(Pocket-lint) - Picking the right pair of headphones for running is anything but easy, with hordes of options all vying to accompany you on your pavement-pounding jaunts.
Sure, you could use a pair of cheap wired buds and have them connected by cable to your phone that's strapped to your arm. But there are much better ways to go, especially if you're out multiple times a week and want music accompanying you.
So, what should you be looking out for in a good pair of running headphones?
First and foremost, you need something that's built to wear for exercise. That means a comfortable and snug fit. One that's going to stay in your ear, but also be comfortable enough to wear for as long as you need it to. You've got enough to think about during a run without having to also be distracted by uncomfortable earphones.
There's durability, too. Your earphones need to withstand sweat, wind and rain and, of course, deliver solid sound.
However, these factors aren't necessarily all guaranteed - even if you opt for something a little more expensive - and you'll have to weigh up just how much you want to spend and, perhaps, whether you want them to double up as your everyday pair, too.
To help you make the best decision for your ears, we've gathered together some of the top headphones for running at a variety of budgets, whether you want corded, wireless, around-ear or in-ear. On your marks, get set, go!
Our Top Pick
Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Comfortable and secure fit
- Long battery life
- Great sound
- Bulky case
- No noise cancelling
- Not cheap
We could bore you to tears about why Beats' Powerbeats Pro are the best overall headphones for running. Put simply, though, they win out because they offer the perfect blend of comfort, sound and stability.
They're without question on the pricey side, but it's more than worth it to know these things are never coming loose or succumbing to sweat (thanks to the IPX4 rating and mini vent).
They're even comfortable when worn for longer stretches, since there's no cable behind the neck pulling the hook on your ear, and offer a, quite frankly, insane battery life for true wireless headphones - 9 hours of listening time that extends to 24 with the battery case.
If you can stomach the price tag, there's very little to dislike about Beats' latest headphones.
Other running earphones we recommend
If Powerbeats Pro aren't within your budget, or they're not quite right for you, here are four other running buds worth considering:
Anker Soundbuds Slim+
- Very affordable
- In-ear fin for a secure fit
- Decent battery life
- Inline remote means fit is a little unbalanced
- Not true wireless
- Sound quality not as good as more expensive brands
Plenty of running headphones require a significant investment, but Anker's Soundbuds Slim+ let you get started for a budget price tag.
Considering the outlay, these in-ear buds offer excellent audio quality - more in line with the mid-level offerings - and also manage to eke out 10 hours of playtime.
They're naturally not as stable as around-ear designs, but the slim build, as the name suggests, and wings help things stay relatively stable.
The package includes multiple ear tips, meaning you can tinker with the fit, and the IPX7 rating ensures you don't have to worry about rain or sweat.
- Lovely sound signature
- Comfortable tip and fin design
- Sweat and water-resistant
- Six-hour battery isn't great
- Older model now, harder to find
- Not true wireless
If your priority is receiving great sound, Bose delivers an expert offering with its exercise-focused headphones.
They're a little long in the tooth, granted, but, as with any Bose product, the quality is long-lasting. Plus, the design still holds up really well against competitors, with the company's StayHear+ tips giving you a lightweight and sturdy fit throughout runs. Just watch out for that six-hour battery - it sneaks up on you.
It's important to note that Bose also offers a Pulse edition of the SoundSport, too, which features a built-in heart rate monitor. While not totally necessary for all users (especially runners who already have a dedicated watch), it is a handy add-on.
Jabra Elite 75t Earbuds
- Neutral style for everyday wear
- Reliable performance
- 28 hours total battery (including case)
- No fins or hooks for extra grip
- No noise cancelling
Jabra's Elite 75t aren't specifically designed to accompany you on winding runs - despite being water and sweat resistant - so it's a testament to their quality that you would never really know.
The truly wireless design gives you a bit more freedom when on the move, and we're big fans of the Jabra Sound+ app, which lets you equalize music until your heart's content.
It's not just about the comfy design, either, with roughly 7.5 hours of battery backed up by a total of 28 hours total when you take advantage of the charging case.
- Great fit and comfort
- Enjoyable sound signature
- 15-hour battery is great
- Cable can be distracting
- No noise cancelling
Imagine the stable comfort and sound quality of Beats' Powerbeats Pro, then add a cable that sits behind your head - that's essentially what the latest generation of Powerbeats gives you.
Since the design is a little more traditional, the price tag reflects that, making them a top pick for those who want a pair of Beats but don't want to shell out for the Pro model.
Since Beats is Apple-owned, you get the H1 chip underneath the hood, too, which allows for instant pairing with Apple devices. And, perhaps best of all, the battery will last up to 15 hours before it needs to juicing back up with a Lightning cable.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our top picks. We consider a number of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides, including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality and value. Many of the devices we consider don't make our final best guides, but that doesn't mean they're no good.
There's no shortage of great running headphones on the market. Here are some we considered but didn't ultimately make our top 5:
How to choose a pair of running headphones
Running headphones are a very specific thing with niche appeal, which means they can't just go down the generalised route of regular in-ear headphones or over-ear headphones. Yes, it'd be nice if they're suitable for use all day for everything, but it's more important that they're designed for use on your running sessions and they need to work well in that context first.
So, what should you look for?
Why buy a pair of running headphones?
When you first started out running you probably just "made do" with whatever earphones or headphones you had knocking about in an old drawer. If it was wired in-ears, you probably had to deal with the pulling feel of the cable, the ear tip losing its fit and maybe even falling out. What's more, they likely weren't that comfortable.
Workout or running earphones deal with those pain points. They're generally more secure, so they don't fall out and the fit is snug and comfortable so they don't lose their fit. Plus, they're using built to withstand contact with moisture. Your cheapy standard earbuds likely aren't.
Do you need waterproofing?
The simple answer to this question is: yes. If you're buying a pair of buds for running - whether indoors or outdoors - it's crucial to get some form of water resistance. If you're outside there's always a chance of being caught in the rain, especially when we get towards the colder seasons.
Even if you're running in the heat of the summer, you'll probably sweat and you want protection against that too. The same goes if you run mostly indoors on a treadmill. It's vital to have a pair of buds that won't die when it comes into contact with rain or perspiration.
What do water and moisture resistance ratings mean?
You can read more about that in our dedicated guide, but the short answer is that if it's rated IPX4, that means it's tested and certified to withstand splashes. That usually means it should be fine if you run in the rain and more than enough to cope with sweat. The higher the number at the end, the more water-sealed the product is.
Why is the fit important?
There are few things worse than being on a run and getting to the point where you're breathing heavily, your heart is pounding and then you also have to deal with a pair of earphones that keeps working itself loose and needs constant readjusting. You need a fit that you don't mind having in your ears, but also one that's still snug enough to hold the buds in place while you're on the move.
What about in-ear fins and over-ear hooks?
This is often what sets sport earphones' design apart from regular everyday buds. Many of them come with an array of different in-ear fins to grip them to the inside of your ear or a hook that reaches over the top of your ear and hugs the outside. Either way, it means you get a more secure fit than if you didn't have them there.
Should you get true wireless?
True wireless earphones bring a sense of freedom you don't get from earbuds where the two earphones are connected with a cable. You don't have to deal with the feeling of a cable running along the back of your neck, but often they cost more. Or - at least - the good ones do. If the cable won't bother you, there's no reason to avoid those. Plus, usually, the battery life is longer.
Have you considered battery life?
With running earphones, the music playtime doesn't necessarily need to be as long as an everyday pair of buds. Especially if your runs are typically under an hour. Still, it's reassuring to have a pair of earphones that you know won't just conk out halfway through your longer sessions.
How about the sound quality?
Oddly enough, compared to when looking for a pair of earphones for everyday listening, the sound doesn't need to be as pure for workouts. But that doesn't mean it's not nice to have a great-sounding pair. Typically, for workouts, it's useful to have a pair with a bit more bass so that you can feel that rhythm of the song as you run.
Do you need noise cancelling?
In general, if you run outside, it's probably best not to have noise cancelling. After all, if you're running in low light conditions in the winter months or even running alongside - or on - roads, you need to be aware of traffic around you. From a safety perspective, noise-cancelling isn't a good idea.
If you run indoors on a treadmill, especially in a busy gym, and you want to block out the noise around you, noise cancelling is ideal.
What are you pairing them with?
If you run with an Apple Watch and have an iPhone, it just makes sense to have a pair of Beats with the H1 Chip inside. You can pair it with your phone and it'll automatically connect to your Apple Watch when you head out with it.
For Android users and those who want to connect headphones to their Garmin watch or another brand with offline music playback, you just need a pair of wireless headphones with Bluetooth.
More about this story
There are a number of factors we consider when looking at recommending products. Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
In the case of running headphones specifically, we've tested them with both iPhone and Android phones, but also with some of our reviewed and rated smartwatches and fitness trackers that allow you to listen to music while on a run. We've tested them in all conditions, too, through the rain and wind of winter, literal hailstorms and even in heatwaves, to make sure they can survive the elements.
In our guides, we aren’t interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. And don’t for a second think that the products aren't tested fully because the reviews are concise.
We’ve been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market. There are also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides.