Paired with a killer soundtrack, the best running headphones can aid performance as much as your running shoes or running watch, facilitating the pre-race adrenaline rush, pushing you up tough hills and through the tougher miles.
Indeed, there are few better run buddies than the perfectly crafted playlist, but to realise its full potential you’ll need comfortable, secure, great sounding headphones with enough battery life to get you over the line.
Finding the perfect pair of headphones doesn’t follow a ‘one size fits all' approach, with personal style preference, weather and terrain all factors in the purchase decision. Our guide to the best running headphones aims to provide a great pair for every runner no matter what your needs.
Our overall favourite right now is the Powerbeats Pro from Beats by Dre. These true wireless earphones stand out as the complete package with excellent audio quality and battery life, a comfortable fit and smart connectivity features that are tough to beat. However, they’re expensive and all Beats headphones are, shall we say, an acquired taste from a design and soundscape perspective.
Fear not though, because we’ve listed the best representative from every type of running headphones – be they bean-like buds, over-ear cans or even those magical bone-conducting headphones that don’t even touch your ears!
How to choose the best running headphones for you
The days of cables flapping around, snagging on random branches and dragging out your running headphones are over. Guess what? We’re never going back. There are too many great, dedicated options offering solid wireless connectivity for us to consider wiring-up our runs ever again.
However, beyond that, there are a number of factors that go into choosing the best running headphones for you. The distances you undertake may require you to prioritise battery life, while those taking on tough terrain in varying conditions will require security and weather resistance.
Here are some pointers on what to look out for. Oh, and while you're browsing, keep an eye on our guide to fitness gifts for Christmas, featuring running shoes, water bottles and more gifts for runners.
Wireless, true wireless or over-ear running headphones?
The trend is true wireless. Earphones and buds like the PowerBeats Pro offer wireless connectivity and eschew a connecting cable. These buds combine nine hours of battery life with great connectivity, smart features and a secure fit.
Meanwhile, single cable options like the rugged Jaybird Tarah Pro provide a neckband and customisable wing tips to ensure a rock-solid fit, while resisting anything the elements can through at you.
Another option is bone-conducting headphones, ideal for urban running as they keep the ear canal open to ambient noise. You will sacrifice immersive sound, but they could keep you safer.
Finally, over-ear headphones are the least popular option for runners, but if you’re looking for a single pair of cardio headphones to complement your gym-based workouts there are good, sweat-resistant options here too.
Fair play to wired headphones: battery life was never a concern. No one wants to worry about outrunning their headphones, and so our selection promises a minimum of five hours battery life. However, for greater distances or time away from a power source there are much better options. PowerBeats Pro offers nine hours of battery life, but up to 24 via a charging case. For epic runs, the Jaybird Tarah Pro will give you up to 15 hours uninterrupted listening.
Water and sweat resistance
Running in the rain can be joyful and invigorating… until your headphones short out at the first sign of drizzle. All-weather, all-terrain runners need likeminded headphones with at least IPX4 rated water and sweat resistance. Some of our selections offer IPX7 certifications, meaning they can survive being submerged in a metre of water for 30 minutes. If you tend to run in the gym, these ratings are less of a concern, but we’d still recommend headphones guaranteeing sweat resistance.
The best running headphones to buy right now
Thanks to a near-perfect execution, which cater to super specific needs of so many runners and fitness enthusiasts alike, PowerBeats are a giant leap forward for the entire Beats by Dre workout range. The still-excellent PowerBeats 3 have been built upon with adjustable ear hooks that offer additional security for a truly wireless run. Battery life is exceptionally solid at 9-hours, while just five minutes in the charging case buys you two hours extra music.
Beyond the great sound, there’s a number of little quirks that make these earphones so special. For example, of you like to run with a friend or require some extra situational awareness, you can wear just one bud. There’s also an AutoPlay feature that will commence playback as soon as you place the bud in your ear.
If you have an iPhone, connectivity is rapid through the inclusion of the same H1 chip in Apple’s AirPods and there’s also hands-free “Hey Siri” voice commands for music control, message playback and so much more. IPX4 water and sweat resistance isn’t as high-end as some rival earphones. We have found they can deal with sweat, no problem but it's possible that very heavy rain might be an issue.
These are Jaybird’s best one-cable running headphones and the go-to solution for distance runners for whom terrain and weather are of little concern. These rugged one-cable earphones can handle it all. 14 hours of battery life from one charge headlines (a five-minute blast will get you a further two hours) and IPX7 water and sweat resistance will ensure they can handle a deluge on the longest of trails.
If the breeze is at your tail or hindering your progress the drawstring and customisable wing tips will keep the Jaybird Tarah Pro exactly where they should be. Sound quality is incredibly natural and can be customised using an EQ using the companion app, while there’s also a built-in microphone that can handle calls if you like to chat while enjoying your daily jog.
It’s not easy to find a pair of great-sounding, durable over-ear headphones that offer enough lightweight comfort to make them bearable on long runs. However, the Adidas RPT-01 manages to get the job done.
The largely fabric-covered (nylon) design is a bit of an acquired taste, and while its texture helps it grip and stay in place, it can also feel rather overly snug, and scratchy. It deals with sweat and rain showers better than most over-ear rivals, thanks to IPX4 certification, while the ear covers and headband are removable and washable.
Battery life is a headline feature at an estimated 40-hours. In terms of sound quality, it is good for the price with plenty of bass, but don’t expect a particularly wide soundscape. The suitability for running is augmented by a ‘control jog’ which enables wearers to play/pause and skip tracks with an onboard button rather than pawing at their phones.
Bone-conducting earphones are great for people running in busy/noisy environments who want to be able to listen to music and their surroundings. They can also be a godsend for those who just can’t get a good fit with in-ear buds.
AfterShokz leads the pack here and the AeroPex is a great option for runners, cyclists and others. Bone conducting headphones do come with some sound quality sacrifices and the vibrations can feel distracting, so it’s advisable to try before you buy. AfterShokz is clearly confident you'll warm to AeroPex, however: it offers a 45-day money-back guarantee.
They’re IP67 rated for water and sweat resistance meaning they can be submerged for 30 minutes at a time in 1m of water. Not that you’ll want to, but it’s reassuring to know they can handle the most torrential of downpours. Add 8 hours of battery life you have a winner.
Running is a sweaty endeavour – at least it should be – and we are not sure the Plantronics Backbeat 500 Fit would stand up to too much of it. However for more sedate jogs and certain gym activities this is a nifty – and cheap – option.
These over-ear headphones offer a P2i-rated water-repellent coating that’ll keep the innards safe in a rain or sweat shower. Runners will enjoy the relatively snug fit, as they won’t be dislodged easily, but it can turn to discomfort over longer distances. The 18-hour battery life will ensure plenty of trips to the gym between charges and there’s a 3.5mm input as well, if the battery does run out.
Sound quality from the 40mm drivers is good for the price, but don’t expect noise cancellation, epic depth or to weep tears of joy at their musical beauty. We do love the rock solid Bluetooth connectivity, however.