Discover the wired and wireless running headphones that are guaranteed to sound great and help you go the distance
Running pushes you physically and mentally, but the best running headphones can provide you with the audio inspiration you need to push through the pain barrier and rack up the miles.
Running headphones aren’t hugely different to those intended for commuting or home use, but they do typically include unique features tailored to maximise performance during physical exertion. In this article, we’ll explain how to work out which running headphones suit you best and help you to decide which features you really need.
Pressed for time? Then our at-a-glance list below will give you quick links to our favourite running headphones at a range of different prices.
How to choose the best running headphones for you
Video of How to choose the best headphones for you
Which type of headphone is best for running?
When you picture running headphones, you probably think of a compact in-ear design and the majority of products on the market are exactly that. In-ear headphones are light and unobtrusive, so perfect for running.
On-ear or over-ear headphones do tend to sound better (and aren’t a bad shout for lower tempo gym visits) but are liable to get hot and sweaty once you start really pushing yourself, so that’s why we’ve not included any in this round-up. If you’re dead set on bigger ‘phones, then check out our guide to the Best Bluetooth headphones.
Wired or wireless?
Wired models don’t need to be charged which is nice, but unless your audio device doesn’t have Bluetooth, we’d generally recommend going wireless. That’s because wires can get in your way, and if you accidentally catch the cable while running it can infuriatingly tug the earbuds out of your ears. What’s more, some modern smartphones lack a 3.5mm jack, so you might need to use an adaptor to connect your wired headphones. That’s not a big problem, but it’s another accessory to deal with.
What kinds of wireless earbuds are there?
When it comes to wireless headphones, there are two designs to choose from: some have the left and right units cabled together or joined on a band, whereas ‘true wireless’ models use separate left and right earbuds. The latter are more convenient for running, but tend to have shorter battery life.
What about sound isolation?
One final design factor you should consider is ambient noise. Certain earphones sit deep in your ear canal, with a rubber plug that excludes almost all external sound. This is great for zoning out and losing yourself in the music – but if you’re running on busy streets, consider a more open design that lets a certain amount of noise in, to keep you in touch with the potential hazards of the outside world. Or, alternatively, consider a headphone which uses bone-conduction technology, such as those manufactured by Shokz, as these don’t block your ear canal at all.
How much do I need to spend?
Good wired headphones generally cost between £20 and £50.
Decent wireless headphones start around £30, but often compromise on battery life, features or sound quality. The best wireless models start at around £70 and the best true wireless earbuds cost £150 plus.
Are there any other key features to look for?
- Waterproofing: First of all, make sure the headphones you’re looking at are sweat and water-resistant. There are plenty of trendy earphones out there that don’t pass this test.
- Fit: Running can involve lots of jolts and jars so it’s vital that your sports headphones fit your ears snugly and securely.
- Battery life: Obviously, this isn’t an issue for wired sports headphones. For regular wireless units, you can typically expect around eight to ten hours of music per charge. True wireless buds are often rated for only three to five hours of playback per charge, but this isn’t as limiting as it sounds: many models come with a carry case that doubles as a charger, which tops them up between uses. In practice, you can probably go a week or two without having to plug them in.
- Sound quality: Theoretically, wired headphones should give the best sound reproduction, while wireless technologies can degrade the sound very slightly. It’s unlikely you’ll notice the difference while running, however.
- Connectivity: Finally, it’s worth checking the reviews to see how quickly and reliably they connect to your phone or MP3 player – there are few things more annoying than earbuds that won’t pair, or randomly cut out while you’re in the middle of a run. Many cheap headphones have more difficulty with this than you might expect, but rest assured that the models we’ve picked out below won’t let you down.
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The best running headphones to buy
1. Tribit Flybuds 3: The best budget running headphones
Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at Amazon
Trying to find a quality set of wireless headphones for under £50 can be a frustrating affair, but when you stumble across a diamond in the rough like the Flybuds 3 it makes all the searching worthwhile. These £40 headphones can match many sets that cost twice or even three times as much, both in terms of audio and build quality, and they have a secure fit for running thanks to the varied wings and ear-tips provided in the box.
The battery life on the buds is solid enough at five hours, but the case is a marvel, adding another 95 hours of use and packing a USB port that lets you charge other devices from it. The sound is clear and the bass is punchy, and even at high volumes there’s almost no distortion. With an IPX8 rating, the headphones are also fully waterproof. The only real negative to the buds is the often unresponsive touch controls, but this can be forgiven for the overall quality you’re getting for £40.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX8; Battery life: 5hrs (100 total with case)
2. Jabra Elite 7 Active: The best overall running headphones
Price when reviewed: £145 | Check price at Amazon
Combining very good audio quality with exceptional comfort and convenience, the Jabra Elite 7 Active is a sports earbud par excellence.
We found that connecting the Elite 7 Active to a smartphone via Bluetooth was an absolute breeze. Once hooked up, the headphones provide great-sounding audio. Some listeners may crave a little more bass in their EQ – but for us, the balance was spot on.
Another strong-point to the Elite 7 Active is comfort. The earbuds are pleasantly soft on the ear, and in our experience they stayed securely in-place during exercise.
If you’re running near traffic while using these headphones, we suggest you take advantage of their superb hear-through feature. Simply press the left earbud, and the headphones will add real-world sound to your audio mix.
Key details – Type: Wireless earbuds; Inputs: Bluetooth 5.2; Water-resistance: Yes (IP57)
3. Shokz OpenRun Pro: The best running headphones for racing
Price when reviewed: £159 | Check price at Selfridges
Shokz’ range of bone-conduction headphones are the only headphones approved for road races under the UK Athletics Rules of Competition. That makes them the de facto pick if you’re a competitive runner but more casual runners will also appreciate the benefits bone conduction technology offers.
With you ears free, you can hear what’s going on around you, hold conversations and your risk of headphones-related ear infections is reduced, too. Sound quality of bone-conduction headphones is no match for traditional headphones but the OpenRun Pro are the best-sounding option in their style and have the longest battery life of any bone-conduction headphones as well. IP55 certification means they can withstand sweat and rain and their comfortable fit ensures you can wear them for the longest of races without any issues.
Read our Shokz OpenRun Pro review for more details
Key specs – Style: Wireless bone conduction; Water resistance: IP55; Battery life: 10hrs
4. JLab GO Air Sport In-Ear True Wireless Earbuds: Best bargain-priced headphones
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Amazon
The GO Air Sport from JLab gives you wireless audio at an astonishingly affordable price.
As you’d expect, this headphone’s sound quality isn’t on the same level as most mid-range or high-end wireless earbuds. The audio is pretty thin, and there’s a tendency for one earbud to momentarily lose Bluetooth connection from time-to-time, while you run. Nevertheless, the GO Air Sport offers lively bass, a fair level of detail, and the capability to cut through ambient noise.
We were particularly impressed with the fit of this headphone. Getting the earhooks to fit nicely around the ears may take a few tries, but once we’d jiggled the earphones abound a bit, the GO Air Sport stayed snugged and securely in-place.
Another strong point to this headphone is its charging speed. With the charging dock plugged into a power outlet, the GO Air Sport charged sufficiently for us to take them for a run within about fifteen minutes.
Key details – Type: Wireless earbuds; Inputs: Bluetooth 5.1; Water-resistance: Yes (IP55)
5. Shokz OpenFit: Best air-conduction running headphones
Price when reviewed: £179 | Check price at Amazon
If you like the open fit style of bone-conduction headphones but can’t tolerate the vibrations, you may get on better with an air-conduction alternative. In this case, your best option is the Shokz OpenFit. Silicone earhooks keep the buds suspended securely over your ears, with audio being channelled from the drivers via Shokz’ proprietary “DirectPitch” technology. This setup is both stable enough to be used on a run and comfortable enough for extended listening sessions.
Audio quality is decent across the board, with Shokz’ OpenBass algorithm belying the expectation of weak bass that tends to come with open-fit headphones, delivering an impressive amount of weight in the lower frequencies. The stated battery life of seven hours (28 including the charging case) isn’t the best you can get, but this is a relatively minor sacrifice to achieve the comfort and sound quality that the Shokz OpenFit earbuds offer.
Read our Shokz OpenFit review for more details
Key specs – Style: Open fit true wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IP54; Battery life: 7hrs (28 total with case)
6. Belkin SoundForm Immerse True Wireless Earbuds: Best running headphones for audio quality
Price when reviewed: £117 | Check price at Amazon
Perhaps the clue’s in the name, but let’s start by saying that the Belkin SoundForm Immerse sounds amazing. This headphone delivers deep, rich audio from its 12mm drivers, which are housed within the moderately large wireless earbuds.
Our reviewer loved using the SoundForm Immerse while out running – particularly for listening to music, which showed off the headphone’s sound quality to full effect.
While we’ve undoubtedly encountered comfier earbuds, the SoundForm Immerse twisted into our reviewer’s ears perfectly effectively, and stayed securely positioned throughout lengthy runs on the road.
Key details – Type: wireless earbuds; Inputs: Bluetooth 5.0; Water-resistance: Yes (IP5)
7. Dottir Freedom On-Grid: Best running headphones for stability
Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at Amazon
If you find regular true wireless earbuds fall out of your ears or shift position while running, the Dottir Freedom On-Grid are the headphones for you. Their design incorporates earhooks that wrap over your ears to keep them in place during vigorous activity and they do the job extremely well.
They’re no one-trick pony, however, with an IPX7 rating for water resistance certifying them protected against sweat and immersion in water up to 1m in depth. They’re very comfy too, and have ample in-ear battery life of 12hrs, so will keep going throughout the longest of ultramarathons.
Sound quality is solid for the money, with the Freedom On-Grid delivering warm, powerful sound that’s great at pushing you that extra mile when you’ve hit the wall. They’re not the most detailed listen around but do benefit from active noise cancellation, which helps you focus on your music and stride patterns rather than external distractions.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX7; Battery life: 12hrs (72 total with case)
8. Cleer Goal: The best open-fit earbuds for running
Price when reviewed: £99 | Check price at Amazon
The Cleer Goal true wireless earbuds feature a design that lends itself perfectly to running. They don’t use silicone eartips to seal off your ear canals which means you can remain aware of your surroundings but feature removable “Freebit C-skirts” that nestle in your outer ear and help achieve a secure fit.
Sound quality is very clean thanks to the Goal’s impressive ability to articulate with mids and treble. Despite their open-fit design, the Goal’s 14mm drivers deliver a decent bass thump, though it doesn’t have quite the level of richness you’d get with buds incorporating silicone tips. Touch controls are implemented simply and effectively. Playing, pausing, track skipping and hailing your voice assistant are executed via single, double and triple taps, while volume adjustment requires you to double tap and hold your finger on the bud.
Six hours of in-ear battery life is backed up by a further 14 hours of charge in the accompanying case and an IPX4 water-resistance rating means the Goal are excellently equipped to handle sweat and rain when pounding out the miles.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX4; Battery life: 6hrs (20 total with case)
9. Adidas FWD-01: The best running headphones for battery life
Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Amazon
It’s difficult to find much fault with Adidas’ FWD-01 neckband Bluetooth earphones. Their main selling point is their superb battery life, which extends to 16 hours or more between charges. Should you forget to charge them, they also offer superfast USB-C charging, meaning you can top them up to 60% in a mere 15 minutes.
Aside from this, we’ve found the FWD-01 to be very well suited to running because their design deliberately doesn’t create a perfect seal in your ears. This means not only are you more aware of your surroundings when running but also you don’t get that irritating amplification of every step.
Despite this, the earbuds remained snugly in our ears and we were really fond of the sound quality, too. As with most sports-orientated headphones, they’re a bit boomy but there’s plenty of detail through the mid-range frequencies and treble. In fact, our only minor gripe is that the magnet that holds the earbuds together when they’re hung around your neck isn’t very strong. Coupled with the lack of grip from the fabric-coated cable, there’s a risk of them slipping off when they’re not in use.
Key specs – Style: Wireless earphones; Water-resistance: IPX4; Battery life: 16hrs
10. 1MORE ComfoBuds Mini True Wireless Earbuds: Best compact running headphones
Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at 1MOREIf your priority is to get the best audio quality you can at a reasonable price point, the 1MORE ComfoBuds Mini could be a great pick.
We were really impressed with how these headphones sounded, relative to their modest price. There’s a good balance between high and low frequencies, and plenty of clarity.
The ComfoBuds Mini come into their own in noisy settings – for instance, if you’re running on a treadmill at the gym – thanks to their active noise cancellation (A.N.C.) capabilities. If you’re running outside in a built-up place, it’d be best to use the headphones without A.N.C., as this will allow a moderate, safety-enhancing level of noise through.
Do bear in mind that these headphones are not water-resistant, and therefore shouldn’t be worn on rainy outdoor runs. The earbuds are absolutely tiny, so we’d advise choosing a relatively large pair of eartips from the bundled-in selection of four, to keep the headphones in-place.
Key details – Type: wireless earbuds; Inputs: Bluetooth 5.2; Water-resistance: No