Run to the Beat
As a runner, you know the power of a pumped-up playlist to energize your workout. As a techie, you covet the best gadgets. So when it comes to legging it, you naturally want top-notch gear to play your music clearly and unobtrusively. That means a pair of earphones that fit as snugly as your sneakers, deliver rich sound, and perform well in buckets of sweat. And if a flailing arm has sent your iPhone tumbling down the treadmill one too many times, you know you want something wireless as well.
But before you sprint to the store, read our tips on finding The Best Headphones. You’ll want to consider which features are most important to you as an athlete. Is comfort, fit, price, sound quality, or style your priority?
Earphones for Exercise
For the gym, you’ll generally want earphones over headphones. They’re lighter, more resilient, and are often built for exercise. Even if you prefer the sound headphones offer, you’ll find that a good sweat can eat through most earcup pads quickly, and the extra bulk on your head is uncomfortable during a workout. This doesn’t mean you can’t use headphones for the gym. We’ve seen a few very good on-ear headphones designed to handle sweat, and clean up easily, like the Plantronic BackBeat Fit 500.
Bluetooth earphones let you listen to your music without running a wire to your smartphone. They’re pricier than wired earphones, but the convenience can be worth it. However, they need power to work, so you’ll want to keep an eye on battery life. Of course, if you keep your workouts to a few hours at most and charge your earphones when you get back from the gym, that won’t be a problem.
Cut the Cord Completely
Wire-free earphones have finally come into their own after a few shaky early years. There are now plenty of wire-free options that are relatively affordable, reliable, rugged, and sound good. Some models have additional fitness features like heart monitoring or vocal coaches, but the most important things you need for these to work during your workout is a sweatproof design and a secure fit. Fortunately, those aspects are pretty easy to find in this category. Check out our picks for The Best True Wireless Headphones for Running.
Wire-free earphones are consistently more expensive than their tethered wireless equivalents, but prices are steadily dropping. Several reliable models are well below $200, which is a big drop over last year. If that’s too high, you can still get very good standard Bluetooth earphones for less than $50.
Track Those Runs
Even if you’re averse to the intensity of running, walkers may reap similar benefits to runners, according to a study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, at least when it comes to blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease. Regardless of your preferred activity, if you’re looking to quantify your workouts, consider adding one of the Best Fitness Trackers and The Best Heart Rate Monitors we’ve tested to your routine.
And once you’ve found the perfect pair, make sure to check out our 5 Easy Tips to Extend the Life of Your Headphones and 6 Ways You’re Using Your Headphones Wrong.
Pros: Strong audio performance. Quality active noise cancellation. Secure in-ear fit. Hands-free Siri access. Wireless charging case. Splash-resistant build.
Cons: Expensive. No on-ear volume controls. ANC and EQ aren’t adjustable.
Bottom Line: Apple’s true wireless AirPods Pro earphones are vastly superior to the standard model, with solid noise cancellation, quality audio performance, and a far better in-ear fit that justifies the extra cost.
Pros: Powerful audio with thunderous bass and bright high. Excellent in-app EQ. Waterproof, dust-resistant design. Super-secure in-ear fit.
Cons: Expensive. Sculpted sound signature might be too much for some.
Bottom Line: Jabra’s Elite Active 75t earphones improve upon the original pair with a more secure fit and a waterproof design for a real true wireless winner.
Pros: Powerful audio performance that is completely customizable using the app’s EQ. Excellent in-ear fit. Waterproof.
Cons: Short, proprietary charging cable.
Bottom Line: The wireless, exercise-focused Jaybird X4 earphones are supremely versatile, delivering booming bass or balanced audio depending on your EQ preferences.
Pros: Powerful bass-forward but balanced audio performance. Solid mic clarity. Strong battery life. Waterproof. Includes one year premium membership to MapMyRun.
Cons: Cuts off beginnings of newly navigated-to tracks and phone prompts. Minor hiss at low volumes.
Bottom Line: The JBL UA True Wireless Flash earbuds deliver strong audio performance and excellent exercise-focused features.
Pros: Powerful audio performance with intense bass depth and bright highs. Strong battery life. Exceptionally secure in-ear fit.
Cons: Expensive. Wildly sculpted sound signature. Auto-play feature isn’t for everyone.
Bottom Line: A secure fit, easy operation, and a bass-forward sound signature make the Powerbeats Pro ideal true wireless earphones for Beats fans.
Pros: Hands-free Alexa voice control. Good active noise reduction. Clear, balanced sound. Comfortable fit.
Cons: Somewhat weak lows and highs. Limited controls. Not waterproof.
Bottom Line: Amazon’s Echo Buds are wire-free earphones with a lot of functionality for $130, including hands-free Alexa voice control and Bose-tuned active noise reduction.
Pros: Powerful audio performance with deep sub-bass response and sculpted highs. Free app lets you customize EQ. Waterproof. Extra-secure in-ear fit.
Cons: Lops off beginnings of tracks when you skip forward or backward.
Bottom Line: The Jaybird Tarah earphones deliver a powerful, sculpted audio experience with customizable EQ in a waterproof design.
Pros: Strong audio performance with boosted bass and crisp highs. App features user-adjustable EQ. IPX7 waterproof. Secure fit for exercise.
Cons: Limited on-ear controls.
Bottom Line: The Jaybird Vista true wireless earphones deliver powerful audio performance in a waterproof, gym-friendly build with EQ you can adjust to taste.
Pros: Powerful bass depth matched with sculpted, crisp highs. Waterproof. Exceptionally secure fit.
Cons: Power Hook feature can lead to accidental powering down or up. Sound signature not for purists.
Bottom Line: JBL’s Endurance Jump earphones deliver huge bass in a secure, fully waterproof design.
Pros: Powerful bass-forward audio performance. Easy-to-operate touch controls. Water-resistant design. Secure fit.
Cons: Faint mic signal. EQ presets are pretty extreme.
Bottom Line: If you like deep bass and over-ear headphones for exercise, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100 are worth your consideration.