While headphones can be a surprisingly controversial topic in the running world, if you like to listen to music or a podcast on a run, you’ll want to find the best running headphones for your ears. Listening to music or podcasts on a run can be an excellent way to break up the monotony of training — and learn something new — and many of us swear by having our earbuds in.
For others, running can be an important time of quiet meditation, but either way, being present and aware of your surroundings is clutch. If you want to spend a run catching up on your favorite podcast, true crime series, or listening to tunes to get amped up, we’ve got you covered. The iRunFar team tested over a dozen headphones and earbuds for several months to find the best running headphones to fit any budget.
Take a more detailed look at our picks below and browse our How to Choose, FAQs, and Methodology sections to learn more about picking out the best running headphones for you.
Best Headphones for Runners
Best Overall Headphones for Runners: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Best Headphones for Runners – Runner-Up: Jabra Elite 7 Active
Best Open Ear Headphones for Runners: Shokz OpenRun Pro
Best Budget Headphones for Runners: JLab GoAir Sport
Best Waterproof Headphones for Runners: H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+
Other Great Headphones: Beats Powerbeats Pro, JBL Endurance Peak 3
Best Overall Headphones for Runners: Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) ($250)
- The earpieces are comfortable and secure
- Noise-canceling mode is awesome
- Excellent sound for music
- Relatively short battery life
- Podcasts don’t sound great
We admit we tried as long as possible not to use the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). But we also admit they’re excellent earbuds that are ideal for running. And while we tested the original, second, and third generations of Apple’s AirPods, it was the second generation we loved most. This model features improved active noise cancellation technology — something we enjoyed, whether using them on a plane or while working in a coffee shop. The touch control is super handy, and while the improved six hours of battery life is better than the previous model, we’d still like to see that time lengthen even more for our longer runs.
If you’re also like us, you’re probably concerned about how securely they fit in your ear while running and the potential for them to fall out during a trail run and get lost. While other earbuds we tested did feel a bit more secure, we had no issues with these falling out, even during a couple of hard falls. These earbuds are pricey, but we believe they are the best running ones available and worth the investment.Shop the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Best Headphones for Runners – Runner-Up: Jabra Elite 7 Active ($180)
- Four additional earbud pieces help dial in the fit
- Easy and quick Bluetooth connection
- Adjustable noise canceling and “hear-through” modes
- Comfortable and secure
- Requires downloading an app
If you don’t want to spend $250 on a pair of earbuds but still want a quality audio experience, we highly recommend the Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds. These are Jabra’s lightest and most compact earbuds and feature proprietary ShakeGrip technology to improve their fit. They come with four additional earbud pieces to further dial in the fit, which makes these headphones feel incredibly comfortable and secure in our ears.
We also appreciate the adjustable active noise cancellation, which is especially clutch for runners and our need to be aware of our surroundings. Jabra claims the battery life lasts eight hours. A five-minute fast charge of dead earbuds will net you an additional hour of listening if you find yourself caught out. While we appreciated how quickly and easily the earbuds connected to our devices via Bluetooth, we didn’t love downloading an app to use them.Shop the Jabra Elite 7 Active
Best Open-Ear Headphones for Runners: Shokz OpenRun Pro ($180)
- Good battery life and easy to use
- Quality sound
- Secure fit
- Bone conduction/open ear isn’t a very versatile option
The Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones use bone conduction technology to transfer sound and are an excellent option for headphones that don’t go over or inside your ear. We’ve used multiple versions of these headphones and think the latest version is the best yet. First, the newest version is more comfortable than previous ones. The upgraded fit doesn’t bounce or shift like previous versions that would move around when wearing a hat or putting hair up in a ponytail, and the improved fit also helps with the overall sound quality. They’re super convenient to drop around your neck when you don’t want to wear them, and you don’t have to worry about them falling off and losing them like tiny earbuds.
While we love the simplicity of the bone conduction style of headphones — and how much easier it is to be aware of your surroundings when running — they’re not very practical or versatile outside of running. While you can still listen to music or a podcast wherever you are, you won’t be able to cancel ambient sound while working in a loud coffee shop or on an airplane.Shop the Shokz OpenRun Pro
Best Budget Headphones for Runners: JLab GoAir Sport ($30)
- Excellent earbuds for the price
- Over-ear hooks are soft and feel secure
- Three different earbud sizes included
- No noise cancellation or transparency modes
If you don’t wear earbuds often or just want a budget option, you’ll love the JLab GoAir Sport earbuds. First, for $30, you really can’t beat the value. We especially liked the over-ear hooks, which are soft and feel secure. The three additional earbud sizes help boost security and fit. Tap controls easily call on Siri or Google for voice command instructions or to answer and hang up calls. We also like that the charging cord is built into the charging case so it doesn’t get lost.
The Bluetooth connection was quick and easy to use. Unlike most of the other headphones on this list, this pair of earbuds lacks a noise cancellation mode, making it less versatile than other picks.Shop the JLab GoAir Sport
Best Waterproof Headphones for Runners: H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+ ($180)
- Wearable while swimming
- Able to load music directly to the headphones, but the process was a bit cumbersome
- Bulkier and heavier than other headphones
- Shorter battery life
If you live and train in a rainy environment and are concerned about earbuds failing from moisture, we recommend the H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+ earbuds. These are also an excellent option for multisport athletes who want to listen to music during a swim workout. These are a bone conduction/open ear model of headphones, and while they are a bit bulkier and heavier than the Shokz bone conduction headphones, they still were comfortable and secure.
One likely reason for that extra heft is a cool one — you can actually load music and podcasts onto the earbuds via Spotify or MP3 files if you still have those. The loading process from Spotify wasn’t straightforward, but after a few tries, we figured it out. This feature is obviously geared towards swimmers who can now listen to music without needing to connect to and carry a phone. If you’re a runner who doesn’t like to carry a phone but still wants headphones, these are a great option.Shop the H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+
Other Great Running Headphones
- Connects instantly with iPhones
- Excellent sound quality and interaction with Siri
- Tech features like notifications and responding to texts with voice commands
- Good battery life
- A little big but still comfortable and secure with ear hooks and earbud piece
- Not immediately obvious how to turn off
Like some of the other top headphones in this guide, the Beats Powerbeats Pro is a premium earbud with all the upgrades you’d expect for the price. And as expected with a Beats product, these have top-shelf sound quality. The connectivity is seamless and easy, especially if you use an iPhone. We especially enjoyed the advanced tech options like hands-free voice commands with Siri and the ability to answer text messages without using our hands. They’ve become the go-to earbuds for a few of our ultrarunning testers because of their impressive nine-hour battery life.
We did have a few testers initially complain about the size and over-ear hooks but were able to adapt to them. Even with the initial issues, the earbuds fit well and stayed secure in our testers’ ears. It’s not immediately obvious how to turn off the earbuds, and one tester had issues with them coming back on while being stored in her running vest. But these were small nitpicks for an overall quality product, especially for the music nerds that love the best sound quality possible.Shop the Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Good sound quality
- Great value
- Solid waterproofing
- The case and actual headphones are a bit bulky
We love the JBL Endurance Peak 3 for a middle-of-the-road pair of earbuds. They have good enough sound quality for most people, a comfortable over-the-ear fit, and solid waterproofing. And at a reasonable price, they’re an excellent value and a good choice for someone not wanting a top-end or low-end set of headphones. JBL claims the headphones have 10 hours of playtime and an additional 40 hours from charging in the case. Our one issue with these earbuds is they’re a bit bulkier and less comfortable than others on the list.Shop the JBL Endurance Peak 3
How to Choose the Best Running Headphones
Styles of Headphones
The options for the best running headphones are as varied as the type of audio entertainment available for listening. The two main types of headphones are those that go over your ears and those that go in your ears. Bone conduction headphones, like the Shokz OpenRun Pro, are also placed adjacent to the ear. You may see runners with anything from over-ear headphones that look like they’ve come straight out of a DJ booth to those with tiny little buds that fit almost invisibly into the ear. Most runners opt for in-ear headphones, like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), because of their light weight and ease of use. Within this category, you can find headphones that fit comfortably into your ear without any other types of attachment, those that clip on over your ear, those with chords that attach one bud to the other, and those that are independent of each other.
Headphones can be corded, attaching directly to your phone, or operate with Bluetooth and be completely wireless. You can also choose between noise-canceling headphones that block out ambient noises and those that will allow you to hear what is happening around you.
Types of Headphones to Use While Running
The type of headphones you use while running depends on personal preference. Some may prefer over-ear headphones, while others might opt for buds that fit inside the ear. Some might prefer wireless or Bluetooth headphones, while others might prefer a cord that attaches to their phone. And some might prefer noise-canceling earbuds, while others prefer to hear at least portions of their surroundings.
We generally choose Bluetooth earbuds as the best running headphones because they’re lightweight and don’t have a cord that can get in the way or be annoying while running. Since it’s good to be aware of your surroundings when running, we recommend using earbuds that are either not noise canceling or have adjustable noise canceling levels, like the Jabra Elite 7 Active. Whether running on trails, roads, or a bike path, knowing what’s happening around you is good. If your earbuds are noise-canceling, we recommend wearing just one so one ear is open.
Adjustability and Fit
As with all pieces of gear, you want headphones or earbuds that are comfortable to wear. While there are different ear shapes and sizes, most headphones will fit most people, and the fit is a matter of personal preference.
In-ear headphones are placed relatively deep inside the ear to stay put and have little adjustability. However, some have extra material that will go over the top of your ear. Others, like the JLab GoAir Sport, will come with a few different interchangeable-size pieces to make slight adjustments. More than anything, you don’t want your headphones or earbuds falling off while running and jostling, so a tight fit tends to be better.
Wireless Versus Wired Headphones for Running
While wired headphones were the only option for a long time, most runners have migrated to wireless in recent years. Not having to deal with a cord between your phone and earbuds makes it easier to store your phone in a pack or carry it in your hand without worrying about getting tangled up. Still, wired headphones have their place. Since they don’t have their own separate battery, like wireless headphones, you don’t have to worry about keeping them charged. This is especially useful if you’re running an ultra that exceeds the Bluetooth headphones’ battery life. But for most runs, the nine-hour battery life of earbuds like the Beats Powerbeats Pro will be plenty.
Bluetooth Headphone Battery Life and Charging
The average battery life of most Bluetooth headphones provides five to six hours of listening time. This will get the majority of people through most of their runs. If you regularly run longer than this and want reliable music, you’ll want a higher-end set of Bluetooth headphones with longer battery life. That, or go with the tried and true corded headphones that will run off of your phone’s battery. To help keep headphones charged, turning them off after use is important. Most headphones charge off a standard USB cable and will reach full charge in a few hours. The fast-charging option of the Jabra Elite 7 Active provides an hour of additional listening for a quick five-minute charge.
One of the newer innovations with headphones is their ability to cancel ambient sounds. While this technology was initially available only on high-end, big, over-the-ear headphones, earbuds also boast the tech nowadays. Noise-canceling headphones are excellent in some situations, including airplanes and other places where you need to tune out the outside world. But they’re not always the greatest for running. Hearing your surroundings is essential for both trail running and road running. On the road, you’ll want to be able to hear cars coming up behind you. When running on a trail, it’s crucial to have situational awareness to hear other trail users coming, especially mountain bikers who are moving fast but generally making a fair bit of noise. Most trail users have had at least one frustrating experience of trying to pass someone with headphones in and cranked up who won’t move out of the way. Don’t be that person. If you want to wear noise-canceling headphones, consider running with one of the earbuds out so that you can hear and respond to your surroundings. The JLab GoAir Sport doesn’t include any noise canceling, making them a good option for someone who wants to hear their surroundings while running.
Water and Sweat Resistance
While some headphones specifically designed for swimmers, like the H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+, are fully waterproof, most options that appeal to runners are merely water resistant. This means they’ll withstand a sprinkling of rain or a dousing of sweat, but they won’t survive a full dunking in a river or a trip through your washing machine.
When it comes to sound quality, you generally get what you pay for. Most of the best running headphones are small, compact, lightweight, and have reasonable sound quality that most people will find perfectly adequate for listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks during a run. The Beats Powerbeats Pro provided excellent sound quality in a small package. If you’re a music aficionado who places a high value on exceptional sound quality, you’ll probably want a pair of high-quality over-ear headphones for home and a second pair that you use exclusively for running. And if the sound quality bothers you, you can always try to increase your effort level so that you’re forced to breathe harder, thus drowning out sound imperfections.
Most headphones on the market come with a built-in microphone that allows you to talk on the phone or communicate with your phone. While most runners don’t use this feature during runs unless we’re sitting on a work Zoom call on mute, pretending to be in our office, it could come in handy if you just need to answer a quick call or send a voice text. And if you only have one set of headphones for everything you do, you’ll want to choose a set with a high-quality microphone, like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), to take calls, control Siri, or send voice messages during other parts of your life.
In-Ear Versus Over-Ear Headphones
While most runners will choose in-ear headphones due to their weight, comfort, and compactness, some will choose over-ear or on-ear headphones. In-ear headphones fit into the ear, and while the speaker location on this headphone style can vary, they all fit similarly. Some in-ear headphones, like the JLab GoAir Sport, have an additional attachment system that goes over the top of the ear to help secure the bud inside your ear. Other headphones will slot securely into the ear without any extra material.
Over-ear and on-ear headphones are those that we associate with DJs. They’re larger and fit over and around the entire ear or just over the ear. These headphones often tend to have better sound quality, but they are also cumbersome. Still, some people love running with them.
Compatibility with Devices
While most headphones will work with most phones, there are a few compatibility issues that are good to be aware of. If you have an Apple phone, you can use Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) to listen, talk, and control Alexa. They will also work with an Android phone to listen to music and talk, but you won’t be able to use Siri. If you’re about to purchase a set of corded headphones, you’ll want to ensure that your phone has an actual headphone port, as many modern phones have completely done away with this feature.
Most in-ear headphones will last two to three years if taken care of. Even with the best care, wires will work loose in many headphones, rendering one or both earbuds useless. As with most products, paying more for headphones generally means they will last longer. If you tend to lose small items like headphones, buying a less expensive pair, like the $30 JLab GoAir Sport headphones, could be a good idea so that it doesn’t cost much to replace them.
While most headphones have volumes that will top out at about 100 decibels, keeping them below 70 decibels is recommended to help prevent damage to your hearing. Generally speaking, if you’re keeping the volume low enough to hear noises around you, which is highly recommended for safety, then you’re not in a volume range that could cause damage to your ears. Some devices will allow you to set a maximum volume so you don’t inadvertently turn them up too high. Bone conduction headphones, like the Shokz OpenRun Pro, are also viable for protecting your ears.
If you’re concerned about hearing damage, over-ear headphones are better for ear health since the speaker is farther away from your ear drum. Taking breaks from listening to music after an hour is also recommended to give your ears a chance to recover.
Customer Service and Warranty Information
Most headphones and earbuds include one and two-year warranties. However, some will be 30 days or less. The scope of the warranties and customer service varies from brand to brand.
Why You Should Trust Us
We started this guide with extensive research, compiling a list of over forty headphones geared toward running and sports on the market today. We narrowed this list to some top choices in several different categories and spent several months using them in various settings to find the best running headphones in each category. We logged hours of trail and road running and daily “real life” use to determine which rose to the top regarding sound quality, safety, noise-canceling capabilities, comfort, and battery life. Our testers compiled this feedback that we used to determine the top picks in this guide.
Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often keep using our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. When we update any buyer’s guide, most products will likely remain the same. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Running Headphones
What is the difference between regular headphones and running or sports headphones?
Running or sports headphones are generally lightweight, water- and sweat-resistant, and designed to stay secure in the ear. Many sport-oriented headphones also have a longer battery life, so you can take them out on longer runs. They’ll likely have a more streamlined or secure fit to stay put while you’re running and jostling them. The different sizing options available on the Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds make it easier to dial in their fit. Sport-oriented headphones are also more likely to have materials that won’t hold onto stench as much or become damaged as easily from sweat. Running headphones are also more likely to be wireless.
What is better for running, headphones or earbuds?
This comes down to personal preference, but most runners prefer earbuds because they are lighter, less cumbersome, and tend to stay in the ear better. However, some people dislike in-ear devices and prefer over-ear headphones. Bone conduction headphones, including the H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+, are becoming increasingly popular because they allow you to hear your surroundings while listening to your audio.
Are running headphones waterproof?
Most sports or running headphones and earbuds are water-resistant but not waterproof. While they’ll withstand sweat or light precipitation, we do not recommend dunking your earbuds into the water. Some headphones or earbuds, like the H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+, are designed for swimming and use in water and are completely waterproof. If you run in the rain often or swim as a form of cross-training, it could be worth investing in a pair of fully waterproof headphones.
What is an IP rating for running headphones?
IP stands for Ingress Protection and is a rating system assessing the waterproofness of a product. An IP rating, which the International Electrotechnical Commission gives, usually includes IP and two numbers behind it, like IP37. The first number is a product’s rating against solid materials, like dust, on a scale of one to six. The second digit is its waterproof rating which is on a one to eight scale. The higher the number, the more waterproof it is. If there is an “X” in the rating, IPX7, for example, there is no solids rating. The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) has an IPX4 rating and is considered safe from splashes and drips of water.
How do bone-conduction headphones work?
Bone conduction headphones, including the H2O Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport with Playlist+ and the Shokz OpenRun Pro, rest on your cheekbones instead of in or around your ear. Instead of sound waves vibrating through your eardrums, they vibrate and pass sound waves through your skull bones. This technology provides a way to listen to audio without covering or blocking your ears. Bone conduction headphones are an excellent option for those with hearing impairments or anyone wanting to listen to something while keeping their ears open so that they can stay aware of their surroundings.
Can wireless headphones be charged on the go?
Most wireless headphones cannot be used while they are being charged, limiting their usefulness for long runs where you want continuous music. If you’re worried about taking your headphones off to charge them during a run, you might want to get a set of corded headphones that will run off your phone’s battery. Some earbuds — like the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) — have charging capabilities while stored in their cases. Others may charge with a USB cord plugged into a wall, laptop, or car outlet.
Is it safe to run with headphones? How can I safely wear headphones and hear other sounds around me?
Being aware of your surroundings while running is always a good idea. It’s why we don’t recommend running with noise-canceling headphones unless you have the option to make them not fully noise-canceling or are willing to leave one earbud out. The Jabra Elite 7 Active have noise-canceling adjustability, making them a versatile option for running and everyday use. We wouldn’t recommend over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones for running because they make it hard to keep track of sounds around you. If you can wear headphones or earbuds while maintaining an awareness of what’s happening around you, including hearing people approaching from behind you, you can be safe while running.
What is Active Noise Cancelling?
Noise-canceling technology generally comes in two forms — active and passive. Passive is the simpler of the two and includes using ear cups to seal out background noise. Active noise canceling is more complicated as it uses microphones and speakers to eliminate background noise. Active noise canceling technology is traditionally found in over-the-ear headphones, but the technology has advanced to include earbuds. Nowadays, earbuds like the Jabra Elite 7 Active and headphones will include adjustable active noise canceling technology, meaning you can adjust just how much ambient noise is canceled.
How do wireless headphones connect to my devices?
Wireless headphones connect to devices via Bluetooth. This will require a pairing process when you first set up your headphones. After connecting them once, you should have minimal issues connecting them in the future. Most headphones will work with all devices, but the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) has limited compatibility with Android phones.
Are headphones and earbuds one size fits all?
Most headphones will come in one size, but they’ll be adjustable. Headphones will adjust for head size, and most earbuds, including the JLab GoAir Sport, come with replacement pieces of different sizes to fit various ears.
Call for Comments
- Do you frequently run in headphones?
- What are your favorite headphones for running?