When looking for the best running headphones or for the gym, priorities are slightly different to when you're searching out the best headphones for casual listening.
Headphones for exercise need to be comfortable and secure fitting as well as being sweat resistant. This is important as sweat is really bad for electronics.
With that said, that means the best sports earphones are the ones that will stay in your ears, are lightweight and are comfortable to wear when you're a sweaty mess pounding your feet against tarmac.
It also helps a lot if there's plenty of bass pumping to keep you driving on. So without further ado, let's check out the best headphones for running, the gym and general exercise.
Our top recommendation
Beats Powerbeats Pro
The previous generation Powerbeats earphones were one of our top recommendations and now Beats have reinvented the earphone and got rid of the wire, resulting in an even better pair of workout earphones.
It starts with the new, refined shape. The curves and angles are a lot softer and more ergonomic than the Powerbeats 3 Wireless, everything from the over-ear hook through the ear tips and the angle of the casing has been adjusted to ensure that they fit as comfortably as is possible. They're light too, so when they're in your ears, not only do they fit very securely, but you can barely tell that they're there.
Obviously, the lack of a cable or tether between the two earbuds also means there's a much better sense of freedom, and no annoying cable tapping on the back of your neck during runs.
With the seal combined with a bass reflex hole, it ensures you get really great sound across the highs, mids and bass, but also the airflow means you don't ever get that pressurised feel that is often so prominent while wearing in-ears. The only disadvantage to the bass reflex vent is that it means you don't get complete isolation from the noise around you.
Battery life is, quite frankly, insane for a pair of wire-frees, with the Powerbeats Pro capable of lasting up to 9 hours of constant music listening outside the case, and then having two further full charges from being docked.
You also get the Apple H1 chip, which means extra convenience for iPhone, Apple Watch and Mac users. It's really easy to pair, and then automatically paired across any other Apple device logged in with the same iCloud account.
All things considered, right now, these certainly seem like the best workout headphones you can get.
Read the full review: Beats Powerbeats Pro
The best of the rest
Master & Dynamic MW07 Go
Master & Dynamic took the sound and drivers from its awesome first pair of true wireless earphones, then put them in smaller, lighter pair of in-ears with IPX6 water resistance. The tip offers a good seal in the ear, then the soft, bristled silicone comb fin in the ear keeps the pair securely in place during exercise.
If you're into long exercise sessions, the MW07 Go has you covered. They can go up to 10 hours in a single session before needing to be placed back in their charging case. Couple that with sound that dynamic, rich and detailed, and you have one of the best sounding and - in our opinion - most attractive pair of workout earphones out there.
Read the full review: Master & Dynamic MW07 Go
Beats Powerbeats (2020)
Imagine if you took the comfort, sound and convenience of the Powerbeats Pro and put it in a pair of earphones that's cheaper, but connected by a slim cable. That's essentially what the latest generation of non-Pro Powerbeats earphones is.
The sound is delivered by the same custom drivers developed by Apple to offer great control over a wide range of frequencies, meaning bass is great, and don't get boomy or muddy, while trebles/highs are still clear. They also have the Apple H1 Chip, and that means you get easy pairing with iPhones, plus automatic pairing/connecting with any other Apple device with the same iCloud account.
Apart from the lower price, the other reason you might prefer these to the Powerbeats Pro: battery. They can get through 15 hours of music playback before needing to be plugged into a Lightning cable for refilling, and when they do charge, they charge quickly.
Read the full review: Beats Powerbeats
Apple's new kids on the block are, quite simply, the best AirPods yet. We were some of the many people who would occasionally use previous AirPods models in the gym guiltily, knowing that their lack of waterproofing made it a real risk. No more — AirPods Pro bring water and sweat-proofing to let you go hard, and that in-ear design makes for a way more secure fit, too.
Plus, the addition of active noise cancellation means that you won't have to crank the volume too crazily to drown out the playlist your gym chooses, or the honking and sirens of your outdoor environment. They don't have many dedicated fitness functions, and while the fit is secure and comfortable, the hooks from the Powerbeats Pro do make those earbuds even safer.
Read the full review: AirPods Pro
These are a superb running headphone, and are extremely reasonably priced given the features on offer. They don't boast a huge range of controls, but they're comfortable, lightweight and sweatproof. The security of the fit on offer is best-in-class, too, which matters a lot when you're working out vigorously.
With a good charging case into the mix, taking the earbuds' six-hour battery life up to 16 hours without needing main power, and really decent sound, too, the Vista marks a genuinely impressive effort from the ever-improving Jaybird.
Read the full review: Jaybird Vista
Bose SoundSport Free
These fantastic true wireless headphones are some of our favourite fitness earphones out there, even a few years after release — they just sound great. The disadvantage is that now, a few years after launch, the battery life doesn't quite live up to the competition anymore.
You get a battery life of around five hours per charge although naturally there's extra power in the case - enough to charge the earphones twice over again. So that's around 15 hours in total. Still, Bose's sound is really good, and the tapered tip design ensures they don't get uncomfortable.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free
Libratone Track Air+
These rather well-designed headphones are a great alternative to AirPods Pro, undercutting their price too. You can adjust the sound profile to suit your preferences and also fine-tune the noise-cancellation so you can hear others and, rather importantly, traffic at the level that you wish. The Track Air+ also don't come out of your ears and are comfortable, too, so you can wear them for long periods.
We really don't have much bad to say about them at all — though the lack of Apple's H1 chip does make for slightly slower pairing. However, it's a small quibble; there's a lot to commend the Track Air+.
Read the full review: Libratone Track Air+
Samsung Galaxy Buds+
Samsung's newest Galaxy Buds+ are great value for money, offering a convenient wireless charging case, lots of bass and a secure fit that ensures the lates pair of Galaxy-branded earphones will stay in your years.
Like some of the other modern pairs on the list, one of the best features is battery life. You can get up to 11 hours of music playback outside the case, so that should easily see you through your longest exercise sessions. Even if that session happens to be a long hike up a mountain range and back down again.
Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Buds+
Bose SoundSport Pulse
Bose is - first and foremost - known for its quality audio. It's a brand synonymous with amazing sound. It just so happens, however, that it also knows how to make a decent pair of sports headphones. The Soundsport Pulse don't just sound great, they fit nicely and stay securely in your ears.
As the name suggests, they can also measure your pulse thanks to a built in heart rate monitor. This can be used with apps like Strava, MapMyRun, Runkeeper and others to log your heart rate as you run you best 10k. Thanks to their wide, tapered cone-shaped eartip, they don't feel like they're invading your ear canals either. They form a seal without squeezing all the air from your head.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Pulse review
Jabra Elite 75t
Jabra has shifted its focus slightly on true wireless in ears, and the latest iteration of that development is the Elite 75t. One thing we loved about this pair is the ability to customise the sound to suit the individual. They give a lot of control over tone through the Jabra app for iPhone/Android.
They're a lot more compact than the older Elite Sport range of earphones, but still secure, and that means they're comfortable and won't fall out easily. Plus, they're IPX5 water resistant to ensure a little sweat or rain won't damage them.
7.5 hours of music playback isn't the best battery performance on this list, but it's definitely adequate for most workout sessions or activities, and the ability to switch 'HearThrough' on means you can hear traffic around you when you're running at night time.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite 75t review
Anyone who's tried to get fit in the modern era has probably used an app of some kind, with pre-recorded audio or video tips built in. The problem with those, however, is that they don't really know you or your fitness level. With Lifebeam Vi you get a pair of headphones full of the necessary sensors to measure your performance, and then uses that information to get to know you, then build coaching tips specifically for you.
They're comfortable to wear, sound loud and bassy, and stay securely, snugly inside your ears. What's more, during your running sessions you can ask for updates at any time by tapping the right ear bud and asking "how am I doing?". If you want a smart earphone, the Vi is an ideal running coach.
Read the full review: Lifebeam Vi review