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The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones' multi-function button.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys

Shokz OpenRun review

The OpenRun adds quick charging to the company's line of bone conduction headsets.
By
November 5, 2022
7
Shokz OpenRun
The bottom line
The Shokz OpenRun is a mild upgrade to one of the most popular pairs of bone conduction headphones around, the Aeropex by AfterShokz (now "Shokz"). Shokz includes a welcome quick charge feature along with Bluetooth 5.1. We like how the OpenRun allows you to remain fully engaged with your surroundings while simultaneously allowing you to enjoy your media. Bone conduction headphones may not be for everyone, but the OpenRun is one of your best options in a niche market.

Shokz OpenRun

The Shokz OpenRun is a mild upgrade to one of the most popular pairs of bone conduction headphones around, the Aeropex by AfterShokz (now "Shokz"). Shokz includes a welcome quick charge feature along with Bluetooth 5.1. We like how the OpenRun allows you to remain fully engaged with your surroundings while simultaneously allowing you to enjoy your media. Bone conduction headphones may not be for everyone, but the OpenRun is one of your best options in a niche market.
Release date

August 31, 2021

Price

Original: $129 USD

Dimensions

12.7 x 9.7 x 4.3 cm (headset)

Weight

26g

Model Number

S803

Waterproof

IP67

What we like
Leaves ears unoccluded, good for safety
Bluetooth 5.1 and fast charging
IP67 rating
Comfortable and lightweight
Good sound for bone conduction
Multipoint connectivity
No chance of inner-ear infection from use
What we don't like
Proprietary charging port
Irritating "beep" with every button press
No mobile app and limited onboard EQ functionality
Microphone quality
7
SoundGuys Rating
6.1
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Durability / Build Quality
9.4
7.6
8.0
Value
7.0
5.5
6.0
Design
6.5
8.7
9.0
Connectivity
5.0
7.3
7.0
Microphone
5.4
4.0
4.0
Portability
7.9
2.3
2.0
Battery Life
7.0
8.0
8.0
Feature
6.9
5.4
5.0
Comfort
8.3
6.1
6.0

Shokz corners the bone conduction headphones market with a limited line accommodating professionals, athletes, and general listeners. The Shokz OpenRun looks nearly identical to the company’s famed Aeropex headset but adds some new features like fast charging and better battery life. We like the OpenRun because it’s safety-oriented and doesn’t clog up your ears. Not only does a fit like this keep you aware of what’s happening around you, but it also means you won’t encounter an ear infection from the headset.

After two weeks with the Shokz OpenRun we’re excited to share all that’s great about this pair of headphones and what could be improved. Let’s see if this headset from Shokz fits your lifestyle.

Editor’s note: this Shokz OpenRun review was updated on November 5, 2022, to address how it compares to the OpenRun Pro from Shokz.

Outdoor athletes will appreciate how the OpenRun keeps their ears open to passing cars while also relaying music to motivate them through workouts. Those with in-the-ear (ITE) or invisible (IIC) hearing aids will be able to use this pair of bone conduction headphones since it bypasses the outer ear. Any listener who has an aversion to sticking things in their ears will like how this pair of headphones keeps the ears completely unoccluded.

What’s it like to use Shokz OpenRun?

The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones in red next to a pack of cards, mini Altoids tin, and mini Swiss Army Knife.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The OpenRun has little arches that contour around and over your ears.

Using the Shokz OpenRun is similar to other Bluetooth headphones and you must manually pair it to your phone to get started. How you wear the OpenRun is what differentiates it from your standard wireless headphones and earbuds.

At first glance, you could easily mistake the OpenRun for typical neckband earbuds where you place the rounded pieces into your ear canals. If you do this, you’ll be uncomfortable and your music won’t sound good. To wear these bone conduction headphones properly, you need to rest the earbud-shaped pieces on your cheekbones, just in front of your ears. A gentle degree of headband tension keeps the OpenRun in place atop your cheekbones. With the malleable band that connects the earpieces and runs behind your head, this Shokz headset should suit most noggin shapes.

For general wear, I find the OpenRun comfortable, but things get a bit tricky when I don my glasses. Adding a mask to the equation makes for an uncomfortable affair that would likely be worse if I grew out my hair. Another issue with bone conduction headphones generally is that placement greatly affects audio clarity, and I rarely nail it on the first try. When I do get both sound pieces aligned on my cheekbones, they move out of place when I talk or chew, which means sound quality is ultimately inconsistent. Things can go from “good” to “okay” to “bad” and back to “good” all within a minute.

Shokz includes a drawstring travel pouch, a sports headband, a magnetic two-pin charging cable, and the OpenRun headset.

How do bone conduction headphones work?

A hand holds the Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones and displays the volume buttons.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The buttons are so small and hard to differentiate that I sometimes press both when I mean to just press one.

If you’ve never encountered bone conduction headphones before, they can be a small marvel. You wear the OpenRun on your cheekbones because the headset sends sound waves to your inner ear by vibrating the bones in your skull. Standard headsets use tiny speakers to move soundwaves through the ear and down your ear canals. Bone conduction may seem scary, but the technology dates back to the 1400s and like Bluetooth, it’s harmless.

How do you control the Shokz OpenRun?

There are just three buttons on the OpenRun that control power/volume up, volume down, and multi-function commands. Like its older sibling, the OpenRun plays a loud beep when you press any of the buttons and since there’s no mobile app, you can’t disable this tone. It’s not a dealbreaker but is certainly annoying when I adjust the volume with consecutive clicks.

Take a look at the table below to understand how to control the OpenRun for playback and calls.

ONE PRESSTWO PRESSESTHREE PRESSESPRESS AND HOLD (2s)PRESS AND HOLD (3s)
MULTI-FUNCTION
ONE PRESS
  • Play / pause music
  • Answer/end call

TWO PRESSES
  • Next track
  • Redial last number (when idle)

THREE PRESSES
  • Previous track

PRESS AND HOLD (2s)
  • Access voice assistant
  • Answer incoming call, hang up current call
  • Reject a call

PRESS AND HOLD (3s)

VOLUME UP
ONE PRESS
  • Increase volume
  • Check battery status (when idle)

TWO PRESSES

THREE PRESSES

PRESS AND HOLD (2s)
  • Power on

PRESS AND HOLD (3s)
  • Power off

VOLUME DOWN
ONE PRESS
  • Decrease volume
  • Check battery status (when idle)

TWO PRESSES

THREE PRESSES

PRESS AND HOLD (2s)

PRESS AND HOLD (3s)

VOLUME UP/DOWN TOGETHER
ONE PRESS
  • Reject a call

TWO PRESSES

THREE PRESSES

PRESS AND HOLD (2s)

PRESS AND HOLD (3s)
  • Change EQ setting (while music plays)

Is the Shokz OpenRun good for working out?

Most athletes can see the benefit of bone conduction headphones, especially those who exercise outside. Since your ears are open, you can remain fully aware of your surroundings. This is a solid pick for runners and bike commuters, and can even be a great training companion for rock climbers thanks to the IP67 dust and water resistance rating.

The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones rest in the drawstring carry pouch inside of a sling bag near biking accessories.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
You can use the drawstring pouch for transport but the OpenRun is so durable that you don’t really need it.

The OpenRun allows me to hear traffic and pedestrians when biking, and unlike a portable speaker, my music won’t disturb others. Unfortunately, I’m unable to get a good fit when wearing a helmet. The back of my helmet pushes on the OpenRun’s band and displaces it, degrading sound quality. Of course, I don’t experience this same issue when running, but it’s difficult to wear the OpenRun with a thick beanie, which many need for winter runs. I find bone conduction headphones work best with indoor bouldering, a type of rock climbing. They very rarely interfere with my movement and stay in place even when I fall.

Those who do a lot of weight lifting may not like the Shokz OpenRun because the band slides forward and off your head when you lie on your back. This is an issue when I do bench presses or “skull crushers.” However, the OpenRun is a highly durable headset with a nice rubberized exterior that keeps it in place in most other situations.

How does the Shokz OpenRun connect?

The Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones next to the AfterShokz Aeropex.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Like the Aeropex (right), the OpenRun (left) only supports the SBC Bluetooth codec.

You get a 10-meter wireless range thanks to Bluetooth 5.1 with this Shokz headset. You only get the SBC Bluetooth codec on the Shokz OpenRun, which doesn’t send high-quality audio to any device. This lack of AAC and aptX support doesn’t matter though, since the open fit and auditory masking will nullify any benefit that those higher bit rate codecs offer. A bone conduction headset could support all of the high-quality codecs available and it still wouldn’t sound as good as a pair of earbuds or headphones that block out the external world.

Although Bluetooth 5.1 offers improved energy efficiency over the Aeropex (Bluetooth 5.0), it won’t get LE Audio or the LC3 codec down the line. Interestingly, the OpenRun does have Bluetooth multipoint for simultaneous connections to two source devices, making it a fine option for productivity.

To enable multipoint connectivity on the OpenRun, follow these directions:

  1. Start with OpenRun powered off.
  2. Press and hold the volume up button until the voice assistant says “pairing.” Wait for the LED to flash red and blue.
  3. Press and hold the multi-function and volume up buttons for 3 seconds. The voice will say, “multipoint enabled.”
  4. Open your phone’s Bluetooth menu and select “OpenRun by Shokz.” The voice prompt will say, “connected.”
  5. Turn the OpenRun off.
  6. Re-enter the pairing process. Press and hold the volume up button until the voice assistant says “pairing.” Wait for the LED to flash red and blue.
  7. Open your phone’s Bluetooth menu and select “OpenRun by Shokz.” The voice prompt will say, “connected.”
  8. Turn the OpenRun off.
  9. Turn the OpenRun on. It is now connected to both source devices.

When you want to disable Bluetooth multipoint, press and hold the multi-function and volume up buttons for 3 seconds. The voice prompt will say,
“multipoint disabled.”

How long does the battery last on the Shokz OpenRun?

The proprietary two-pin connector on the Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
We don’t love the magnetic two-pin connector for charging.

Shokz claims you can get up to 8 hours of battery life from the OpenRun’s 160mAh lithium-polymer battery, and my time with the headset supports this. To charge the OpenRun, just attach the proprietary magnetic cable to the two-pin connector on the headset and wait 90 minutes for a full cycle. When you’re in a rush, you can charge the headset for just 10 minutes and enjoy 90 minutes of playback. You get 10 days of standby which is pretty good too.

When the headset is charging, the LED lights up to denote its battery status. A red light means it’s charging, and a blue light means it’s fully charged. When the LED flashes at a two-second interval, the battery is low.

Does the Shokz OpenRun block out noise?

One of the main selling points of the Shokz OpenRun is that it does not block out background noise. The fact that you can hear your surroundings clearly while wearing the OpenRun is a feature, much like the wireless Sony LinkBuds. Those who want headphones that silence their surroundings should turn their attention to noise cancelling headphones or standard workout earbuds.

Hold up, something’s missing:

This article’s frequency response is absent from this review because our Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture cannot accurately measure the headset’s frequency response. The isolation chart is absent because, well, the headphones don’t do anything to block out sound and they’re not supposed to.

How does the Shokz OpenRun sound?

A woman wears the Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones in red.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
If you want the best sound, be sure to place the earbud-like pieces directly on your cheekbones.

The Shokz OpenRun sounds good for a pair of bone conduction headphones and uses PremiumPitch 2.0+, which means the transducers are angled at a more ergonomic angle against the cheekbones relative to headsets without this tech. You also get louder volume and bass outputs and minimized vibration intensity. Even with PremiumPitch 2.0+, the OpenRun has a frequency response that reproduces virtually no sub-bass due to the fit. You’ll still hear bass, midrange, and treble, but this skull-vibrating headset won’t satisfy bass heads.

Lows, mids, and highs

In the song 17 by The Greeting Committee, the kick drum during the song’s intro is all too quiet compared to the individually picked guitar notes. Once Addie Sartino’s vocals and the rest of the instruments come in at 0:09, the percussive elements of the song become very hard to hear unless I strain for it. Sartino’s vocals come through as the clearest element of the song and this is particularly apparent during the chorus at 1:54. While Sartino’s vocals sound great in this section, the cymbal hits are much quieter than they sound through my Shure AONIC 50 and Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX headphones. Background harmonies are audible through the left channel but very quiet in this chorus too.

Again, the sound quality is highly subject to change depending on how you place the OpenRun on your skull and whether or not you move your jaw while wearing it. No matter how I place or displace the headset, vocals tend to come through with the greatest clarity. If you’re a big fan of audiobooks or podcasts and want to listen while keeping an ear on the real world, you may grow to really enjoy the OpenRun’s frequency response.

When pressing the volume up/down buttons simultaneously, the EQ will cycle through “vocal booster mode” and “standard mode.” The Shokz app only supports the OpenRun Pro, so there’s no way to create a custom EQ with a proprietary app. If you’re really dedicated, you can check out some third-party EQ apps, though.

Can you use the Shokz OpenRun for phone calls?

Yes, you can use the Shokz OpenRun for phone calls but the microphone quality isn’t very good. It transmits a lot of background noise to the person on the other line, which could be annoying to them should you decide to talk and walk on a windy day. When you make a call through the OpenRun from a quiet environment, voice quality is acceptable. Take a listen to our audio sample below.

Shokz OpenRun microphone demo (Non-standardized):

How does this microphone sound to you?

1025 votes

Should you buy the Shokz OpenRun?

A selection of Shokz/AfterShokz bone conduction headphones in a circle, including the OpenRun, OpenMove, Air, and Aeropex.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
There are so many Shokz headsets to choose from.

Anyone who wants a pair of wireless headphones that will keep them attuned to their surroundings will appreciate the design and build of the Shokz OpenRun. It’s also a great option for those with certain kinds of hearing aids who want to enjoy music without it interfering with their hearing aids. While some listeners may not like how the sound quality changes with various jaw movements (e.g., chewing), this is still one of the best sounding bone conduction headsets available.

We don’t fault you for taking issue with some of the OpenRun’s shortcomings, like its proprietary charging method and limited feature set. If you’re an average listener who just wants a pair of earbuds or headphones and doesn’t find any utility in bone conduction, there are cheaper headsets with more features to choose from.

Shokz OpenRun
Shokz OpenRun
Leaves ears unoccluded • Fast charging battery • IP67 rating
One of the best options among bone-conduction headsets.
The Shokz OpenRun bone-conduction headphones leave the ears unoccluded and produce a decent sound. They have an IP67 rating and a fast-charging battery.

How does the OpenRun Compare to the Shokz OpenRun Pro?

The Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones rest on a pair of running shoes and next to sunglasses.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Runners and city slickers will thoroughly enjoy the peace of mind that comes with wearing the OpenRun Pro headphones.

For the best bone conduction headset you can buy, we recommend the Shokz OpenRun Pro, which costs $179.95 at Amazon. The OpenRun Pro uses 9th-generation bone conduction technology and a more advanced PremiumPitch 2.0+. With this newer technology, the OpenRun Pro reproduces slightly louder bass than the standard model and keeps audio output more consistent when the headset is slightly out of place.

You get a better 10-hour battery life from the OpenRun Pro compared to the OpenRun’s 8-hour battery life. No matter which headset you get, you’re stuck with the proprietary 2-pin charging cable, but at least both headsets support fast charging. Interstingly, the more affordable OpenRun is more durable (IP67) than the OpenRun Pro (IP55).

The AfterShokz Aeropex is a few years older than the OpenRun and uses Bluetooth 5.0 instead of 5.1. When you buy the newer, rebranded Shokz OpenRun, you get other features like fast charging too. The OpenRun also comes in a mini size for very small heads. The standard OpenRun size comes in black, blue, grey, and red which are the same color options as the Aeropex.

The Aftershokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones rest on a leaf font where the vein splits.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Like the OpenRun, it’s hard to tell when I’ve properly pressed the multi-function button on the Aeropex because it’s nearly flush with the headset.

Both the Aeropex and OpenRun merit IP67 durability ratings and weigh just 26g. You get eighth-generation bone conduction technology with PremiumPitch 2.0+ regardless of which headset you buy. Interestingly, the Aeropex includes more accessories like a silicone carrying pouch, ear plugs, sport belt, and two charging cables. The drawstring pouch that Shokz provides with the OpenRun may not look as cool but it’s less likely to rip like the Aeropex pouch.

These headsets are almost identical, and if it really boils down to it, we recommend whichever one you can find on sale. Currently the Aeropex costs $93.99 at Amazon.

What should you get instead of the Shokz OpenRun?

If you want to stick with bone conduction headphones but aren’t ready to drop $129 USD on your headset, consider the Shokz OpenMove instead. This headset costs $59.95 at Amazon and uses the more modern USB-C charging port rather than Shokz’ proprietary connector. Battery life isn’t as good with the OpenMove as on the OpenRun, but the buttons are easier to distinguish from one another, which is important for those who wear gloves in cold climes. You sacrifice durability with the IP55-rated OpenMove, but this should be more than good enough for most people.

The Sony LinkBuds earbuds lay on a leather surface.
The silicone loop fins are really important for getting a secure fit.

If you came all this way and decided that bone conduction headphones aren’t for you, the Sony LinkBuds WF-L900 is a great alternative. These earbuds from Sony fit like your traditional pair of buds by resting in your outer ear, but a donut hole cutout keeps your ear canals completely open to your surroundings. This way, you get better sound than bone conduction and the benefits of a more secure fit. Generally, it costs a bit more than Shokz’ headsets ($128 at Amazon).

We also recommend the Linkbuds as a solid alternative for iPhone owners thinking about the AirPods (3rd generation), because Sony provides ear wings to stabilize the buds. You get an IPX4 rating which is pretty standard and can use the Sony Headphones Connect app for updates and customization. The charging case uses USB-C, which is way more convenient than Shokz’ proprietary charging method. You’ll pay an Apple tax for these earbuds though ($19.99 at Amazon).

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds in the open carrying case next to a climbing rope and belay device.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The ear hooks peek out from the back of your ears.

The Bose Sport Open Earbuds may be more for you if you don’t want anything to come close to your ear canals. These Bose buds sit on top of your ear and a speaker fires sound down your ear canals. Like Sony’s earphones, Bose’s buds have just the typical IPX4 rating. One thing we like about Bose’s wireless earbuds, like the Sport Open and traditional Sport Earbuds, is that you get access to updates through the mobile app. Unfortunately, the Sport Open Earbuds uses a proprietary charging cradle which is a hassle. You’ll pay $199.95 at Amazon for these buds.

Frequently asked questions about the Shokz OpenRun

Yes, on December 28, 2021, AfterShokz renamed itself to Shokz. Shokz changed its name on its 10-year anniversary to lead into the next decade with a simplified and easier-to-share message than the former name “AfterShokz.” With this name change, came a revamped logo to better illustrate the bone conduction technology.

  1. Start with the headset powered off.
  2. Press and hold the volume up button until the voice prompt says, “pairing.” The LED indicator will flash red and blue.
  3. Press and hold the multi-function, volume up, and volume down buttons simultaneously for 5 seconds until you hear two beeps, or feel vibrations.
  4. Turn the OpenRun off.

The OpenRun is now reset and can be re-paired to your device.