8 Best Running Headphones

Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by admin

Whether you’re in the gym or outside, soundtrack your exercise with these smart earbuds.

It might not occur to everyone that choosing a pair of earphones, especially in-ear ones, is a deeply personal experience.

Our ears are all very different shapes and sizes, and there are myriad factors earbuds must succeed at to deliver the best experience; whether that’s comfort, fit, sound, convenience, or durability.

And when it comes to working out, earbuds need to deliver on all of those factors – and also not fall out of our ears while we sweat our way through that jog.

Our testers took all manner of truly wireless earbuds out for a spin (sometimes, a spin class), focusing on comfort, durability, and clarity of sound.

Every pair of earphones featured here comes with multiple bud sizes to ensure the best fit possible, which can be fiddly as they tend to be small, but it is definitely worth taking the time to find the right one.

Here are the earbuds that stood the test of HIIT, sprints, spins, and yoga.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn a commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Jabra Elite Active 75t

Battery life: 7.5 hours (earbuds), 28 hours (charging case)
Size: 0.9 x 0.76 x 0.6 inches
Sweatproof and waterproof: Yes
Do I need to download an app? Yes

By far our favorite, these perform superbly during high-impact exercises and are the most comfortable pair by far. Be prepared to run, jump, and burpee without any interruptions or feeling the need to readjust the earbuds – they fit snugly without the feeling of completely blocking your ears.

The noise-canceling capabilities are excellent, and if you’d rather be able to hear what’s going on around you, pressing the button on the left earbud once activates the “hear through” function that allows you to hear ambient sound with astonishing clarity. Too much clarity? Use the Jabra+ sound app to adjust how much ambient sound is allowed in.

You do have to download an app in order to use them, which might feel a bit inconvenient to start with. But once connected, using the earbuds is a breeze and the app allows you to set different audio profiles, adjust call volumes and update the earbuds whenever a new software version comes about.

The charging case is small and compact and feels sleek. Popping the earbuds into their magnetic spaces automatically turns them off and disconnects them from your phone.

Many true wireless headphones tend to result in some uncomfortable in-ear pressure, depending on the fit and shape of your own ear. For our tester, that pressure usually means being able to hear her own breathing or the impact of her own footsteps – neither of which she wants to have to listen to while powering through a run. With these, that pressure is non-existent.

$150.98 Buy on Amazon


Beats by Dre Powerbeats

Battery life: 9 hours (earbuds), 24 hours + (charging case)
Size: 2.2 inches
Sweatproof and waterproof: Yes
Do I need to download an app? No

As much as we hate to admit it, these earbuds really do live up to their hype. Developed by Beats by Dre and owned by Apple, these earbuds come with an over-ear hook that makes sure they stay on no matter what you do.

You could hang upside down in aerial yoga with these on and they wouldn’t even budge. They’re comfortable enough to wear all day long – and with 9-hour battery life, you could definitely do that. The case is huge – measuring 3.04 square inches – so it’s not the most compact but it does look very stylish.

Each earbud has a center playback control button and volume controls that allow you to control what you’re listening to with either hand, which can be handy if you’ve got a dumbbell in one hand.

You can also activate Siri just by saying the voice command aloud to adjust your music. Beats are known for delivering rich sound with clear bass tones, and these certainly do not disappoint, especially when repping one’s way through a set of burpees to the beat of “Mi Gente”.

A small, but perhaps significant issue during the colder months is that the Powerbeats tend to jut out away from the ears slightly, making it difficult to wear hats. But this is a very minor problem in a pair of wireless earphones that perform brilliantly otherwise.

As the earphones have an Apple HI chip they connect best to Apple devices and have an extended range. A window comes up at the bottom of your phone’s screen when they connect to tell you how much battery life is left in both the earphones and the charging case.

$99.97 Buy on Amazon


Anker Soundcore Liberty Neo

Battery life: 7 hours
Size: 2 x 1.5 x 2.5 cm
Sweatproof and waterproof: Yes
​Do I need to download an app? No

The shape of Anker soundcore’s totally wireless earphones are very similar to the Jabra elite actives, but they are larger, and the fit is slightly less comfortable – but don’t let that put you off too much, these are a solid pair of earphones at a very reasonable price point. Once fitted snugly inside the ear, they don’t budge and even stay put during yoga inversions.

For a more personalized fit, each earphone comes with different sizes of “ear wings”, which are removable silicone bands that wrap around the body of the earphone. The bands range from smooth to varying lengths of “wings” that fit inside the contours of the ear.

Simple, straightforward controls make these earphones easy to work with. Press once on either earphone to play or pause, press and hold the right earphone to skip a track or the left to go back a track.

Double-click either earphone to activate a phone assistant via voice command, such as Siri. However, there are no onboard controls to adjust volume, which you will have to do from your connected device.

The sound offered by these earphones is decent, with a strong bass tone particularly suited to most beat-heavy tunes to keep energy levels up. It’s not quite as clear as some other earphones mentioned here, but the difference is quite minimal and the earphones are still an impressive pair to work with.

$79.99 Buy on Amazon


JBL reflect flow in-ear true wireless headphones

Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Size: 2.4 x 2.2 x 1.8 cm
Sweatproof and waterproof: Yes
​Do I need to download an app? No

These earbuds have the most impressive battery life of the lot – and they charge very quickly too. The buds 10 hours of juice in them, plus an additional 20 hours with the case. Just 10 minutes of charging gives you an extra hour of playback, making them perfect for all-day wear. The Bluetooth connection is straightforward – no need to fiddle with any apps here, just connect and go.

JBL’s repertoire of products is well-loved for its heart-thumping bass, but these go deeper. With the right energizing playlist, our testers found that they could keep pushing themselves just a little bit further and longer with the rhythm. Neat features include the “ambient aware” and “talk thru” modes, which offer quieter sound or very low volumes to allow you to be more aware of your surroundings when you need to be.

Comfort-wise, the earbuds come with three sets of tips and “fins” for you to adjust and find the right fit. They can be fiddly – the earbuds are small and compact, so our testers with clumsier fingers found this to be quite a task. But once the right fit is achieved, the earbuds withstood some vigorous exercise without budging or coming loose – although a particularly sweaty tester did find them slipping in the middle of a long run. Nothing a quick wipe didn’t fix though.

$149.95 Buy on Amazon


Libratone Track Air+

Battery life: 6 hours (earbuds), 18 hours + (charging case)
3.2 x 2.2 x 1.9 cm
Sweatproof and waterproof: 
Do I need to download an app? 

These are stylish, no-frills earphones that are easy to use, and you won’t have to learn once-twice-three times button presses for an array of functions. Libratone’s Track Air+ earbuds look similar to Apple AirPods with the stalks, but fit a lot better and didn’t budge even when our testers put it through a rigorous HIIT workout. They’re lightweight and simple in design and come in black, white, and silver.

Its simplicity does mean onboard controls are limited – double tap on each earbud to play or pause, turn on or off the noise-canceling, skip a track forward or activate a voice assistant. With the Libratone app, you can set which bud controls playing and pausing. Be aware there are no volume controls on the buds themselves, so you’d have to get your phone out to adjust those.

These little powerhouses filter out most sounds in the gym – including background music and grunting noises of other people, which is great when you need to focus. In the app, you can adjust wise canceling levels.

The smooth egg-like charging case is the smallest out of all the earbuds reviewed here and gives you about 24 hours of playback. It charges via USB-C or wireless charging.

$139.99 Buy on Amazon


Mpow D7 Sports Earbuds

Battery life: Up to 12 hours
Size: 2.4 x 2.2 x 1.8 cm
Sweatproof and waterproof: Yes
​Do I need to download an app? No

These are the only pair that are not truly wireless but we were impressed by their performance and extreme budget pricing. Mpow is a popular choice for sports headphones on Amazon, and it’s easy to see why at just under £20.

Simple, no-fuss controls that don’t require much instruction, they come in a neat round case that zips up, with multiple bud sizes to get the closest fit and a charger wire that can be plugged into any USB port or plug.

These deliver impressively rich sound and clarity, and you can take calls with them but our testers did experience some interference with calls while using them, so wouldn’t recommend them for long chats on the phone. But with up to 12 hours of playback, these headphones are comfortable enough to wear all day long and stay put for the most part with over-ear hooks.

We say “for the most part” because as great as these are for the price, they aren’t without some issues. We experienced some slippage if sweat got into the ears, meaning we had to dry ears before putting them back in to stop them popping out. There may also be the problem of in-ear pressure, but this isn’t always an issue for everyone.


Jaybird Vista

Battery life: 6 hours (earbuds), 10 hours + (charging case)
Size: 2.4 x 2.2 x 1.8 cm
Sweatproof and waterproof: Yes
​Do I need to download an app? No, but the app is available for audio customization

These earbuds claim to meet US military standards and are, impressively, water, dust, sweat, and shock-proof. They fit very well and are comfortable, although our tester did experience some in-ear pressure while wearing them. A rubber wing tip attached to the body of each earbud fits into the upper edge of the ear to secure them in place.

Built for more athletic activities, they performed well during high-impact exercise and made it through an unintentional run in the rain without a hitch. They are highly water-resistant and can survive a dip into about a meter of water but swimming with them is probably not the greatest idea.

Available in several colors, including a new, rather funky camouflage colorway, “planetary Green”, the Jaybird Vista earbuds look and feel like a serious pair of earphones.

Individually, each earbud lasts for an impressive 32 hours and the charging case offers 16 hours of battery life. The case is surprisingly flat and sleek and comes with a loop that can be attached to a gym bag, belt loop, or carabiner while on the move.

The Jaybird app is not required to use the earbuds straightaway, but you may want to download it if you have specific preferences for frequency levels. Our testers found the suggested podcasts and playlists from other Jaybird users to be a nice touch as well.

$129.99 Buy on Amazon


The verdict: Wireless headphones for running

The Jabra elite active 75t is a joy to exercise with, delivering top-notch sound and comfort which are paramount when you’re trying to get through a grueling workout.

Anker soundcore liberty neo earbuds are a close runner-up, especially as they have a similar shape and fit but at a much more reasonable price point. Beats by Dre’s powerbeats pro are also a strong favorite among our testers, given the excellent sound and connection they offer, but maybe a bit of a stretch in terms of price.

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