Best workout headphones in 2020
Best workout headphones in 2020
After testing a lot of wireless headphones and sports headphones over the years, some have emerged as better suited for workouts than others. The best workout headphones should be wireless — and ideally, true wireless earbuds — to avoid a wire getting in the way of your stride.
Secondly, and more importantly, they should give you a secure and comfortable fit, whether they’re over-ear headphones or wireless in-ear buds. This is especially important because losing one earbud on your run would be the worst. Decent sound quality is also a requirement, as are battery life, durability, noise cancellation (as well as hear-through or transparency modes) and reliable performance (with minimal dropouts). And lastly, they need to be sweat resistant, for obvious reasons. That’s why the otherwise awesome Sony WF-1000XM3 isn’t on this list of best running headphones. (While Apple does not claim water resistance for the standard AirPods, they’re on the list because we’ve found them to handle sweat reasonably well.)
After many gym sessions (and outdoor runs), I’ve formed strong opinions on which are the best workout headphones. To share my hard-earned knowledge, I’ve put together a selection of wireless headphones I’ve tested that I think are well-suited to become your go-to exercise headphones.
Jaybird got off to a bumpy start in the world of true wireless — that’s “AirPods-style headphones” — when it released its Jaybird Run wireless workout headphones back in October 2017. That model, updated to the wireless in-ear Jaybird Run XT in early 2019, was well-designed but had some small performance issues that held the wireless earbuds back from being great. But its wireless earphones successor, the Jaybird Vista (cue the Windows Vista jokes), includes design, battery life and audio quality performance improvements that make it the product I’d hoped the Jaybird Run would be. The Vista will appeal to those looking for a more discreet set of totally wireless running headphones that are fully water-resistant.
AfterShokz bone conduction wireless headphones deliver sound to your ear through your cheekbones. The big benefit of this technology is that thanks to its open design, you can hear what’s going on around you while listening to music or having a phone conversation through the wireless headphones. That openness allows runners to hear traffic sound, an important safety feature. Also, some race coordinators don’t allow runners to wear anything in their ears, which is where over-ear headphones like this come in handy, particularly for people who need to listen to music while they run.
Aeropex ($160) over-ear headphones, which AfterShokz describes as its “lightest, highest-quality headphones yet,” were released in 2019. From my initial testing, sound quality in this pair of headphones is definitely better than the company’s previous flagship model, the Trekz Air — or the Air, as it’s now called. It’s also slightly more comfortable to wear with a comfortable fit. However, while AfterShokz continues to make small improvements to performance with each new iteration of its wireless headphones, the sound quality still can’t match that of a traditional headphone.
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Yes, the Beats Powerbeats Pro’s jumbo charging case is a notable drawback. But the combination of incorporating all the features that make Apple’s AirPods great while delivering the richer sound quality and better battery life in a wireless earbuds design that won’t fall out of your ear (ear hooks for the win!) ultimately is a winning proposition for earbuds for running. Just make sure you buy these running earbuds somewhere that has a good return policy in case you’re in the small minority that has ears that aren’t quite a match for the buds. Note that these headphones are frequently reduced from $250 to $200 — don’t pay more than that if you’re buying them.
Apple AirPods Pro
Even if they don’t sound quite as magical as you’d hope a $249 model would, the AirPods Pro still manages to be a great pair of truly wireless headphones for running. That’s largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise cancellation, and excellent call quality. While I can’t run with the standard AirPods (those in-ear headphones don’t fit my ears securely), I had no trouble running with the AirPods Pro, which has a noise-isolating design with a silicone tip that sits snugly in your ear.
For runners, it’s worth noting that there’s a transparency mode that allows sound to leak in. You’ll still have to lower the volume of your music to hear the sound of traffic noise. The AirPods Pro is also officially rated as being sweat-resistant.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 6100
Some people, particularly weightlifters, like to work out in full-size headphones, and the BackBeat Fit 6100 over-the-ear wireless headphones are a very solid choice for both the gym and everyday use. The adjustable sport-fit headband has an IPX5-rated water-resistant and sweat-proof design, 40mm angled drivers and noise-isolating earcups with an “Awareness” mode. Battery life is rated at 24 hours. They sound quite good and really stay on your head securely (you can adjust the tension in the headband, which is innovative and ideal for exercise headphones).
They’re expensive at their list price of $180, but Amazon has them for $100, which makes them a lot more attractive. They’re available in black, camo and gray.