Although people tend to search for 'best running headphones' (or 'headphones for running'), what follows is also a list of the best workout headphones, best sports headphones, and the best earbuds for gym, sports, cross-fit, cycling… you name it. The headphones on this list were tailor made for exercising: most of them are sweatproof, have a long battery life and are comfortable to wear but secure so they don't pop out when you are getting intense.
Naturally, a lot of us are working out at home more, but a pair of the best workout headphones is still a better option for most folk than using even the best wireless speaker, and where outdoor exercise is possible, they're more essential than ever. If you are heading to a swimming pool, try the best swimming headphones on for size instead.
With our ever-updating price widgets, and workout bud and best running headphones that range from under £50/$50 to over £200/$200, you needn't wait that long to get the best workout buds and running headphones deals.
Whatever your activities of choice, these buds and sports headphones will soundtrack your path to fitness. That's because they resist sweat, have Bluetooth wireless convenience and a fit that can stand up to the movement inherent in running, gym workouts and other physical jerks.
We've listed all the lowest prices on the best running headphones below so you can be sure you're getting a good deal on your model of choice.
The best running headphones and best workout earbuds for gym, sports and fitness
Okay, I still prefer the true wireless Powerbeats Pro below, but that's easy for me to say, since I got sent them to test for free. Powerbeats (without the 'Pro' bit) are almost £100/$100 cheaper and they sound identical – which is to say they sound superb for workout music. And, come to that, superb for non-workout music.
Since they're not true wireless Powerbeats also boast a longer battery life (15 hours to the Pro's 9). Yes, yes, there is that little bit of wire between the buds but because the in-ear fit is also identical to the market-leading Powerbeats Pro, the wire is less irritating than on the many similar-looking buds of this type – you don't feel the snag and drag that you sometimes get.
At this price what you're looking at a very premium, high-quality product that you could still just about call affordable – especially when compared to its more illustrious, true wireless big brother. They're similarly excellent for making calls and controlling Siri, too.
You can't beat these Beats. They share a name and, superficially, an appearance with previous Powerbeats buds but these true wireless powerhouses absolutely crush their predecessors when it comes to quality of sound and security of fit.
The only down side I can think of to Powerbeats Pro is that the battery case is considerably larger than most rivals. However, with 9 hours of life per charge and the ability to give them a charge that lasts a few hours, by plugging them in for just a few minutes, the case is a less essential item than it is with other true wireless buds.
For sheer sound quality and the way they are all but impossible to accidentally dislodge from your ears, Powerbeats Pro are the gold standard of wireless buds for gym and running. Buy some, would be my advice. Or if you can't quite afford them, get the new Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats at #1 – they don't quite have the all-conquering prezzy vibe of the Pro but the sound as good and stay in place just as well. Sure they have a wire, but what's one little wire between friends?
• Read our full, 5-star Beats Powerbeats Pro review.
The Beats are pretty high-end, and tailored for those who value good audio quality and fine engineering. The Anker Soundcore Spirit Sports are a bit scrappier in the musical department, but easily as good when it comes to running and workout essentials such as sweat-proofing, secure but comfy fit and solid battery life, and they can be had for less than 30 quid/bucks. What can you get for 30 quid/bucks nowadays? Practically nothing!
The killer features here, besides the value for money, are the excellent fit (at least in my ears, although a variety of ear tips mean they should work for most people) and the fact that they're not just sweat-proof but actually submergible in sea water. There's no little cover over the USB charging socket, as on most such headphones, because the socket itself is water resistant.
Now personally, I would not advise going swimming in the sea in these because they will eventually corrode, but this level of protection does inspire confidence they will survive multiple sweaty workouts. I've had supposedly gym-friendly headphones literally explode because sweat got into the charging port, so know of what I speak, here. Sound quality-wise these are nowhere near as good as the Beats, Optoma Nuforce or Jabra buds. However at this price, you might well shrug and ask, 'who cares?'
UPDATE: These are now available in a slightly updated form as Anker Soundcore Spirit Sports X
If you're after a great true wireless headphones for running, but can't stretch to Powerbeats Pro, Jabra's Elite Active 75t is your new workout bud. It's also great for gym workouts, cross training, cycling, spinning, rope thrashing and anything else where you get sweaty. Since I started using these and the Powerbeats Pro, I would now not willingly go back to even the most minimally wired Bluetooth headphones.
For workout purposes the 75t sound great. Actually, they sound pretty even if you are not working out. They're sufficiently bassy, great with pounding, workout-friendly music, and have a reasonable amount of musicality too. I've used them many times as headphones outside of a gym/run environment.
Impressively, Jabra has also now added active noise cancellation via a software update. This is perhaps not from the very top tier of noise reducing technology, but it's a handy and welcome addition nonetheless.
Perhaps even more than the audio, for runners and worout warriors, it's the comfortable yet unshakeable fit that makes the Jabra Elite 75t really essential.
Once you've tried any true wireless for running and workouts, it's hard to go back to having a wire joining your buds, snagging on your neck or running vest. These, however, are exceptional in terms of fit and comfort. Perhaps they are not quite as comfortable or secure as the Beats buds, but the 75t – and their case – are much more compact, and also rated IP57 for dust and water resistance – the Powerbeats are IPX5.
In fact in terms of fit, the only tiny 'criticism' I have is that the 75t are so compact that you need to do a little bit of digging to get them out of their case and, sometimes, your ears.
At 7.5 hours per charge and with a case that takes total battery life to 28 hours, there are no issues with the longevity here, either.
One final note: as well as this impressive water and sweat resistance, the Elite Active 75t also has a special coating so it 'sticks' in the ear a little better. Jabra really has thought of everything with the Elite Active 75t.
Also consider: Jabra Elite 75t and Elite 85t
Jabra's other true wireless model is the Elite 75t (no 'Active' in the name). It lacks that coating and is 'only' rated IP55 for dust, water and sweat resistance. However, I have found it works just as well for running and workouts, so if it's significantly cheaper, it is a worthy purchase. Today's best deals on the Elite 75t are below.
A new Jabra true wireless model, the Jabra Elite 85t, is out now. It features bigger drivers and advanced noise cancelling and certainly sounds and performs better than the 75t. However it is significantly more expensive, and the fit and degree of sweat-proofing are not really enough for workouts and runs.
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The BE Sport4 headphones takes the T3-Award-winning BE Sport3, which previously topped this chart since about 1987, and improves on it in several ways whilst maintaining the sub-£100 price tag.
These in-ear sports headphones with ear-hugging hooks are the best headphones for exercise that you can get at their price point. The only caveat I'd add to that is personally, I'd advise spending more and going true wireless with the Jabra Elite Active 65t. But then I'm a big-ticket guy.
That aside, the BE Sport4 is great; easily good enough to use as day-to-day headphones, thanks to fantastic clarity, support for both AAC and Apt-X (giving improved audio quality on Apple and Android devices respectively), well-deployed bass and 10-hour battery life (up from 8 on the previous model). They also offer a very secure yet comfortable fit.
Down sides? If you prefer to be able to hear the world around you whilst exercising – I don't – these might not be to your liking, because their noise isolation is very good. See further down this buying guide for some headphones that let more sound filter in. The choice of tips includes different size buds (so you don't have to use the slightly horrific-looking 'double-penetrator' pictured above) and in-ear hooks, which strike just the right balance of very good anchoring, without sacrificing comfort.
The price is very reasonable given the quality of the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4. If you aren't ready to embrace true wireless, they're the best headphones for running and gym that you can get, and also a pair of headphones you can happily use when doing nothing strenuous at all.
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The RHA TrueConnect look quite like Apple AirPods, and aren't a million miles away in terms of comfort. However, they go into your ear rather than sitting just outside, and have sweat-proofing for all your run/cycle/gym needs. What you end up with is a pair of running headphones that sound at least as good as the Bose SoundSport Free (#5), are just as workout-friendly, but look less peculiar, and are not as susceptible to wind noise.
There's a lack of overt bass, but I've found there's enough to keep you motivated whilst listening to 'Techno Workout Playlist 57', and mid-range and treble sparkle more than on the Jabras. One way these £149 AirPods-a-likes are not like actual AIrPods is that pairing is very occasionally a bit clonky – if you return them to the case and try again, it tends to work second time. The case it self is a bit fiddly too, but again not enough to make the TrueConnect lose my love.
Fit is obviously important with true wireless, and the RHAs are excellent in this respect because they come with about 15 billion choices of ear tip. They don't feel as super secure as the Jabra buds, but the flip side of that is that they're a little more comfortable. In the gym, they're perfect, although on the road you may find yourself at times nervously prodding them back into your ear holes as you pound potholed roads.
Overall, these fall just short of Jabra's superb workout buds, but many punters will prefer their less intrusive fit and more musical audio. If the price starts to slide down below the Elite 65t, they'll become very attractive indeed.
Until recently, true wireless buds were either expensive, or a bit crap. Now Anker's Soundcore spin-off brand has got involved, that's no longer true. Liberty Neo are listed at just £70 but are often on offer for less than that, since Anker does frequent voucher deals via Amazon. Liberty Neo offer excellently reliable Bluetooth connectivity, a great fit and just enough battery life to make them work for workouts. Audio is solid rather than spectacular and obviously overall they can't compete with Powerbeats or the other more expensive true wireless buds further up this chart, but come on – for £70 RRP they are very good and for what you'll actually pay for them, they're remarkable.
The way the Bose SoundSport Free buds protrude from your ears gives a look that is somewhat less than icy cool. But if you work out a lot, you probably value performance over appearance, and are well used to looking a tad 'off-beat'. And their is no doubt that at the gym, the SoundSport Free perform.
Sonically, these are a better true wireless option than the slightly artificial sounding Jabra Elite 65t. Like them, they give you five hours of battery life, with 10 more hours provided by recharging in their case. A quick-charge facility gives you 45 minutes use from 15 minutes charging.
Although perfect for the gym or home, I don't consider these great earbuds for running outdoors, or cycling. The fit is brilliantly comfy but less unshakeable than the Jabras, which is off-putting if you hit the ground like a runaway giraffe, as I do. The way they protrude also makes them impossible to wear with your hood up in winter, as they will catch on it. The real problem with the way they protrude, however, is wind noise. They whoosh quite a bit in a breeze and in a high wind, I'd go so far as to say they are unusable.
However, the weird fit is also why they're so comfortable, and with notably better audio than Jabra's Elite 65t, and a more unshakeable fit than the RHA true wireless, the SoundSport Free are among the very best true wireless buds for the gym and other sports where no wind is likely. Yes, you look a bit stupid wearing them but, come on, you're working out – you probably already look daft.
Curiously, calls only come through one SoundSport Free bud rather than both, so if you're buying these with the intention of making or receiving a lot of calls, bear that in mind. It is weirdly jarring.
Bose is yet another competitor in the 'lightweight buds joined together with a short wire' gym-and-run headphones stakes, and the Bose SoundSport Wireless pair of headphones is, again, very good. However, like the Sennheiser offering it's also somewhat more expensive than NuForce and Monster's takes on the style.
That aside, I don't really have a bad word to say about the SoundSport Wireless. Sound quality is very solid and you could use them outside the gym or after a run quite happily. They also pair and fit very well.
The usual, pleasingly forceful Bose sound quality is present, and the overall package is sweatproof, reasonably rugged and unfailingly comfortable. My only reservation is that the marginal gains over the Monster and NuForce sports headphones are not sufficient to justify the price, which tends to be considerably higher.
• Traditionalists may want to consider the wired version of the SoundSport. They're very similar, the cable aside, and a fair bit cheaper
• And there's also the SoundSport Pulse with built in cardio tracking – I'd give that one a miss, if I were you.
It doesn't get much safer for runners and cyclists than wearing bone conducting headphones, such as the Aftershokz Aeropex, for outdoor activities. If you haven't tried bone conducting headphones before, these devices go around the ear and resonate the cheekbones to create sound, leaving your ears uncovered.
To describe the effect, listening to music with the Aftershokz Aeropex is like playing music in the background with a speaker: essentially, you will be able to listen to music without compromising your spatial awareness.
Let's crunch some numbers: the Aftersholz Aeropex is 30% smaller and 13% lighter than its predecessor, weighing only 26 grams in total. It has a battery life of up to eight hours and a charging time (from 0 to 100 percent) of two hours. These Bluetooth headphones have a range of 10 metres (or 33 feet) and an IP67 water rating, meaning the Aftershokz Aeropex is completely sweat and waterproof. It even has a moisture detection alert to let you know if the headphones are too wet to charge.
As for sound quality, I was pleasantly surprised how clear the Aftershokz Aeropex sounds. This is probably due to the PremiumPitch 2.0+ technology, combined with angled transducers that "ensure optimal placement on the cheekbones, delivering deeper bass, less vibration, and louder volume". There you have it.
On the downside, once the sound levels increase around you, it will quickly overtake the sound coming from the Aeropex, regardless of the volume. It might be louder than previous models, but still not loud enough for people to isolate themselves from the outside world. Saying that, it wasn't designed for that purpose anyway, but this also means you won't be able to hear a thing riding the tube, for example.
If you are a safety conscious runner/cyclist, however, who also happen to love listening to music as they exercise, you'll love the Aftershokz Aeropex.
I didn't necessarily expect much from the Urbanears Stadion headphones from hipsters' favourite, Stockholm's Urbanears. However, this is actually a great pair of headphones for running. Because the Stadion has a solid (but not uncomfortable) neck band, and springy, coiled cables, running to hooked earbuds, it pulls off the unlikely feat of an unshakeable fit, without totally blocking out the world around you.
Personally, I don't like hearing the world around me, but I know many runners and cyclists would like to be able to hear large, wheeled objects bearing down on them when on the roads, and some people, more bizarrely, even want to be able to hear the ambience of their local gym.
Well, the Stadion is just the ticket for those people. Add perfectly decent audio (the fact that a dose of ambient sound is allowed in means that by definition it's not amazing), plus 7 hours of battery life per charge and a choice of attractive colourways, and you have a winner. I can even forgive the bizarre design flaw that plants the control buttons, mystifyingly, on the part that sits directly on the back of your neck, thereby rendering them almost entirely unusable when you're running.
How to choose the best running headphones for you
A decent pair of sports headphones are a very worthy investment. Research has shown that the right type and tempo of tune can keep you in the zone for longer, and we've all run up park steps to a suitably bombastic soundtrack like we're Rocky. Even if we've then keeled over at the top.
There are four things to look for, really.
1. Waterproofing. Although a 'normal' pair of headphones can work well for exercise, if they fit well enough, they're just not built to stand up to heavy rain when running or, more importantly, sweat when doing any exercise. And sooner or later, sweat or heavy rain will find them. And it will kill them. All the headphones here are sweatproof and rain resistant, but not suitable for immersion (ie: swimming, or running in Manchester).
2. A secure but comfortable fit. You can get all sorts of fitness-oriented designs that wrap tightly around your head, over and around your ears, and then deep into your cranium. However in my experience, the best types of running headphones are actually either true wireless or lightweight Bluetooth in-ears with tips that go into the ear as usual, but with additional, curved, tapered 'hooks' that sit under the antihelix of your ear. For those of you who aren't ear doctors, that is the crater of cartilage that sits above your earhole. Of that type, pioneered (I think) by Monster and Bose, the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 are the best but again, Powerbeats Pro is the gold standard here, with a different approach that involves using spectacles-style, over-ear hooks.
3. Decent sound quality. Most people want to be able to hear/feel their tunes as they workout and be motivated by them, whilst blocking out the gym/the world. They don't necessarily want to be picking out hitherto undetected nuances in the string quartets of Brahms or the early works of Fleetwood Mac. So while three or four of the running headphones here sound really good, most just sound 'good enough', usually with a sound that favours bottom-end and mid-range tones.
4. Situational awareness. This is all-important for some people, who feel that effectively deafening themselves leaves them in danger of traffic or muggers when road running. If you are one of these people, have a look at the bone-conducting Aftershokz Aeropex headphones below. It is lighter and louder than its predecessor, although not ideal when the sound levels are above normal.
Whatever the sound you want, there is nothing more annoying than ear buds worming their way out when you're trying to stay focussed. The main causes of this are poorly fitting ear-tips, plus the vibrations through your body and movements of your head as you run or work out. Even the best running headphones can become annoying when their cable snags on the back of your neck or your clothing.
Okay, here we go.
So what ARE the best running headphones?
My advice for a while now to anyone picking the best running headphones for their workouts has been to go true wireless. Right now The Mother Of All True Wireless Gym Buds is ready for you to buy: Beats by Dr Dre. Powerbeats Pro, to give them their full title. These have better sound quality than any other true wireless bud and are not shakeable from your ears by anything short of a tsunami. They also have no-button access to Siri, if you want that and the same controls on both buds – that sounds simple but it's a masterstroke.
Powerbeats Pro were the clear standout option when it comes to the best running headphones and/or workout buds but there's also now a cheaper version with a wire running between the buds. Called simply Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats, this boasts the exact same, near perfect fit as the Pro model, sounds just as good and costs WAY less. So on that basis, it's now my top recommendation.
There are also several other supremely good true wireless alternatives. Most notably Elite Active 75t. Those who don't like a tight fit might like the excellent-sounding RHA TrueConnect, while those on a budget should look no further than Anker Soundcore's Liberty Neo – they're cheap to start off with, and can often be found with a further 20% off deal at Amazon.
The various limitations of true wireless, which make them irritating to use as full-time buds, just don't apply if you only run, ride or work out in them. The battery life is usually short (although Powerbeats Pro will go for 9 hours per charge) but it’s more than long enough for gym and running, at least for anyone who's not doing ultra-marathons.
The usually slightly poorer sound quality of True Wireless is also less important for pumpin', workout-style listening. Obviously, if you work out to Nick Drake or Vangelis, it'll be more of an issue, but I think you may be in a minority, there.