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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, and that includes a reliable pair of earbuds that won’t budge — literally — when it comes to comfort, performance and fit.
What You Need to Know Before Buying Earbuds for Running
There are many factors to consider before choosing the right pair of running earbuds. These are the ones we prioritized when making this guide.
Style and Fit: The best Bluetooth earbuds for runners come in three styles: in-ear, behind-the-ear, and totally wireless. All three are designed to stay in your ears, but have a different 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 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.
We Also Consulted With a Fitness Professional
“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. Soundcore Spirit X
Soundcore’s Spirit X headphones are a good all-around pair of earbuds for runners.
They have a behind-the-ear style and come with four sizes of eartips (S,M,L,XL), which will keep them securely in your ears while you move. The cable that connects the buds can be adjusted to keep it from getting too tight or lax.
The Sprit X have an IP68 rating, which means they’re sweat-resistant and dustproof. They also use a technology called Sweatguard that Soundcore developed specifically for active people.
Soundcore says the Spirit X get 18 hours of battery life, and charge fast enough to provide three hours of playback after just ten minutes of charging.
One potential downside is that they’re bass heavy, and there’s no way to adjust the way they sound without manually adjusting the EQ settings on your phone.
PROS: Excellent battery life, an adjustable cable, four sizes of fit wings.
CONS: Bass-heavy sound might turn some people off.
2. AUKEY B60
AUKEY’s B60 are another well-balanced pair of earbuds, but they’re in-ear rather than behind-the-ear.
That means they’re lighter, but only get eight hours of battery life per charge. They also only come with one size of fit wing, which means you’re out of luck if they don’t fit well.
The B60s have an IPX6 rating, which means they can withstand being hit with high pressures of water. Bottom line: You won’t have to worry about your sweat damaging them.
Like Soundcore, AUKEY designed the B60s to emphasize deep bass, which is something to consider if you prefer more neutral sounding headphones.
The headphones do have one really cool extra feature: the buds are magnetic, which makes them stick together to avoid getting tangled in your pocket or bag.
Not only that, but the earbuds power on when they’re pulled apart, and power down when they’re stuck together, so you don’t have to push a button.
PROS: Smaller size, magnetic power controls.
CONS: Bass-forward sound, so-so battery life, fewer fit wing sizes.
3. AirPods (Second Generation)
AirPods have become a go-to totally wireless earbud since they were original released three years ago.
Unlike most earbuds, the AirPods have a hardshell body, which means they won’t be as soft as the gummy-tipped. It also means there’s no way to adjust the fit. I’ve worn AirPods for years, and I’ve never had a problem with comfort or fit, but your mileage may vary.
Apple says the AirPods aren’t sweat or water-resistant, but I’ve exercised in mine regularly without incident (Apple’s latest AirPods Pro model is water-resistant so if that’s important to you, those are a great pair to upgrade to).
The AirPods recharge whenever they’re inside their case for a total of 24 hours of playtime; more than enough for an hour-long daily workout and commute. I can also personally vouch for the AirPods’ quoted five hours of battery life.
I’ve also found the AirPods to be a great sounding pair of earbuds. They’re well-balanced, and neutral enough that I’ve enjoyed several genres of music through them.
One important thing to consider: AirPods can pair with any phone, computer, or tablet, but they work best with Apple devices. Apple has a custom chip that enables features like activating Siri with your voice rather than tapping the buds, and power optimization. These features are not available with non-Apple devices.
PROS: Light, great battery life, balanced sound.
CONS: Comfort will vary, works best with Apple devices.
4. Jaybird Vista Sport Earbuds
Jaybird’s Vista Sport Earbuds balance technology and comfort better than most of their competition.
They’re gummy-tipped earbuds, and come with three sizes of fit wings, so they should feel great in almost any ear.
They get six hours of battery life per charge, and their case can recharge them for a total of 16 hours. That’s less overall playtime than the AirPods and charging case, but still impressive.
The Vistas has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means they can be immersed in up to one meter (3.3 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. This makes them the only pair of earbuds on this list that could be used by swimmers.
Instead of relying on a regular Bluetooth chipset, Jaybird developed its own called the JBS1 chip. The company says this ensures “zero-lag stereo sound” and excellent connectivity. Any phone can take advantage of the features enabled by this chip.
Finally, Jaybird designed an iOS and Android app that lets you tweak they way they sound. This fine-grain control is a big deal if you really care about the audio quality of your music while you run.
PROS: Very durable, great battery life, music EQ controls.
CONS: Total battery life less than AirPods.
5. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Earphones
Bang & Olufen’s E8 (Third Generation) are at the cutting-edge of totally wireless earbuds, and are a truly deluxe option for runners who want the best.
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.
The E8 gets seven hours of battery life per charge, and its charging case brings the total playback time up to 35 hours. That means they’ve got the best battery life per charge and overall on this list. The fact that the E8’s case is made of leather and supports wireless charging 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.
The only place the E8 struggles is with its waterproof rating, which is IP54. That means its dustproof, splashproof, and sweat-resistant, but it’s a slight oversight for earbuds with so many great features.
PROS: Excellent battery life, luxury materials, excellent audio quality, Bluetooth 5.1 support, wireless charging.
CONS: So-so waterproof rating, no fit wings