Not any old headphones will do if you’re exercising. While you might be tempted to just wear the headphones that came packed in with your smartphone or portable media player, these aren’t designed to survive the extremes of exercise.
Best overall running headphones
We consider the Jaybird X3 as the best overall running headphones thanks to their super-secure fit that won't budge during exercise, their excellent durability and fantastic sound quality.
Sweat is one of the biggest killers of headphones, so you’ll need a pair that can withstand moisture. There’s also nothing worse than a cable distracting you during a run or getting caught on equipment in the gym, so you want a wireless pair.
If you’re on a tight budget, but still want something to survive the rigours of exercise, go for the TaoTronics Lightweight Sports Headphones. These headphones are seriously cheap but surprisingly punch above their weight. If you have a bigger budget and want a pair that are super secure, but also sound fantastic, opt for the Jaybird X3.
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best value running headphones
These are seriously inexpensive sports headphones that are a solid upgrade for anyone looking to make the step up from wired pack-in headphones. They're great value for money all things considered.
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 if sometimes we do after an intense workout).
But we’re also conscious that you might want your running headphones for other exercise, such as in the gym. So we make sure we wear them under different scenarios, such as during an explosive Olympic weight lifting session or a spin class. But we also test running headphones away from the track or gym to see how they cope with regular listening.
We take into account a multitude of elements when reviewing running headphones, such as how securely they fit in your ears, their durability, the sound quality and battery life.
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1. Jaybird X3
- Extremely versatile and secure fit
- Good sound quality
- Useful companion app for adjusting EQ
- Great build quality
- Solid battery life
- Initially fiddly to get the right fit
- Proprietary charging clip
The Jaybird X3 are currently our favourite overall running headphones – and for good reason.
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.
Buy now: Jaybird X3 at Amazon for £89 / $99
2. TaoTronics Lightweight Sports Headphones
- Secure and comfortable
- In-line remote
- Seriously budget-friendly price
- Certain parts feel cheap
The TaoTronics Lightweight Sports Headphones are super budget-friendly sports headphones that punch above their weight. If you’re looking for an inexpensive upgrade from the wired pack-in headphones you’ve been exercising with (and becoming increasingly frustrated by) then these are a great way to upgrade.
They’re sweat-resistant as you would expect and they also have a super secure fit to ensure they don’t budge during intense workouts. There are also clever little features like magnets on the earbuds that let you wear them securely around your neck when not in use, and a handy in-line remote.
Sound quality is even pretty respectable considering the low cost. If you just want something to help keep your heart racing during a workout, these check the right boxes.
3. Monster iSport SuperSlim
- Bright, bassy sound
- Great noise isolation for blocking out the world
- Secure, comfortable fit
- You can wash them under a tap
- Not everyone will appreciate the bass
- Lacks the same clarity as some rivals
The Monster iSport SuperSlim are one of the best value running headphones you can buy right now, simply because we reviewed these headphones at a significantly higher price.
Originally £130, these are now available for just £29.99. You’re not going to find better running headphones from a recognisable brand for this price.
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 some rivals, 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. These headphones have about six hours of battery life, which is more than enough to get you through a marathon. The Bluetooth wireless range of 50ft is also exceptional.
We thought the iSport SuperSlim were great even at their original price, this is even more true at the new reduced price.
4. Jabra Elite Sport
- Extremely secure fit
- Good sound quality
- Integrated media playback controls
- HearThrough mode for situational awareness
- Well-made charging case
- Accurate HRM
- Only two additional charges from the case
If you’re willing to spend more and are looking for an advanced pair of running headphones, then consider the Jabra Elite Sport.
These are currently 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.
These headphones 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 model we originally reviewed are rated at 3 hours of playback, and the case can provide two additional charges.
Jabra has since updated the Elite Sport, and they now have 4.5 hours of battery life from a single charge. This corrects one of our chief complaints – the fact that the old model couldn’t get us through an average marathon.
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.
5. Soul X-tra
- Solid fit for running and most purposes
- Washable ear cushions
- Easy to use media controls
- Long battery life and fast charging
- So-so sound quality
- Slightly uncomfortable ear cushions
While generally, over-ear cans aren’t the first headphones you might think of for exercise, some people do prefer them to in-ear ones. 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 at night. 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 headphones for running, then the Soul X-tra are our favourite choice.
Buy now: Soul X-tra at Amazon for £96/ $149
6. Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Accurate heart rate monitor
- Great companion app
- Useful voice prompts
- Bigger battery life would be nice
The Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless used to be one of 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.
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 Jabra Sport Life app. Sound quality is fantastic as well, offering rich, bassy audio with plenty of detail and clarity.
7. Bose SoundSport Pulse
- Good sound quality
- Reliable heart rate monitor
- No dedicated fitness app
- Better value alternatives
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.
That’s our list of the best running headphones you should currently consider. Keep reading if you want to find out more about what to look for in running headphones.
Best running headphones – Truly wireless, in-ear or on-ear?
You’ll notice the above list is a mixture of these 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, however. Do note that as truly wireless headphones are still a relatively new technology, these headphones 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-ear (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 lifespans, so make sure you still look at over-ear headphones designed for exercise.
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 you have 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 24 hours of non-stop playback. A pair of truly wireless earbuds might only last 4 hours. 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 8 hours of battery life.
Best running headphones – Heart rate monitors
Some running headphones now integrate a heart rate monitor (HRM), which takes readings from your inner ear. These are typically more accurate than wrist-based HRMs, like the type you find in fitness trackers or running watches, but lag behind chest-worn heart rate monitors.
These are a useful extra training tool for more avid runners and fitness enthusiasts, letting you keep an eye on your overall performance and cardiovascular health.
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