Best Running Headphones 2018: Headphones for exercising and the gym

Looking for the best running headphones or gym headphones? We’ve put the top sports-centric headphones to the test.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner breaking marathon records or a nervous beginner pulling on your first ever running shoes, your favourite music can provide the extra motivation you need to push through the pain barrier.

Related: Best wireless headphones

Everyone has their favourite song that can get them motivated, so music can be the perfect companion whether you’re running long distance or working on your sprint speed.

Even if you feel more at home in the weights room than the running track, a pair of secure, sweat-proof headphones can help keep your energy levels up as you’re knocking out explosive power cleans.

Related: Best headphones

But you shouldn’t have to struggle with earbuds that fall out of your ears or big cumbersome cans slipping off your head. You won’t even notice you’re wearing a good pair of exercise headphones, allowing you to concentrate on your workout while your favourite tunes get your heart racing.

Nowadays, more and more ‘truly wireless’ headphones are available, meaning there’s not even a cable connecting the two buds together, making for an even more liberating running experience.

We’ve looked at a whole range of headphones designed for running and exercise, whether that’s pounding the pavement or hitting the gym, and also made sure they can deal with the sweat, rain and everything else you might throw at them.

Related: Best heart rate monitor

Sennheiser PMX 685i Sports

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Key features:

  • Slim, lightweight design
  • Rich audio
  • Flexible, durable neckband
  • Review price: £60

When the Sennheiser Adidas PMX 680 headphones were first released they were the best running headphones by some distance. The Sennheiser PMX 685i Sports improve on those neckband-style headphones making them slimmer and enhancing the sound performance. They are extremely light to wear but don’t lose any of its durability. They don’t come with soft cushioning ear buds, but they still manage to sit comfortably in the ear.

Out on a run they are barely noticeable when on and stay secure thanks to the well-designed flexible neckband. It matches the original in the sound department delivering 120dBs of audio, but the sound is richer. It struggles with bass and music can sound a little distorted at higher volumes. If you don’t like the invasive nature of in-ear buds, the Sennheiser PMX 685i are a great buy.


Key features:

  • In-ear design
  • aptX support
  • Sweatproof and washable
  • Noise isolation
  • Review price: £130

The Monster iSport SuperSlim wireless in-ear headphones are a great fit for fans of big, pumping tracks. While it lacks the detail and finesse provided by the iSport Victory set, the SuperSlim is all about the bass, though this isn’t delivered in the erratic way of other wireless sports headphones.

We love the washable, secure design too, and while £130 may seem a lot to pay for dedicated sports in-ears, when you compare these earbuds to similar setups, the SuperSlim does actually offer better value.

Read the full Monster iSport SuperSlim review


Key features:

  • In-ear heart rate monitoring
  • Sport button with voice prompts
  • Great Android and iOS companion app
  • Review price: £199.99

These used to be the most expensive headphones in this list, but the price has dropped considerably since we first reviewed them. That means they can now be picked up for around half the price, making them an amazing bargain for what are fantastic running headphones.

The Pulse are wireless for starters so there’s no flailing cable to tuck under your gym shirt or running jacket. The earbuds sit snug and comfortable inside the ears and cleverly conceal the Micro USB charging port, which will give you just over four hours of battery life.

Related: What is VO2 Max?

Heart rate monitoring is the Pulse’s special trick hosting the technology to track the biometric data without a chest strap or dedicated sports watch. Crucially, it’s accurate too and all of the data is available to view in the excellent Pulse Sport app. Sound quality is fantastic as well offering rich, bassy audio with plenty of detail and clarity.

Read the full Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless review


Key features:

  • In-ear heart rate monitoring
  • Sweat and weather-resistant
  • Third-party app support
  • Review price: £169.95

The Bose SoundSport Pulse can not only deal with the rigours of sweat and rain without, well, breaking a sweat, they also have an integrated in-ear heart rate monitor. These have a super-comfortable and secure fit thanks to a generous selection of tips.

The included wingtips ensure these headphones aren’t going anywhere, and a 5-hour battery life will get you through even a marathon. The one thing they do lack compared to rivals such as Jabra’s Sport Pulse is a dedicated fitness app. Instead, you can use the heart rate monitor with your app of choice, such as Strava or Endomondo.

An inline remote will let you change tracks or adjust volume without breaking your stride. Sound quality lives up to the Bose name, so these headphones won’t struggle to get you pumped for your next gym or running session.

Read the full Bose SoundSport Pulse review


Key features:

  • In-ear heart rate monitoring
  • Truly wireless design
  • Great Android and iOS companion app
  • Charging case
  • Review price: £229.99

These are the only ‘truly wireless’ earbuds currently on our list. This means they are completely cord-free, with two separate earbuds. Thankfully, the fit is still incredibly secure thanks to a range of wingtips and tip sizes, so there’s no worry about them falling out and getting lost.

Related: Best running shoes

Like the Jabra Sport Pulse, these have a fantastic in-ear heart rate monitor and work with Jabra’s excellent Sport Life companion app so you get in-ear coaching and readouts as you run. The app can also take you through bodyweight exercise circuits that will help support your running.

An included case not only keeps the earbuds secure when not in use, but will also top up the battery. The Elite Sport are rated at 3 hours of playback, and the case can provide two additional charges. While these earbuds definitely come at a high price, they’re worth it if you want advanced training features as well as a liberating cord-free form factor.

Read the full Jabra Elite Sport review

Jaybird X3

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Key features:

  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Super-secure fit
  • EQ-adjustable in companion app
  • Multiple pairing modes
  • Review price: £110

Jaybird focus purely on sweat-proof headphones for adrenaline junkies and exercise enthusiasts alike. With the Jaybird X3 the company has finally gotten the right combination of a super-secure wireless fit, fantastic sound quality and respectable battery life making the Jaybird X3 a fantastic choice.

You’re able to wear the Jaybird X3 in a number of different ways, such as behind your head or down the front of your neck, then you can either wear them straight into your ears, or looped over the back and inserted upside down. Then there are different tips and wingtips included to customise your fit even further.

Once you’ve found a combination that works for you, you’ll be safe in the knowledge these headphones won’t budge no matter how vigorous your activity. Then the sound quality is as good as we’ve heard from any running headphones, with a sound you can customise through the companion app.

Eight hours of battery life rounds off an excellent package alongside Bluetooth 4.1 that not only lets you pair your headphones to two devices, you can pair two Jaybird X3 to a single device if you and a buddy want to workout to the same tunes.

Read the full Jaybird X3 review

Soul X-Tra

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Key features:

  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Breathable headband
  • Washable ear cushions
  • Running safety LEDs
  • Review price: £110

While generally, over-ear cans aren’t the first headphones you might think of for exercise, some people prefer them to in-ear headphones. That doesn’t mean you should make do with wearing any old headphones for a run, though.

The Soul X-tra are wireless cans that can also withstand the rigours of exercise with a sweat-resistant design and ear cushions you can pop off and wash when they get grubby. The lack of a wire will also mean you can run or exercise unrestricted. There’s also handy media controls on the side of the earcups for adjusting your music without breaking your stride.

A really useful feature for runners are a set of LEDs that make you easier to spot if you like to run when the light is low. Once you’re finished exercising, the headphones fold down to a more compact, easily-transportable size and the included case will keep them nice and safe.

Battery life at 24 hours is excellent and the headphones even support quick charging in case you need to top them up before rushing out the door. If you’re dead set on a pair of over-ear cans, the Soul X-tra are a great choice.

Read the full Soul X-Tra review

Jaybird Run

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Key features:

  • Truly wireless earbuds
  • 4-hour battery life
  • Two additional charges from charging case
  • 5 minute charge gives 1 hour of charge
  • Review price: £169


Truly wireless earbuds are fantastic for exercise, providing even more liberation compared to standard neckband wireless headphones.

As you would expect from Jaybird, the Run are all about a secure fit and there are plenty of wingtips and tips included to ensure these stay locked into your ears even during the most intense workout. They are of course sweat-resistant, too.

The best feature is the quick charge functionality. Just a quick five minute top up will give you an hour of use, which is perfect if you often forget to charge your headphones. Each earbud has 4 hours of battery life, and the charging case will give you 8 hours more.

Sound quality from the 6mm drivers is also fantastic and the Run also works with Jaybird’s MySound app to let you configure the EQ to your taste. Only a few shortcomings, like the limited media control capabilities, stop these from being the ultimate truly wireless earbuds.


Read the full Jaybird Run review