Identifying the best workout earbuds to buy and trying to navigate the huge range of true wireless earphones available, is no easy feat. If you're snapping some up in the January sales, just trying to do the research on the latest and greatest audio tech can feel like a full sweat session in itself.
There are so many different criteria that needs ironing out before you hit "buy" it's exhausting. For example, do you choose wireless, or truly wireless – and what is the difference anyway? Should they be waterproof or sweat-proof? Will the battery last the duration of my run? Are they comfortable? The list goes on.
Confused? Don’t be. I will answer all these questions and more as I roundup the best models out there, no matter what your workout entails.
My advice for anyone picking the best workout earbuds is usually to go true wireless, as you’re going to feel more freedom in movement. My ultimate pick in this category is the Jaybird Run XT. Despite the name, they aren't just great for running and will prove a hit with any type of exercise. For around $170/£130, they have a great all-round sound quality and are the most comfortable truly wireless earbuds I’ve ever worn.
However, if you’re prone to easily losing things or you’re likely to be pulling your buds out every two minutes to chat to someone at the gym, then the wireless variety - connected by a single wire around the back of your neck - are a good bet. They can simply hang there when not in use, ready to be picked up and shoved in your lugs again. My top pick on this front is the Nura NuraLoop for their incredible sound quality.
How to choose the best workout earbuds for you
Anyone that’s made an attempt to even break a sweat will know how important music is when it comes to working out. Not only does it help distract you from the task in hand, but it’s been scientifically proven to help keep you motivated and increase exercise performance when the going gets tough.
But do you really need to blow top dollar on a pair of wireless buds for simply kicking around in the gym or bounding down the street on your run? Not necessarily, but in my experience, you really get what you pay for when it comes to Bluetooth earphones, so it is really worth the investment. Scrimp on a pair of cheap buds and you’re only going to wind up frustrated as the features that make a pair of workout earphones great are likely to be missing.
So what are these essential features, I hear you ask. Well, there are three: water- or sweat-resistance, clingability and sound quality. Basically, a badly-fitting, poor-sounding pair of buds that are prone to water damage when you work up a sweat will quickly become your worst nightmare.
- Water (and sweat) resistance
The most important feature for exercising should be waterproofing. If you’re going to be wearing them while working out, they at least need to be resistant to sweat to ensure that they last. And if you like to workout whatever the weather outdoors, they need to be rain-resistant too.
One measure to look for is whether the earbuds have an Ingress Protection (or IP) Code. This indicates that the product has been independently tested for its resistance to water, amongst other things.
IP ratings in relation to waterproofing are written as IPX followed by a number, ranging from 0-9. The higher the number, the better the rating. For example, IPX4 offers protections from splashes of water, and are therefore sweat-proof. Meanwhile, products with an IPX7 rating are protected against immersion of up to one meter - good options if you're into swimming.
Yes, I made that word up. But more often than not, exercise involves lots of moving about and if your sports earbuds aren’t staying in while you're flailing your limbs to and fro, then they’re just not worthy of your hard-earned dosh.
- Sound quality
Last and certainly not least in the list of must-have qualities is the audio experience. Tinny, absent sound just won’t cut it when you’re in the mood to burn some killer kcals. But a dynamic and juicy audio will help keep you engaged in whatever exercise you’re doing.
Indeed, a study published in the journal of Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that listening to music whilst working out resulted in “higher-than-expected levels of endurance, power, productivity, or strength.”
Essentially, the best pair of earphones you can buy for working out won't feel like you're wearing earphones at all. And so with that, here is my pick of the best…
The best workout earbuds you can buy right now
The JayBird Run XT are the best earbuds out there for nearly all workout types. Whether you're cycling in the wind or doing star jumps in the rain, they cling on to your ears without ever failing to deliver excellent quality audio. They’re also some of the most comfortable I’ve ever tried, and especially suited to extended workouts, such as long distance cycling.
If you like your workout music to really thump down your eardrums while training, rest assured these Jaybirds are loud if you need them to be. That's something I’ve found many wireless earphones lack these days, probably to keep up the battery life. The battery life on these, it must be said, is not terribly long so if you intend to wear them during a marathon, you had better get a move on.
The size of these things and the way they protrude might make you look a bit of a twit but if you can live with this, you’ll be rewarded with superb comfort and sound quality. They're the perfect accompaniment for a good ol’ weights sesh, although I wouldn't use them during a really vigorous workout or for running outdoors on a less than still day, as their shape makes them highly susceptible to wind noise.
As you’d expect from Bose, you’ll find a great, full-bodied sound with deep, powerful bass. They are some of the best-sounding wireless earphones I’ve tested, in fact, though it's a shame they don’t feature the brand’s fabulous noise-cancelling tech. Still, they’re really well made, feeling robust and like they’ll last you a good while.
A quality set of true wireless earphones that won’t break the bank, Mifo O5 Plus might be the cheapest true wireless earbuds in this lineup, but that doesn’t make them subpar. Far from it, in fact.
They’ve been widely received as some of the best out there for sports, mainly due to their excellent battery life – a good seven hours of continuous use in a single charge, and a massive 100 hours of total use with the charging case, which is handy for ultra marathons, and also for people who habitually forget their charging cables.
The aluminium design with blue and red rings might be a little cheap looking, but if you can look past that, you’ve got yourself a superb pair of truly wireless earphones for the price.
If your workout routine usually involves you moving around a lot - sometimes in more extreme environments - then opt for the Jabra Elite Active 75t. They’re the only earphones on this list that are IP57-rated, meaning they’re fully waterproof and sweatproof and resistant to dust. So, yes, you could go for a run on the beach in them, jump in the sea and then roll around in the sand and they'd survive. That sounds like fun, too.
Jabra's compact buds also cling onto your ears like a limpet, failing to fly off no matter how dramatic your hair flick. Offering motion detection, voice control, and a stylish look, Jabra’s buds almost have it all, apart from a cheap RRP – but you get what you pay for here.
A personalised audio experience that sounds like no other, Nuraloop are very clever AI earbuds that automatically assess and adapt to your hearing, creating a sound personalised to you. Via an app, Nuraloop 'listens' to your ear canal and creates a listening profile just for you. The resulting sound is simply stunning and highly immersive.
Accompanying this is a thoughtful design that touts adjustable ear-hugging bands for a more comfortable fit, as well as touch controls. Nuraloop even comes with an analogue cable that can be cleverly attached, magnetically, to a proprietary charging contact so you can use the buds as non-wireless earphones when you need to. I'm not sure how useful that is for most people but it is, again, very clever.