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Best Running Headphones

Updated June 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we tested

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 45 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 723 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best running headphones

    Last Updated June 2018

    No matter how much you enjoy running, it can be tough to get through several miles in silence. Energy-boosting music can definitely help carry you through, which is why a good pair of running headphones comes in so handy.

    Not all running headphones are created equal, though, so it’s important to know what to look for when you’re choosing a pair. That means paying close attention to the headphone design, water-resistance capabilities, and other features to make sure that you find the right set for your needs.

    At BestReviews, we know that wading through all the options can be difficult, so we’re here to help. We never accept products from manufacturers, so our recommendations are always 100% unbiased. Our team of experts helps us determine the most important features to look for in the products we’re considering, and we then test items to make sure they work as well as they should. That means we can provide all the information you need to make the most educated shopping decisions possible.

    If you’re eager to start running with a new pair of headphones, please visit the chart above to learn about our top recommendations. To find out more about headphones for running, just keep reading.

    Music isn’t the only thing you can listen to with your running headphones. Make the time pass more quickly with your favorite audiobook or podcast.

    What are running headphones?

    Running headphones operate just like other types of headphones, but they offer a water-resistant, lightweight design that helps them withstand the elements. The best ones fit comfortably whether you’re walking, jogging, or running.

    Running headphones are available in both wired and wireless models. Instead of plugging a jack into your phone or other device, wireless models use a Bluetooth connection to play your music, audiobook, or podcast through your device.

    Benefits of running headphones

    • Sweat Resistance: Because most running headphones are water resistant or waterproof, you don’t have to worry about sweat damaging them when you push yourself on a run.

    • Comfortable and Lightweight: Most running headphones have a minimalist, lightweight design, which means the devices are comfortable to wear when you’re exerting yourself. They don’t add any bulk that might slow you down.

    • Safety: The majority of running headphones feature an open design that allows some noise to filter in even when you’re listening to music or other audio. That means you’re less likely to be caught unaware by cars and other hazards while you’re running outside.

    • Mood Booster: Studies show that the right music can help improve your mood during a run or other workout. Running headphones can help keep you in the right frame of mind to finish.

    • Run Pacing: Music with a strong tempo can help you maintain a good pace during your run or even increase your effort.

    • Motivation: Time seems to pass more quickly when you’re listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts, making the workout more enjoyable and keeping you motivated for the duration of your run.
    DID YOU KNOW?

    Studies show that music can improve running and other workout performance by up to 15%.

    Features to consider

    Headphone type

    Most running headphones have earbuds, but the styles differ when it comes to attaching the earbuds to your ears.

    • In-Ear: The earbuds on these headphones push into your ear. Friction holds them in place, so they usually come with rubber tips in different sizes to make sure that they fit your ears properly. It’s an extremely comfortable, lightweight headphone style, but some runners have issues with them falling out.

    • Clip-On: These headphone earbuds also fit inside the ear, but they feature a clip that keeps them in place inside your ear. Rubber tips of different sizes help you achieve the right fit. This style is less likely to fall out when you’re running hard.

    • Ear Hook: These headphone earbuds also fit inside the ear but feature external arms or hooks that curve around your ears to keep them in place. This style is much less likely to fall off, but some runners find them uncomfortable if worn for long periods. Ear hooks also don’t work well if you wear glasses.

    • On-Ear/Over-Ear: This traditional headphone style sits on or cover the outside of the ear. They’re a poor choice for running because they’re bulky and can easily fall off during a vigorous run. You may sweat more wearing this style, too. These headphones also block external noises, which can be dangerous if you’re running on the street.

    If you’re choosing between on-ear and over-ear running headphones, remember that on-ear headphones are usually lighter, while over-ear styles are usually more comfortable.

    Water resistance

    Most running headphones provide some amount of water resistance because most people sweat when they exercise. Other sports headphones are completely waterproof, which means they can be submerged in a pool without malfunctioning.

    If you plan to use your headphones solely for running, you don’t need a waterproof style. As long as they can withstand heavy sweat and a possible rain shower, you needn’t worry about whether the headphones can withstand being submerged.

    Sweat-resistant running headphones are less likely to slip out of your ears when you run.

    Wired vs. wireless

    Running headphones are available in both wired and wireless styles.

    Wired Running Headphones
    If you choose a wired pair, it’s important to pay attention to the cord design to make sure that the headphones are as functional as possible. Choose headphones with a thick, durable cord that’s designed to resist tangling. In most cases, that means the cord will be flat, so it’s less likely to curl in on itself.

    Pay attention to the cord length, too. You don’t want it to be too long, as it could snag on something while you’re running. A cord about 40 inches long usually works well if you want to keep your phone or other device in your pocket. If you plan to wear it in an armband, choose headphones with a shorter cord.

    Wireless Running Headphones
    If you find that the cord on traditional wired headphones gets in the way when you’re running, wireless running headphones might be your ideal solution. Instead of plugging into your phone or other device, the headphones use Bluetooth technology to create a connection between the two. Bluetooth-connected headphones usually don’t offer the same sound quality as wired styles, but you’ll have greater freedom of movement. There are two key factors to consider if you’re looking at wireless headphones.

    • Charging Time: Wireless headphones have an internal battery that allows them to maintain their Bluetooth connection, which means you must charge them periodically. You’ll want a pair with the shortest charging time possible, approximately one to two hours.

    • Playing Time: Not all wireless headphones hold a charge for the same amount of time. Volume and other factors affect playing time. Choose headphones that can provide at least six hours of playing time on a single charge.

    Many wireless running headphones can be charged via the USB port on your computer or other device.

    Controls

    Most running headphones have volume or other controls on the cord or earpieces to make it easier to adjust the audio on the run. Some models also have a button that allows you to switch tracks.

    Because many runners use their phones to listen to audio while they run, running headphones usually have controls that allow for hands-free calling. Look for a built-in microphone in the cord or the headphones themselves. That way, you won’t have to take your phone out of your pocket to answer an important call.

    If you wear glasses, simple in-ear or clip-on running headphones are your best bet because they won’t interfere with the earpieces of your glasses.

    Extras

    Some running headphones have extra accessories or features that make them even more functional.

    • Protective Case: A storage case makes it easy to throw your running headphones in your purse or gym bag without worrying about damage.

    • Heart-Rate Sensor: Some running headphones feature a heart-rate sensor in the earbuds to help you make sure you reach your target heart rate during your run.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    When it comes to running headphones, sound quality shouldn’t be your top priority. To run safely, you want to be able to hear some ambient noise.

    Running headphones prices

    The price you’ll pay for running headphones varies depending on the style, whether they’re wired or wireless, and whether they have other features or extras. Most models range from $5 to $100.

    • Budget Friendly: Simple in-ear wired running headphones typically cost between $5 and $15.

    • Mid-Range: Basic in-ear or clip-on wireless running headphones typically cost between $10 and $25.

    • Expensive: Wireless running headphones with ear hooks usually cost between $25 and $50. High-tech models with extra features like a heart-rate sensor can range from $50 to $100.

    Tips

    • Choose running headphones with a reflective material if you plan to run after dark. It’s an extra safety precaution.

    • Don’t turn the volume up too high. You should be able to hear ambient noise around you while you’re running, such as cars and other hazards.

    • Keep the wires from tangling. When storing wired running headphones, wrap the cord around two fingers in a figure-eight pattern before putting them away.

    • Clean your running headphones regularly. Clean off the sweat after you run. Remove any rubber or silicon tips and wipe down the earbuds with a baby wipe to remove any residue.
    To minimize distractions when you’re running, put together a few playlists of your favorite upbeat songs for inspiration. That way, you won’t have to flip through tracks to find songs you like on the run.

    FAQ

    Q. How long should my running headphones last?
    A.
    In most cases, it depends on the quality of the headphones, how often you use them, and how well you take care of them. Basic wired headphones usually last a few months to a year if used regularly. Higher-quality wireless headphones can last several years if you care for them properly.

    Q. What’s the most important feature to consider with running headphones that have earbuds?
    A.
    For most runners, the fit is the most important thing to get right. Earbuds that don’t fit properly could come loose while you’re running. To avoid fit issues, choose running headphones with clip-on or hook-style earbuds.

    Q. What type of headphones work best for running on a treadmill?
    A.
    If you mainly run on a treadmill, hearing ambient noise usually isn’t an issue because you don’t have to worry about cars and other hazards. In fact, you may prefer running headphones that offer some noise-canceling capabilities if you use a treadmill at the gym and don’t want outside noises to distract you from your workout. Consider an on-ear or over-ear style if you don’t mind a little extra bulk.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer