Want some musical motivation for your workouts? These are the best gym headphones to buy in 2023
The right music can really help you push through a tough workout. But what if the tunes your gym pumps out for everyone to “enjoy” don’t quite hit the spot? The answer is simple: grab a pair of the best gym headphones and enjoy your own personal playlist, or your choice of radio station or podcast.
Not all headphones are ideal for a gym environment, though, or for extended exercise sessions. Here’s our guide to the best gym headphones, to suit whatever your favourite style of workout and budget is, along with all the key questions you need to asking when buying a pair.
How to choose the best gym headphones for you
The first question is what you’re going to be doing in the gym – whether you’re going to be moving around a lot, and how sweaty you expect to get. If you’ve fully embraced the HIIT hype, for example, you’ll want lightweight headphones that can shrug off sweat and won’t fall out when you jump around. If you’re more into slow weights workouts, your muscles might be screaming but you won’t necessarily be moving or sweating very much, so you can go for heavier on-ear headphones, should you so desire.
What type of headphones do I want?
Wireless headphones give you more freedom to move about without worrying about getting snagged or tangled, but they’re generally more expensive than wired models – and you have to remember to top up the battery from time to time.
As for design, over-ear or on-ear headphones usually have better sound quality than in-ear, but can quickly come to feel hot and heavy during an intense workout, not to mention an increased risk of slipping or falling off mid-workout. In-ear headphones also give you the choice of an ear-plug or a more open design. The former is great for getting in the zone and shutting out the outside world – but that won’t make you popular if someone’s shouting at you for hogging the squat rack and you don’t hear them.
How much do I need to spend?
Perfectly good wired headphones can be had for less than £30, and you can find decent-sounding wireless models for under £50. But it’s worth paying a bit more – perhaps up to £100 – for a well-made, durable pair that you can be confident will survive the exertions of exercise, and being tossed around in your gym bag. If you’re tempted by the latest true wireless earbud designs, you can expect to pay upwards of £150. Go below that mark and you’re liable to sacrifice battery life, sound quality or durability.
What else should I look out for?
Ideally, look for headphones that are waterproof, or at least water-resistant – you want to be sure they’ll survive your sweatiest gym sessions intact. Headphones’ water-resistance is reflected by their IP rating. An IP rating of IPX4 or above certifies them equipped to resist splashes from any direction – we’d recommend at least this level of protection.
If you opt for in-ear headphones, check that they come with a good selection of different-sized buds to make sure you get a good fit. Finally, and crucially, if you go wireless, check the battery life before you buy, and whether the headphones have a quick-charge function. The latter can be a godsend if you only discover that you’re out of juice as you’re about to leave for the gym: some headphones can eke out an hour of use from just 10-15 minutes of charging.
You may also want to consider headphones with active noise cancellation, which is often referred to as ANC. These use in-built microphones to analyse external sound and then play the exact inverse of that sound alongside your music to help drown out unwanted noise. A list of our favourite active noise-cancelling headphones can be found here, but you’ll want to avoid the over-ear options as they offer no water resistance whatsoever.
How we test gym headphones
The best and most effective method of testing gym headphones is to wear each pair during a sweaty gym session. When engaged in this vigorous activity, we’ll make note of how stable the headphones are in or on our ears, whether sweat is impacting the fit and crucially, how sound is reproduced. We’ll also take into consideration any accessories, like replaceable eartips or ear cushions that can be washed after a session.
Alongside these exercise-specific considerations, we’ll also assess mainstream headphones features such as noise-cancellation, which can be especially important in a noisy gym, touch controls and EQ customisation functionality. Most important of all, we’ll be turning our ears to each headphones’ sound reproduction across a range of genres to get to grips with their audio quality.
The best gym headphones you can buy in 2023
1. Tribit FlyBuds 3: Best gym headphones under £50
Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at Amazon
Given the all-round quality you’re getting, the FlyBuds 3 would represent good value at twice their price, so to be able to pick them up for £40 is a real steal. The in-ear buds come with an array of tips and wings so it’s easy to get the size you need. Once set up, they have a very secure fit, so you can use them for bouncy HIIT workouts without fearing they’ll shake loose.
The sound quality is also exceptional given the price, matching the standard of most sets we’ve tried in the £100-£150 bracket, and the battery life is good, too, at five hours on the buds, plus another 95 hours in the case. The case holds so much charge you can even plug in your phone or other electrical essentials to get some juice in a pinch. As a final bonus, the FlyBuds 3 have an IPX7 rating, which means they’re waterproof and can handle any amount of sweat during a workout.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; IP rating: IPX7; Battery life: 5hrs (100 total with case)
2. Groov-E SportBuds: Best budget gym headphones with earhooks
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Amazon
In the past, paying less than £50 for true wireless earbuds was a gamble that rarely paid off, but now there are several quality budget sets available, with the Groov-E SportBuds and Tribit FlyBuds 3 being a couple of our favourites. The Groov-e headphones get the nod as the better option for the gym purely because of the ear hook design, which ensures a reliable fit during frenetic HIIT workouts in particular.
The battery life is not great at four hours, but that will be long enough for almost all gym sessions, and the carry case will charge them six times before it itself needs to be plugged in. The sound quality is also unexpectedly impressive for budget true wireless buds and the match of many sets nearer the £100 mark.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds with earhooks; IP rating: IPX4; Battery life: 4hrs (28 total with case)
3. Adidas Sport RPT-01: Best on-ear gym headphones
Price when reviewed: £120 | Check price at Amazon
The tight fit of these headphones means they are one of the few on-ear options that are truly suitable for the gym, something backed up by the removable and washable knitted ear cushions and headband. While you’ll probably find that they won’t stay put during frenetic HIIT workouts, they’re great for strength sessions. They’re not fully waterproof, but the IPX4 rating ensures they stand up to sweat and splashes.
The big advantage of opting for on-ear headphones is that they can pack in more battery life than buds – the RPT-01 cans offer a massive 40 hours of playback on a single charge. The sound quality is also a little better than you’ll typically find on in-ear gym headphones, but we were less keen on the fiddly control knob, which was trickier to use than a simple set of buttons or a touch interface.
Key specs – Style: Wireless on-ear; IP rating: IPX4; Battery life: 40hrs
4. Cleer Goal: Best gym earbuds under £100
Price when reviewed: £99 | Check price at Amazon
In the gym, it’s essential to have a pair of headphones that won’t fall out while you’re pumping iron or flinging yourself around on the exercise mat. The Cleer Goal ensure they remain secure in your ears by using “C-skirts” that twist and lock to help hold the buds in place.
Unlike the other earbuds on this list, the Goal opt for an open-ear fit that forgoes the use of silicone eartips. This means you’ll be able to hear a certain amount of ambient sound and hold a conversation with your training partner while you’ve got them in. The design does affect their ability to deliver a truly weighty bass response but when it comes to overall sound quality, the Goal are Cleer by name and clear by nature. They deliver crisp, detailed mids and treble which makes them particularly good at communicating vocals.
The Goal are IPX4 rated for water-resistance so can withstand even the sweatiest gym session and with a battery life of 20 hours (including the charging case) they’ve got enough juice to cover your workouts for a couple of weeks. Touch sensitive controls on the outside of the buds enable you to adjust your audio without having to reach into your pocket for your output device and are responsive and intuitive to use. We particularly like that you can increase volume by double tapping and then holding the right earbud and drop it down again doing the same on the left.
With an innovative design ideal for active endeavours backed up by solid sound quality, the Goal are a great choice for the gym and beyond.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; IP rating: IPX4; Battery life: 6hrs (20 hours total with charging case)
5. B&O Beoplay E8 Sport: Best gym headphones for sound quality
Price when reviewed: £122 | Check price at Amazon
These are astonishingly expensive headphones, but they are also astonishingly good, especially when it comes to sound quality. In fact, once you’ve used the Beoplay E8 Sport, you will find it very hard to go back to any other sports headphones. With excellent detail and instrument separation, it’s almost like you’re in the room with the band.
You can tinker with your EQ set up in the app too. Moving a pointer around four points within a circle selects different presets – bright, energetic, warm and relaxed – so you can set it up to suit your preferences.
The fit of the headphones is also superb, with different sizes of fins and in-ear tips provided so you can pick the right combination for your ears. At seven hours, the battery life is very good for true wireless earbuds, and you get 28 hours in total using the carry case charger.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; IP rating: IP57; Battery life: 7hrs (28 total with case)
6. Beats Powerbeats Pro: Best true wireless gym headphones for stability
Price when reviewed: £270 | Check price at John Lewis
These Beats buds provide a winning combination of exceptional battery life, fit, and seamless integration with Apple devices. The ear hook design means that whatever you’ve planned for your gym workout, be it several furious rounds of burpees or treadmill sprints, you can be sure your headphones will stay put. Better yet, the Powerbeats Pro’s nine-hour battery life means you can be equally sure you’ll run out of juice before they do.
If you’re short of power, you can pop the headphones in their case for five minutes and you’ll get 90 minutes of playback, with the case adding 15 extra hours of battery in total before it needs to be charged. The headphones are loud enough to drown out any gym sound system, and while they’re not as bassy as other headphones in the Beats range, they still pack enough of a punch to power you through the final reps in your workout.
Read our Beats Powerbeats Pro review for more details
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds with earhooks; IP rating: IPX4; Battery life: 9hrs (24 hours total with case)