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 pick of the best fitness headphones
Bose SoundSport Free
These fantastic true wireless headphones are currently our favourite fitness earphones our there and we'd say they're comfortably the best sports earphones for pure music enjoyment. The disadvantage is that they don't have some of the smart fitness features you get in the likes of the Lifebeam Vi or Jabra Elite Sport we've talked about below; there's no heart-rate or cadence measure for example. They are comfortable though and crucially don't fall out.
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. Because they're black, they're also a lot more subtle than many of the other choices out there.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free
These rather well-designed headphones aren't cheap but they are great for running or exercise. 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+ also don't come out of your ears and are comfortable, too, so you can wear them for long periods.
Criticisms? They are a little chunky which could deter some purchasers. However, it's a small quibble; there's a lot to commend the Track+.
Read the full review: Libratone Track+
Beats Powerbeats 3 Wireless
If you have an iPhone, you won't find anything more convenient than the Powerbeats 3 wireless in-ear headphones. Like the AirPods, they have the W1 chip, which means you can pair them to your phone just by switching them on, then tapping "connect" on the popup window that appears on your phone's screen.
The earhooks help them fit comfortably, and ensure they won't fall out of your ears whether you're circuit training or running. What's more, they're water, sweat and weather resistant and have great bassy sound. Add all that to the fact that they can last up to 12 hours of use before needing to charge, and it's a great all-round pair of sports headphones.
Read the full review: Powerbeats 3 Wireless review
The Jaybird X3 is one of the easiest pairs of earphones to recommend for sports use. There's no ear hook, but the in-ear fins come in different sizes, and offer a much less cumbersome fit that's just as secure. What's more, they ship with multiple different size/material tips and are very lightweight and durable. As a bonus, you can attach the fins in two ways to allow you to wear them with the cable feeding over or under your ear, with an adjuster to make it as snug as you like.
As for audio, this again is versatile thanks to the superb bespoke app which lets you create your own sound profiles or use those shared by other users in the Jaybird community. It lacks some of the clarity and ring of higher-end earphones, but they're bassy, loud and great fun. They only cost £90 and offer eight hours of battery life too, which is a major plus point.
Read the full review: Jaybird X3 review
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. You will have to pony up nearly £170 if you want them though.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Pulse review
Jabra Elite Sport (2017)
On this list, the 2017 edition Jabra Elite Sport are a little unique, in that they have no wires at all. It's a completely tether-free set of earphones, meaning you have two independent earbuds. And they work really well.
While they're perhaps not as small or comfortable to wear as some of the others, they are very secure and fit very snugly. Perhaps too snug for some. Still, the connection didn't drop once in our testing and the sound was powerful and immersive. What's more, the battery lasts much longer than the first generation.
At £179, they've come down considerably from their initial £230 price point, but they're still among the most expensive on this list and that's purely because the technology is more advanced. Not only are they completely wire-free, they feature a heart rate sensor, motion sensors and connect to your phone's GPS to measure your performance and distances as you run.
All your distances and performance stats are stored within the Jabra smartphone app, and more vitally, the app uses these stats to inform you how long you need to rest before you attempt your next session.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport 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?".
You can buy the Vi earphones for £179 in the UK, which - considering the tech inside - isn't bad value at all. If you want a smart earphone, the Vi is an ideal running coach.
Read the full review: Lifebeam Vi review
Sony XB80BS Extra Bass
The earhooks might be a little chunky, but the XB80BS from Sony are among the best sports earphones we've tested so far. Using the adjuster on the cable, the fit can be really snug and secure, meaning they stay in your ears really well during all kinds of workouts.
As the name suggests, there's lots of bass to go around, Sony's usual attention to good overall quality on show. As you'd expect, they're also resistant to sweat and rain. In fact, they're designed to be rinsed off after every use to keep them clean. What's more, they're only £72 and can last seven hours on a full charge.
JBL Reflect Aware
As a sort-of wildcard: if you don't want Bluetooth and would rather stick with a wired connection, JBL make a great pair of sports earphones. They're equipped with a Lightning connector for iPhones and deliver great audio.
What we loved most about the JBL earphones is just how comfortable they were to wear. Like the Jaybirds, they have in-ear fins to keep them in your ears. These ones happen to be really soft and easy to wear, while the tips are wide cone-shaped ones, similar to the Bose.
You never have to worry about battery life, because it doesn't have a built-in battery, and they even feature some active noise cancelling technology (although it doesn't work that well). They are pretty expensive at £169, but they are very good wired sports earphones for iPhone users.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Aware review