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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. The best running earbuds are purpose-built to do just that, staying comfortably locked in so you can shave your pace and up your mileage.
How to Pick the Best Running Earbuds
Generally, the best running earbuds should be lightweight and secure (i.e. not falling out if you sprint), as well as resistant to sweat, unexpected wind and rain. But there are a few other factors to consider while shopping; here’s what else you should know.
Style and Fit: The best running earbuds come in three styles: in-ear, behind-the-ear, and totally wireless. All three are designed to stay in your ears, but each has a unique fit.
In-ear earbuds are similar to the ones most people use to listen to music casually. The difference is that they come with “fit-wings,” a tiny, curved piece that slides into the ridges of your ear, keeping them secure while you move. They’re light, unobtrusive, and connect to one another via a cable.
Behind-the-ear earbuds have a clip that wraps around the back of your ear for additional stability. They’re a little heavier than in-ear earbuds, so you’ll notice them more. They also connect to one another via a cable.
Totally wireless earbuds have the in-ear style, but connect to one another without a cable; they’re lighter, but sacrifice battery life and may have a flakier connection.
Battery Life: If you’re going out for a long run, you’ll want a pair of earbuds that won’t die in the middle of it. Earbuds are smaller than other styles of headphones, which means they have smaller batteries (especially totally wireless pairs), but our choices last for at least five hours per charge. The latest and best wireless earbuds offer quick charging capabilities, so you can get a battery boost in as little as 15 minutes.
IPX Rating: An electronic’s IPX rating signifies how resistant it is to dust and water. All of the earbuds on this guide have at least an IPX6 rating, which means they’re dustproof, sweatproof, and water-resistant.
Bluetooth Chipset: Running involves a lot of movement, so we chose earbuds that support Bluetooth 5.0. It’s a new wireless standard that’s battery friendly, and creates a strong connection between your earbuds and phone.
Audio Quality: The purpose of wearing earbuds while you run is to distract you from the pain of cardio, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of being able to enjoy your music. All our picks deliver rich, full audio — even while you’re on the move.
What the Pros Say
“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.”
What Are the Best Running Earbuds?
We’ve found some of the best running earbuds that don’t fall out so you can stay connected and motivated throughout every run — whether you’re approaching the finish line of the marathon or just taking your first few steps at the gym.
1. Jabra Elite 4 Active
Jabra, one of our go-tos for all audio gear, just released their latest and greatest piece of workout-minded tech: the Elite 4 Active earbuds. They boast an IP57 water-resistance rating, which means they’ll easily withstand sweat, rain or splashes. The earbuds are also ergonomically designed to stay put in your ear, whether you’re sprinting, doing a HIIT workout or boxing.
Even if we put these fitness features aside, the Elite 4s are still an incredible pair of earbuds. Jabra’s active noise cancellation is powerful enough to block out everything from urban buzz to bad gym music, and a HearThrough mode lets you easily pay attention to your surroundings if need be. Sound quality is great too, and you can even customize things like bass for personalized audio.
2. Jaybird Vista 2
Small, lightweight and surprisingly rugged, Jaybird’s Vista 2 earbuds are some of the best running earbuds on the market. One of the earbuds’ standout features is security, thanks to interchangeable gummy ear tips and curved fit-wings. In other words, the Vista 2s are highly unlikely to fall out — no matter what you’re doing.
With IP68 waterproofing, the earbuds can handle large amounts of sweat, rain or dirt. You also get solid active noise cancellation, and six-millimeter drivers deliver high-quality sound. Lastly, despite their small, streamlined build, the Vista 2s have impressive eight-hour battery life, plus 16 more with the included charging case.
3. Bose Sport Earbuds
With these new Sport earbuds, Bose has massively improved on the previous generation’s bulkiness. Sleek and secure, the Sport ‘buds come with comfortable fit-wings and three interchangeable ear tips. As expected from Bose, you also get stellar sound quality from high-efficiency drivers.
Another feature we like about these Bose earbuds is their intuitive touch controls, which only require swipes and taps to pause, play, adjust volume and take calls. Plus, there’s no need to worry about water or sweat as the Sport earbuds are IPX4 water-resistant.
4. Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple’s best-selling AirPods make some of the best running earbuds around, even though they’re quite different than most on this list. For starters, AirPods have a hard tip instead of a gummy one. Surprisingly, in our testing, this hard tip almost never falls out — perhaps because the AirPods are so lightweight.
One big upgrade with the 3rd generation AirPods is IPX4 water resistance, ensuring consistent sound quality after sweaty or rainy runs (2nd gen AirPods are not water-resistant at all). Plus, as with all AirPods, connecting to Apple devices (including Siri functions) is easier than any other earbuds.
5. Soundcore Life A2
Soundcore’s Life A2s headphones are a good all-around pair of earbuds for runners with exceptional battery life.
The true wireless earbuds come with four sizes of eartips (XS, S, M, L, XL) and three sizes of ear wings (S, M, L). Having earbuds that fit properly is important because having a loose seal around your eardrum will dramatically reduce the quality of the earbuds’ bass performance.
The Soundcore Life A2s are IPX5 water resistant, which means they can handle sweat (or a run in the rain) without being damaged.
Three features help the Soundcore Life A2s stand out. The first is their battery life: Soundcore says these earbuds get up to seven hours of music playback per charge (two more than the AirPods Pro) and an additional 23 hours thanks to their battery case. The earbuds support fast charging, so 10 minutes in their case gives you an hour and a half of playtime.
Second, these earbuds support active noise cancellation, which uses their microphones to block up to 90% of noise. This can help you block out gym noise to focus on your workout. Finally, you can adjust the way the Life A2s sound in Soundcore’s app (iOS and Android) by tuning their EQ to suit your tastes. This ensures the earbuds will sound good to your ears.
6. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Earphones
A truly deluxe option for runners who want the best, Bang & Olufsen’s E8s are at the cutting-edge of totally wireless earbuds.
The earbuds come with four sizes of gummy eartips, but don’t have fit wings, which means they won’t be quite as secure in your ears as the Jaybird Vista 2.
The E8 gets 7 hours of battery life per charge, and its charging case brings the total playback time up to 28 hours. That means they’ve got one of the best battery life per charge and overall on this list. E8’s case got a slick redesign recently and supports wireless charging, which are nice touches.
These earbuds support Bluetooth 5.1, which means their connectivity with your phone should be better than most earbuds in this guide (Jaybird and Apple use custom chips, which are hard to compare to normal ones).
Bang & Olufsen says it’s applied its “signature sound” to the E8, which is high praise. The company’s headphones and speakers are well regarded in the audiophile world, so if you’re looking for earbuds for running and general music listening, they’re the right choice.
While their earbuds have struggled with their waterproof rating in the past, the newest generation of the E8 is a solid IP57. That means its decently dust-proof, splash-proof, and sweat-resistant, but may not brace the harsher elements as well for earbuds with so many great features.