The best running headphones are smaller and more affordable than ever—and have almost entirely eliminated wires—yet it’s tough to know what kind of sound you can expect from these tiny wireless earbuds before you buy.
For the sake of making useful comparisons, we segmented our test pool into three categories: Truly wireless, truly wireless with ear hooks, and neckband earbuds. Neckband means that while there’s no wire to plug the earbuds into your cellphone, there is a wire or band that joins the two earbuds to each other.
The Best Headphones for Running
- Smallest Earbuds for Running: Jaybird Vista 2 Earbuds
- Best All-Day Headphones: Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds
- Safest Headphones: Shokz OpenRun Pro
- Best for City Runners: Sony LinkBuds
- Best Earbuds for Long Runs: Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
Truly Wireless Earbuds
These buds have neither connecting wires nor hooks that extend around your ear; you just push them in and go. This design tends to fit snug in the ear canal to stop it from loosening midrun. The compact style makes them lightweight, and their small batteries can mean shorter runtimes. However, all of our test models came with charging cases that allow you to juice them up on the go. Truly wireless earbuds also tend to be the most expensive.
Truly Wireless Earbuds With Ear Hooks
Over-ear hooks take some pressure off the ear canal to hold these buds steady. Adding a hook can improve an earbud’s fit, too, since there’s a second point of contact to hold it in place. The hook can also store antennae or a battery, helping these buds play longer than their truly wireless counterparts. They’re generally marginally cheaper than truly wireless models, but some will cost more than $200 anyway.
These earbuds are still untethered from your phone, but they use a wire or band to connect the buds and store batteries, microphones, or an antenna. If you can get past the connecting wire, you’ll enjoy better battery life (eight or more hours, compared to four from some truly wireless models) and a significantly lower price. These buds are typically smaller (because the connecting wires house some of their electronics), and their lower weight can mean less fiddling with the fit.
How We Tested
Our test editors love running with music—so much so that we even conducted a test on whether a song’s beat can influence your running pace. We run with music nearly every day, so we’ve collectively run hundreds of miles using each of the earbuds listed on this page.
When evaluating headphones for running, we evaluate them on key categories like fit, sound quality, and battery life. Here’s how we weighed each category of runner feedback during our testing:
Fit and Ambient Sound
The best running headphones will fit comfortably, so you can think about your run and not your aching ears. That fit also affects how much outside sound is let in—there’s no ideal balance for everybody. Some runners like buds that fit deep in their ears and block all outside noise, allowing them to crank up the tunes, while others prefer lots of environmental sound from a looser fit. (The latter fit is safer for running outside and among other people.)
Because isolating you from the outside world should lend a clearer sound, we expected better sound quality from earbuds that fit snug in the ear than we did from earbuds that let in a lot of noise. It’s becoming more common, however, for the best running headphones to offer an ambient sound mode, which uses the earbud’s microphone to bring in outside noise while maintaining a tight fit.
While we test each pair of running earbuds for at least two weeks—some far longer—we don’t typically encounter quality issues. But we ask our testers to discuss how the earbuds felt—you’d expect a $200 set of buds to feel premium compared to a $40 pair. For long-term quality assessment, we checked user reviews from Amazon and other retailers to identify any persistent issues. Plus, we’ll update our findings here if any issues crop up as we continue to run with these models.
Water- and Sweat-Resistance
None of our testers had issues with water or sweat ruining their buds, but in a long-term test scenario, moisture and salt can destroy earbuds that aren’t capable of repelling it. So, we factored in each device’s IP, or Ingress Protection, rating. The rating consists of two numbers.
- The first digit indicates dust protection. The second is for water protection, (or liquid ingress) which matters most to runners.
- “X” in place of either number means there’s no data (so an “IPX” rating means dust protection wasn’t evaluated).
- A score of one or two means an earbud can withstand dripping water.
- Scores of three to six mean it will survive increasing amounts of rainfall for longer periods of time.
- The gold standard is a score of seven to nine, meaning the earbud can be submerged in varying depths of water without failing.
Connectivity and Battery Life
We also asked testers to evaluate how quickly and easily the buds connected to their phones, and how far they were able to get from their phones before the signal cut out. In addition, we recorded any mid-run connectivity issues. To assess battery life, we checked manufacturers’ claims against our testers’ experiences and noted discrepancies where they occurred.
We’ll continually update this roundup with our test impressions of the best earbuds for running. Tell us what you think about your buds in the comments.
Truly Wireless Headphones for Running —Safest In-Ear Running Earbuds—
Beats Fit Pro Earbuds
Impressive sound quality with dynamic head tracking
If I had to pick a single set of running headphones from Apple, I’d grab the Beats Fit Pro. They take everything we love in the AirPods 3 and Beats Studio Buds, but cram it all into a tiny set of buds with an ear wing to help them stay put. No matter how sweaty I get, these buds don’t budge, and they don’t ache when you get up to an hour or 90 minutes of running. Like the Studio Buds, you still get the delightful tactile buttons that require just a light press to play/pause, two presses to skip, three to go back, and a long press to activate active noise cancellation and transparency modes or Siri. It’s easy to use and there’s no fumbling for small buttons. The coolest feature, however, is one you might have never considered—spatial audio. When you turn your head, the audio rotates so it sounds like the band is in the same spot, just as the sound would change when you swivel your head at a real concert. It’s trippy, at first, so don’t actually trip while you’re running—you get used to the feature quickly. But, it’s not just neat audio effects at play here, as the sound is remarkable for small headphones.
—Best All-Day Headphones—
Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds
All the features for a bargain price
Jabra has come out with newer headphones for runners, but the Elite Active 75t remains a strong contender on our list because you can usually find it on sale and because Jabra nailed the shape here. Credit that to the angular build that nests snugly in the outer ear canal, without giving you that tightly sealed, high-pressure “thud” with each footstrike. The sound quality is crisp, dynamic, and full—rivaling Apple’s AirPods Pro—but these Jabras will cost you less and offer about 90 more minutes of battery on a single charge. (However, the hear-through mode isn’t quite as impressive.) For dust and water protection, they’re rated IP57, meaning they should withstand a sandstorm or a monsoon. Competing earbuds from Apple, Bose, Jaybird, and others may offer even better sound, superior comfort, or exceptional ambient-awareness modes; but, no brand does all of those things better than the 75t.
Jaybird Vista 2 Bluetooth Headphones
These compact earbuds for running are more durable than ever
The Vista 2 lasts eight hours on a single charge—long enough to get you to the finish line of your next 26.2—and two hours longer than the original Vista. Plus, you’ll get an additional 16 hours with the charging case. This update preserved the same earbud shape, with a secure fit that seals out dust and moisture. Speaking of moisture, the sweat- and waterproof 2 improves to a rating of IP68 from the first version’s IP67. Double-tap (don’t press) to change between Active Noise Canceling (ANC) and SurroundSense (ambient noise pass-through) modes.
—Best Earbuds for iPhone Users—
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
The omnipresent earbuds get a big refresh
Apple overhauled its open-ear design to be a version that sits between its existing base model and the noise-canceling Pro. The third generation has a shorter stem and smaller case, like the Pro, but keeps that open-ear design (the Pro has sound-isolating ear tips). It’s been a love-hate feature of the original AirPods for many runners—they just don’t stay put for some people. The housing has been redesigned here and is a little more rounded. “To me, it feels like they almost don’t fit as well as the originals when I first insert them, but then they feel more secure as I start running,” Dengate said.
The sound has improved thanks to a new driver. It’s not on par with the Pros, because you’re still getting external sounds and street noise, but the bass is deep. The inclusion of spatial audio is a cool feature that makes you feel like you’re in a room with a band—turn your head and the focus automatically shifts to your forward-facing ear. We also like that you can click the stem once to play/pause, twice to skip, and three times to go back.
Bose Sport Earbuds
Sleeker design with best-in-class audio
These true wireless earbuds are a leap forward from the first generation SoundSport Free. Those older buds were enormous—sticking out of your head like the neck bolts on Frankenstein’s monster. The new buds, however, barely protrude from your ears and are completely button-free (touch gestures play/pause and skip tracks, while tapping and holding activates a phone’s voice assistant). And, they still have the great design that doesn’t completely seal your ear, blending excellent audio quality with a comfortable fit. In our testing, we found the Bose Sport virtually eliminates the dreaded “thump” you get with each stride when wearing typical earbuds.
—Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds—
Beats Studio Buds Wireless Headphones
Tiny noise-canceling earbuds for running
The Studio Buds are insanely small. “Each bud has a flat profile that you can grab, kinda like the tip of a Phillips head screwdriver,” said deputy test editor Jeff Dengate. This makes them slightly difficult to handle if your hands are greasy with sunscreen or drenched with sweat. Fortunately, moisture won’t affect sound quality, function, or fit. “No slipping during a sweaty 5-miler on an 85-degree day,” Dengate added. The tactile buttons require a one light press to play/pause, two presses to skip, three to go back, and a long press to activate ANC/transparency mode or Siri. You’ll save a $100 opting for these instead of the brand’s Powerbeats Pro. But, the latter Pro model’s sound is “punchier and richer” and all-around better for running, according to Dengate.
—Best Earbuds With Spatial Audio—
A unique design lets you hear cars and other hazards
There’s a reason Shokz always tops our recommendation of running headphones: They’re safer than anything else available. But, there’s close competition now, with the release of the Sony LinkBuds. These tiny, donut-shaped buds go inside your ear canal much like any other earbud; the difference is a unique “ring driver,” a speaker with a hole in the middle which lets in outside sounds. This design has its benefits and drawbacks. On our test runs, we could easily hear approaching cars and even say “Hi” to passing runners and cyclists. (You can’t hear ambient noise quite as easily as with Shokz because part of your ear is still covered by a speaker, but it’s still a much safer setup than other buds that block sound completely.) The tradeoff is that the audio suffers. There’s no comparison to the sound quality you’ll get from a pair like Beats Fit Pro or Jaybird Vista 2—unsurprisingly, there’s almost no bass present because of this small speaker’s construction. So, if you prize full, rich audio, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
—Best Ambient Mode—
JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash Headphones
Ergonomically secure ear tips
This collab with Under Armour has a comfy, secure fit thanks to Sport Flex Fit tips that curve into your ear. The tips stay put, but still do a stellar job at letting you hear your surroundings. (The AmbientAware mode, accessible by pressing the button on the right bud, keeps honks from cars and “on your left!” shouts from fellow runners audible.) On a single charge, the buds last for five hours. However, our tester found she didn’t have to plug in the charger for two weeks at a time, despite running for over an hour per day, six days a week. Plus, you can leave your phone at home if you have a smartwatch with music storage. Our tester didn’t miss a beat running with the Flash and her Garmin Forerunner 245 Music GPS watch.
NuraTrue Wireless Earbuds
Sound customized for what you’re actually able to hear
NuraTrue is a new set of totally wireless buds that attempts to bring hi-fi sound to small in-ear buds. Their trick is to personalize the audio for what you’re actually able to hear. As the sound bounces around in your ear, the buds detect what you’re hearing and make adjustments to improve the quality just for you. The effect is neat and, in our tests, we found it makes music sound a bit more present and energetic. Do you need that in a pair of running buds, though? Not really. We found the effect is not nearly as pronounced or desired when we just want to crank some AC/DC on a tempo run.
The buds themselves also look a bit ridiculous, with the big flat disc and white logo sticking out of your head. Then again, Bose launched massive buds in their first generation and we got over that issue pretty quickly because the sound quality justified the design. The Nura does, too, plus it’s sweatproof, so it could be that single pair of headphones that gets you through your entire day.
Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC True Wireless Earbuds
A relaxed fit lets you wear these longer
At their full price ($190), the Z.N.E. aren’t exactly a budget-friendly option (but a pair without noise cancelation can be had for just $100). In our testing of the ANC version, we were really impressed by the sound clarity of these tiny buds. Acoustic guitar and soft piano notes came in noticeably clearer and crisper when compared to other $100-range buds we’ve tested. If that’s a priority for you, they’re a worthy investment. The touch controls are responsive, but there’s no way to use them to adjust the volume. If you want to lower your music around a busy intersection, you’ll have to pull out your phone. The default settings let you play/pause with a single tap on either bud, a double-tap advances to the next song, and a quick triple-tap skips back one track. A long hold toggles through noise-canceling and hear-through modes—you can customize that command to do other things in the Adidas smartphone app.
The fit isn’t quite as snug as some of the other buds we’ve tried. Testers with smaller ears found the fit a bit loose, but experienced no problems with the buds falling out once they switched to the smallest size ear tips (there are three options included). Overall, the more relaxed fit makes the Z.N.E. comfier when wearing for longer periods of time.
—Best for Podcasts—
Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds
Deep sound with customized audio, via app
The WF-1000XM4 has foam tips that stay secure and sound that pumps in deep and clear. There’s also automatic mode detection (the sound automatically switches to transparency mode when you speak with someone) and you can tweak the audio settings using the app. Because these buds are quite sensitive, there were rare occasions when the buds switched to “noise-canceling off” mode, due to a sudden downpour of rain. (The IP rating translates to “water-resistant,” not fully “waterproof.”) We found the connection was also sometimes spotty, requiring a quick touch on the right bud to turn-off/turn-on for a sound reset.
Jabra Elite 4 Active Earbuds
High-end sound in a small package that stays put
While we love Jabra’s Elite Active 75t for all-around use, the Elite 4 Active are the headphones you want if you plan to use them for running only. And, at just $120, they’re a heck of a bargain. For that low price, you don’t expect features like active noise cancelation, ambient noise pass-through, and customizable EQ, but that’s all standard in these running earbuds. Plus, compared to the Elite Active 75t, this model gives you more playback time on a single charge—seven hours from just the buds and up to 24 hours with the rechargeable case. Test editor Amanda Furrer finds the Elite 4 Active quickly connect to her Garmin Forerunner 745 every time she takes them out of the charging case. The earbuds completely seal your ears so, if you’re worried about hearing cars on the road, take one bud out—they work independently, unlike many running earbuds.
—Best Budget Buds—
JLab Go Air Wireless Earbuds
The best truly wireless buds you’ll find for $30
Running Headphones With Ear Hooks —Best Running Headphones With Ear Hooks—
Skullcandy Push Ultra Wireless Earbuds
Flexible hooks and terrific ambient sound
Skullcandy can even make hook earbuds look trendy. The hooks are a little big and can interfere with sunglasses if you wear shades on your run, but they’re flexible and moldable around the ear to ensure a snug fit during a workout. It helps that the buds have an IP67 rating, too. There are a few small compromises that are run-of-mill with hook earbuds. For example, one drawback is the Push Ultra’s massive case, which was a pain for ultrarunners on the trail for over six hours who needed to pocket the charging case for extra juice. Another is that the hook-style doesn’t seal out external sound. “You can actually hear birds chirp,” said Dengate. “But the sound quality is fine for running. Even podcasts are fully audible.”
—Best for Long Runs—
Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
Big battery, expansive sound, stays put—near perfect
The Powerbeats Pro is the complete package: both well-rounded as wireless sport headphones and literally a large box that contains the earbuds and an additional 15 hours of juice. Not that you’re likely to need it; the buds last for nine hours on a single charge. “The sound you get from the Powerbeats Pro is really expansive,” said Dengate in his full review. “Every song sounds like you’re listening in a larger room, with speakers positioned away from you.” Ambient noise starts out minimal but increases as sweat causes the earbuds to lose some of their seal. The music gets a little hollower, but the awareness means you’ll pick up loud environmental noises like sirens and horns. Bluetooth pairing is immediate with an iPhone, and a five-minute quick charge delivers 90 minutes of playback. The Powerbeats are rated IPX4 so they’ll withstand a rainstorm (but not submersion), and despite their large size, the buds keep a low enough profile to be comfortable with a hat and sunglasses.
Treblab X3-Pro Wireless Earbuds
Rests comfortably over the ear
The X3-Pro has ergonomic over-the-ear hooks, which initially seemed loose during the first few wears, but we felt more confident with them after a couple runs. We experienced no bounce and there was no friction against our skin after long stretches listening to tunes. The sound quality is clear and consistent—not too harsh or muddled at higher volumes—and you can answer calls hands-free, thanks to the built-in microphone. You also can’t beat the low price. For an even cheaper option with the same nine hours of playtime (on one single charge without the case), opt for the brand’s wire-connected XR700 Pro model.
—Most Secure Fit—
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC Earbuds
Superb fit and comfort, but subpar noise-canceling
“The rubbery sport hooks give the most secure fit I’ve had of any wireless buds, without any uncomfortable suction causing that annoying high-pressure thump with each footstrike,” said test editor Morgan Petruny. “Plus, when my ears need a breather after a run, I’ll use those support wings to let the buds dangle off the top of my ear while my sweat dries, until I’m ready to switch to noise-canceling mode for writing back at my desk.” The battery life holds more than enough juice for marathon distance—even if you were to walk it. (If you’re logging about three miles a day for a Run Streak, you’ll be able to go almost a month before reaching for the wireless charging case.) We were also impressed with the sound quality; the bass comes in full and robust—not weak or tinny—and you can tune it to your specific preferences in JLab’s companion mobile app. Just switch off the hear-through mode while running, since it does amplify wind noise.
—Long Battery Life—
Back Bay Audio Runner 60 Earbuds
Budget buds that are comfortable and long-lasting
Who doesn’t love a budget pair of buds? As truly wireless tech proliferated throughout the industry, a lot of new affordable options appeared, like these from Boston-based Back Bay Audio. They’ve garnered hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon and, in our real-world testing, earned their place on this list. Though they look like Powerbeats Pro, you won’t confuse the two when you have them in hand. Then again, they’re a third of the price. We like that the Runner 60 comes with four tips to help improve the fit, but the seal isn’t completely airtight. That allows a little ambient noise in, which we appreciate when running on open roads.
The “bass mode” makes the sound just passable for running, and the earhooks are comfortable and secure while you’re on the move. Still, the audio is far thinner and tinnier than the more expensive options you’ll find on this list, so reserve these for hard workouts when you’ll be prioritizing a reliable fit over superb sound. We love the battery life—eight hours for the buds and 72 more from the charging case. Minor gripes: The buds show up as “Headset” in your Bluetooth list on an iPhone and the buds fit into the case on the opposite side—that is, the left bud inserts into the right side of the charging case. That’s a small annoyance and you quickly learn to reach across the case to grab the correct bud.
Neckband Earbuds for Running —Best for Safety—
Shokz OpenRun Pro Bone Conduction Headphones
The ultimate headphones for urban running awareness
For road runners who aren’t comfortable jamming an earbud in as cars whiz past, there’s Shokz (the company changed names from AfterShokz at the end of 2021). These headphones use bone conduction technology to transfer sound through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open to hear potential hazards before they sneak up on you. The first new pair of headphones from Shokz is the OpenRun Pro, which features richer sound with better bass. You still won’t mistake the audio quality for a decent pair of ear buds, but it’s a fair compromise we’re willing to make for the added safety we get from running with our ears uncovered. Battery life has been extended to an impressive 10 hours—up from 8 hours on the OpenRun, which previously was known as Aeropex. The OpenRun Pro also features a quick charge mode, which gives you 1.5 hours of playback after just five minutes on the charging cable. Runner-in-Chief Jeff Dengate was a religious wearer of the Aeropex, but has cast those aside for the improved OpenRun Pro and wears them on almost every run. His lone complaint: Spoken word, like podcasts, can be a bit hard to decipher over the noise of passing cars.
—Best Wired Buds—
Bose SoundSport Wireless Earbuds
A comfortable, in-ear fit with excellent sound
The Bose SoundSport is among the best earbuds for running in this test because of its superior fit and impressive sound quality. One tester quickly dialed in the comfort so the buds didn’t pop out mid-workout, despite the big speaker housing. And the sound quality was as crisp and dynamic as you’d expect from Bose. The earbuds quickly connected to his iPhone and stayed tethered more than 100 feet away from it. Alas, the buds don’t let in much ambient sound. “They make you largely oblivious to the world around you, even at half volume,” he said. The SoundSport will give you a quality audio experience—just don’t let it impede your awareness in high-traffic areas.