Soundtrack your cardio sessions with professional run-tester Kieran Alger’s pick of the best running headphones and earbuds.

From motivational beast-mode playlists to distracting podcasts, science shows that being immersed in audio on your runs can boost your enjoyment and your performance. So what better way to pump up your potential than with this tried-and-tested selection of the best running headphones and earbuds.   

How we test the best running headphones

Kieran Alger is an ultramarathon runner and professional product tester. He tested these running headphones over a range of distances and terrains. He based his overall score for each set of headphones primarily on sound quality, but also on fit and running suitability, weight, versatility and value.

The best running headphones and earbuds

It might be a surprise to award this accolade to an in-ear bud, but for us the Jabra Elite 8 Active (buy now) ticks all the boxes for the best running headphones. Fit feels very secure despite the lack of hooks, sound quality is excellent with plenty of custom options, while battery life is great too.

Other running headphones recommendations

Best for versatilityIt’s no surprise that the Apple AirPods Pro 2 (buy now) feature on this list. They would have been in contention for best running headphones if the fit was a bit more secure. But we know how good the sound is and connectivity is seamless too.
Best open-ear headphonesYou could run full tilt down a boulder-strewn path and the Shokz OpenSwim Pro (buy now) still wouldn’t budge. The sound is richer and bassier than the original Shokz bone conductor earphones but you can still keep aware of your surroundings.
Best-value headphonesJust pipping the JLab Epic Air Sport to the post is the JBL Endurance Peak 3 (buy now). For less than $100 / £100 you get robust buds with an unshakeable fit and one of the longest battery lives on test. Now that is a bargain.

1. Jabra Elite 8 Active

A pair of Jabra sports headphones and case on a tableMen's Fitness Editor's Choice badge

Men’s Fitness verdict

Wing-free buds shouldn’t fit this well, but these Jabra Elite 8 Active ones surpassed all our expectations. They sound great straight out of the box and have plenty of custom profiles too.
  • Great battery life
  • Excellent customisable sound
  • Good, reliable fit
  • In-ear style might not work for all
  • Might shake loose on steep downhills

Jabra’s Elite 4 Active and Elite 7 Active are highly regarded running headphones, and the latest Elite 8 Active builds on this legacy. These lightweight, 5g earbuds fit securely and are designed to grip better when wet, making them ideal for runs. I found them comfortable at various paces, though they might shift on steep descents. The sound quality is excellent, with rich, bassy audio and customizable sound profiles.

Durability is a highlight, with IP68-rated buds and an IP54-rated case, ensuring they’re dust-proof, water-resistant, and robust. Battery life is impressive, offering 8 hours with ANC and up to 56 hours with the case if ANC is off. I found the ANC very effective in busy environments, although not the best I’ve tested. The HearThrough mode significantly reduces wind noise when running.

The controls are straightforward, and features like Find My Buds and Spotify Tap enhance usability. Often available at a discount, the Elite 8 Active delivers a comprehensive package for runners.

2. Shokz OpenSwim Pro

Shokz OpenSwim Pro

Men’s Fitness verdict

Thanks to the welcome addition of Bluetooth, these are now the most capable bone conduction headphones in the Shokz range. They offer decent sound quality and are comfortable, too.
  • MP3 and Bluetooth modes
  • Secure, lightweight fit
  • Good sound underwater
  • No charging case
  • Sound is a bit lightweight
  • Lack of playlist tools

When Shokz introduced their initial swim-friendly bone conduction headphones, they lacked Bluetooth playback. The new Shokz OpenSwim Pro now includes Bluetooth, a 9-hour battery life, IP68 waterproof rating, and lightweight design. I tested them in various settings: roads, pools, and gyms. They proved comfortable and secure, though not ideal with sunglasses or during certain exercises. Sound quality is decent enough, and the built-in MP3 storage makes for easy music transfer – though playlist management is cumbersome.

The controls are convenient, and they survived stress tests, including exposure to high heat. While battery performance met claims for MP3 mode, Bluetooth lasted a bit shorter. Despite some limitations like playlist organization and the need for a specific charging cable, the OpenSwim Pro offers a good balance of features. They are an excellent choice for multisport athletes seeking waterproof headphones with both MP3 and Bluetooth capabilities.

3. Nothing Ear 2

Pair of wireless earphones and case on a table

Men’s Fitness verdict

These buds don’t just look the business; their sound, robustness and value for money are pretty impressive too. They are also the lightest buds on test.
  • Striking design
  • Good all-round value
  • Excellent versatility
  • No map location on the buds finder feaure

If your budget doesn’t extend to the Apple AirPods Pro 2 (review below), the Nothing Ear 2 offers fantastic value, balancing everyday use with workout demands. These stylish earbuds, costing nearly half of the AirPods, come with ear gels, an extended stem design, and weigh just 4.5g each, ensuring a secure and comfortable fit even on steep runs. The 51g case is IP55 rated for water and dust resistance.

The Nothing Ear 2 buds are IP54 rated, making them splash and sweat resistant. They sounded great with 11.6mm dynamic drivers providing up to 40dB. The customizable active noise cancellation (ANC), transparency modes, and custom EQ with ear tip fit tests are bonus features. The physical press controls, though not the most responsive on the run, are manageable.

Battery life is solid, with 6.3 hours (ANC off) and 4 hours (ANC on), and incredibly quick charging. In my marathon test, they lasted 4 hours with transparency mode. The earbuds support Bluetooth 5.3 and dual device connectivity, though switching isn’t as seamless as with the Jabra Elite 8 Active.

Missing features include advanced geolocation for finding lost buds. Overall, the Nothing Ear 2 enhances the original model with improved sound, battery life, and durability, making them a great choice for both running and daily use.

4. Apple AirPods Pro 2

Apple AirPods Pro 2

Men’s Fitness verdict

We probably wouldn’t buy these Apple buds as specialist running earphones. But that’s not to say they can’t do the job (and they sound incredible). Adaptive and customisable sounds are first class.
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Seamless connectivity for Apple users
  • Good versatility
  • Premium price
  • Not the most secure fit
  • Fairly short battery life

The Apple AirPods Pro 2, or AirPods Pro (2nd Generation), are Apple’s top wireless headphones. Though not specifically designed for sports, they cater well to runners wanting versatile earbuds. They feature an in-ear design with gels and stems, lacking wingtips or ear hooks. However, a ‘Test My Fit’ feature helps ensure a secure fit, essential for varied running paces.

Weighing 5.3g each, these lightweight buds stay in place on flat runs but can be less reliable on steep or rugged terrain. Their battery life is solid, offering 6 hours per bud and 24 hours with the case. Rapid charging is efficient, providing 1 hour of listening after 5 minutes of charging.

I found controls to be generally responsive, though squeezing the stems to skip tracks can be tricky while running fast. Volume control via swiping is a useful improvement, and Siri activation allows hands-free operation.

Rated IP54, both the buds and case resist dust, sweat, and water, although they’re not rugged against drops.

Sound quality is outstanding with loud, crisp, and rich audio. Adaptive EQ and Dolby Atmos spatial audio, along with active noise cancellation and superior transparency modes, enhance the listening experience. Other features include a skin-detecting sensor, conversation awareness mode, and a clever case with a built-in microphone, speakers, MagSafe, Qi wireless charging, and a lanyard loop.

For iPhone, Apple Watch, or Mac users, seamless setup and pairing add to the appeal. Overall, the AirPods Pro 2 are a premium choice for those seeking versatile earbuds that perform well during runs and in daily use.

5. Suunto Sonic

Suunto Sonic headphones on a grey carpet

Men’s Fitness verdict

Dependable running headphones with comfortable design, easy controls, solid battery and a sound performance that’s close to rivals like Shokz OpenRun.
  • Comfortable fit for long runs
  • Running-friendly sound quality
  • Solid battery performance
  • Not the clearest-sounding headphones available
  • Require a proprietary charging cable

Reviewed by Mike Sawh

Suunto, known for rugged sports watches like the Suunto Race, has ventured into running headphones with the Suunto Sonic. These open-ear headphones use bone conduction technology, similar to Shokz, to keep you aware of your surroundings. Weighing comfortably and featuring a soft silicone exterior, they never felt cumbersome during my runs. They’re IP55 rated, providing protection against sweat and light rain.

The box includes a charging cable, cloth bag, and earplugs. Though sound quality isn’t premium, it balances well for training playlists and podcasts. The Suunto companion app offers indoor and outdoor sound modes, enhancing clarity and bass. However, they do leak sound, which might disturb others.

Battery life is solid with up to 10 hours, and the quick charge feature offers 3 hours from just 10 minutes of charging. Physical buttons for volume and calls are easy to use during runs. The dual connection feature works well, allowing seamless device switching. Connectivity is reliable with various devices, including smartwatches.

Overall, the Suunto Sonic provides a secure, comfortable fit and efficient onboard controls, making them a worthwhile choice for runners.

6. JBL Endurance Peak 3

Pair of sports earphones and case on a table

Men’s Fitness verdict

If you’re on a budget, these offer great value with a reliable fit, solid battery life, and good durability, though sound quality is a bit thin. Perfect for shorter runs and everyday use.
  • Unshakeable fit
  • Month-long battery life
  • Good durability
  • No ANC
  • Bulky case
  • Fiddly control

If you’re like me and often misplace headphones, or you’re on a budget, finding a capable yet inexpensive pair is crucial. Thankfully, the quality of running headphones under $100/£100 has greatly improved. Though you might not get premium sound and materials, models like the JBL Endurance Peak 3 offer good build quality, impressive battery life, and features like ambient awareness mode.

I found the JBL Endurance Peak 3 headphones a bit bulky at just under 26g, but their ear-hook design kept them securely in place during my runs. They were comfortable for runs up to an hour, but on longer sessions, the ear hooks began to press and felt irritating.

The 50-hour total battery life (10 hours on the buds, 40 hours in the case) is impressive, though the case is bulky and not running belt-friendly. The rapid charging feature is a lifesaver, giving me an hour of playtime from just 10 minutes of charging.

Sound quality is loud but lacks richness and depth. I wasn’t a fan of the app’s presets, but tweaking the EQ profiles improved the experience. The ambient awareness mode was ineffective in windy conditions, and I found the capacitive controls fiddly while moving. There’s no geolocation feature, but the IP68 rating means they withstand water and dust well.

Overall, the JBL Endurance Peak 3 provided a reliable fit, solid battery life, and good durability, though the sound quality could be better. For the price, they offer many features I appreciate in running headphones.

7. Beats Solo Buds

Beats Solo Buds on table top

Men’s Fitness verdict

For the price, these are excellent earbuds. They fit better than just about any other earbud I’ve tested and the sound quality is perfectly good enough. Marked down for lack of IP durability rating.
  • Workout-boosting sound
  • Compact, secure fit
  • Good battery life
  • Case doesn’t charge
  • No IP durability rating

The Beats Solo Buds offer simplicity and functionality without breaking the bank. These buds prioritize essential features like a compact design, secure fit, and decent sound quality. While they lack an IP durability rating, which may limit their use during intense workouts, they provide a comfortable fit for various activities. With a battery life of up to 18 hours, the Solo Buds offer commendable playback time compared to competitors, though the lack of a charging case isn’t ideal.

The Solo Buds deliver a competent, balanced sound with good bass, making them suitable for most gym-goers and runners. Despite missing advanced features like custom EQ and ANC, the buds excel at passive isolation. Overall, these headphones combine compact simplicity, reliable fit, and perfectly-good-enough sound performance.

What makes good running headphones?

The most important thing to look for in a set of running headphones is secure, lock-tight fit. It doesn’t matter how good your headphones sound if they don’t stay put when you pick up the pace. Ear hook designs offer a more reliable fit, so if your ears don’t play nice with in-ear buds, this is the way to go. 

Durability is important too. Reliable waterproofing is a must, but also look for sweat- and dust-proofing. Thankfully, the sound quality of running headphones has massively improved in recent years. Given their compact size, it’s impressive that even cheaper options can now deliver acceptable quality, while the best headphones kick out really rich, nuanced and balanced audio that’s often customisable.

The best running headphones now offer a range of extra smarts like geolocation for misplaced buds and cases or fast charging, so if you get caught low on power you can get a workout’s worth of juice in 5-10 minutes. You can expect other bells and whistles like custom controls, Active Noise Cancellation and awareness modes, plus wind filtering for mid-run all quality.

What the experts say about the best running headphones

We talked to athletes about what they look for in a good pair of running headphones. Jake DeardenHYROX master trainer and 247 Represent head coach and athlete, says: “My headphones have got to be the AirPod Pros, as they’re light – I can’t wear over-ear when running as they make my ears too hot. If you are outside for a run, the AirPods let you choose whether you have noise cancellation or not, which some people prefer not to have if running in a busy area, so they are more aware of their surroundings.”

Jonny Mellor, New Balance athlete and online running coach, adds: “There are many different types of headphones on the market to suit personal preferences and budgets. It’s important to find a headphone that’s comfortable and – it might sound obvious – don’t fall out when running! A good pair of headphones will have a waterproof casing and offer decent sound quality, whilst still letting you hear the traffic. I personally use Apple AirPods because they’re so comfortable and I don’t even notice them in my ears when running. They pair flawlessly with my Garmin Forerunner 965 and offer a transparency mode to ensure I can still hear the world around me when running.”

How are running earbuds different from normal headphones?

While regular headphones prioritise audio quality and easy-listening comfort, running headphones put reliable fit, good durability and easy operation on the move first. Fortunately the days of battling big over-ear cans and fighting wires are gone. Running headphones are now light, compact, wireless and don’t get in the way during workouts.  

The most popular in-ear buds use ergonomic shapes, wing tips and special grippy coatings to keep them in place. But there are also ear-hooks and neck-band options.   

Running headphones and earbuds often kick out louder, bassier sound to help boost motivation. Many also have with Active Noise Cancellation and awareness modes, specially tuned to filter the outside world in or out, depending on your needs. Some open-ear running headphones use bone conduction technology to leave your lugholes wide open to the world around you. 

Sports headphones tend to be more durable than regular buds, generally with higher Ingress Protection (IP) ratings and increasingly they’re even tested to military standards. Battery life tends to be longer and the charging cases – at least on the best running headphones – are designed to be easy to stash in a running belt or the pockets of the best running shorts.