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The Best Running Headphones

Running headphones
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A pair of headphones can make or break a run. If they’re fiddly, uncomfortable, don’t fit or run out of juice before you’ve broken sweat, they can send your stress hormones skyrocketing and bring your outing to an abrupt, angry halt. But get them right, equipped to provide the feedback and beats you need to power your runs and they can be a core instrument in keeping you motivated. Here are Coach’s top earphones for running and, below, what to look, and listen, out for when buying yours.

We’ve spent considerable time testing and reviewing all of the best workout headphones since 2017, and have whittled them down to this selection, which are suited to runners. We’re confident you won’t be disappointed with any of our picks below, but to help narrow it down further we’ve given a select few the accolade Editor’s Choice. These may not be perfect, but there’s either something that sets them apart from the pack or they’re a pair we’ve kept using long after we’ve reviewed them.

The Best Running Headphones

Jabra Elite 4 Active headphonesEditor’s Choice 2022

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Best all-rounder

Specifications

RRP: $119.99 / £119.99
Battery life: Seven hours
IP rating: IP57

Reasons to buy

+
Good sound quality
+
Reliable and comfortable fit
+
ANC and HearThrough modes
+
Relatively low price

Reasons to avoid

-
No wing tips means a less secure fit
-
Less customisation than pricier models
-
ANC is just OK

After launching the excellent Elite 7 Active headphones late in 2021, Jabra surprised us all by coming in hot in 2022 with the Elite 4 Active, which offer all the key features of the 7s while costing $60/£50 less. For that extra outlay you get a slightly more secure fit on the 7 and slightly longer battery life at eight hours vs seven, but the Elite 4 Active still fit well (without wings or a hook), sound great, and offer features like active noise cancellation and an awareness mode – all for just $119.99/£119.99.

The case adds another 21 hours of battery life, and you can adjust the EQ in the app to suit your sound preferences. Unless you really need wings or a hook to keep buds in place on the run, we reckon the Elite 4 Active are the best all-round buds given the balance of price and features.

Read more in our Jabra Elite 4 Active review


JLab Go Air Pop wireless headphones

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Best budget running headphones

Specifications

RRP: $20 / £19.99
Battery life: Eight hours
IP rating: IPX4

Reasons to buy

+
Value
+
Sound quality
+
Excellent battery life for the price
+
Charging cable built in to case

Reasons to avoid

-
Controls hard to use
-
Can come loose during exercise

If you can get on with the fit of the JLab Go Air Pop headphones, which don’t have wings or an ear hook to keep them in place, they offer incredible value at just $20/£20. The sound quality is surprisingly good for the price, matching up well with headphones that cost near three figures. They offer eight hours of battery life, with a bonus being that the charging cable is built into the case, so you never lose it.

We found that the buds stayed in place reliably on our runs, which included a very hot and sweaty marathon. Our only mild gripe with the headphones was their unreliable controls, which were hard to use when sitting at a desk, let alone when running. 

Read. more in our JLab Go Air Pop review


Jabra Elite 3 headphones

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Best value running headphones

Specifications

RRP: $79.99 / £79.99
Battery life: Seven hours
IP rating: IP55

Reasons to buy

+
Good sound quality
+
Comfortable fit
+
HearThrough mode
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
No ANC
-
Only $40/£40 more to upgrade to Elite 4 Active

The Elite 3 are the entry-level option in Jabra’s range of truly wireless headphones, but they offer most of the key features you’ll find on the company’s pricier buds. That includes great sound quality and long battery life – at seven hours in the buds with another 21 in the case. You also get the HearThrough transparency mode, which is useful when running in busy environments.

The buds don’t have wings or an ear hook, like all of Jabra’s headphones, so the fit when running will either work for you or it won’t. We’ve always found the company’s lightweight buds nestle comfortably and securely in our ears when running and that was the case with the Elite 3, which have the same design as the Elite 4 Active.

The Elite 4 Active are the key competition here as they cost only $40/£40 more and offer ANC and a higher IP rating, though the IP55 rating of the Elite 3 buds is more than enough to withstand sweat and rain. If you don’t need ANC and get on with the fit, these are the best-value running headphones we’ve come across.

Read more in our Jabra Elite 3 review


Jaybird Vista 2 headphones

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Best waterproof headphones

Specifications

RRP : $149.99 / £189.99
Battery life: Eight hours
IP rating : IP68

Reasons to buy

+
Great fit
+
Durable design
+
Impressive sound

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than main rivals
-
ANC is just OK

The hardiness of the Jaybird Vista 2 buds is a large part of their appeal, but they have a good claim for being the best all-round running headphones going. Jaybird does, however, make a point of highlighting its “earthproof” design, so let’s start with that. As well as being IP68 rated, making them waterproof and dustproof, they’re also hardy enough to withstand being stepped on. Furthermore, their case is IP54 rated, so it won’t break if kept in a sweaty running belt or backpack all day long.

Aside from the rugged design, the Jaybird Vista 2 buds have many more impressive features. Those include excellent sound quality, ANC, an awareness mode and a terrific fit, with Jaybird’s “eargels” combining in-ear tips with wings for extra security. The battery life is also good at eight hours on the buds and 16 in the case, but expect those numbers to come down if you do use the ANC.

Read more in our Jaybird Vista 2 review


Beats Powerbeats Pro wireless sport headphones

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Best for fit

Specifications

RRP : $249.95/£219.95
Battery life: Nine hours
IP rating: IPX4

Reasons to buy

+
Ear hook fit is rock-solid
+
Great sound
+
Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Smaller buds can be more comfortable
-
Big charging case

The ear hook design of these headphones means that they offer a rock-solid fit for running, even if it does mean their case is too bulky to fit in a pocket as a result. The Powerbeats Pro also offer an exceptional nine hours of battery life, and five minutes in the case will net you 90 minutes of playback.

Read more in our Beats Powerbeats Pro review


Tribit Flybuds 3 truly wireless headphones

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Best under £50

Specifications

RRP : $39.99 / £39.99
Battery life: Five hours
IP rating: IPX7

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Long battery life in the case
+
Secure, comfortable fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Fiddly controls

We don’t expect too much from sub-$50/£50 headphones, especially in sound quality, but the Tribit FlyBuds 3 measure up well to headphones that cost twice or even three times as much, setting a new bar in the budget bracket. The fit of the buds is secure even on long, sweaty runs, the battery life is solid at five hours (with 95 more in the case) and the buds are even waterproof, with an IPX7 rating. Now that’s value.

Read more in our Tribit FlyBuds 3 review


Sony LinkBuds

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Best for awareness

Specifications

RRP: $179.99 / £149
Battery life: 5.5 hours
IP rating: IPX4

Reasons to buy

+
Open design for more awareness
+
Responsive controls
+
Secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack bass
-
Can be hard to hear in loud environments

The open design of the Sony LinkBuds means you can hear external noises while using them, making them a novel option for those seeking extra awareness on the run but unimpressed with bone-conduction headphones. The LinkBuds are smaller and less difficult to use than over-ear bone-conduction headphones and the sound is better as well, though doesn’t match the audio quality of in-ear buds, which offer more bass in particular.

We found that it was sometimes hard to hear audio from the LinkBuds in noisy environments, but that is the trade-off you make for the extra awareness. The fit is reliable and comfortable due to the variety of wings that come in the box and, at 5.5 hours, the battery life is adequate. They won’t work for everyone, but there were many situations where we found the LinkBuds to be the perfect running headphones, providing a balance of sound quality and awareness.

Read more in our Sony LinkBuds review


Shokz OpenRun Bone-Conduction Headphones

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Best bone-conduction headphones

Specifications

RRP : $129.95 / £129.95
Battery life: Eight hours
IP rating: IP67

Reasons to buy

+
Open-ear design is good for awareness
+
Lightweight, comfortable design
+
Quick charge feature
+
IP67 waterproof rating

Reasons to avoid

-
No music storage
-
Not loud enough at times

AfterShokz was the biggest name in bone-conduction headphones and that remains the case even now it’s changed its name to Shokz. The OpenRun have a lightweight, comfortable design and solid sound quality, within the limitations of bone-conduction tech. They still won’t match the sound of in-ear buds but the extra awareness is a boon at times, such as when running on busy roads, and at races where bone-conduction headphones are the only type allowed.

The OpenRun are the best option in Shokz’s range, coming in at $50/£30 cheaper than the OpenRun Pro while offering all the same key features. The Pro do last two hours longer on a charge and offer a little more bass, but have a lower waterproof rating than the standard OpenRun and we found the difference in sound quality to be negligible during real world use.

Read more in our Shokz OpenRun review


B&O Beoplay wireless sport headphones

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Best sound quality

Specifications

RRP : $350 / £300
Battery life: Seven hours
IP rating: IP57

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound quality
+
Secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be uncomfortable
-
Very expensive

If sound quality is the chief concern for your sports buds, you have to pay a pretty penny to match the performance of chunkier cans designed to be worn while stationary. However, if you’re willing to spend the cash, the B&O Beoplay E8 Sport buds are the best-sounding sports headphones we’ve ever come across. They’re also IP57 rated, which means they’ll handle sweaty runs and downpours easily enough, and you can achieve a secure and comfortable fit using the included range of different fins and in-ear buds. They also have a long seven-hour battery life, with the case adding another 23 hours. Running brand On has created a limited edition of the headphones in partnership with B&O, which happens to be the nicest design of the E8 Sport available.

Read more in our Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Sport review


Sennheiser Sport True Wireless Headphones

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Best sound quality under £150

Specifications

RRP: $129.95 / £119.99
Battery life: Nine hours
IP rating: IP54

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound quality
+
Secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
No ANC
-
Larger than other buds
-
No proper awareness mode

You expect top-notch sound from Sennheiser and the Sport True Wireless buds deliver quality audio in a sportier frame. The buds are chunky, but the selection of wings in the box ensures a secure fit.

The headphones come with two types of ear tips, one designed to let in more external sound and one that blocks out more noise. In our testing swapping between these tips didn’t make a huge difference to the sounds we could hear, but they each come with an accompanying EQ setting: Focus for the closed tips and Aware for the open ones. Swapping between these settings changes the sound profile on the buds considerably, with Focus delivering brighter, more natural sound while Aware pumps up the bass for a fuller sound.

At $129.95/£119.99 the headphones are good value considering the excellent sound quality, reliable fit and nine-hour battery life, but they don’t offer ANC or a proper awareness mode, which you can find on many headphones at the same price.

Read more in our Sennheiser Sport True Wireless review


Headphones

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Best for battery life

Specifications

RRP: $99 / £99.99
Battery life: 15 hours
IP rating: IP66

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Reliable fit
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak ANC
-
Annoying controls

These truly wireless headphones offer an outstanding 15 hours of battery life in the buds, and with another 55 hours in the carry case you’ll only need to make infrequent trips to the socket. And when you do, having the cable tucked into the carry case means you won’t have misplaced your charger.

The fit is secure thanks to the ear hook design, and the headphones have an adjustable Be Aware mode so you can set how much noise you want let in from your surroundings. The active noise cancellation is unimpressive, barely making any difference in our experience, but the overall sound quality is good for sub-$100£100 buds.

Read more in our JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review


Bose Sport Earbuds, the most comfortable truly wireless headphones

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Best for comfort

Specifications

RRP : $179 / £179.95
Battery life: Five hours
IP rating: IPX4

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable and secure fit
+
Excellent sound quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life
-
No ANC
-
Minimal EQ customisation

These are by no means perfect headphones, but what the Bose Sport Earbuds do well, they do really well. The sound quality is terrific, as you would expect from Bose – bettered only by the $350/£300 Beoplay E8 Sport in our experience – but it’s the fit that stands out most. The Sport Earbuds have a soft silicone wing that sits securely in the ear and is comfortable to wear for hours on end.

There are several disappointments, such as the mere five hours of battery life you get when even cheaper brands are pushing close to 10, and the lack of active noise cancellation or an awareness mode. You can’t even adjust the EQ set-up using the partner app. There are certainly better headphones available – but if comfort is your primary concern, we recommend these.

Read more in our Bose Sport Earbuds review


Shokz OpenSwim MP3 bone conducting headphones

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Best for racing

Specifications

RRP : $149.95 / £139.95
Battery life: Eight hours
IP rating: IP68

Reasons to buy

+
MP3 storage
+
Waterproof
+
Open design for awareness

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth playback
-
Battery life often shorter than listed

As mentioned above, Shokz headphones are the only ones allowed in all UK Athletics races; we recently competed in a marathon where all headphones bar bone-conducting buds were banned, because the latter allow for extra awareness when not on closed roads or for hearing marshals’ instructions. The OpenSwim (formerly called Aftershokz Xtrainerz) don’t have Bluetooth, but are even better than Shokz’s other options for racers because they have 4GB of space for music and podcasts. That means you can leave your phone in your bag for the race, saving extra room in your pockets or running belt for gels and the like.

Read more in our Shokz OpenSwim review


Headphones

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Best for Bluetooth and MP3

Specifications

RRP : $149.99 / £119.61
Battery life: 3-4 in MP3 mode, 6-7 in Bluetooth mode
IP rating: IPX8

Reasons to buy

+
Bluetooth and MP3 playback
+
Fully waterproof

Reasons to avoid

-
Short battery life in MP3 mode
-
Too quiet for noisy surroundings

These bone conduction headphones are more versatile than any Shokz pair, with their ability to stream audio over Bluetooth as well as having 8GB of on-board storage for MP3 playback. The latter is useful when racing because you don’t need your phone with you, but transferring files across is a bit of a faff, so having the ability to quickly switch to Bluetooth playback for everyday running is very useful indeed.

That said, we still rate Shokz’s headphones as better overall because their sound is a little louder and their battery is superior. The Naenka headphones can be a tad quiet when listening to podcasts by busy roads, and the battery life in MP3 mode drops to around three to four hours, as opposed to the six or seven you get in Bluetooth mode. However, for some runners, having the option of Bluetooth or MP3 playback will be a fair trade-off.

Read more in our Naenka Runner Pro review


Headphones

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15. Adidas RPT-01

Best on-ear pair

Specifications

RRP : $170/£119.99
Battery life: 40 hours
IP rating: IPX4, sweat- and water-resistant

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent sound
+
40 hours of battery life
+
Washable covers

Reasons to avoid

-
Uncomfortable to wear for long periods

On-ear headphones bring with them the benefit of having more space to cram in bigger batteries and drivers, so they last longer and sound better than small buds, but they don’t tend to do well on runs because they work themselves loose and fall off. Not the Adidas Sport RPT-01 headphones, which have as tight a fit as you can get with on-ear cans, as well as ear cushions and an inner headband that can be removed and washed after a sweaty session. The headphones last for 40 hours on a single charge and the lightning fast charging cable really does live up to its billing.

Running Headphones Buyer’s Guide

Here are the key features to consider when picking out a pair of running headphones.

Wireless Or Truly Wireless?

Now that many phones have dispensed with headphone jacks and an extensive range of excellent Bluetooth headphones are available to suit all budgets, there’s no need for runners to struggle with headphone wires. However, you still have to pick between wireless – where the buds are connected by a wire – and truly wireless, where there are no wires involved at all.

Wireless headphones will generally have longer battery lives, but it can often be harder to maintain a secure fit because a bouncing wire (and in some cases remote control panel) will tug on the earbuds.

Truly wireless headphones come with a carry case that also acts as a portable charger, which can extend the time between plugged-in charges considerably.

Fit

A secure fit is crucial. If the buds continually come loose and require frequent adjusting, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Unfortunately, you can’t really know if a pair will fit your individual ear shape and canal until you’ve bought them, but there are bundled accessories that make a tight fit more likely. Ear hooks are the most reliable option, but they are bulky. If you’re opting for truly wireless in-ear buds, check if they come with a variety of wings and buds so you can pick the combo that keeps them in your ear when running.

To achieve a genuinely secure fit, you may find you have to use large ear wings that start to irritate your ears after a while, especially if you have smaller ears. This is where more expensive pairs prove their worth: some high-end brands, like Bose and Jabra, excel in making soft silicone tips and wings for their buds that offer both comfort and a reliable fit.

Sound

True audiophiles should prepare to be disappointed. For one, over-ear cans that offer superior sound aren’t suitable for running because they rarely stay in place. For most of us, however, there are plenty of running-specific options that sound great, and the sound quality on some budget sports buds has also improved enough to pass muster.

Buds that sit deep in your earholes to form a tight seal will help with sound quality, but these can block out ambient noise entirely, which means it’s harder to hear traffic around you. However, many headphones now offer an ambient noise setting, where external sounds are filtered through so you do have more awareness when you need it. Then you can turn it off and enjoy better sound quality when it’s safe to do so.

Noise cancellation

Headphones that block your ear canal provide passive noise cancellation, where the ear-plug design blocks out some sound, but you can also buy running headphones with active noise cancellation. These headphones detect external sounds and muffle them, allowing you to hear your music more clearly. This is great when you want to focus on your running, but naturally can make you less aware of sounds like traffic.

Battery

The headline figure is the total battery life. We would expect a bare minimum of six to eight hours of battery life from most truly wireless Bluetooth headphones, and that number can rise well into double figures with some sets. You can definitely expect more than 10 hours from wireless headphones.

A carry case that can recharge your wireless buds several times without needing to be charged itself also adds convenience. Look out for a quick-charge feature too. This will usually net you an hour of power for just ten to 15 minutes of charging, which is perfect for when you realise you’ve run out of juice just as you’re getting ready to run.

Waterproofing

There are some fully waterproof headphones available, but for running you just need to ensure they can withstand an unexpected deluge or an especially sweaty session without packing up. Look for a minimum rating of IPX4 for running headphones that won’t let you down when wet.

Controls

Naturally you want to be able to control your music without having to get your phone or MP3 player out while running, so check out the remote on any running headphones – it’ll either be on the strap between the earbuds or built into the buds themselves. Neither is a great option to be honest. If it’s on the strap it’ll bounce and tug at the bud; if built into the bud you either have to press into your ear, or you may find you inadvertently skip a track while adjusting the fit.

Nick Harris-Fry
Nick Harris-Fry