You might assume that the only thing that separates the best running headphones from that cheap pair you saw at Wal-Mart the other day is the fact that they don’t fall out while running. That isn’t exactly far from the truth, but the best running headphones go a lot further than that. Over the last few years there have been plenty of radical innovations and improvements in headphone technology, and there are a ton of manufacturers who are busy transforming those innovations into the best running headphones that have ever existed.
Due to the advancements in technology that make the best wireless headphones tick, you don’t need to keep your eye out for protruding objects while running any longer – well, at least not for your headphones’ sake. The best running headphones will take the latest advancements in wireless tech and implement them in new ways by offering high battery life so that you don’t have to worry about ending a run early just to charge your headphones. And, then you come to the core attraction that separates the best running headphones from the rest of the pack. The best running headphones will offer features like heart rate monitors and AI personal trainers that transform these headphones into some of the best running gadgets you can buy.
Plus, to top off all of this awesome tech, there is actually plenty of research that proves that music can make you run better. So, with that all out of the way, let’s get started on our list of the best running headphones for every budget.
There are a ton of headphone manufacturers who are competing for that coveted spot in your running kit, and it can get difficult to discern which are the best at the things you need them to do. That’s why the TechRadar editorial team has put together this list of the best running headphones you can buy today – each pair here has been tested and ranked with our own seal of approval, so you can be confident that you’ll get your money’s worth.
While lacking some of the newest running headphone technology, these earbuds more than make up for it in comfort, durability and their inexpensive asking price.
One of the most annoying issues when you’re running is when your earphones come loose or, worse still, fall out. The iSport Victory stay securely snug in your ear throughout your run, thanks to the rubber ‘wings’ and a surprisingly wide variety of ear tip options. Naturally, they’re sweat resistant and, at only 15g, they’re the most lightweight headphones on this list.
And, with 10-hours of Bluetooth battery life, they could feasibly get you through your workday and your post-work run. Sound quality doesn’t quite cut it for regular use and it’s lacking a heart rate monitor but, for the price, they’re still a great simple option for most runners.
Our sole on-ear entry hails from the relatively obscure start-up 66 Audio and stands out in several key facets. Firstly, the BTS Pro earphones offer a ludicrous 40+ hours of continuous playback from a single charge along with an stunning wireless range of 100-feet.
Most Bluetooth headphones give you about 30-feet of leeway, but thanks to the aptX 3D antenna tech you can wander much further away from your mobile device, which is especially handy for track sessions.
For runners who like as much control over sound equalization as they do their fitness levels, the Motion Control app allows effortless control of the sound output.
The native apps (there’s also one for Apple Watch) also have a useful ‘Find My Headphones’ feature too. But most importantly, the sound is phenomenal for the relatively low price and they offer noise-cancelling microphones.
- This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones
If you can get past the annoying misuse of ‘k’ and ‘z’, this is a superb wireless option for urban runners. Sound is delivered through your cheekbones, thanks to bone conducting tech which leaves your ears open, free to hear the traffic around you.
[Update: These have since been replaced at the top of the Aftershokz tree by the new Trekz Air – we've got these in our labs and are currently testing them but our early runs have shown them to be very, very, very good in terms of weight and sound quality. They're a touch more expensive but very much worth a look.]
If you run with a partner, it also means you can still enjoy a chat along the way, provided, of course, that your friend isn’t pushing you to run 5-minute miles.
What really sets these headphones apart is they're one of the few sets that are 'race-legal' in some countries, as they allow you to hear the commands of marshalls and traffic on open-road courses. If you want to run with music in smaller races, these are really your only option.
There’s also a handy multifunction button that lets you control music, calls and access voice dialling. They’re lightweight, comfortable and sweat-proof and have a good secure fit. Also, consider this: If there’s no earbuds then they can’t fall out. Bonus!
The compact, durable and affordable Jaybird X2 in-ear buds proved mighty popular among runners. The new Jaybird X3 neckband offers improvements across the board with an even more favorable price point.
Despite being slightly smaller, they’ve retained the sweat-proof design and surprisingly great sound. Greater control over the audio is also possible due to a new companion MySound app, while the abundance of fitting options means they stay secure in your lugholes.
They’ve also been updated to Bluetooth 4.1, which means longer battery life, although we struggled a little with intermittent Bluetooth dropouts.
Whoever came up with the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ never used the KuaiFit Sport headphones. With 8GB of storage they’re a music player, fitness tracker, heart rate monitor, real-time running coach and a pair of wireless headphones all in one.
KuaiFit sells fitness plans created by Olympic athletes and verified coaches as part of its offering, and its headphones will store and deliver voice notifications based on your progress towards goals – all while leaving your phone at home.
The KuaiFit app for iOS and Android will store all your data and, if you want to link up to your phone, play music from Spotify too – although we do wish that was supported offline too…
- This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones
If you need your power song to give even more umph, then the Bose SoundSport might give you exactly that extra push you’re looking for. With the unmistakable sound signature of the US audio heavyweight, these lightweight earbuds feature a comfortable and secure fit thanks to the StayHear+ tips.
For runners with NFC-enabled smartphones and music players, the SoundSport buds can be paired in the blink of an eye. The Bose Connect app also allows music sharing with more than one pair of earbuds, ideal if you’re out running with a buddy (and we love that they name which device is connected, something that's great if you're carrying around a phone, media player and tablet).
The SoundSport range comes in two flavors. For an extra $50 you can pick up the Pulse edition which features a built-in heart rate monitor. Depending on your training method, this could be a worthwhile investment as we've found their heart rate monitor to generally be fairly precise from the ears with these.
Under Armour’s first foray into headphones entrusts the audio tech to a worthy partner: JBL. With a built-in heart rate monitor you can finally ditch the chest strap, while also summoning voice updates on your progress with a simple tap on the right bud.
When paired with the UA Record app you can even configure these updates to be read out at predetermined intervals, so you know whether you’re hitting your zones. The over-the-ear buds also feature 5.8mm dynamic drivers and JBL’s PureBass Performance tech on board.
Combined with JBL’s TwistLock tech, the firm is guaranteeing you a custom and secure fit, meaning you’ll never have to deal with the faff of them falling out mid-run.
Leading the way in a new generation of ‘hearable’ tech, the LifeBEAM Vi combines a voice-powered personal running coach with top-class Harman Kardon audio. The on-board AI uses your heart rate and body temperature to adapt to your fitness level and goals.
If it knows if you’re near a personal best, Vi will spur you on to get you over the line. It will challenge you to match your running cadence with a beat, and will learn your effort levels to offer feedback on your pace.
It can also use your running history to suggest how hard you should push. If you’ve been running the same pace and distance over time, it will suggest ways to shake things up. It even provides contextual advice based on your location and weather conditions.
Voice controls are two-way and you can request things like your heart rate. The buds pull out from a flexible, comfortable neckband that can be worn all day and used for handling calls. It has an iOS and Android Vi Fitness companion app and will sync with Spotify to ensure your power playlist is seamlessly integrated.
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones
There’s wireless, and then there’s true wireless. The top-end Jabra Elite Sport are the latter. Beyond the cordless design, the headline feature is the Hear Through tech that allows you to alter the way the buds filter out ambient noise.
If your run takes you from a park to a busy road, a quick button press enables you to pick up your surroundings as well as your tunes. They’re also designed for calls, allowing you to wear one at a time if you desire. Each bud offers two microphones, which help to filter out background noise for the person on the other end of the line.
The on-the-go charging case provides 13.5 hours of battery life in total (similar to Apple’s AirPods), but with just 4.5 hours available from a single charge slower marathoner and ultra runners will probably want to jog on – although for 99% of your training this won't be an issue.
Although not marketed for swimming, they’re also IP67 certified water resistant. The companion app also utilizes the built-in heart rate monitor to enhance your workouts, along with the internal accelerometer to monitor your reps of squats, lunges and the like.
These are expensive buds, but the amount they can do is incredible – for many, they'll be your go-to choice.
The PowerBeats 3 running headphones are yet another pair for of headphones from Beats that aim to keep your tunes pumping while you keep your legs pumping. They may come with the high price that is a signature of the Beats and Apple brands, but they offer a lot for runners, and especially for Apple users.
With a 12-hour battery life and quick charging that can add an hour of battery life in a few minutes, the PowerBeats 3 should rarely run out of juice in the middle of anything short of an insane ultra-marathon. They’re also ready for all the sweat from your brow, and can even handle a run in the rain.
While they may not top some of the other wireless headphones on this list for features, the PowerBeats 3 headphones will truly shine for major Apple lovers. They feature Apple’s W1 chip, which makes the Bluetooth pairing process with multiple iCloud-linked devices incredibly easy in addition to boosting wireless range.
Read the full review: Beats PowerBeats 3
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