Best running earbuds: the best running buds for outdoor summer workouts and the gym

The best running earbuds to get you through the tough miles this summer

Best running earbuds
(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

These days, the best running earbuds are among the best buds full stop. That wasn't always the case, mind. A few years ago, even the best running earbuds used to involve battling with flapping cables, dodgy fit and puny sound.

Now, however, wearable (hearable) fitness technology has exploded, and high quality running headphones are a huge part of that. The perfect running earbuds exist for wherever you are on your running journey – whether your seeking supersonic audio quality for a casual 5K, or wireless battery life with the stamina to last through a marathon and beyond.

How to choose the best running earbuds for you

A lot goes into choosing the best running earbuds depending on the runner’s individual needs. Casual 5-10K runners, for example, may seek a sportier pair to double up as their day-to-day buds. Priorities may be smart voice controls, attractive design and advanced audio performance. Affordability is also more likely to be a consideration if they’re secondary buds bought for a single purpose. 

More serious runners tend to demand different features: big battery life for added endurance, improved water and sweat resistance to guard against the elements and a comfortable secure fit. However, this isn’t an either/or situation. There is a range of factors and features to consider.

Connectivity

We haven’t included any wired buds in this list, because we’re never going back to dangling, twisted uncomfortable cables and neither should you. Yet intermittent unreliable Bluetooth connection can be just as annoying.  For the best performance look for Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, while Bluetooth 4.1 and 4.2 can also provide rock solid connections. PowerBeats Pro and AirPods Pro also feature the custom H1 chip with instant pairing for Apple Watch and iPhone users. Some earphones, like the Bose SoundSport Wireless, provide instant tap-to-pair Android devices via NFC. 

Battery life

How far do you plan on running? If you’re a marathon runner, do you want to take the chance your buds will conk out when you need the musical motivation most? Some options will offer up to 15 hours of battery life, covering the most avid ultra-runner’s efforts. Many true wireless options, conversely, have lower battery life because there’s physically less space to store a larger battery – wired options can hide them in the remote. 

Weather resistance

Any running earbuds without at least IPX4 water and sweat resistance should be avoided. They will fail you. All of our options here support IPX4 and are built to withstand a decent downpour and your sweatier runs. IPX4 buds can’t be submerged, but you could wear a pair with the top IPX7 spec in a river, in theory. Not sure how keen we'd be to test that, mind.

Security and comfort

Three of our five selections are true wireless. Going cable free carries an inherent fear of loss or popping out at the wrong time, but our selections remained in place even during sprint finishes and wind gusts. For hitting the trails many running earphones add the security of an adjoining cable. Comfort level is equally important, especially if you’re running longer distances. Where possible, try before you buy. 

What are the best running earbuds?

Any race has to have a gold medallist and the PowerBeats Pro from Beats by Dr Dre ticks the most boxes as the best running headphones to buy. These true wireless buds are just outstanding. The 9-hour battery life, great audio performance, comfortable and secure adjustable fit, reliable connectivity and an array of smart features sees them sprint clear of the competition.

However, if you are not a true believer in true wireless buds, the Jaybird Tarah Pro, offers a one-cable solution adjoining the buds, has even better battery life, greater durability and a more affordable price point.

The best running earbuds you can buy right now

Best running earbuds: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

1. Beats PowerBeats Pro

The best running earbuds – true wireless wonders!

Specifications
Features: Hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ voice controls, Apple H1 chip, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 9 hours (24 hours with charging case)
Water resistance: IPX4
Weight: 20.3g
Reasons to buy
+The total true wireless package  +Impressive battery life +Sound great
Reasons to avoid
-Hefty case

The first true wireless earbuds from the Apple-owned Beats by Dr Dre come close to the perfect running headphones package, although you do pay a premium for the good doctor's expertise. 

The over-ear hooks quell fears of mid-run dislodges, and you can opt to wear one at a time if running with a buddy, or you feel safer with ambient noise. Sound is big, with bass to spare as you’d expect from a Beats product, and the AutoPlay feature sees tunes commence as soon as you insert the buds. IP4X water and sweat resistance means they’ll withstand a downpour and all-summer sweats too. 

Nine hours of battery life should be enough to get you through the most arduous of runs and hikes and after that, just a 5-minute blast in the charging case will get you another 90 minutes of playback. Pairing is solid thanks to Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. You get a slicker pairing experience with Apple devices, thanks to the custom H1 chip, but they work perfectly with Android devices as well. For unshakeable fit, comfort and audio quality, these Beats are very hard to beat.

If you want almost the same experience but with a single wire between the buds, you also have the option of the considerably cheaper Beats Powerbeats.

Best running earbuds: Jaybird Tarah Pro

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

2. Jaybird Tarah Pro

Best wireless running earbuds – one cable, many talents

Specifications
Features: In-line remote, durable rope cable, in-ear or over-ear fit, custom EQ, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 14 hours
Water resistance: IPX7
Weight: 20g without ear tip
Reasons to buy
+Great weather resistance +Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not true wireless

Jaybird’s X-series one-cable earbuds are a long-time favourite for dedicated runners who put in the miles, whatever the weather. However, the firm has upped its game still further with the Tarah Pro, which boasts improved audio quality, battery life and materials. Despite the buds' small size and light weight, there’s now a whopping 14 hours of battery from a single charge, while IPX7 water and sweat proofing is bolstered with a durable, rope-like cable between the buds. 

The neckband, drawstring and customisable wing tips (which offer the choice of an under- or over-ear fit) deliver security when traversing bumpy trails, while the sound EQ can be customised via the companion app. 

The only problem with these buds is that they aren't true wireless, but Jaybird offers a great option if you simply can't go back to having wires on your running headphones: Jaybird Vista.

Best running earbuds: Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

3. Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo

Best cheap running earbuds prove true wireless doesn’t have to mean truly expensive

Specifications
Features: True wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 3.5-hours (9 hours with charging case)
Water resistance: IPX5
Weight: 11.4g
Reasons to buy
+Unbeatable price +Stable Bluetooth connection
Reasons to avoid
-Sound quality sacrifices -Puny battery life

Anker made its name offering quality mobile accessories that undercut the prices of big-name manufacturers. The company is bringing this same ethos to headphones with its Soundcore sub-brand. The Liberty Neo proves true wireless buds can sound good and perform well without wreaking havoc on the wallet. 

While these buds don't sound as good as their more expensive foes in this list, they still offer audio quality that is perfectly okay, especially when you consider the price. The prominent bass and clear and punchy sound should more than satisfy runners on a budget. 

The design and build quality of these buds also impresses. The pebble-like design provides a comfortable, reliable fit aided by the company’s twist-to-lock GripFit tech, while Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity ensures a stable connection free of frustrating mid-run dropouts. IPX5 water and sweat resistance means they won’t conk out on you at the first sign of drizzle. The 3.5-hours of battery life from a single charge isn't amazing by any means but should be enough for most running expeditions short of a marathon.

Best running earbuds: Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

4. Apple AirPods Pro

Best running earbuds for Apple disciples

Specifications
Features: Active noise cancelling, Apple H1 chip, Bluetooth 5.0, hands-free controls
Battery life: 4.5 hours (24 hours with charging case)
Water resistance: IPX4
Weight: 10.8g
Reasons to buy
+Lightning fast connectivity +Sound great +Excellent in-ear fit 
Reasons to avoid
-A bit pricey

For embedded in the Apple ecosystem, who run with an Apple Watch and/or iPhone, AirPods Pro are a great option. They're marketed more as every-day, multi-purpose buds but IPX4 water resistance and a surprisingly secure fit make them excellent running headphones as well. 

These premium true wireless buds offer lightning fast and rock-solid connectivity thanks to Apple’s H1 chip. The hands-free “Hey Siri” voice commands negate the need to fumble with a touchscreen with sweaty paws to switch up your playlist too. AirPods Pro’s best feature is arguably the active noise cancelling tech, which does a great job of blocking out atrocious gym music. If being cocooned in silence when road running perturbs you, there's also a transparency mode to ensure you’ll be safely aware of ambient noise in urban environments. 

As with most true wireless earbuds, there’s a fear they’ll fall out, but we found the fit to be reassuringly secure even when the wind gets up. We also loved the absence of that ‘thumping’ sound you get with some wireless buds as your feet hit the floor. 

The 5 hours of battery life from a single charge makes them unsuitable for anything more than a marathon… But we would imagine that is not an issue for most people. It's worth noting that AirPods Pro do work perfectly well with Android devices, although you do lose functions such as hands-free Siri control, and fancy graphics when pairing. 

Best running earbuds: Bose SoundSport Wireless

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

5. Bose SoundSport Wireless

This running earbuds old stager is now a real bargain

Specifications
Features: Bluetooth 4.2 plus NFC tap-to-pair on Android, in-line remote
Battery life: 6 hours
Water resistance: IPX4
Weight: 23g
Reasons to buy
+Premium Bose sound +Non-premium price 
Reasons to avoid
-Older Bluetooth tech

If the sonic quality of your power playlist is what pushes you to a new PB, Bose SoundSport Wireless have the pedigree. The one-cable wireless earbuds, with built-in remote, provide well-rounded dynamic sound with just enough punchy bass to get you through those uphill stretches. These things are mightily comfortable and the all-important (albeit minimum expected) IPX4 sweat and water resistance is on board too, meaning they should make it through your sweatier/rainier runs. 

Six hours of battery life could be better, but is long enough for most athletic endeavours. Interestingly, these buds are integrated with the Tile Bluetooth tracking ecosystem, helping you find wayward earphones. These headphones have been around a while so only offer Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, but they're still very solid performers when it comes to maintaining a connection. There's the benefit of tap-to-pair via NFC on Android, too. 

Their relative age also mean the Bose Soundsport Wireless can be picked up for a bargain price. If you’re going true wireless, you might want to try the SoundSport Free. We found that Bose's true wireless option suffers quite badly when it gets windy, but they're excellent in the gym or on non-windy days outside.