Best running headphones 2020

The best running headphones of every type: over-ear, wireless, true wireless and bone conducting

Best running headphones
(Image credit: Adidas)

Music is the best running companion. So here are the best running headphones to soundtrack your summer, and beyond. Just like selecting the best running shoes, there’s no perfect set of headphones – or running earbuds – to suit all athletes. Priorities will be different depending on running distance, terrain, weather, environment and headphone fit. 

Okay, we can say with some certainty that the best pair of running headphones, for most people, are the Powerbeats Pro from Beats by Dre but no doubt some people will balk at their bulk, or scoff at their spectacles-like ear hooks. That's okay though, because we really do have every type of running headphones here. Even actual, over-ear headphones – these strike us as being more suited to winter jogging but someone must like them!

How to choose the best running headphones for you

There are loads of factors that go into choosing the best headphones to accompany you on a long run. We’re talking form-factor, battery life, weather resistance, price, security and comfort, audio quality and more. It’s all about finding the right balance for you as a runner. One thing’s for certain, we’re not going back to cables flapping about in front of us, so these headphones all have varying degrees of wireless connectivity. Here are some pointers on what to look out for:

Wireless, true wireless or over-ear running headphones?

We’ve been very vocal about recommending true wireless earphones like the PowerBeats Pro. These true wireless buds hit the sweet spot for battery life, solid connectivity, smart features and excellent audio quality. 

We also love the one-cable Jaybird Tarah Pro for its ability to withstand the elements and keep running for as long as you do. They offer a secure, comfortable fit, great connectivity sound amazing and are loaded with smart features. 

These two types of headphones for running are by far the most popular, but there are other routes to take. 

Bone-conducting headphones keep the ear canal free for those who want to remain aware when running in busy urban environments or on the road, while traditional over-ear headphones with a headband are great for cold days and less sweaty gym activities such as weight lifting. For those who love the band, there are some workout-specific solutions from Adidas RPT-01 and Plantronics.

Battery life

How far are you planning to run? Every one of our selections will get you through a marathon at the very least. PowerBeats Pro can be extended for up to 24 hours with the bundled-in charging case too. Some true wireless options promise less than five hours from a single charge, so choose wisely.

Water and sweat resistance

If you do most of your running in the gym, moderate sweat resistance ratings will ensure your buds don’t conk out the moment you start secreting. However, if you’re an all-weather, all-terrain type of runner that doesn’t skulk inside at the first hint of drizzle, we’d recommend buds with at least IPX4 water resistance – as found on PowerBeats Pro and Adidas RPT-01 – and preferably the IPX7 as seen on the Jaybird Tarah Pro and AfterShokz AeroPex – these can survive actual submersion in water.

The best running headphones to buy right now

Best running headphones: Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

1. Beats PowerBeats Pro

The best true wireless running headphones

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
+Great sound+Impressive battery life +Unshakeable fit
Reasons to avoid
-Big old battery case

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.

Best running headphones: Jaybird Tarah Pro

(Image credit: Beats by Dr. Dre)

2. Jaybird Tarah Pro

The best wireless running headphones (not true wireless)

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 +Long battery life+Sound mighty fine
Reasons to avoid
-Not true wireless

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.

Best running headphones

(Image credit: Adidas)

3. Adidas RPT-01

The best outdoor over-ear running headphones

Specifications
Features: Washable fabric covering, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 40 hours
Water resistance: IPX4
Weight: 209g
Reasons to buy
+Sweatproof and washable+Excellent battery life+Good noise isolation
Reasons to avoid
-That fabric can be a little scratchy

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.

Best running headphones

(Image credit: Aftershokz)

4. AfterShokz AeroPex

The best bone-conducting running headphones

Specifications
Features: Moisture detection alert while charging, noise cancelling mics, Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life: 8 hours
Water resistance: IP67
Weight: 26g
Reasons to buy
+Leaves your ears unblocked+Excellent water resistance
Reasons to avoid
-Bone conduction isn’t for everyone

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.

Best running headphones

(Image credit: Plantronics)

5. Plantronics Backbeat 500 Fit

Best budget over-ear workout headphones

Specifications
Features: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery life: 18 hours
Water resistance: 'P2i water and sweat repellent coating'
Weight: 318g
Reasons to buy
+Gym-friendly +Rock solid Bluetooth connection
Reasons to avoid
-Audio quality befits the low price

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.