SoundGuys

Best Bluetooth headphones for running 2018

The in-line mic and remote is just over an inch below the right earbud for easy access.

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 pair of Bluetooth headphones for running to keep you motivated.

Though the Thinksound ts03+mic are sweat-resistant, the unwieldy cable makes it a pain to run with them.

Okay, 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 Balboa. Though running with music isn’t for everyone, many still opt to liven up workouts with some boom ba doom boom boom ba doom boom bass (thank you, Nicki Minaj).

Related: Best true wireless earbuds

We did plenty of research, bought an unreasonable amount of headphones, and clocked quite a few miles to compile this list of the best Bluetooth headphones for running. However, it should be pointed out: there are a lot of models out there, and you may find that you like something other than our pick. That’s okay, and we’ve included a handful of other standouts for your consideration.

What you should know

There are a few things to know about running earbuds before buying since these will be roughed up quite a bit more than something like the Monoprice M1060.

  Water-resistant Waterproof Can withstand...
IPX0 Not water-resistant
IPX1 Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
IPX2 Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
IPX3 Sprays
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
IPX4 Splashes, omnidirectional
IPX5 Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
IPX6 Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
IPX7 Complete submergence
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min.
IPX8 Complete submergence
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min.

The best Bluetooth headphones for running are the Bose SoundSport Wireless

The Bose SoundSport now come 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 do better in all of these categories combined than the competition. The SoundSport Wireless are sweat-resistant and feature a bulky, plastic housing. Given just how large the earbuds are, the 6-hour battery life is disappointing.

Bose Soundsport Wireless

Full Review

That said, these are excellent Bluetooth 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. The low-end differs from the traditional Bose sound signature, receiving great emphasis at the expense of the midrange and treble. This plays well for running. Due to their smaller footprint and more stable connection, the Bose SoundSport Wireless defend their title as the best all-around Bluetooth headphones for running.

Who should buy these?

The JLab Epic Sport Wireless, a notable mention, were made for fitness buffs who are looking to get the most out of their workouts.

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 Bluetooth headphones for running are hindering workouts, any of these will be a welcome upgrade.

Alternatives

The Jaybird X3 easily offer the best fit. They include six pairs of ear tips (three foam, three silicone) and three pairs of wingtips—all varying in size—to ensure a proper seal. Also, the included cable clips mean that users may adjust the length of the wire accordingly. Pro tip: keep it snug against the back of the head to counteract microphonics. Upgraded from the X2’s, the wing tips now feature a thicker, sturdier silicone structure. Not only do the X3 stay in while running, but they remain comfortable the whole time.

Jaybird X3

Full Review

The X3 controls are easy to navigate and the in-line mic and remote—which also received a facelift—is tactile. A downside of Bluetooth headphones for running is that users often forget to charge them. To remedy this, Jaybird allows for 15 minutes of charging to provide an hour of playback. Though, it should be mentioned that the X3 charging mechanism is a nuisance. Docking it in the cradle feels cumbersome. Not to mention, it adds another dongle to users’ lives (ugh). Thankfully, connecting is quick.

The sound signature of the X3 is engineered for athletes. Bass is exaggerated while attention to mids and highs falls to the wayside. Typically, this emphasis is less than ideal; however, for running it works well to keep athletes motivated and tuned in.

Jabra Elite 65t

If you want true wireless, the Jabra Elite 65t are the newfound champion. They’re decked out with features such as IP55 certification, meaning 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, Jabra made sure to cover the basics by providing a reported 5 hours of playback on a single charge. The included charging case tacks on another two charge cycles, making for a total of 15 hours of playback before needing to reach for that micro-USB cable.

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.

Prior to the Elite 65t, the Jabra Elite Sport Wireless were one of the best Bluetooth headphones for running as far as true wireless is concerned.

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 Jabra 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

Full Review

Bluetooth 4.1 means that these headphones connect quickly and, more importantly, 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 about on-ear headphones for cardio, 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 Bluetooth headphones for running on this list, these don’t even go in the ear. Instead, they rest on users’ 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, 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 the neckband-style wasn’t conducive to my runs, users find it comfortable enough to compel 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. Without going too into the weeds on the benefits of the membership, it’s worth knowing this: You can track mileage, elevation, live tracking, mobile coaching, and so on.

The wireless earphones have a low profile and rest comfortable in the ears.

Now, onto the earbuds themselves. Although they didn’t quite make the cut as one of the best Bluetooth headphones for running, they were awarded as one of the best workout headphones because of their skull-cracking bass reproduction. It’s silly how strong the bass is, but that’s perfect for staying pumped during the entirety of a run. The controls are easy to navigate; 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.

Notable mentions

  1. BeatsX. See our comparison of the BeatsX, Beats by Dre Power Beats, and the Apple AirPods. See our comparison
  2. Fitbit Flyer. They’re similar to the Bose SoundSport Wireless but lack the Bose’s IPX4-rating. See our review
  3. Anker SoundBuds. They’re similar to the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium but the connectivity is less stable. However they are more affordable. See our review
  4. Jabra Elite Sport Wireless. The predecessor to the Jabra Elite 65t. See our review
  5. JLab Epic Sport Wireless. Though they’re competitively priced, the build quality and high-maintenance fit make these less than ideal. See our review

How we picked

Although we’ve directly reviewed a vast array of products here at Sound Guys, 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 do quite a bit of research by perusing online forums, reading other reviews (PCMag, CNET, etc), conducting Twitter polls and more.

Though the Amps Air are sweat resistant, they lack an official IP rating and provide an ill-fit, knocking them out as one of the best Bluetooth headphones for running.

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. This list isn’t simply what one of us likes, it’s an accurate representation of our experiences as an entire staff. This is a very crowded segment of headphones, with countless models that are really, really good. However, this 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.

The Trekz Titanium allow you to hear your surroundings due to bone conduction technology.

We want you to be happy with your purchasenone 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.

Fallible but not a failure

In the pensive words of Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana “nobody’s perfect,” and that sentiment applies to Bluetooth headphones as well. An issue that I came across with the Plantronics BackBeat 500 FIT is their inability to stay clamped on while horizontal. This may seem odd at first, but if you’re looking to stretch or use a bench for free weights post-workout, these will quickly get annoying. The friction-less headband just slip, slides on down and off the crown of the head.

The Plantronics BackBeat 500 FIT look identical to the BackBeat 500 but feature a P2i water-repellent nano-coating.

Somewhat frustrating, the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium were slightly unstable due to the unbalanced weight distribution from my jawbone to the back of my head. This wasn’t too noticeable unless I vigorously shook my head. For people who warm up with jumping jacks or want to do burpees with these as a post-run workout, you may have to remove the Aftershokz before doing so. Also, for cyclists, they didn’t play nicely with my skateboarding helmet. Though this may have been different for a more traditionally shaped cycling helmet.

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