The 9 Best Headphones for Running in 2021

Find the right fit for your run

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"Beats is one of the biggest names in audio right now."
Best Waterproof:
Jaybird X4 at Amazon
"The Jaybird X4 Wireless Bluetooth headphones are about as close to an easy recommendation as you can get in the field of audio."
"One other great thing about these buds is built-in Tile connectivity."
Runner-Up, Best Quick Charge:
Sennheiser CX Sport at Amazon
"The Sennheiser CX Sport headphones are designed for the run."
"The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200 earbuds are a great set of true wireless earbuds for runners."
"The UrbanEars Stadion headphones have a unique design that is supposed to adjust to the shape of your head and your ears."
Runner-Up, Best Budget:
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100 at Amazon
"The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100 are another great budget option for runners."
"If you're looking for a set of headphones to power you through your day and your workout, the Opotoma NuForce might be right for you."
"The Aftershokz Treks Air headphones are an open headphone system, which means nothing actually covers your ears."

The best headphones for running are going to give you great sound while being light, sweatproof, and keep you aware of your surroundings.  Isolation is important when you're kicking back to some tunes on the couch, but when you're out there in the world among traffic and pedestrians, you need to make sure you can still hear everything around you.  Additionally, your headphones need to be sweatproof, have great battery life, and be wireless. This is for two reasons.

First, you don't want to get tangled up in a cord while you're out there hitting the streets. Wireless headphones keep distractions to a minimum and help you keep your head in the game. Also, a growing number of phones are ditching the headphone jack, and that's only going to increase in the future. Like it or not, Bluetooth is the way to go.

Best Overall: Beats PowerBeats Pro

Beats by Dre PowerBeats Pro Headphones
What We Like
  • NFC and Apple H1 connectivity

  • Volume and Track controls

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Limited to AAC codec

Beats is one of the biggest names in audio right now, due to its association with Apple and these earbuds are Beats' running model. The headphones sound great and bring along with them NFC pairing. That means you can simply hold the headphones near your phone and they pair automatically (Android requires an app to accomplish this). They also come with Apple's H1 chip for headphones which is a bit of a double-edged sword. The Apple H1 chip has the AAC codec on board which is Apple's standard, but leaves off higher quality codecs like AptX. It's the kind of distinction that most people won't care about, but if you're an audiophile, you might want to make a different selection.

Each earbud can independently adjust volume and track selection with a series of touches. Plus each earbud can give you access to your voice assistant. Nine hours is pretty good for a single charge in this space, and you'll get a total of around 24 hours of listening time with the charging case. But all of that comes at a cost because these earbuds are on the expensive side.

"If you use your earbuds regularly, you’ll find a lot to like with the Powerbeats Pro. They’re durable, comfortable, and deliver sound quality that is par excellence." Jeffrey Chadwick, Product Tester

Best Waterproof: Jaybird X4

Jaybird X4 Wireless Sport Headphones
What We Like
  • Great sound

  • Good price

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Good isolation which is bad for runners

The Jaybird X4 Wireless Bluetooth headphones are about as close to an easy recommendation as you can get in the field of audio. There's a very wide range of headphones out there, but ask the experts, and the Jaybird X4's will almost always be in the top three. That's because they deliver reliable quality and great sound at a great price. These are wired, as in they have a wire connecting each other, but they connect to your phone via Bluetooth. They're also sweatproof which is great for runners.

The headphones also deliver really good isolation with their silicone ear tips which is great for audio quality, but not great when you're running and need to keep an ear out for traffic and other noises. The headphones also deliver about eight hours of battery life which will certainly get you through a run, and even a work day, but they'll need to be charged often.

"Durability is probably the most impressive aspect of the Jaybird X4."Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best Quick Charge: Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

Bose Soundsport Wireless Headphones
What We Like
  • Built in Tile connectivity

  • Charges in 90 minutes


What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

Bose is a great name when it comes to audio technology. Bose is most well known for its noise-cancellation tech, but a close second is Bose sound quality. These buds are no exception. At just six hours, the battery life isn't the best, but they charge up to full in 90 minutes according to our testing, and that's pretty fast, all things considered. 

One other great thing about these buds is built-in Tile connectivity. Tile, the location tracker, leased its tech to Bose to make these headphones findable if they get lost on a run or even just around the house.  Just pop open the Tile app, and you'll get the latest known position. That's something more earbuds should do, no question.

"What you get with these headphones is an easy-to-use and great feeling set of earbuds, with water resistance and a subjectively great sound for an objectively premium price."Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Quick Charge: Sennheiser CX Sport

Sennheiser CX Sport
What We Like
  • 10 minute charge gives you one hour of listening

  • Adjustable cinch strap and shirt clip

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Not a lot of fit options

The Sennheiser CX Sport headphones are designed for the run. These earbuds are connected by a wire between them, and that wire has an adjustable cinch on it, so you can find the right area for your comfort.  Add to that, the shirt clip makes sure you'll never lose your earbuds while out on a run, or anywhere else. 

These earbuds offer exceptional sound, but that's only if you can seat them correctly.  Our reviewer had a hard time finding a good fit with the provided tips and wings, which can be troublesome. These earbuds also top out at six hours of battery life which is enough for most workouts, but not even a full work day. But on the flip side, just 10 minutes of charging will get you one hour of listening time which is pretty great.

"The Sennheiser CX Sport wireless offer an attractive mix of features that check the boxes for workout earbuds: sporty styling, tools for achieving a closer fit, a lightweight build, and quick charging."Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Splurge: Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200

Plantronics Backbeat Fit
What We Like
  • Lot of controls on the earbuds

  • True wireless earbuds

  • On-ear buds that don't block out outside noise

What We Don't Like
  • Big case

The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200 earbuds are a great set of true wireless earbuds for runners. The earbuds hook onto the ears with a comfortable rubber hook and still let in noise from the outside. The buttons on the earbuds are also touch-sensitive meaning you can control play/pause, track skipping, and volume, which is a great amount of versatility in a true wireless earbud.

You'll get around eight hours on a single charge and the case gives you a total of around 24 hours, which is pretty good. The case for the headphones is on the larger side, so it's not very pocketable. That's especially true for someone going out running. A battery meter inside lets you know how much charge the case has left, which is nice. It also charges via MicroUSB which is a bit dated at this point.

"These buds deliver great sound and a comfortable grip on the ear. The touch-sensitive buttons on the outside allow you to control volume and track skipping. They're incredibly versatile!"Adam S. Doud, Product Tester

Best Budget: Urbanears Stadion

What We Like
  • Neat coiled design

What We Don't Like
  • Buttons are a little awkward to reach

  • Bulky battery/control pack

The UrbanEars Stadion headphones have a unique design that is supposed to adjust to the shape of your head and your ears. The control and battery pack rest on the back of your head which can be a little awkward, especially for those with long hair.  The cable is coiled along each side to give you a great fit around your head and keeps excess cable compact and neat. But that puts the controls at the back of your head too which can be a little weird.

Plus, with a battery and control panel that large, you'd expect more than seven hours of advertised battery life on a single charge. The headphones also charge via micro USB which is a little outdated with so many phones and accessories moving to USB Type-C. Still, these are some of the least expensive on our list, so if you're looking for a budget option, these will do the trick.

Runner-Up, Best Budget: Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100

What We Like
  • Reflective finish for runners

  • Customizable buttons

What We Don't Like
  • Hard loop connecting the ear phones together

The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100 are another great budget option for runners. These headphones are designed with a reflective material that helps runners stand out in the dark which is a great option.  The headband is a hard band that sticks out behind your head and neck which is a matter of taste, but doesn't tend to work well for those with long hair, so that's important to keep in mind.

Plantronics also designed the BackBeat 2100 headphones to pair with its app that allows you to customize the controls on the headphones so you can set a timer or start a stopwatch with a single tap. That's a great option that keeps you in the zone and focused on your workout, rather than fiddling with your phone.

Best Battery Life: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4

What We Like
  • 10 hours of battery life

  • Versatile inline remote

  • 15 minute charge gives you 2 hours or listening time

What We Don't Like
  • Large case

If you're looking for a set of headphones to power you through your day and your workout, the Opotoma NuForce might be right for you. These are wired earbuds, with an inline remote on the right side. The remote is quite versatile controlling power, track skipping, volume, voice assistant and more. Plus the remote gives you ten hours of battery life. If that's not enough, 15 minutes of charging will give you another two hours. That's a battery champ.

The headphones come with a large soft case, which is nice, but if you're a runner, you'll probably leave the case at home. Graphene coated drivers will give you great bass too, so you can thump through your workout as well. Twin blade ear tips will give you a secure fit, but will also block out noises from the environment, so a runner will have to be very careful when using these.

Best Bone Conduction: Aftershokz Trekz Air Headphones

What We Like
  • Bone conduction is really cool

What We Don't Like
  • Bone conduction takes a lot of getting used to

  • Still design might not adapt well to runners

Bone conduction is a really cool innovation in the audio industry that hasn't caught on as much as it's potential suggests.  Put simply, bone conduction sends reverberations through your skull to your ear which generates sound. It's awesome, but it takes some getting used to. The Aftershokz Treks Air headphones are an open headphone system, which means nothing actually covers your ears.  You can definitely hear everything that's going on around you, which makes them very safe for running.

However, the nature of bone conduction means that the entire headset is stiff plastic which encircles your head, and sticks out the back a bit. This can make for an awkward feeling while running, especially for those with longer hair.  But if you want to listen to your music, or a podcast, and still be very well aware of your surroundings, these headphones should do the trick.

Final Verdict

Overall, the Beats Powerbeats Pro get our vote as the best on this list. They bring everything to the table including great sound, lots of control, and easy pairing. They also get very good battery life on a single charge and come with a case that will get you through a day and more. 


If you want something a little different, the Plantronics BackBeat 3200 earbuds are also great. They're true wireless earbuds that also give you about 24 hours including the charge in the case. Most importantly they keep you aware of the world around you while you're out there. Running is great and music is great, but running, music, and safety is even better.

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.

Adam S. Doud has been writing about the tech industry for almost a decade. As a podcaster, he's always got his head under a set of headphones listening to the latest show or jamming to some music while writing. 

FAQ

As a runner, what are the benefits of wireless?

Wireless headphones are great for runners for two different reasons. First, there are no wires to get tangled up in as you run. The back and forth motion of your arms and legs can cause snags or trips while you run. Second, a lot of phones are losing the 3.5mm headphone jack these days, leaving Bluetooth the only game in town.


What is isolation, and how does it affect running?

Isolation is how much the headphones block out surrounding noise. The benefit to isolation is you get a more pure sound. Plus, you can keep your volume lower and reduce hearing damage from listening to too loud music. For runners though, isolation is a bad thing because it blocks out noises around you which include traffic, signals, and other pedestrians. Music helps you get in the flow, but blocking out surrounding noise is dangerous.


How are true wireless earbuds (TWS) different from wireless earbuds?

The difference between wireless earbuds and true wireless earbuds is in the wire that connects the earbuds together. True wireless earbuds do not have a connecting wire. They communicate with each other wirelessly. It's one less wire to worry about on your run.


What to look for in the Best Headphones for Running

Waterproof - Headphones built for running need to be waterproof, both for the instances you get caught out in the rain, and to repel sweat. Headphones built for runners will always have waterproofing, but some of the headphones in this list were not intended for running specifically, so it's important to make sure those basics are there.

Battery life - Your earbuds are only helpful if they power on. Most of the earbuds in this list will get you through a long workout, which is great, but multiple chargings will eventually wear down batteries. It's best to get as much out of a charge as you can.

Controls - When you're on a run, easily accessible controls are a must. You don't want to have to pull out your phone to turn the volume up or down, or to skip a track. All of that should be accessible from the headphones in some way. Be sure you have as much control as possible at your fingertips.

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