Whether it’s time out to listen to your favorite podcast or pounding music to get yourself pumped in a race, millions of people love to slip on the headphones before they head out the door. We round up the best wireless and wired headphones for exercise.
- Top Best Headphones for Runners in 2021
- #1. Skullcandy Ink’d Wireless In-Ear Earbud
- #2. Aukey EP-B60
- #3. Jaybird Tarah Pro
- #4. Bose SoundSport
- #5. JBL Reflect Mini 2
- #6. AfterShokz Trekz Air
- #7. Plantronics Backbeat Fit 2100
- #8. JBL Endurance Peak
- #9. Adidas RPT-01 Wireless On-Ear Sport Headphones
- #10 Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones
- #11. Under Armour True Wireless Flash Earbuds
- #12. Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Earbuds
- #13. Beats PowerBeats 3
- How to choose the best running headphones for 2021
Top Best Headphones for Runners in 2021
Wireless headphones are smaller and cheaper than ever, yet it’s tough to know what kind of sound you can expect from these tiny devices before you buy them. To help you make the right choice, our editors tested these pairs for at least two weeks of running and cross-training. Learn more about our top picks below, then keep scrolling for more information on what makes an excellent set of wireless headphones and reviews in 2021 of the greatest runners up.
#1. Skullcandy Ink’d Wireless In-Ear Earbud
The Ink’d Wireless has recently been replaced by the Ink’d+, which introduces rapid charging and active voice assistant functions. We’ve yet to try the shiny new version, but after seven months of testing its predecessor, our tester found the original worth a recommendation (especially considering the sale price on Amazon). The eight-hour battery means they don’t require charging after every other run, and they’ve stood up to all the times he’s pulled them by the earbud from the depths of his gym bag. The sound and fit are decent, featuring Skullcandy’s characteristic, noise-blocking, in-ear fit, and deep (if slightly muddy) bass. The tips at the ends of the band tend to bounce around on your collarbones if you don’t tuck them beneath your shirt collar, so the band will eventually fall off your neck if you’re not wearing a shirt—Roe used a string to tie the ends of the band together, fashioning a necklace that stayed in place while running. For that, they’re not perfect, but they’ve still shown us great quality and value.
#2. Aukey EP-B60
These headphones feature a convenient trick: Separating the magnetic buds activates them and connects them to your phone, and snapping them back together turns them off. The wing-shaped tips provide a steady fit; we didn’t have to adjust them whatsoever mid-run. The EP-B60 is IPX6 water-resistant—enough to withstand typical running conditions—and the buds are light enough to stay comfortable in a long run. (The bouncing wire and control panel eventually fade into the background, although they might annoy some runners.) This is all good news for a $45+ set of earbuds, but with sound quality, you get what you pay for: Music playback is tinny and hollow, so audiophiles best look elsewhere.
#3. Jaybird Tarah Pro
The Tarah Pro’s biggest selling point is its claimed 14-hour battery life. We got 12 to 14 during testing, but there’s more to like about these ultra-optimized earbuds. Our music sounded clear and crisp, with an even balance of bass and treble. After gear & news editor Drew Dawson mixed and matched insert sizes, he found a fit that didn’t irritate his ear canal. Ambient noise was minimal because of the in-ear fit—you might hear a diesel truck, but a Prius could sneak up on you if you’re not aware. He appreciated small, overlooked details like the cinch that keeps the excess cord from bouncing around and the magnetic earbud backs, which snap the buds together when they’re around your neck so you don’t lose them on the trail.
#4. Bose SoundSport
The Bose SoundSport is among the best in this test because of its superior fit and impressive sound quality. Test editor Bobby Lea 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 Lea’s iPhone 7 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,” Lea said. The SoundSport will give you a quality audio experience, just don’t let it ruin your awareness.
#5. JBL Reflect Mini 2
The JBL Reflect Mini 2 isn’t the newest pair of headphones, but a price drop to $40 (down from $100) makes them an attractive value proposition. The buds form a tight seal in your ears and don’t move after you’ve started to trot. The downside for outdoor runners is the lack of ambient sound, which also isolates your tunes from the outside world. Video production manager Jimmy Cavalieri also used them while mowing his lawn. “Although I could still hear my lawnmower, the earbuds blocked out enough engine noise that the quality of the audio still sounded good without having to max out the volume,” he said. “The sound quality was clear enough that if you concentrate and really listen to the music, you can identify each instrument.” The connecting wire between the buds is lightweight and hardly noticeable midrun, and the Reflect Mini 2 connected via Bluetooth fast and stayed connected up to 100 feet away. The earbuds also sport reflective cables for nighttime visibility, an IPX5 water-resistant rating, and an impressive 10 hours of battery life.
#6. AfterShokz Trekz Air
For road runners who aren’t comfortable jamming an earbud in as cars whiz past, there’s the Trekz Air. 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. Compared to in-ear designs from Jaybird and Bose, the sound is “admittedly thinner and quieter, but I find it totally suitable for the occasion,” said Dengate in his full review. The headband is lighter and slimmer than the previous model, which allows you to wear sunglasses with the headphones. Six-hour battery life and a sweat-resistant IP55 rating put the Trekz Air on par with truly wireless buds of a similar price—you’re losing an in-ear headphone’s full sound but gaining total awareness.
#7. Plantronics Backbeat Fit 2100
At 26 grams, the BackBeat Fit 2100 is ultra-light, and the rubberized connecting wire is rigid, eliminating bouncing against your neck. The ear tips sit just outside your ear canal—that pumps up ambient sound and lets you hear traffic but prevents the sound quality from being as good as it could be. We haven’t had any issues with our test pair, although a worrisome number of Amazon reviews chronicle a hissing noise that develops after a couple of months.
#8. JBL Endurance Peak
After six runs and some in-office use, one tester said she’d buy JBL’s Endurance Peak with her own money. Music sounded clear and balanced. Using the smallest ear tips, the buds stayed in her ears and the hooks didn’t ruin the fit of her sunglasses, staying comfortable after hours of wear. On anything but low volume, the ambient sound was minimal. And despite being larger than many similar headphones and bearing the “Endurance” moniker, they delivered just four hours of battery life.
#9. Adidas RPT-01 Wireless On-Ear Sport Headphones
If you’re looking for some rugged running headphones, the Adidas RPT-01 could be a good fit – sure, not everyone wants to wear in-ear headphones while working out, but the breathable design of these Adidas cans means you won’t overheat.
The knitted headband and ear cushions can even be removed and washed after particularly sweaty sessions. Plus, with 40-hour battery life, they’ll last you for multiple marathons.
While the sound quality isn’t the finest we’ve ever heard, the RPT-01s are suitably loud and bassy, which is something you’ll want to push you through that final lap. They’re certainly the best running headphones we’ve tested with this form factor.
#10 Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones
If you need your power song to push you through that extra mile, then the Bose SoundSport might give you that extra force you’re looking for. With the unmistakable sound signature of the audio heavyweight, these lightweight earbuds feature a comfortable and secure fit thanks to the StayHear+ tips.
For runners with NFC-enabled smartphones and music players, the SoundSport buds can be paired in the blink of an eye. The Bose Connect app also allows music sharing with more than one pair of earbuds, ideal if you’re out running with a buddy (and we love that they name which device is connected, something that’s great if you’re carrying around a phone, media player and tablet).
The SoundSport range comes in two flavors. For an extra $50 you can pick up the Pulse edition which features a built-in heart rate monitor. Depending on your training method, this could be a worthwhile investment as we’ve found their heart rate monitor to generally be fairly precise from the ears with these.
#11. Under Armour True Wireless Flash Earbuds
The Under Armour True Wireless Flash earbuds are a solid entry into the true wireless market, with strong audio, ergonomic design, and hefty battery life (25 hours, including the case’s four extra charges) to really make your purchase last throughout the week.
There are also two smart noise technologies that help these earbuds stand out. Tapping the left earbud once will activate Talk-Thru, which quietens audio for momentary conversation or when you need to be on alert, while Ambient Aware (tap the left earbud twice) recreates outside noise using external microphones.
UA has gone for stamina rather than convenience, though, and the charging case can feel like a bit of a brick to carry around – especially during exercise. You also won’t get any speed charging features here, meaning you shouldn’t wait until five minutes before a workout to plug the case into the wall. But for the sporty among you, the pros should certainly outweigh the cons.
#12. Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Earbuds
There’s wireless, and then there’s true wireless, and the top-end Jabra Elite Sport is the latter. Beyond the cordless design, the headline feature is the Hear Through tech that allows you to control the way the buds let in or filter out ambient noise – with just a quick button press.
The on-the-go charging case provides 13.5 hours of battery life in total, but with just 4.5 hours available from a single charge, slower marathon runners will probably want to jog on – although, for 99% of your training, this won’t be an issue.
Although not marketed for swimming, they’re also IP67 certified water-resistant. The companion app also utilizes the built-in heart rate monitor to enhance your workouts, along with the internal accelerometer to monitor your reps of squats, lunges, and the like.
These are expensive buds, but the amount they can do is incredible – for many, they’ll be your go-to choice for your new running headphones.
#13. Beats PowerBeats 3
The PowerBeats 3 running headphones are yet another pair of Beats headphones that aim to keep your tunes pumping while you keep your legs pumping. They may come with a high price that is a signature of the Beats and Apple brands, but they offer a lot for runners, and especially for Apple users.
With 12-hour battery life and a quick charge function that can add an hour of battery life in a few minutes, the PowerBeats 3 should rarely run out of juice in the middle of anything short of an insane ultra-marathon. They’re also ready for all the sweat from your brow, and can even handle a run in the rain.
While they may not top some of the other wireless headphones on this list for features, the PowerBeats 3 headphones will truly shine for major Apple lovers. They feature Apple’s W1 chip, which makes the Bluetooth pairing process with multiple iCloud-linked devices incredibly easy in addition to boosting wireless range.
The Beats Powerbeats 4 could be coming soon, too – and they could make perfect running headphones. After some digging around in iOS 13, a new icon for the upcoming buds was discovered, which shows they’ll sport the same workout-friendly design as the true wireless Powerbeats Pro.
How to choose the best running headphones for 2021
There are lots to consider when it comes to choosing the best running headphones for your needs. Firstly, make sure that your new buds have an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they’ll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain.
Fit is also really important, particularly if you opt for truly wireless earbuds, which can be prone to falling out – if that’s a worry look for earbuds that sport fins to keep them securely in your ear, or better yet, a pair of neck buds that are connected by a wire.
You’ll also need a battery life that will last your longest runs and workouts, as well as your daily commute if your new running headphones will double up as your regular cans.
These are the basics – some of the best running headphones also go one step further with features like heart rate monitors and AI personal trainers, which means they double up as some of the best-running gadgets on the market in 2021.