Best running headphones: The best sport headphones for every budget

Trusted Reviews reveals its pick of the best running headphones for 2019. Whatever your sport, our recommendations will be able to keep up

Which are the best running headphones for you?

If you’re an avid runner or gym-goer, a decent pair of sweat-resistant headphones is a must. But with every company under the sun offering gym sets, knowing which to get is tricky.

First you’ll want to pick a form. Some people enjoy the tight fit and flexibility of band running headphones. Others opt for the complete freedom of true wireless and its absence of cables.

You’ll also want to consider fit and water resistance. If you just want to use your headphones in the gym, basic sweat-proofing is enough. If you regularly run outside, come rain or shine, you’ll want to consider something with IP certification, which guarantees the headphones will survive a downpour.

The following is our summary of the best running headphones. There’s something here to suit most people and you can scroll down the the page to read our full reviews.

Best overall: Jaybird X4
Best connectivity: Jaybird Vista
Best quality: Jaybird Tarah
Best for accuracy: Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless
Best for battery life: Beats PowerBeats Pro
Best for water resistance: Rock Jaw T5 Ultra Connect
Best for energetic sound: Creative Outlier Air
Best for comfort: Bose SoundSport Pulse
Best premium: Jabra Elite Sport

Related: Best wireless earbuds

After all that, you’ll want to factor in price. If you’ve got cash to burn, the Jaybird X4 are the best all-round running headphones currently available. If you’re on a slightly stricter budget the Jaybird Tarah share many of the same features, but have a slightly shorter battery life.

If you’re on a truly shoestring budget the TaoTronics Lightweight Sports Headphones are the best-value running headphones we’ve reviewed.

Related: What is aptX?


1. Jaybird X4

The best overall running headphones

Pros:

  • Solid, comfortable fit
  • Decent sound for a sports set
  • Great build quality

Cons:

  • Prone to dropouts in busy areas

The Jaybird X4 are the benchmark against which we currently measure all running headphones. They offer a robust IPX7 design that’ll easily survive an unexpected mid-run downpour or a sweaty gym sessions – we suspect they’re well-nigh indestructible.

A generous selection of silicon tips and wings options, coupled with an intelligent cable management system, make it quick and easy to achieve a solid seal that won’t let you down mid-workout.

Add to this a lengthy 8hr battery life and above-average audio quality – by running headphone standards – and the Jaybird X4 easily earn their place as current gym headphones of choice at Trusted Reviews.

2. Jaybird Vista

A wealth of custom gym and running features you won’t find on most true wireless sets

Pros:

  • Great seal
  • Solid build quality
  • Super-stable connection

Cons:

  • No ambient sound mode or aptX
  • Charging case only has 10 hours battery life

The Jaybird Vista are the latest true wireless headphones from Logitech’s fitness-focused audio sub-brand. Designed from the ground up with runners and gym-goers in mind, they tick all the boxes when it comes to fit and functionality, and feature a wealth of custom features that avid sportspeople will love.

They offer one of the best seals you’ll find on a true wireless set, excellent build quality and one of the stablest connections you’ll find outside of Apple Airpods. Their 6g weight makes them much lighter than competing sets and super-comfortable to wear. Like all Jaybirds, the Vista have an IPX7 water/sweat resistance rating. This means they’ll easily survive the wear and tear delivered during a gym set.

The only downside to the design is that the earbuds are missing a few basic features – for example, there’s no ambient sound mode.

While you can get better sounding true wireless, and they don’t have the luxurious feel of some sets, the Jaybird Vista are the best set available for their target audience.

3. Jaybird Tarah

The X4’s affordable sibling

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Excellent fit and build quality
  • Sound good for the price

Cons:

  • Battery life could be better

The Jaybird Tarah are the affordable siblings of the stellar Jaybird X4. For less than £100 they offer solid audio quality, a tight yet comfortable fit and IPX7 sweat and dust resistance.

The only design difference is that the Tarah have single-piece wings and tips, making them slightly less customisable than the X4’s separate tip and wing pieces. If you want an unbreakable fit you’ll do better to invest in the X4.

The Tarah also have a slightly shorter 6hr battery life, though unless you’re planning to run an ultra-marathon this probably isn’t a deal-breaker.

 

Best running headphones

4. Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless

Fantastic headphones with an accurate HRM

Pros:

  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Accurate heart rate monitor
  • Great companion app
  • Useful voice prompts

Cons:

  • Bigger battery life would be nice

The Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless were among the most expensive headphones in this list, but the price has dropped considerably since our first review, making them an amazing bargain for what are fantastic running headphones. Bear in mind that a newer version has been brought out since we wrote our current review – but we still stand by our high rating for the review model.

The Pulse are wireless , so there’s no flailing cable to tuck under your gym shirt or running jacket. The earbuds sit snugly and comfortably inside the ears and cleverly conceal the Micro USB charging port, which gives you just over 4hrs of battery life.

Heart rate monitoring is the Pulse’s special trick: they host the technology to track biometric data without needing a chest strap or dedicated sports watch. Crucially, the data is accurate too, and it can be viewed in the excellent Jabra Sport Life app. Sound quality is fantastic as well, offering rich, bassy audio with plenty of detail and clarity.

PowerBeats Pro

5. Beats PowerBeats Pro

The grown-up face of true wireless

Pros:

  • Stable, comfortable fit
  • Decent sound
  • Very good battery life for true wireless

Cons:

  • Connectivity isn’t perfect
  • Slightly synthetic mid texture
  • Bass boost improved, but not high-end

The 9hr battery life of  Beats PowerBeats Pro means all the usual annoyances of true wireless pairs melt away.

These are not the very best-sounding true wireless earphones around, but sound quality is very good by Beats standards, although they are better at delivering impact and vitality than fidelity and subtlety.

Design is sporty. The Beats logo automatically makes them “street” earphones and they are available in four colours. Plastic keeps their weight low and helps to make them very stable. The hook part is malleable, should you want to make the fit more secure.

The earphones resist water and sweat, though this is not tied to any specific IP rating. Each has an IR proximity sensor: when they are removed from your ear, they automatically pause your music, and start it up again when you put the earphone back in – a smart feature that has many fans. This is a satisfying pair of earphones.

6. Rock Jaw T5 Ultra Connect

Simple, affordable wireless earphones that do a job and do it well

Pros:

  • Secure fit
  • Tuning filters
  • Affordable
  • Rugged build

Cons:

  • Lean character to the sound

 The Rock Jaw T5 Ultra Connect are the first wireless in-ears from British audio brand Rock Jaw. They boast 11-plus hrs of battery life, HD Audio support, switchable tuners and an IPX5 rating.

The T5 Ultra Connect are a fairly simple pair of wireless earphones, but they do a job and do it well. They lack the warm sound some rivals achieve, but offer a good-quality sound and rugged build. Originally released in 2018, they were updated earlier this year with the IPX4 rating increased to IPX5. Bluetooth is version 5 – you’ll need a compatible Bluetooth 5 device to make the most of it.

Available for less than £100, the T5 Ultra Connect are good value for money, though in the light of their price, design is more about function than style. The earphones, however, are quite impressive: their brushed aluminium coating gives them a far more premium look and feel, with white highlights adding to their striking appearance. The fit can feel loose at first, but there are a number of different-sized silicone eartips to ensure you find the perfect fit.

Creative Outlier Air

7. Creative Outlier Air

Long battery life and secure, comfortable fit at a very reasonable price

Pros:

  • Energetic sound
  • Secure fit
  • Good battery life
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Spotty wireless connection
  • Plastic build feels less than robust

 The Creative Outlier Air are the audio brand’s first true wireless in-ears. They have Bluetooth 5 and aptX audio, and their 10hr battery life – 30hrs in total with the charging case – gives them a leg-up over other efforts. At £75, they’re some of the cheapest pairs of wireless in-ears we’ve tested in 2019. They’re made for those who like to get physical, with an IPX5 sweat-proof rating.

The Creative Outlier Air’s energetic sound performance works well for the gym. They are a comfortable fit, and stayed put even during tough workouts. While secure fit and good battery life are boons, the wireless connection is a weakness – performance was very spotty at times. There are some strong alternatives to be looked at if you’re willing to spend over £100, but for those after something affordable, the Outlier Air are a decent option.

At this price, for what you’re getting, the Outlier Air have plenty in their favour.

8. Bose SoundSport Pulse

A great choice for music fans

Pros:

  • Super-comfortable
  • Good sound quality
  • Reliable heart rate monitor

Cons:

  • No dedicated fitness app
  • Better value alternatives

The Bose SoundSport Pulse shrug off sweat and rain. They also have an integrated in-ear heart rate monitor.

Fit is super-comfortable and secure, thanks to a generous selection of tips. Wingtips are included to ensure these headphones aren’t going anywhere, and 5hrs of battery life should even get you through a marathon. One thing they lack, however, is a dedicated fitness app, though you can use the heart rate monitor with Strava, Endomondo, or your app of choice.

An inline remote lets 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.

Best running headphones

9. Jabra Elite Sport

Amazing true wireless gym headphones

Pros:

  • Extremely secure fit
  • Good sound quality
  • Integrated media playback controls
  • HearThrough mode for situational awareness
  • Well-made charging case
  • Accurate HRM

Cons:

  • Only two additional charges from the case
  • Expensive

If you’re willing to spend, and you are looking for an advanced pair of running headphones, then consider the Jabra Elite Sport, currently the only truly wireless earbuds on our list.

Although they are completely cord-free, fit is still incredibly secure thanks to a range of wingtips and tip sizes.

The Jabra Elite Sport have a fantastic in-ear heart rate monitor and work with the brand’s excellent Sport Life companion app to provide 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 also tops up the battery. The model we originally reviewed offers three hours of playback, and the case can provide two additional charges. An update since our review means the Elite Sport now have 4.5hrs of battery life from a single charge, addressing one of our chief complaints – the fact that the old model couldn’t get us through an average marathon.

These earbuds’ high price is justified if you want advanced training features and a liberating cord-free form.


How to pick the right running headphones for you

How we pick the best running headphones

The best test of a pair of running headphones is, of course, running. For that reason, our reviewers between them have amassed marathons’ worth of miles, pounding the pavements and hitting the treadmill to really put these running headphones through their paces.

We make sure they’re not going to fall out of your ears and that they’re going to survive copious amounts of sweat without ending up in a sad heap (even that’s exactly what we do sometimes).

We’re also conscious that you might want to use your running headphones for other exercise, such as a gym session. So we make sure we wear them under different scenarios, from an explosive Olympic weightlifting session to a spin class. And we also test running headphones away from the track or gym to see how they cope with regular listening.

We also take into account factors such as how securely they fit in your ears, their durability, their sound quality and their battery life.

Best running headphones – Truly wireless, in-ear or on-ear?

You’ll notice that the list above contains examples of all three types of running headphones. We’ve left out wired headphones because, in this day and age, there’s no need to mess around with cables that get in the way during exercise.

Deciding what’s right for you is largely down to preference. Do note that, as truly wireless headphones are still a relatively new technology, they tend to cost more than standard wireless headphones (the type that have a cable connecting the left and right earbuds).

Some people don’t like in-ear headphones and prefer to wear over-ears (sometimes referred to as “cans”). But while you might see people wear Beats headphones in the gym, this is a sure-fire way to shorten their lifespan, so make sure you look at over-ear headphones designed for exercise.

Related: Best headphones

Best running headphones – Battery life

As you might expect, you generally get better battery life from bigger headphones. This is simply due to the fact there’s space for a bigger battery.

For this reason, on-ear headphones lead the pack by a considerable margin. The Soul X-tra can last a full 24hrs of non-stop playback. A pair of truly wireless earbuds might only last 4hrs. Standard wireless neckband-style headphones might get away with slipping a bigger battery into the section that also holds the in-line remote control. These kinds of headphones typically offer around 8hrs of battery life.

Best running headphones – Heart rate monitors

Some running headphones now integrate a heart rate monitor (HRM) that takes readings from your inner ear. These are typically more accurate than the wrist-based HRMs found in fitness trackers and running watches, but lag behind chest-worn heart rate monitors.

They are a useful extra training tool for avid runners and fitness enthusiasts, letting you keep an eye on your overall performance and cardiovascular health.

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