The 9 Best Exercise Headphones to Buy in 2018

Shop for the best headphones for swimming, running and more

Koss KSC32L Fitclips Headphones
Photo from Amazon

Athletes and exercise gurus have always had a somewhat uneasy relationship with headphones. Everyone wants bass-pumping jams to power their workout, but it’s difficult to find a pair of headphones that fit comfortably in the ear while also blasting out some decent sound quality. Digital music and Bluetooth tech have paved the way for a superior listening experience, but there are still a variety of considerations to make before buying a new pair. Here, we’ve put together a list of the best headphones for working out, organized by category.

Best Overall: SENSO Bluetooth Headphones

SENSO Bluetooth Headphones are a No. 1 best seller on Amazon and for good reason; over 20,000 reviews ranked them 4.2 out of 5 stars due to their price point, eight-hour long battery life, Bluetooth 4.1 CSR tech and IPX-7 waterproof rating.

The SENSO Bluetooth Headphones offer state of the art acoustic components for rich, full sound quality with deep bass and clear treble. Their lithium polymer batteries charge in under 1.5 hours and offer 240 hours of standby. With its Bluetooth 4.1 wireless technology, you can connect your mobile devices up to 30 feet away. Its CVC 6.0 noise suppression means you can enjoy your music without any outside interference. The headphones come with a one-year warranty.

Best Budget: Koss KSC32L Fitclips

The Koss KSC32L Fitclips are bright, flashy, compact, wired and super cheap. The build on these phones is surprisingly rugged, sure to conform to most ears. And they sound way better than you’d expect. In addition to being cheap, they’re sweat resistant and ultra lightweight. They include three sizes of ear cushions with soft, flexible clips that rest easily around the ear. (As a side-note, they were partially designed by Olympian Dara Torres.)

Keep in mind, though, that when your headphone budget is less than $20 there’s going to be some criteria that you have to leave behind. For example, these cans are not wireless, which is common enough for most runners and lifters and shouldn’t be a huge issue for most, but it may still be a problem for some. They also do not include a remote or microphone. But when it comes to the basics, you can’t get a better sounding, better looking pair of exercise headphones for less than $20.

See more reviews of our favorite Koss headphones available for purchase.

Best Wired: Sennheiser OCX 686G

If you truly don’t mind a pair of wires dangling from your earbuds, then the Sennheiser OCX 686G is the best set of exercise headphones you can buy. These cans are sweat and water resistant, and boast some pretty solid sound quality. If you’re looking for some deep, thumping bass then they’re probably not for you (but then again, in-ear headphones have never exactly been earth-shattering in the bass department). They do, however, over a crisp, high-intensity mid- to high-end range. Sennheiser is one of the top brands in sound technology, so you can expect a certain degree of quality there alone.

Sound aside, the OCX 686G also offers an in-line remote and microphone, allowing you to pause music or takes calls at the push of a button. The earbud design extends into the ear canal, allowing for reduced ambient noise infiltration, and the ergonomically designed ear clips ensure a comfortable fit for most people. (It includes three ear cushion size options.) Oval-shaped, para-aramid cables help prevent tangling, and the anti-bacterial ear adapters add a level of hygiene to your workout routine.

Best for Swimming: Swimbuds SPORT

When it comes to finding the right headphones for the right activity, swimming is a tough nut to crack. Obviously, any pair of phones has to be completely waterproof, but in addition to that little technological hurdle, they have to actually sound good. Unlike land-based athletes, swimmers have the sound of splashing, breathing, and blowing bubbles constantly in their ears. How can a pair of headphones overcome all that noise? The truth is, most can’t. But the Swimbuds SPORT Waterproof Headphones are probably the best at meeting these criteria.

The first indicator that these are some next-level headphones is the fact that they were designed by swimmers. One of the biggest challenges with underwater listening is what to do with excess cord, which can easily get snagged on limbs or lane dividers. The Swimbuds come with a huge array of ear cushions and cord extenders to meet any swimmer’s individual needs. And once you get the right fit, they stay in place. Most surprisingly, they sound pretty darn good. It’s well-balanced across the frequency spectrum, and even the bass rings through underwater.

Best for Comfort: Jaybird X3

Craving comfort, but don’t want to sacrifice sound quality? The Jaybird X3 headphones are your best bet. Though categorized as sports headphones, thanks to a hydrophobic nano-coating to wick away moisture, the X3’s comfort make them perfect for everyday listening. Plus, with a promising eight hours of battery life, you won’t need to charge up mid-music session.

Silicone ear fins attach to your ear to keep them secure, which makes them a practical choice if you’re on the go. In the box, you’ll also get a wide array of earbud attachments in different sizes to fit you no matter your ear shape. Powered by 6mm drivers, you’ll be pleased with booming bass. But if the sound doesn’t quite match your preferences, you can download Jaybird’s MySound App to customize your sound.

Best for Running: Plantronics BackBeat Fit Wireless Headphones

Running headphones have come a long way since the days of the Sony Walkman. While you don’t have to worry anymore about CD skipping on a jog, there are still a lot of other annoying features of exercise headphones and music players. The cord is the most obvious example, but with Bluetooth technology that’s become less of an issue. Therefore, any decent pair of running headphones should be wireless, compact and brightly colored to increase visibility. They also should be easy to control.

The Plantronics BackBeat Fit headphones offer all this. They feature a wireless, wraparound design that’s sure to stay fit and snug during your run. The speakers deliver a surprisingly deep bass presence with a crisp high-end. The interface features controls for volume, play/pause/skip and mute, as well as commands to take or end calls and activate Siri or Google Voice. They come in three bright colors (blue, green, and red) to enhance your visibility on the roads. And they’re flexible for any sort of use. And in case you get caught in a downpour, they’re water resistant.

See more reviews of our favorite Plantronics headphones available for purchase.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bose SoundSport

The best exercise headphones should be comfortable to wear and have a secure fit. The sweat-proof Bose SoundSport wireless headphones are both. They come with small, medium and large earbuds that are each equipped with StayHear+ eartips with soft silicon fins. This offers a fit that’s comfortably loose, but also secure and snug. As a runner or biker, it’s especially important that you’re aware of your surroundings while out on the road, and the SoundSport let ambient sound filter in for safety.

As far as sound goes, the Bose SoundSport headphones deliver booming bass that will keep your blood pumping all workout long. And with a six-hour battery life, you should be able to squeeze in about a week’s worth of workouts before re-charging.

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Anker SoundBuds Slim

For less than $30, the Anker SoundBuds Slim gives you features slashed on most other budget headphones, including wireless audio, a solid microphone and an intuitive remote.

The SoundBuds are made of rubber that make them water-resistant rated at IPX4 and they house 6mm drivers that will deliver a solid bass. The battery will last you about seven hours, which is impressive in this price range, and they come with an extensive array of customizable earbud and ear fin options to ensure the perfect fit for your ear. Best yet: If you’re uncertain about buying budget headphones, you can rest easy because Anker offers an 18-month warranty.

Runner-Up, Best for Comfort: Decibullz CON-RED Custom Molded In-Ear Headphones

One of the challenges with exercise headphones is designing something that is both comfortable and secure. Most phones seem to satisfy one or the other—they either feel good or stay securely in place. Not both. The Decibullz CON-RED have a unique solution to this problem: They can be molded to fit the exact shape of your ears. Not only does this ensure comfort and security, it also helps isolate the sound coming from your listening device.

So how does it work? Just heat the earbud molds in hot water, snap them onto the headphones, and place them in your ear. They’ll mold to the shape of your ear canal and hold in place. As an added bonus, you can re-mold them if you didn’t quite get the fit you wanted on the first try. The Decibullz also feature an in-line single button remote and microphone for pausing music or taking calls. In all, though, the moldable earbuds make these cans an appealing option not just for athletes, but for anyone who prefers the design and compactness of earbuds but finds them to be mostly uncomfortable.


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