While bone conduction headphones remain a fairly niche product for the population at large, most keen runners and cyclists are probably aware of them by now, and they certainly feature among our pick of the best running headphones. Bone conduction headphones leave your ears clear while playing audio via vibrations in your cheekbones, so you can still hear the world around you while exercising.
It’s this that makes the style popular for people running and cycling on busy streets, and the only legal option in many races where roads aren’t closed. Shokz – formerly AfterShokz – is the brand that has become synonymous with the technology, not least because the company is the official headphones partner of England Athletics.
As such, a new entry in the Shokz range is sure to catch the eye of many runners and riders. At £79.95, the OpenMove headphones are positioned as the entry-level option. They're a little more expensive than the budget (and now quite old) Trekz Titanium (£69.95), cheaper than the Trekz Air (£99.95), and much cheaper than the Aeropex (£129.95). You've now also got the Shokz OpenSwim (£139.95), the excellent Shokz OpenRun (£129.95) and the top-of-the-range Shokz OpenRun Pro (£159.95).
Rather than an upgrade on the Titanium, I see the OpenMove as an improvement on the Air headphones. They’re a cheaper option that are also lighter, have more modern Bluetooth tech, and match the Air for sound quality and battery life at six hours of playback.
I already rated the Air as the best-value option in Shokz’s range just because of the huge jump in price to the Aeropex, so an upgrade, however slight, that’s also cheaper is very welcome.
The pros and cons of the OpenMove headphones fall into line with the experience I’ve had with most Shokz products. The bone conduction technology works – you can be aware of what’s going on around you while still listening to music or podcasts, but the battery life and sound quality don’t compare to what you get from similarly priced normal wireless options, such as our top picks of the best workout headphones and the best running headphones.
The audio sounds pretty weak, even at the highest volumes, and there’s really not much bass to speak of. If you are listening to a podcast while cycling in traffic you will probably miss bits when buses and trucks roar past; when you put on your power track to push you along the home straight in a running event you won’t get the full-fat blast of sound you want (and do get from standard in-ear buds).
There’s also the slight cheek tickle you get from the bone conduction tech, which I don’t mind at all but does annoy some users. I found this slightly less noticeable on the OpenMove than the Aeropex though.(opens in new tab)
The design is more comfortable on the OpenMove than on the cheaper Titanium headphones, which are really pretty bulky and don’t work well with hats or sunglasses in my experience. The OpenMove fall well short of the Aeropex headphones, however. The Aeropex are lightweight to the point where you don’t notice them once you start running, and they sound a lot better too – though still not as good as £150 normal buds.
I had no problems with the fit of the OpenMove on runs and cycles, with the over-ear design keeping them firmly in place, but the band sticks out a little from the back of my head which meant it got pushed around when I did exercises which involve lying on the floor, like the glute bridge.
From my use, the six-hour battery life listed was accurate. Although that’s enough to get you through most individual runs and cycles, it’s not great when even some tiny truly wireless buds are clocking up seven hours of battery on one charge. The Jaybird Tarah Pro and Beats Powerbeats 4, which have a wire connecting the buds, last 14 and 15 hours respectively. I’d guess this shortfall has something to do with the vibrations bone conduction tech has to produce, since it is a common problem across the Shokz range.
However, if you’re sold on the idea of bone conduction buds, you’re sold, and though there are other options from brands like Vidonn and Tayogo, Shokz is the dominant player. Within its range, I do think the OpenMove headphones are the best all-round option, but if you have the money the Aeropex do sound and fit better – and they last eight hours on a charge too.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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