Last updated September 4th, 2018, to include Jaybird X4
Legs beg for a break and lungs inflate for air, while sweat creates an unsightly Rorschach test down the back of your unfortunately gray t-shirt. I need a break, your internal monologue says. Then, you hear the intro to Eye of the Tiger and exhausted legs reprise for the final dash of your run. There’s nothing quite like a good song to keep you motivated, but you should treat yourself to any of the best headphones for running to keep the jams pumping.
OK, so maybe that’s not every run. But the right song can jolt morale and make that last haul feel like a cut-scene from Rocky. Though running with music isn’t for everyone, many still opt to liven up workouts with something from Spotify’s dime-a-dozen curated playlists. To make those heart-pumping songs sound that much better, we present to you the best headphones for running that are currently available.
Related: Best true wireless earbuds
What you should know about the best headphones for running
There are a few things to know about running earbuds before buying since they’ll be roughed up more than something like the Monoprice M1060.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
- IP ratings denote if and to what degree a product is water-resistant or waterproof. The “IP” stand for Ingress Protection and the “X” that sits between the numeric ratings (e.g. IPX7) is just a placeholder, meaning that the product has yet to receive an official dust-resistant rating.
- Noised-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a self-induced affliction that we cast upon ourselves by exposing ourselves to prolonged, repeated loud listening sessions. It’s tempting to max out the volume to get your blood pumping during a run, but it’s important to remember that our hearing can be irrevocably damaged by this.
- Proper fit is especially important with running earbuds. After all, how good are earbuds if they can’t stay in to be heard? A standard in-ear design is the most traditional fit and will likely cast the widest net in terms of preference. They isolate well and tend to stay put while moving around.
The best headphones for running are the Bose SoundSport Wireless
The Bose SoundSport now comes in three versions: wired, true wireless, and wireless. Although the wired version was fine and beloved by many, the wireless iteration comes with much-needed improvements. Though the SoundSport Wireless isn’t the end-all-be-all regarding sound, fit, or features—they generally outperform the competition in all of these categories. The SoundSport Wireless are sweat-resistant and feature a bulky, plastic housing.
Bose Soundsport WirelessFull Review
These are excellent headphones for running, because they actually stay in despite their size. The StayHear+ tips mitigate jiggling and jostling. Plus, the in-line mic and remote is great for skipping tracks. It also has a nice curved design, allowing for greater distinction between buttons, which is crucial when you’re in the last leg of a workout.
The low-end differs from the traditional Bose sound signature. It’s emphasized at the expense of the midrange and treble frequencies. Though this can be annoying for daily use, it plays well for running. Due to their small footprint and stable connectivity, the Bose SoundSport Wireless defend their title as the best all-around headphones for running.
Who should buy these?
Runners. Generally speaking, athletes and the profusely sweaty. After combing through a range of reviews and lists, comparing what’s what in this specific class of earphone, we’ve concluded that these are the standouts for cardio kids. Furthermore, if your current pair of headphones for running are hindering workouts, any of these will be a welcome upgrade.
For a good fit, listen with the Jaybird X4
The Jaybird X3 was on this list previously, but the X4 has taken their spot in a meaningful way. If you caught the full review, you know that Jaybird added an IPX7 certification, meaning that now they’re completely waterproof. If you’re caught in the rain, you won’t have to worry about damage. They also retain the sweatproof nano-coating that was on the previous Jaybird X3. But one other feature that hasn’t gotten all the attention it deserves is that the Jaybird X4 has an improved cable cinch for keeping the earbuds in place while exercising.
Jaybird X4Full Review
It isn’t the most flashy or noteworthy feature, but it’s one of the most practical. The X3’s had a cable cinch as well but for some reason, we were never able to get it to stay secure when it was wrapped around the back of the head. Thankfully, that isn’t a problem with the Jaybird X4 earbuds.
As we mentioned in the review, we were able to get an impressive fit that didn’t fall out. Of course, the downside to this is that if you swap out the silicone ear tips for the included memory foam ones to help with isolation, it makes them a bit uncomfortable for long periods of wear. But we figure that’s a fair trade to make for being able to exercise without constantly needing to readjust the earbuds. Other aspects of the new earbuds remain consistent with the previous version, such as the eight-hour battery life and the ability to EQ the sound via the Jaybird app.
Need true wireless earbuds? The Jabra Elite 65t are your best bet
If you want true wireless, the Jabra Elite 65t are the newfound champion. They’re decked out with features such as IP55 certification if you get the active version, meaning that they’re fully sweat and dust-resistant; have wind noise-protection; and one-touch access to Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Aside from that, these have great battery life. During our objective battery testing, we found that these are able to maintain 5.85 hours of constant playback at 75dB SPL, much louder than we recommend you listen to your music. What’s more, the included charging case tacks on another two charge cycles, making for a total of approximately 15-plus hours of playback before needing to reach for that micro-USB cable.
Jabra Elite 65tFull Review
The Elite 65t create a cogent seal with your ear canal, which is great for filtering out the noise of a treadmill but a liability for those of us who enjoy running outside. Though this is something to be aware of, it is nice that these fit more universally than the Bose SoundSport Free and are also $50 cheaper.
As far as sound quality is concerned, these lack the oomph that we’re used to hearing from workout headphones, but it’s still audible. That makes sense since these weren’t made to be the best headphones for running. Rather, they’re just a great pair of all-around true wireless earbuds and the frequency response reflects that.
Housed in each earbud is a dual-mic setup, which allows for clear, crisp voice transmission and recognition. Additionally, Jabra touts improved true wireless stability with its Elite 65t series. As with other Jabra products, the Elite 65t is compatible with the Jabra Sound+ app. This lets you EQ your music, choose your voice assistant and alter how much ambient noise can permeate the earbuds. This can be helpful when running outdoors, but it’s still important to listen with caution. Though true wireless technology is still going through adolescent growing pains, it’s matured quite a bit—as is apparent with the Elite 65t.
If $100 is too much to spend go for the Plantronics BackBeat 500 Fit
Plantronics is no stranger to our best lists. As a matter of fact, the BackBeat Fit previously held this spot. Plantronics’ BackBeat 500 Fit headphones, however, are even more affordable—that’s right, go get a nice family bucket of KFC with the saved $30. For just shy of $80, users are afforded 18 hours of playback time, a P2i liquid-repellent nano-coating, and a lightweight housing. Plus, users get to enjoy the same 40mm drivers found in the BackBeat 500.
Plantronics Backbeat 500 Fit
Bluetooth 4.1 means that these headphones connect quickly and stay connected during your runs. Plus, with an 18-hour battery life, only the rare breed of ultra-runners have to be concerned about playback duration. For those dubious these being listed as the best headphones for running, cast those doubts aside. The clamping force is just enough to keep these stable without paining the ears or head for about 30-45 minutes. After that, though, the top of the ears and head start to feel pained from the uneven pressure distribution. Me? I take it as a cue to take a well-deserved break from running.
Put safety first with the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium offer one unique safety feature. Unlike the other headphones for running on this list, these don’t even go in the ear. Instead, they rest on your cheekbones and use bone conduction technology. This creates the vibrations and sends them directly to the cochlea, transmitting sound. Take note, due to the conductive nature of these headphones, sound leakage is inevitable. On the flip side, however, you’re less prone to noise-induced hearing loss with these.
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
As may be expected, the sound quality is lacking, since they don’t create any kind of seal. It does have one huge benefit in that users are completely aware of their surroundings at all times. The titanium frame also makes it durable enough to use for intense activities like running while maintaining a lightweight build. While in use, listeners get six hours of playback time and will find controls built into the headband, allowing users to keep phones protected in a pocket or armband
The Under Armour Sport Flex Wireless by JBL include a one-year premium membership to Map My Run
Though these neckband style earbuds don’t warrant a shout out as the best headphones for running, others find it comfortable enough. JBL to team up with Under Armour to give listeners the Sport Flex Wireless and a great one-year premium membership to Map My Run. This inclusion is fabulous for runners of all sorts, from the marathon veterans to those of us doing a couch-to-5K plan.
Now, onto the earbuds themselves. Although they didn’t quite make the cut as one of the best headphones for running, they were awarded as one of the best workout headphones because of their skull-cracking bass reproduction. Ease-of-use is there with the controls; there’s virtually no learning curve.
The winged silicone adapters are optional and can be removed. Though, they do help the buds stay in during workouts, especially ones with excessive jostling. Additionally, these feature a sweat-resistant nano-coating. Sure, it’s not quite as good as an official IP rating but it does the trick. When the ‘buds aren’t in use, you can mitigate unwieldy swinging by putting them together since each housing is magnetized.
- BeatsX: These are a great pair of sleek, unobtrusive earbuds. You can check out our comparison of the BeatsX, Beats by Dre Power Beats, and Apple AirPods here.
- Fitbit Flyer: They’re similar to the Bose SoundSport Wireless but lack the Bose’s IPX4-rating. Our full review is available here.
- Anker SoundBuds: They’re similar to the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium but the connectivity is less stable. However they are more affordable; the full review can be read here.
- Jabra Elite Sport Wireless: These are the predecessor to the Jabra Elite 65t for which we have a full review.
- JLab Epic Sport Wireless: Though they’re competitively priced, the build quality and high-maintenance fit make these less than ideal. Read our full review here.
How we picked the best headphones for running
Although we’ve directly reviewed a vast array of products here at SoundGuys, we haven’t gotten around to all of them. After all, we’re only human and are inherently subjective. To counteract our unavoidable bias, we conduct as much objective testing as possible and do quite a bit of research by perusing online forums, reading other reviews, conducting Twitter polls, and more.
Unlike some of our more niche best lists, we’re able to draw upon the full experiences of our entire staff—including some who have moved on—for input in populating our list of candidates for the best headphones for running. This list isn’t simply what one of us likes, it’s an accurate representation of our experiences as an entire staff. The end product is what we feel are the best when you consider the diverse needs of many listeners.
In short, this list is the running conclusions of thousands of hours of use from a growing list of contributors over many years. This is a living document, and it’s updated every time a new model knocks an existing one off their pedestal
Why you should trust us
Not only is this site our nine-to-five, but Adam, Chris, and Lily each have multiple years of reviewing consumer audio products. We’ve kept tabs on the ever-changing world of audio, giving us the ability to parse apart the gimmicks from the gems.
As frequent visitors of SoundGuys already know, Chris wears his hatred for all things Bluetooth like a lovesick teenager wears his heart on his sleeve. The Bluetooth products listed? They’re damned special. Adam, a SoundGuy for nearly three years, has heard everything from pristine highs to vacant lows. Then there’s Lily with countless hours clocked in at a radio station working in a professional studio environment and reviewing audio products on her own time prior to joining SoundGuys.
We want you to be happy with your purchase—none of our writers see a dime from partnership deals or referral purchases—and nobody here is allowed to benefit from steering you towards one product or another. While this site does make money from referrals, the individual writers are paid based on their work, regardless of whether or not people clicked that “buy” icon. They will never even know if anyone did, though the site going under might be a good hint.
Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.