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The best workout headphones are more than just their sound quality. When you’re buying a pair of earbuds or over-ear headphones for your evening run or your gym workout, you’ll need to think about slightly different features than if you were looking for headphones for general use. Interestingly, the past few years have seen an explosion of true wireless earbuds that pack tons of portability and plenty of features, from tons of different brands. At first glance, true wireless earbuds might all seem perfect for the on-the-go fitness lifestyle, but there’s actually a lot to consider, and some might be better than others.
Beyond how a pair of headphones sound, the two most important categories for workout headphones are the comfort/fit and durability of the device. If you’re in the market for earbuds, make sure the design is a good fit for your ears (do you need secondary rubber wings? Do you need a lot of different ear tip sizes to find the right fit?). Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure there’s a degree of water resistance available on your earbuds, so be sure to check for at least an IPX4 rating—a status that is particularly rare in over-ear headphones. There’s a wide array of prices out there, too, so even if you’re being choosy on design, sound quality, fit, and finish, you’ll likely find one that fits your budget. Use this guide to determine which style, which category, and which fit is right for you.
IP57 water and dust resistance
Excellent extra features
Great sound quality
No noise cancellation
The Jabra Elite series has been one of the frontrunners in the true wireless space for the past few years now, and really any option from the line would be a fitting option for workout earbuds. The latest gen 75t has improved the fit and finish, sound quality, and build quality over the 65t. The Elite Active 75t also folds in an impressive IP57 rating—meaning you’ll have both dust and sweat resistance right on deck. The first digit of an IP rating indicates the level of dust resistance, which in this case is just one number away from a full dust-tight build. The second digit is what’s most interesting for the fitness-minded, and the 7 here indicates that you can submerge the device up to one meter for as long as 30 minutes. In effect, it means this earbud should be fine in virtually any precipitation and even the sweatiest of workouts.
The rest of the feature set matches the non-Active 75t, but is still all very impressive, even when compared to premium, non-workout earbuds. 7.5 hours of battery life on the earbuds alone will more than get you through a full workday of use, and the additional 20 hours with the charging case means that it’ll take a long time to drain these earbuds. The Bluetooth 5.0 gives you solid connectivity even in interference-laden situations, and the 6mm drivers give a surprisingly powerful bass response. Where the earbuds truly come alive is when paired with the smartphone app to expand and customize your functionality. Using the HearThrough technology, the 75ts pass customizable amounts of outside sound through the four-mic array to help you stay aware of your surroundings on a run while mixing it into whatever you’re listening to. Plus, the durable premium build of both the case and the earbuds will give you confidence in how long these earbuds will last. The whole package is a bit pricey, but with the feature set it feels worth it.
"For my money, these are possibly the best on the market when it comes to Bluetooth connectivity." — Jason Scheider, Product Tester
Superior sound quality
Solid battery life
Active noise cancellation
A case prone to wear and tear
No ear wings
The second generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum true wireless earbuds have launched the brand into a really competitive space at the top of the true wireless range. Going right up against the best offerings from Apple and Sony. With active noise cancellation, and impressive 7 + 28 hours of battery life (in the earbuds and battery case respectively) and a unique, eye-catching design, these earbuds will check off a lot of boxes. But where they truly shine is their sound quality. With an excellently balanced sound perfect for both full, bass-heavy pop mixes and detailed podcast mixes, you’ll be surprised at just the response you can get out of a pair of Bluetooth earbuds. That’s partially because these headphones come standard with the basic Bluetooth codecs (AAC and SBC) but also the high-quality, less lossy Qualcomm aptX codec that keeps more of your source audio file intact.
Sennheiser has also included IPX4 water resistance in this model. That rating technically only covers you for light dripping, moisture, and precipitation, but for most workouts, it should suffice. This is paramount for fitness-focused headphones because you’ll likely be wearing them in more sweat-ridden situations. They aren’t the most durable headphones on the market, particularly because the case is made of a heathered, clothlike material, which looks great but will show wear and tear more easily than a rubber or plastic case. And at just under $300, these are among the most expensive earbuds you can buy in this class. But if sound quality is your number-one priority, these headphones will satisfy your expectations and will handle most workout conditions you throw at them.
Super-rugged build quality
Great earbud fit
Decent sound quality
A little pricey
Very few extra features
Jaybird’s wireless Bluetooth headphones have put a focus on active lifestyles basically since their inception. With strong, braided cables and more on-the-go-friendly cases, Jaybird headphones tend to lend themselves to hikers and outdoors-minded listeners. The Vista earbuds aim to carry that premium design and build into the true wireless space. The first thing you’ll notice is just how rugged they look. Jaybird has assigned them an IPX7 water resistance rating (capable of withstanding short times submerged in about a meter of water), and the ultra-rugged MIL-STD810G (a strenuous protocol that tests everything from temperature and pressure to fungus and shock). These designations, together, give the headphone capsules impressive protection against impacts, dust, water, and general uses. This—coupled with the customizable fit that features multiple sizes of eartips and even another rubber wing to hold them to your ear—makes them an ideal style of workout earbuds.
The rest of the offering is pretty standard: 16 hours of total battery life falls a bit short of the premium end of the market, while the 6mm drivers support enough bass for most users, though the EQ capabilities leave a lot to be desired. These earbuds come equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 loaded in—a near necessity in today’s market—and the visual design of the earbuds is pretty sporty and specific (with only a few colors to choose from). One other drawback is that these earbuds are about $160, meaning they’re more expensive than other comparable earbuds out there because they don’t offer active noise cancellation or any other flashy extra features.
Excellent fit for workouts
Sporty design and build quality
Lacking a bit in volume
Average battery life
No extra features like noise cancellation
The design language used in the Bose SoundSport Free true wireless earbuds clearly leans in a sportier direction than much of the rest of the premium range of earbuds. With a much bigger chassis for each earbud and large rubber wings coming out the sides, as well as three sporty color options, these earbuds are clearly a product designed for the gym. But it’s how the SoundSport earbuds fit that make them particularly suitable for workouts. First, the ear tips themselves are a pinched, traffic-cone-like shape rather than the rounded ear tips popular on other earbuds that press uncomfortably into your ear. This means that there’s breathability—ideal for sweaty workouts—because most of the earbud enclosure is actually sitting outside the ear. To make this airy fit more secure, Bose has included really grippy rubber earwings to cling to the outside of your ear. This doesn’t lend itself to a low profile look on the outside, but it definitely makes the earbuds excellent workout candidates.
The rest of the feature set is in keeping with the premium Bose name. The sound response on these headphones lacks a bit in volume, but is very balanced and very detailed across the spectrum. There’s IPX4 water resistance to help stave off some moisture from sweat or precipitation. The battery life isn’t quite as impressive as other premium options, only giving you 5 hours of playback from the earbuds and 15 hours total including the battery case. The build quality itself is also pretty sporty, opting for rugged plastic clasps and resilient silicone materials, rather than metals and magnet fasteners—meaning these are great for workouts, but aren’t quite as classy-looking as other options out there.
"The StayHear+ Sport tips have two parts: a wing that comes upward to cling to your outer ear, and a wider, flatter ear tip that presses into your ear but leaves some very slight gaps. Thanks to these two touchpoints, I’ve never worried about the SoundSports falling out of my ears." — Jason Scheider, Product Tester
Reasonable price tag
Not true wireless
Limited color options
Budget brand name
Status Audio is a brand focused squarely on the budget end of the market, and they do so without sacrificing features or build quality. The BT Structure is Satus Audio's foray into Bluetooth earbuds with a single-wire connecting the buds, is an interesting option for workout headphones for a few reasons. First, the fit is obviously conducive to workouts because of the around-the-ear rubber fins. Even the ear tips themselves come with a small rubber fin to add a third point of contact, grabbing on to your ear cartilage and allowing for an insanely stable feeling.
The build quality of these earbuds is also impressive, with really rugged-felling rubber contact points and IPX5 water resistance for basic sweat and precipitations. The sound quality is also pretty impressive thanks to the dual-driver build—a balanced armature speaker and a 9mm dynamic speaker, each dedicated to a specific frequency range in the audio spectrum. The Structures come with Bluetooth 5.0 for solid connectivity, 12 hours of battery life on a single charge (impressive for wired Bluetooth earbuds), and you can choose between Blue or Black/Gray. The best part? They come in at well under $100, meaning that if you do wear them down over months of workouts, they didn’t cost you the better part of $200.
Decent moisture resistance
Not as portable as earbuds
PLT (or Plantronics) is a brand most often known for business-focused headsets. But the Backbeat line of earbuds and headphones has expanded the brand’s offering into the all-around consumer space. The Backbeat Fit 500s are a great pair of on-ear headphones for any use, but they’re particularly perfect for workouts for a few reasons. First off is the fit; these are over-ear headphones, which means they’re ideal for people who can’t handle the tight, stifling fit of in-ear earbuds. And at less than 5 ½ ounces, they aren’t as cumbersome as larger over-ear headphones. However, an unfortunate side effect of over- or on-ear headphones is that they often don’t come with any sort of moisture resistance. The backbeat Fit 500s are one of the only pairs of on-ear headphones on the market with an IPX2 water resistance rating and P2i nano-coating to help prevent sweat and precipitation.
The 40mm drivers on the headphones allow for a full, solid bass response (ideal for those who listen to pop or top 40 on runs). There’s Bluetooth 4.1, not offering quite the stability of 5.0 but reasonable for most uses, plus 18 hours of listening and talk time on a single charge. Speaking of talk time, there is only one wide-band microphone for phone calls, but because these headphones are supported by Plantronics’ background in headsets, the software should be able to isolate your voice cleanly and clearly. Overall, these headphones don’t offer quite the durability or portability of smaller earbud options, but they do offer a nice option for those who want to work out without earbuds jammed into their ears.
Premium build with IPX4 water resistance
Great battery life
Stuffy, bassy sound
The Treblab Z2 over-ear headphones offer a spec sheet that seems to be focused on competing with premium over-ear headphones, not workout headphones. That’s because they offer everything from a premium, plush faux-leather ear cup design to true active noise cancellation. There’s also 35 hours of advertised battery life, putting these right on par with even the Bose QuietComfort line. Treblab has even put in HD aptX codecs, allowing for a much higher-def transfer of Bluetooth audio.
But with all those audiophile features on the list, the one thing that really sets these apart is the IPX4 water resistance designed in. This means that the headphones have been built with an internal coating that seals them for protection against light sweat and moisture. This is obviously ideal for workouts, but it’s important to keep in mind that sealing over-ear headphones like this will tend to stifle the sound a bit. The sonic response does seem a little muffled and bass-heavy but offers plenty of volume. When you’re working out, you likely aren’t looking for super-detailed sound, so as long as you’re just looking for some music and basic podcast listening, these should do the trick—especially with the more-than-capable active noise cancellation. The whole package comes with all the cables you’ll need and a really rugged, durable hardshell zipper case, and it will run you well under $100—a fraction of what the bigger brands charge for a similar offering.
No extra features
Soundcore, a brand name owned by Anker, is aiming to offer solid earbud performance at a significantly more affordable price point. The Liberty line is named because they are all true wireless earbuds, and the newly updated Liberty Neo earbuds provide a really great value because they add a bunch of features for less than $50. Almost everything you could want in a pair of earbuds is here, from IPX7 water resistance, rugged graphene drivers for powerful sound, Bluetooth 5 for solid Bluetooth connectivity, and more. Those graphene drivers actually contribute to the low weight of these headphones, making them a little friendlier to workouts because they won’t weigh you down. The fit also helps with that thanks to the looped rubber wings that help keep these headphones in your ears with two points of contact.
Soundcore claims that all of their earbud drivers are “expertly tuned,” which means they’ve taken efforts to ensure the sonic response is well-tuned to the capabilities of the actual speakers. Some of this is marketing-speak, but most Soundcore products tend to offer a surprisingly capable sound response for the price. Overall, the name of the game here is affordability. At the time of this writing, these earbuds are only about $28 on Amazon, but most of the time you can find them for under $50. That price point is amazing when you factor in the feature set, but keep in mind that the brand name you’re buying isn’t quite as sought-after as something like Sony or Bose.
Jabra’s Elite line of true wireless headphones pack in more features than nearly every other headphone on the market. With customizable sound profiles, an excellent fit, beautifully rich sonic response, and a super-premium form factor, you’d be hard-pressed to find issues with this product. The Elite Active 75t are the natural choice for our top workout headphones because they take everything that people love about Jabra’s offering, and make it more durable, more waterproof, and more workout friendly. There aren’t a whole lot of gimmicky add-ons (no fancy rubber wings or sporty cases here), but that makes it all the more impressive how perfect the Elite 75ts are for your gym bag.
Our expert testers and reviewers evaluate workout headphones the same way we evaluate most headphones, with a large focus on durability, comfort, and sound quality. We start by looking at the build material, fit, and comfort of the headphones, and try to judge their durability, waterproofing, and if they'd be comfortable to wear for hours at a time when working out. In the case of Bluetooth headphones we also consider ease of pairing, range, and battery life as important factors.
The most important element we consider is sound quality. We look at frequency response, bass, and the overall audio profile by playing audiobooks, music, streaming shows, and playing games.If they support noise cancellation, we enable the feature and see how much noise they block out in loud environments, like a crowded gym. Finally, we compare each headphone and its price to a similar competitor to help make a final judgement. All of the workout headphones we review are purchased by Lifewire; none are provided by the manufacturer.
Jason Schneider is a musician who's been working in tech media for nearly a decade. With a degree in Music Technology from Northwestern and expertise in audio equipment, he's tested almost every audio device Lifewire has profiled.
Yoona Wagener is an experienced tech journalist with a background in content and technical writing. She is an expert in home theatre, audio, and entertainment gear, and is passionate about simplifying complex topics and making them accessible to everyone.
Comfort - It’s possible you’ll be using your workout headphones for up to a couple of hours a day. If you go for an in-ear style, make sure they are comfortable and the ear tips fit securely in your ears. For other styles, ensure that they will stay put, even during vigorous activity.
Waterproof - One important factor in which pair of headphones you’ll buy is the kind of workout you’ll be doing. If you’re a runner, you may want waterproof headphones that will last through a rain shower. Or you may just want a water-resistant pair that can stand up to sweat.
Price - Like any other piece of technology, you can spend a lot of money on headphones, so make sure you know what features are important to you. If you’re an audiophile, you may be willing to pay more for better sound quality. Alternatively, having fully waterproof headphones for swimming might be worth a splurge.