When you’re out on the road, you want some good music to get you rolling over the hardest miles. However, you don’t need in-ear earbuds to listen to your fitness playlist while running—over-ear headphones are a good idea if you want hardware that won’t budge, move, or run out of battery life while you’re just getting into your stride.
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The best running headphones provide convenience, durability, and a secure fit that is suitable for runners of all levels. Get yourself a dependable wireless pair that provides sufficiently high-quality audio and noise cancellation to keep you entertained even when you’re not on the drive.
There are several considerations to consider when selecting the right pair of running headphones for you, but in general, they should be lightweight, have a stable but supportive fit, and be resistant to sweat and the elements. Here’s what else you might be aware of.
Since they fit so well in the ear, earbuds are a common exercise option, but the best on-ear and over-ear headphones can be just as safe for running. Consider how long you want to run for, as this will help you narrow down your options even more. Choose over-ear headphones if you want to be fully submerged in sound throughout your workout (they also tend to slip less than on-ear headphones too).
Since you don’t want your headphones to die in the middle of a race, battery life is essential. Though completely wireless earbuds have a shorter battery life (typically five hours), the best wireless over-ear and in-ear headphones can last up to 70 hours on a single charge. This also ensures less charging time, allowing you to go on several runs or use your headphones without having to recharge.
Sweating is unavoidable after a race, and if you run indoors, there’s still the risk of a stray rainstorm or other inclement weather. The IPX value of a headphone indicates how much dust and moisture it can withstand without being compromised. Look for headphones with an IPX4 level or higher, which means they’re dustproof, sweatproof, and water-resistant.
Choose a pair of wireless headphones that fit over Bluetooth and ensure a good link to your phone no matter how often you move to avoid being interrupted by twisted wires during your workout.
Since music can be the greatest motivator to keep going on your workout, you definitely want your headphones to produce high-quality performance. Both of our selections have rich, complete audio that you will appreciate long after the race is over. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones have excellent performance and superior noise cancellation, but all of the additional features make them the most portable running headphones. They’re both super lightweight and convenient, with a grippy headband that remains in place.
We’ve tested some Sony headphones, including their previous version, the WH-1000XM3, which topped our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones last year. They capture ambient noise and automatically adapt it to the surroundings using two microphones on each earcup. But they have stepped up their music game, with a “Digital Sound Enhancement Engine” that instantly upscales digital files for more pristine listening, which we’ve found to be crisp and well-balanced regardless of genre. During a sprint, you can also use the “Fast Attention” function to lower the volume by placing your hand over the ear cup. It links to Alexa or Google, allowing you to play music, check the weather, and do other things hands-free. Reaching for your phone after a workout can be distracting, but these are all perfect features for exercising or working out.
Despite their small size, one disadvantage is that these headphones only have a battery life of up to 30 hours per charge. This is already on the high side, but not by as much as those in this group. If you’re desperate for a run and need to power up fast, they do allow for a 10-minute charge for five hours of playback. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 have many of the hands-free capabilities you’d expect in a decent pair of running headphones, but their noise cancellation and audio efficiency elevate them to fantastic headphones overall.
Though we love Jabra’s top earbuds for racing, they also have some fairly good budget-friendly headphones with a lightweight build, long battery life, and adjustable sound that runners can appreciate. If headphone earcups leave you sore when you’re still in the middle of a sprint, look no further—these Jabras have soft and moldable memory foam cushions to guarantee exceptional comfort and fit. They’re still surprisingly thin in comparison to bulkier headphones in this category, weighing just 5.64 ounces and being rain-resistant.
According to Jabra, these portable headphones can last up to 50 hours on a single charge and can be used for 10 hours at a time on a 15-minute charge, meaning you’re never more than a few minutes away from high-quality audio. Speaking of music, headphones with adjustable sound are only now becoming more popular, but Jabra’s can fine-tune how you hear your tunes with a simple hearing test via Jabra’s MySound software on your phone. And if you don’t like the listening profile it provides, the audio output with 40mm drivers is excellent, even without the equaliser.
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