweight
IP67 rating
Good sound for bone conduction
Negatives
Proprietary charging port
Control layout
No mobile app
Mic quality
The Bottom Line.
This is one of the best headsets that Aftershokz has to offer, and as the company that basically dominates this category that's saying something.
Read full review...
Shokz OpenRun Pro
By Shokz
The Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones in black against a white background.
Check price
Positives
10-hour battery life
Efficient fast charging
IP55 rating
9th generation bone conduction technology
Bluetooth 5.1, and multipoint connectivity
Negatives
Price
Control layout
No mobile app
Proprietary charging port
The Bottom Line.
The Shokz OpenRun Pro has an impressive battery life for bone conduction headphones and a premium build.
AfterShokz Open Move
By Shokz
Aftershokz OpenMove bone conduction headphones against a white backgroudn.
Check price
Positives
More affordable than other options
IP55 rating
Reflective strips
USB-C charging
Negatives
Comfort
Control layout
The Bottom Line.
It's not perfect, but the Aftershokz OpenMove is still worth checking out.
AfterShokz Aeropex
By AfterShokz
The AferShokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones in black against a white background.
7.3
Check price
Positives
IP67 rating
Comfortable and lightweight
Good sound for bone conduction
Bluetooth 5.0, multipoint connectivity
Negatives
Proprietary charging port, no fast charge
No mobile app
Mic quality
Control layout
The Bottom Line.
The Aeropex is a great headset for athletes of all kinds, and it stays in place during vigorous movement like exercising and rock climbing.
Read full review...
YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones
By YouthWhisper
Check price
Positives
Price
Bluetooth 5.0
IP54 rating
Negatives
Build quality
Microphone and sound quality
The Bottom Line.
The only pair that made this list that wasn't from AfterShokz is the YouthWhisper headset and even at the low price, it's a solid bang for your buck pick.

It might seem like wireless earbuds are the only innovation to come to headphones in the last few years, but that isn’t the case. There is another type that is much less talked about, and that’s bone conduction headphones. While they’re not for everyone, they do fill a niche and may be exactly what some people are looking for. If that someone is you, then you’ve come to the right place. These are the best bone conduction headphones you can get.

Editor’s note: this best list was updated on January 7, 2022, to address bone conduction headset company AfterShokz’ name change to Shokz.

Bone conduction headphones are great for outdoor athletes because they don’t occlude your ears at all. This design leaves you completely aware of your surroundings so you can exercise safely, which makes bone conduction great for city residents too.

We also recommend bone conduction headphones to those with certain hearing impairments because they bypass the outer ear. This means you can wear hearing aids while using a bone conduction headset.

Why is the Shokz OpenRun the best bone conduction headphones?

If you’ve been browsing your local electronics store, you’ve likely seen some headphones from Shokz. The company has been pumping out multiple versions of bone conduction headphones for years, and the best it has to offer is the Shockz OpenRun. This has a similar design to some of the previous models, so if you’ve ever used a pair of Shokz (Aftershokz) headphones, you’ll know what to expect.

Shokz OpenRun
7.3
The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones in red next to a pack of cards, mini Altoids tin, and mini Swiss Army Knife.The proprietary two-pin connector on the Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones.A hand holds the Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones and displays the volume buttons.The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones' multi-function button.The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones rest in the drawstring carry pouch inside of a sling bag near biking accessories.A woman wears the Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones in red.
Shokz OpenRun
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The plastic construction makes for a flexible pair of headphones that should hold up to some heavy usage, especially since this has an IP67 rating against dust and water damage. You’ll also get about eight hours of constant playback, which isn’t too bad considering most people will probably be using this for exercise. It charges via a magnetic charging cradle so there are no rogue ports.

If you want one of the best bone conduction headphones around, get the OpenRun.

The Shokz OpenRun Pro has the best battery life for bone conduction headphones

Most bone conduction headphones last anywhere from 6-8 hours but the OpenRun Pro lasts 10 hours on a single charge, which is two hours longer than the standard OpenRun. Also, this headset has the most efficient fast charging out of the bunch: 5 minutes of charging yields 90 minutes of playtime. When you do need to fully charge the headset, all you need to do is set aside one hour, whereas other headsets take at least 90 minutes to complete a full charge. There is, however, one downside: that pesky proprietary charging two-pin connection.

Shokz OpenRun Pro
The Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones in black against a white background.
Shokz OpenRun Pro
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Battery life aside, the OpenRun Pro has the best bone conduction technology of the pack with 9th generation tech, compared to the standard OpenRun’s 8th gen tech. Interestingly, the OpenRun Pro isn’t the most durable option as it merits an IP55 rating while others from the Shokz portfolio have IP67 ratings. The build and design look rather sleek and you get your pick of blue or black. Other Shokz headsets have a wider variety of color options.

If you value battery life, the OpenRun Pro will keep up with you.

Stay visible to others with the AfterShokz OpenMove

It might seem like Shockz has a chokehold on the entire bone conduction market, and that’s because it kind of does. Audio is already a pretty niche category—albeit a growing one, and bone conduction headphones are an even smaller sliver of that. The AfterShokz OpenMove has an IP55 dust and water-resistant build that features a reflective strip along the headband for visibility.

AfterShokz Open Move
Aftershokz OpenMove bone conduction headphones against a white backgroudn.
AfterShokz Open Move
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This pair of bone conduction headphones sports Bluetooth 5.0, which is a welcome upgrade from the older Bluetooth technologies found in the pricier AfterShokz Air. A USB-C charging port sits on the headband which is much better than other Shokz/AfterShokz headsets with a proprietary two-pin connection. The AfterShokz OpenMove sports a lightweight design that makes it feel as if there’s nothing on your head. However, after a few hours, the ear hooks may prove uncomfortable. Still, for under $80 USD, the Shockz OpenMove is a great way to dip your toes into the world of bone conduction headphones without breaking the bank.

The AfterShokz Aeropex works with any sport

Are you a climber, a cyclist, a runner, all three? Well, then, the AfterShokz Aeropex is the headset for you. This IP67-rated headset can do anything and do it well. This is basically the Shokz OpenRun but with Bluetooth 5.0 instead of the newer Bluetooth 5.1 on the OpenRun. Also, the Aeropex doesn’t have a fast charging feature, which you do get with the Open Run.

AfterShokz Aeropex
7.3
The Aftershokz Aeropex is covered in chalk while resting on a black surface.The Aftershokz Aeropex volume/power button and charging input.A hand holds the Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones to show the flat interior of each ear piece.The Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones rest on a leaf font where the vein splits.A woman wears the Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones as she begins to rock climb in a gym.A hand removes the Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones from a backpack with climbing shoes in the background.The Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones rest on a large leaf fond.The Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones accessories lay on a black surface.
AfterShokz Aeropex
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You get the same control layout here as you do with other Shokz and AfterShokz products, and you get multipoint connectivity. You can enable multipoint connectivity directly from the headset’s controls and disable it accordingly too. We like the Aeropex for its rugged, slim design, and you get plenty of accessories here (two charging cables, a magnetic carry pouch, earplugs, and the Aeropex headset).

Want something that won’t break the bank? Then check out the YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones

YouthWhisper definitely isn’t a household name, but the YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones is still a fairly impressive product that offers a lot of what the Shockz top models include at a more affordable price. This shares a similarly sleek design as well as an IP54 rating to protect against sweat and light rain. On top of that, this supports Bluetooth 5.0 and microUSB charging.

YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones
YouthWhisper Bone Conduction Headphones
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You’ll also get 8 hours of battery life here which is on par with other, pricier headsets. If you’re not looking to spend too much money on a pair of bone conduction headphones but still want to give it a try, this is worth checking out.

Should you get the Bose Sport Open Earbuds instead?

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds includes a set of true wireless earphones and a protective (non-charging) carrying case. Similar to bone conduction headphones, these earphones don’t actually enter the ear canal. Instead, they’re designed to rest right on top of the ear and descend down from it, projecting sound down your ear canal from specifically angled speaker drivers.

The left Bose Sport Open Earbud faces up with its connector pins, speaker grill, and "L" indicator in full view, while the right earbud rests in the case cutout next to bike tools.
When you want to listen in mono mode, the right earbud must be nearby, even if it’s in the case.

Listeners who don’t live with hearing impairments may be drawn to the Bose Sport Open Earbuds since these wireless earbuds produce better sound than bone conduction headphones, while keeping you safe during outdoor exercise and adventure.

The best bone conduction headphones: Notable mentions

  • AfterShokz Air: This is also sweatproof with an IP55 water-resistant build, but it’s a little heavier than some of the others at 30 grams though. You get Bluetooth 4.2 and a six-hour battery life, though it’s worth mentioning that this charges via microUSB which is a bit of a bummer.

What you should know about bone conduction headphones

Before throwing your hard-earned cash at something, it’s always good to be even a little informed about what you’re buying. So let’s go over some basic things you should know about bone conduction headphones.

How does bone conduction work?

A diagram showing the anatomy of the ear. With bone conduction headphones, the sound bypasses the outer ear entirely.
You usually hear sound waves getting corralled and sent to your inner ear via the outer ear. Bone conduction bypasses the outer ear and ear canal altogether.

Maybe you haven’t stopped to think about it recently, but the fact that we can perceive slight changes in air pressure as sound is a pretty amazing feat. Physics and biology meet in an extraordinary way every day right inside your head. Most people are probably familiar with sound waves just being a change in the density of air molecules. Once those variations reach your ears, they’re reflected into your ear canal thanks to your external ear (pinna). They travel until they reach your eardrum, which then vibrates in response to the air pressure. Those vibrations are passed through to your middle ear which includes the famous malleus, incus, and stapes bones. (Fun fact: those bones evolved from jawbones).

Those three bones amplify and direct the sound into the cochlea of your inner ear to keep the wave going. For the purposes of this article, we can stop here. Because it is those three middle ear bones that make conduction possible. The headphones you’ll find on this list work by bypassing the eardrum and sending vibrations straight through to the malleus, incus, and stapes bones. From there, the sound waves can just carry on as normal. For this reason, bone conduction headphones don’t have giant ear cups that you wear over your ears, because they don’t need to send sound through your ears. Instead, these rest slightly in front of your ears and send vibrations through the bone. This allows the middle ear bones to register the vibrations without blocking your actual ears, leaving them open to hear what’s going on around you.

Absolutely. Just because these headphones bypass the eardrum doesn’t mean they can’t cause hearing loss. There are a few different types of hearing loss that you can read all about in our full explainer, but the most common type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). This is the loss of sensitivity to hearing higher frequencies and occurs because of damage to tiny hairs inside your ears called stereocilia. These are located in the inner ear and along nerve pathways and can still be worn out by constant use or loud sounds just as if you were wearing regular headphones.

If you suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss you may benefit from hearing aids.

Are bone conduction headphones any good?

A picture of the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200 true wireless workout earbuds worn by a woman on a bike in profile.
Using the BackBeat FIT 3200 earphones while using my stationary bike was a pleasure; though, the ear hooks occasionally caught on the towel as I tried to dry off.

This depends on the use case. If you’re an audiophile looking for your next pristine pair of headphones, then bone conduction headsets aren’t for you. They’re not designed for high-fidelity playback. Instead, they’re designed to keep your ears free to hear what’s going on around you. And since a big part of how good a pair of headphones sound is how well they isolate, these are obviously not going to sound great seeing as they don’t isolate at all.

That said, being able to have your ears free and hear what’s going on around you is the whole point of using bone conduction headphones. For runners or cyclists that need to be aware of their surroundings while out and about, bone conduction headphones are a useful way to still enjoy music or podcasts without ever losing situational awareness.

What are the pros and cons of bone conduction headphones?

A picture of Sennheiser earplugs on a table.
Earplugs are an effective form of hearing loss prevention and a must-have for concert-goers.

Like anything else in life, there are pros and cons to bone conduction headphones.

Pros

  • Great for people who have had damage to their eardrums because they bypass the eardrum entirely. That said, it’s worth mentioning that if you feel that you’re having trouble hearing please go visit an audiologist for a check-up as they may be able to help you way more than some guy on the internet.
  • If you’re a runner or cyclist, bone conduction headphones are a good way to stay motivated during a workout while remaining aware of your surroundings.
  • You don’t have to worry about experiencing an unpleasant suction-like sensation with bone conduction headphones as they don’t touch or seal to the ear canal. This way, you avoid the chance of inner ear pain and infection altogether.

Cons

  • The sound quality is not good. A big part of enjoying the intricacies of music is blocking outside noise, and these don’t do that. Like, at all. If that’s what you’re after, you’re better off going for a pair of active noise cancelling headphones.
  • Some people might find bone conduction headphones uncomfortable. While the sensation of comfort is relative, I think it’s fair to say that any pair of bone conduction headphones you get is not going to be as comfortable as something like Bose QC35 II with its plush memory foam earpads. But if you can get used to the sensation of having a plastic pair of headphones against your temples, bone conduction headphones can make a great tool for anyone who wants to listen to music and still hear what’s going on around you. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

A man wears the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless gaming headset sitting at a computer.
We test out as many types of headsets as we can, including the HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless as seen above.

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Frequently asked questions about bone conduction headphones

If the main reason you’re considering bone conduction headphones is simply to be able to hear your surroundings while using them, then yes.

Something like the AirPods (3rd generation) or Urbanista Libson don’t have any ear tips and therefore will not isolate against outside noise very much at all. However, since these earbuds still block your ear canals, they will isolate sound a tiny bit more than bone conduction headphones.

Listening to music through bone conduction headphones is far from immersive, since external sounds mask your music. You’ll still hear your music but it won’t sound as good as it would through a pair of earbuds that sit in and seal to your ear.

If you’ve never used bone conduction headphones, you may experience some slight discomfort during your first use. However, just like with any pair of headphones or earbuds, you shouldn’t experience any nausea or headaches if you’re careful about not raising your volume too much.

Most of the time, bone conduction headphones have IP ratings that can withstand, at minimum, the sweat that you develop during workouts.

Also, if you’re someone who likes to run at night, or generally just be aware of your surroundings, bone conduction headphones keep your ears free to hear the world around you, while you jam out to your playlist.

Yes, bone conduction headphones can still work for you because they make contact on the cheekbone, right below where the frames of your glasses rest.

That said, depending on how small or stout your ears are, you may have a difficult time achieving a secure fit behind your ear with glasses and headphones. This also depends on how thick your frames are, because wireframes will be less obtrusive than thick plastic ones.