Whether you’re a casual runner, or putting in some serious miles for training, experts say you want to minimize any distractions when you’re hitting the road, and that includes a reliable pair of earbuds that won’t budge — literally — when it comes to comfort, performance and fit.
“When it comes to earbuds for running, having the clearest quality sound isn’t always the most important,” offers Blake Raymond, an L.A.-based fitness professional and avid runner, who just completed five marathons over the past year. “You want to have clear audio, but you don’t necessarily need to hear every note in the song. Instead,” he says, “you want to make sure you find comfortable earbuds you can sweat in, that won’t fall off while you’re moving, or lose connectivity.”
While over-the-ear headphones are easy to adjust, it takes a little more work to find earbuds that fit properly. “If you’re running, you don’t want to be hearing the thump of the pavement, or the earphones bouncing on your ear,” Raymond says. “Look for a brand that offers interchangeable sizes so you can adjust the earbuds for the best fit.”
Other questions to ask, according to Raymond: “Do you want something around your neck or completely wire-free? Do you want complete noise-cancelling earbuds, or ones that allow a little bit of ambient sound?” While some people prefer that sensory awareness (so they can hear a car approaching, for example, or hear their trainer at the gym), Raymond says he enjoys a little bit of silence. “I’ll just take one earbud out if I need to talk to someone, or if it’s rush hour and I need to pay attention to what’s on the street,” he says. “That way, when my earbuds are on, I can focus on running and being completely in the zone.”
We’ve found five pairs of earbuds designed to keep you connected, motivated and powered up on your run, whether you’re approaching the finish line of the marathon, or just taking your first few steps at the gym.
1. SDFLAYER Wireless Earbuds
There’s a reason why these $30 earbuds have almost 5000 five-star reviews online. They weigh less than four ounces, provide four hours of playing time (and 175 hours of standby time) and their silicone ear tips come in three different sizes (small, medium, large) to fit different ear canal sizes. We like the sleek, industrial design and the easy set-up. Reviewers say the earbuds stay in place even with repeated movement or tugging, and the HD audio is surprisingly crisp for such an affordable pair of cans. Purchase: $32.99 on Amazon.com.
2. Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3100 Wireless Earbuds
Plantronics has always been backed by solid reviews from both runners and tech experts alike, and these BackBeat FIT 3100 earbuds were recognized as a 2018 CES Innovations Award Honoree. What we like: the pocket-sized buds give you portable, wireless listening on the go, with some serious all-weather protection. Its IP-57 rating means it’s completely dust-proof and can sustain accidental drops in water up to one meter deep (The IP rating or “Ingress Protection Marking” classifies the degree of protection provided for cases and electronics. The first digit corresponds to protection against solid particles — rated out of 6 — and the second digit assesses protection against liquids — rated out of 9).
These Bluetooth earbuds get up to five hours of wireless listening, while the included charging case gets you an additional 10 hours before you have to plug in. You should note that the earbuds’ “Always Aware” technology is designed to purposely let in some ambient noise, so you can listen to music, but also be aware of your surroundings. While most users agree that it doesn’t affect the sound quality, if you’re looking for a totally immersive listening experience, you’ll want to consider some of the other options on the list. Purchase: $129.98 on Amazon.com.
3. Jabra Elite Active 65t Alexa-Enabled True Wireless Earbuds
These Jabra earbuds provide up to five hours of battery life (15 hours with the charging case) and are IP55-rated against water, sweat and dust. (Register with Jabra and get a two-year warranty that covers damage from dust or water should anything occur). We like the built-in Alexa functionality, which lets you use your voice to control the music, ask for info, and control your smart home devices (the earbuds are also compatible with Siri and Google Assistant). Jabra’s noise reduction technology delivers cleaner sound, eliminating things like wind and humming when you’re trying to listen to music or make a call. The handy Jabra Sound+ app is actually pretty sweet, letting you customize your music levels, modify how much ambient noise you want to hear, monitor battery life and more. Purchase: $180.00 on Amazon.com.
4. Jaybird Run XT Sport Wireless Earbuds
Jaybird is one of the go-to brands in the market when it comes to earbuds for running, and this latest release delivers a pretty punch for its price. A double hydrophobic nano-coating means these Run XT Sport earbuds are completely waterproof, not just water-resistant like some of the other models on this list. The durable material protects the earphones from sweat, snow, rain and sleet, keeping them powered up no matter the conditions. Speaking of power, just five minutes of charging provides a full hour of play time, and the battery gets up to 12 hours of use when you use the included charging case. Jaybird has also fixed some of the connectivity issues that plagued some of its older models, with a Bluetooth 4.1 interface that delivers easy, consistent pairing with your device. One cool feature we like: Jaybird’s “Single-bud Mode,” which lets you use the right earbud by itself in mono mode for when you want to both hear your music, and be alert to your surroundings. Purchase: $179.99 on BestBuy.com.
5. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Earphones
For looks and for performance, you can’t beat these best-selling Bang & Olufsen Beoplay earphones. Designed with the brand’s Scandinavian roots in mind, these wireless earbuds are sleek and sophisticated, made from stainless steel and aluminum, and presented in a genuine leather charging case. Tech-wise, the Beoplay E8 delivers crystal clear sound with deep bass, and uses a “digital signal processor,” which the company says works to ensure “sound which is as natural as possible.” The E8 gets four hours of playtime on a single charge, with an additional eight hours using the charging case. The set comes with five ear tips, that let you modify and adjust as needed to find the perfect fit. Bang & Olufsen’s intuitive touch controls let you activate your music, change tracks, take calls and more, with just a simple tap of your earpiece, ensuring your focus stays on the road — and the miles — ahead. Purchase: $299 on Bang-Olufsen.com.
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