The 9 Best Headphones for Running in 2020

Find the right fit for your run

The best headphones for running offer spectacular sound without drowning out your surroundings. With headphones, sound quality is obviously paramount, but there are always other factors to consider, especially with running headphones.

Whether you're running in the gym or outdoors, you'll want to pay attention to a headphones IP rating. This rating determines how waterproof, or sweatproof a pair of headphones are. An IP rating of 4 will provide sufficient protection from rain and sweat, but an IP 7 device can withstand being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.

However, if you're someone that does the majority of their listening at home, you might be better served by some of our best headphones for music lovers.

Best Overall: Beats PowerBeats Pro

What We Like
  • True wireless design

  • Stylish design with multiple color options

  • Excellent audio quality

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Limited waterproofing

From the popular Beats brand comes Apple’s best workout oriented headphones. The Powerbeats Pro are a true wireless earbud option that come with a premium price tag to match both their top notch quality and their well known brand name. Being made by Apple, comparisons to the Airpods Pro are inevitable, and while the Powerbeats Pro are more expensive and lack active noise cancelling, their workout oriented design, IPX4 water resistance rating, and multiple color options makes them more practical for runners and arguably more attractive than the minimalist Airpods.

While they offer superior design and audio performance, the Powerbeats Pro lag behind our top choice of the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 3200, which offers competitive sound quality and better waterproofing at a much more affordable price point.

"We were impressed with their snappy performance and how consistently Siri responded when called." Jeffrey Chadwick, Product Tester

Best Waterproof: Jaybird X4

What We Like
  • Fully sweat/waterproof

  • Custom EQ settings

  • 8 hour battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Short Bluetooth range

  • Cannot be wall charged

  • No sound isolation for microphone

Having headphones that are sweat and waterproof are essential for anyone who runs outdoors or listens to music while they hike. The Jaybird X4 wireless headphones are fully sweat and waterproof so you can get clean, reliable sound in any kind of weather and during the most intense running sessions. The quick-charging battery gives you up to one hour of listening time with just 10 minutes of charging; with a full charge, you get up to eight hours of listening, making it perfect for long-distance and marathon runners. 

With the Jaybird app, you can customize your equalizer settings to get the most out of your headphones. The headphones have an inline mic and controls for calls and music so you don't have to search your pockets for your phone in order to change volume, switch tracks, or answer calls. They come with several sizes of both silicone and foam tips as well as ear fins to customize your fit.

Best Quick Charge: Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

What We Like
  • 15 minutes charge gives one hour listening time

  • Inline mic/controls

  • Tile app compatible

What We Don't Like
  • Not noise cancelling

  • Expensive

The Bose SoundSport wireless headphones are another great option for those who need a quick-charging pair for workouts and jogs. With just 15 minutes of charging time, you get up to one hour of listening, and a full two hour charging time gives you up to six hours of listening time. The headphones are built with Bose's signature active equalizer to consistently deliver great sound. You can pair these headphones to your phone with both Bluetooth and NFC connectivity for reliable listening. 

The Stayhear+ sport tips help keep these headphones securely and comfortably in place even during the most intense marathons and hikes. You can also use the Bose Connect and Tile apps to help you find misplaced headphones. The headphones have an inline microphone and controls so you can answer calls, skip tracks, and adjust volume on-the-go.

Runner-Up, Best Quick Charge: Sennheiser CX Sport

What We Like
  • One hour of listening time after 10 minutes charging

  • Lightweight

  • Multiple earbud/fin sizes

What We Don't Like
  • No battery indicator light

If you need a pair of headphones that don't take all day to charge, check out the Sennheiser CX Sport wireless headphones. These headphones pair to your phone via Bluetooth connectivity for reliable use and sound. They're sweat and splash resistant so no matter how hard you run, they'll continue to deliver great sound. 

Their quick-charging battery gives you up to one hour of life with just a 10 minute charge, and with a full 90 minute charge you get up to six hours of listening time. The headphones weigh just over half an ounce and come with multiple earbud and fin sizes for a comfortable fit even during long-distance runs. The cable features a three-button control for volume and muting so you don't have to fumble in your pockets for your phone and make changes on-the-fly.

Best Splurge: Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200

What We Like
  • True wireless design

  • Excellent audio quality

  • Top-notch waterproofing

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Between powerful 13.5 mm drivers that provide top-notch audio quality, a true wireless design, and impressive IP57 waterproofing that makes them safe to dunk up to a meter underwater, the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200 are an impressive option for runners and other fitness enthusiasts. Though they lack active noise cancelling, their passive noise isolating ear tips block a decent amount of ambient noise, and soft, flexible ear loops offer a secure yet comfortable fit. For times when awareness of your surroundings is key, the fully wireless design is ideal for single ear listening.

Best Budget: Urbanears Stadion

What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Comfortable

  • Stylish design

  • Acceptable sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Not very durable

  • Semi-open design performs poorly in noisy environments

For the price, the Urbanears Stadion offers a compelling option for budget-minded runners. Their coiled, stretchy design and ear click technology combine for better fit and comfort, though their somewhat radical aesthetic may not appeal to everyone. However, if you put safety above style, the built-in reflectors improve your visibility when running in dim conditions. Unfortunately, the durability of these headphones is questionable, and though they claim to be water resistant, they are not IP rated.

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100

What We Like
  • Great waterproofing

  • Great design

  • Excellent sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Not true wireless

The Backbeat Fit 2100 fall behind the 3200 model of Plantronics excellent fitness earbuds lineup due to not being a true wireless option. However, their significantly cheaper price point gives them an edge for budget minded runners. The wired design allows them to achieve similar audio performance and IP 57 waterproofing without the extra cost. The flexible cable connecting the earbuds means that they can be worn around the neck while not in use, and are less easy to lose. However, this design makes single ear listening difficult.

Best Battery Life: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

What We Like
  • Long 10 hour battery life

  • Good audio performance

  • Highly customizable

  • Can be worn like a necklace

  • Affordable price

What We Don't Like
  • Old fashioned wired design

If you don’t mind the somewhat old fashioned wire that connects the two earpieces, the Optoma Nuforce be Sport4 provides a well rounded listening experience with a long 10 hour battery life that will keep the beats coming all day long. Graphene-coated audio drivers deliver remarkably good sound quality despite the Sport4’s modest price point, and a wide range of customizable ear tips allow these earbuds to comfortably fit a wide variety of ears.

The magnetic backs of each earbud allow the Sport4’s to snap together, reducing the risk of losing them or getting them tangled up. This also allows you to wear them comfortably around your neck like a necklace when not in use, which makes them eminently portable and easy to carry around. Of course, they are also waterproof with an IPX-5 rating, so you can wear them in the rain and don’t have to worry about drenching them in sweat, though they probably won’t survive a dip in the lake.

Best Bone Conduction: Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones

What We Like
  • Leaves your ears exposed for better awareness

  • No discomfort from wearing plugs in your ears

What We Don't Like
  • Unimpressive sound quality

  • Sound leakage

  • Zero noise cancellation

  • Vibrations can be uncomfortable

Headphones that don’t go on or in your ears? What madness is this? The Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones deliver music to your ears not via vibrations in the air, but through your very bones—your jaw bone to be precise. Without anything to cover your ears, the noise of the world flows in, so forget about noise cancelling, and this design also results in sound leaking from the headphones.

However, this achilles heel is also the Trekz Air’s secret weapon. There are many situations where being able to hear sounds around you is vital for safety and communication. The Trekz Air allows you to stay aware of your environment while enjoying music or talking on the phone. If that awareness of your surroundings is a necessity for you, then that may well cancel out the flaws of the Aftershokz Trekz Air.

Final Verdict

We used the Beats Powerbeat Pro for a week and had a blast with them the whole time. From excellent sound quality to battery life and intuitive physical controls, these wireless earbuds have it all. For power users—those who more or less live with headphones in—their quality is worth the price.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate headphones based on design, audio quality, comfort, and features. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases, running/working out, listening to music or podcasts while we commute, watching films, playing games, and working both at home and in an office environment. We also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About our Trusted Experts

Andy Zahn has spent over 200 hours testing headphones and other home audio products for Lifewire. He is rarely to be found not plugged into his tunes. Whether he’s typing away at his latest article, working on his small farm in Western Washington, or staying up late to photograph the starry skies over the Grand Canyon, he is most likely to be wearing headphones while doing so. He prefers to spend his free time pounding the trails of National Parks in the company of a good audiobook.

Jeffrey Chadwick has published hundreds of articles, reviews, and videos on Top Ten Reviews. His most recent position was Multimedia and Home Improvement Editor, where he reviewed products related to video editing, computer security, and media players, as well as home improvement gadgets like power tools and robot lawnmowers. 

Taylor Clemons has three years of experience writing about consumer technology and video games for outlets like TechRadar and GameSkinny. She has also worked in e-commerce, product management, and digital marketing, allowing her to break down technical terms into easy to understand language.

What to look for in the Best Headphones for Running

Bone Conduction - It might surprise you to learn that we are able to pick up sound through vibrations in our jaws. Bone Conduction headphones take advantage of this to bypass the eardrum and send sound directly to the inner ear via your jawbone. In addition to novel music listening devices, this technology is also utilized in specialized hearing aids.

IP rating - Not all IP ratings are the same! An IPX-5 rated device like the Optoma NuForce be sport4 means you will be able to wear the headphones in the rain, and they will stand up to a fair quantity of sweat, but they will not survive a dunking in the pool. The IP57 rating of Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200 shows that these headphones can survive that accidental plunge.

True Wireless - The pinnacle of current wireless listening technology is epitomized by the true wireless headphone, where each ear piece is completely free of wires. However, true wireless options tend to carry a premium price tag, and you can enjoy a comparable listening experience for significantly less money by opting for a model where a wire or headband connects the two ear pieces.