Legs beg for a break and lungs inflate for more air all while sweat creates an unsightly Rorschach test down the back of your unfortunately gray t-shirt. I need a break, your internal monologue says, huffing. Then, you hear the intro to “Eye of the Tiger” and exhausted legs reprise for the final dash of your run.
A training session well done.
Okay, so maybe that’s not every run. But the right song can jolt my morale and make that last haul feel a cut scene from “Rocky.” While I appreciate that running with music isn’t for everyone, many of us still choose to liven up our 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’s lots 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.
The best wireless Bluetooth running headphones are the Bose SoundSport Wireless
The Bose SoundSport comes in two versions: wired, and wireless. We’re here to discuss the latter. Although the wired version was fine and used frequently by many (our own Adam Molina included) the wireless iteration comes with much needed improvements. We’re not going to claim that the SoundSport Wireless has top-of-the-line sound, fit, or features—but they do better in all of these aspects combined than their competition. The SoundSport Wireless is sweat resistant, and feature a plastic housing which I found to be a little bulky for my liking. Given just how large the earbuds are, I was expecting to get some impressive battery life out of these. Alas, these guys will only keep up with you for six hours before throwing in the towel.
Bose Soundsport WirelessFull Review
That said, these are excellent for running because they actually stay in. The StayHear+ tips help to mitigate jiggling and jostling. Plus, in-line mic and remote is great for when you need to skip ahead to a more motivating song. It also has a nice curved design which allowed for greater distinction between the buttons. When listening, I thought the low end was pretty good. Nothing outstanding but it was emphasized more than in other Bose models, and I appreciate the efforts that went into deciding the sound signature since. At the end of the day, these are intended for exercising.
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 that that the right combination fits you. Also, the included cable clips mean that you can adjust the length of the wire to your liking. Personally, I prefer it to be snug against the back of my head to mitigate microphonics. The ear tips are ergonomically shape and angled around 60 degrees, making for a smooth fit. Upgraded from the X2’s, the wing tips now feature a thicker, sturdier silicone structure. Not only do the X3 stay in for your entire run, but they remain comfortable the whole time. Whether I was in the gym, on a walk or at one of the five Keurigs my office has, I never felt discomfort.
The X3 controls are easy to navigate and the in-line mic/remote–which also received a face lift–is tactile and responsive. A downside of Bluetooth earbuds is that we often forget to charge them. Even if the ‘buds are low on juice, it only takes 15 minutes to get an hour of charge. While testing, I did find the X3 charging mechanism to be a bit of a nuisance. Docking it in the cradle felt cumbersome. Not to mention, it adds another dongle to my life (ugh). Thankfully, connecting was quick. I never had an interrupted connection during my usage. Speaking of “never,” I also never used the carrying pouch, but appreciated the inclusion. The sound quality of the X3 was clearly made for athletes. Bass is exaggerated while attention to mids and highs fall to the wayside. In a typical earphone, I’d knock this kind of skewed signature but deem it appropriate for running, actually preferred.
Jabra Elite Sport WirelessFull Review
Usually when you think of Bluetooth headphones for running, the assumption is that sound quality suffers. While that is true when compared to high-end headphones, the line is being blurred at the consumer level. The Jabra Elite Sport Wireless are a pair of truly wireless earbuds meant for fitness, and they sound just as good (and in some cases better) than many of the headphones on this list. The low end is there but not super powerful. If that’s a must-have these might not be for you.
Besides good sound, these also offer full playback controls, a mic for phone calls and even a heart rate monitor to track how hard you’re working. One downside to these has to the be battery life which isn’t the greatest, as you’d expect from a pair of ‘buds so small. You’ll top off at about 3 hours of constant playback, but they do come with a small charging capsule that provides two extra charges. They also have a quick charge feature which will give you an hour of listening time on a 15 minute charge.
If $100 is too much to spend
If you can’t spend more than $100, check out the Plantronics BackBeat FIT. These wrap around the back of your head while hooking over your ears for a secure fit (might be where they got the name form). Of course, a downside to this is that it’s virtually impossible to adjust. For the most part these do seem to be one-size-fits-all. Worth noting, the back of the headphones extend a noticeable amount so if the appearance bothers you, you may want to keep reading.
Plantronics Backbeat Fit
They feature an IP57 coating which protects from sweat and rain, so it can handle a sprint through a downpour. As is the case with most Bluetooth ‘buds, you’ll get about 7 hours of constant playback with these; not great, but not horrible either. On the bright side, they do have playback controls and a built-in mic, so you won’t have to reach for your source device too often.
The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium offer one unique safety feature. Unlike the other Bluetooth headphones on this list, these don’t even go in your ear. Instead, they rest on your cheekbones and use bone conduction technology. This creates the vibrations and sends them directly to the cochlea, allowing you to hear sound. Take note, at high volumes, you won’t be the only one enjoying your music. Due to the conductive nature of these headphones, sound leakage is unavoidable.
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
As may be expected, sound quality is lacking since they don’t insert into your ear or create any kind of seal. It does have one huge benefit in that you are completely aware of your surroundings at all times. The titanium frame also makes it durable enough to use for intense activities like running while maintaining a lightweight build. I’ve fallen while skateboarding, threw these around during testing and they held up like a champ. Truly, you can hardly tell how much handling they have been through. While in use, you’ll get a decent 6-hour battery life and can find playback controls built into the headband, allowing you to keep your phone protected in a pocket or armband
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.
- IP ratings denote if and to what degree a product is water-resistant or waterproof. The “IP” stand for Ingress Protection and while the “X” that often sits between the numeric ratings (e.g. IPX7) is just a place holder, meaning that the product has yet to receive an official dust-resistant rating.
- Here’s the important split seen in the listed headphones:
Water-Resistant Waterproof IPX4 IP67 IPX5 IPX7 IPX6 IPX8
Full charts are available here if you’re so inclined.
- Proper fit is especially important with running earbuds. After all, how good are earbuds if they can’t stay in to be heard? Standard in-ear design is the most traditional and what will likely cast the widest net in terms of preference. They isolate well and tend to stay put while moving around. Another popular style would be around the ear. These are a bit of an in-ear hybrid as the buds are still inserted into the canal and hook over the top of the ear to allow for a more secure fit. I personally tend to prefer wearing my earbuds like this when running as it reduces microphonics, or the reverberation of sound up the cable when rustle against something.
Why you should trust me
Hey, I’m Lily. In college, I worked for the radio station and racked up countless hours with studio-level microphones, headphones, speakers and recording software. All the while, deepening my understanding of the technical side of audio.
I’m always on the lookout for runner-friendly earbuds that allow function to precede form... I place a lot of weight on secure fit, comfort, and durability.
Of course, like anybody, my curiosity guided learning beyond work. I continued to self-produce YouTube videos, reviewing headphones from the Skullcandy 50/50s to the original Sennheiser Momentum. Hi-Fi Heaven reached out for my first collaborative project, and I got down to business. We teamed up to review Bluetooth, exercise and consumer headphones.
Naturally, being the child of two lawyers–and with a brother finishing up his third-year in law school–I’ve learned the importance of seeking outside counsel and studying potential rebuttals. Often, I reach out directly to the manufacturer to clarify technical details. General research often includes straining my eyes to read as many articles as possible from relevant sources such as Forbes, PC Mag, and CNET.
Moreover, I’m an avid runner. My love for cardio predates my love for headphones, but I have always listened to music on my runs. Therefore, I’m always on the lookout for runner-friendly earbuds that allow function to precede form. My priorities align with most runners’ in that I place a lot of weight on secure fit, comfort, and durability. I want headphones that can keep up with me, something that doesn’t make me think when I’m using it. Simplicity in design is brilliance and that’s something I looked out for when researching this for this best list.
Who should buy these?
Runners! Generally speaking, athletes in general and the profusely sweaty. After combing through a range of reviews and lists, comparing what’s what in this specific class of earphone, I’ve concluded that these are the winners for my fellow cardio kids. Prior to the salience of sweatproof earbuds, I had wasted way more money than I needed to on run-of-the-mill earbuds for exercising and am stoked to be able to share the crème de la crème with you guys.
Furthermore, if you find your current pair of workout earbuds are impeding on your ability to workout, any of these will certainly be a welcome upgrade. Prior to committing to Bluetooth earbuds, I rocked the Klipsch Rugged S4i. It was my baby, and I still have them in my desk at work. As much as I love those earphones, I’ve retired them from workout use because the cord kept getting in the way. I’d be doing bicep curls – as hard as it may be to believe from my straw arms – and the cord would get caught on the dumbbell only to rip out of my ears. Half the time, I found myself opting to hear staccato grunts of burly men over aggravating my ear canals and disrupting my workout.
How we picked
I began by reviewing what Adam Molina had already chosen from our initial posting of this best list. Afterwards, I perused audio forums such as Head-Fi and Reddit (r/headphones). The aforementioned CNET, PCMag, etc, also got a few clicks. As any good consumer does, I thumbed through Amazon and a range of review sites to get a feel for what’s well-liked. From there, I was able to read user-based reviews and understand common trends among successful exercise headphones. Among my findings were that many people sought products with an IPX4 rating or greater, remote functionality and a secure fit. We are talking runners here – gotta make sure those ‘buds stay in while you’re bobbing up and down with every step.
Specifically during testing, I made sure to actually go running with these, multiple times and in varying environments. I ran through Chicago’s West Loop, on treadmills, and through a forest preserve. While doing so, I took studios mental notes regarding the seal, fit, comfort, sound quality and connection reliability.
Fallible but not a failure
In the pensive words of Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana “nobody’s perfect,” and that sentiment applies to Bluetooth wireless headphones as well.
The Phaiser BHS 760, which toppled the CB3 Fit, are an astounding bang for your buck. However, their one shortcoming is battery life. Clocking in at five hours of listening time, they fall a couple hours short of the CB3 Fit. However, since this list is primarily for running, I took a different approach to prioritizing battery life than I normally would. Unless you’re a marathoner, chances are your runs won’t exceed an hour. Basic arithmetic then informs me that these will last at least five good runs, probably more if you’re more like me and keep your runs to 30-45 minutes to save the prematurely haggard knees.
Another issue was with the Plantronics Backbeat Fit. For most users across the board, the Fit fit, but for a small minority: the earbuds’ housings were too large to comfortably sit in their ears. Oftentimes, friction against the tragus and antitragus became too much of a nuisance for them to enjoy the BackBeat Fit. Fortunately, this was a rare case and for most of you reading this now, fit shouldn’t be an issue.
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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