Getting your cardio in is an essential part of a balanced workout schedule, and nothing gets the heart rate up like your inspirational jogging playlist. Unfortunately, many of us are stuck with headphones and earbuds that aren’t ideal for ligament locomotion, which can result in four-letter words screamed in public when your buds drop out of ears for the 18th time that day.
Fortunately, there are a number of audio companies that specialize in headphones and earbuds for activities such as running and swimming. These are headphones and earbuds that are built from the ground up with fitness-heavy lifestyles in mind, with features like fit, comfort, and transparent listening heavily prioritized. And we here at know what goes into a solid pair of headphones, so we’ve put together this roundup of the best headphones and earbuds for running that you can buy right now.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds (2nd Gen)
- Easy setup
- New Find with Tile feature
- Excellent battery life
- IP66 rating
- Updated JLab app
- Average call quality
- Mediocre ANC
JLabs has been a reliable option for affordable sports earbuds that still provide plenty of jogger-friendly features, but these, the second generation of the company’s tried-and-tested Epic Air Sport ANC earbuds, continue to impress, maintaining their top spot on our list of the best running earbuds.
Taking an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach, the second-gen of the Sport ANCs only have a few notable differences. They’re affordable at under $100, and JLab’s active noise cancellation (ANC) still features three modes — ANC On, ANC Off, and Be Aware, a transparency mode that allows more ambient noise so you can pay attention to surroundings while you jog.
The JLab Air ANC app has been rebranded as the JLab Sound app, and still gives you a wide range of customization with the Epic Air Sport’s ANC, with sliders to set the level of noise cancellation and outside sound to perfectly suit your preferences. The app also allows for three EQ presets for further sound customization, whether you’re running jam is metal, dance hits, or podcasts. Plus, you get EQ slider controls for Bass, Mid-Range, and Treble to dial it in even more — and you can even adjust the presets to customize them as well.
Of course, the app isn’t always going to be the easiest thing to access while on a run, so the Epic Air Sport ANCs also have a range of touch controls on the earbud’s surfaces with sensors that support single- and multi-tap options to control a variety of settings, including play, pause, volume, call answer/decline, activation of Siri or Google Assistant, EQ preset change, and cycling through the buds’ ANC modes.
New for the 2nd gen is the addition of a “Find with Tile” feature that allows you to locate a lost earbud or both with the Tile app.
Another strong suit for the brand, the Epic Air Sport ANCs impresses with 70 hours of total listening time with ANC turned off and 50-plus hours with it turned on. Each bud delivers a whopping 15 hours per charge without ANC and a still-impressive 11 hours with.
If you’re worried about fit, the Epic Air Sport ANC 2nd gen come with a selection of both gel and foam tips to experiment with so you can find the right option for avoiding slippage, and the aforementioned ear hooks keep the earbuds firmly in place during even the most rigorous runs and workouts. The IP66 resistance rating is also well-suited for outdoor workouts, protecting the earbuds from sweat and dust no matter where you’re at.
It’s worth noting that the first generation of the Epic Air Sport ANCs are nearly identical and are still available if you want to save a few bucks.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Earbuds (2nd Gen)
JBL Reflect Aero TWS
- Excellent IP68 resistance
- Some of the best ANC we’ve seen
- Eight-hour battery life
- The compact design may not be a secure fit for everyone
Our previous JBL pick, the Reflect Flow Pro, was an excellent set of earbuds with some of the best noise-cancellation features that we’ve come across, in a new compact design that could even withstand swims in saltwater. Our current pick, the Reflect Aero TWS, has many of the same advantages but at a notably lower cost, allowing you to save some money while still picking up a remarkable pair of sports earbuds.
The adaptive noise canceling uses four mics with Smart Ambient technology to constantly monitor your current environment, and it’s very good at its job. There’s another set of beamforming mics to help eliminate additional noise if you are taking calls and want to be heard. And that remarkable IP68 resistance rating means the earbuds are dustproof and can go up to 5 feet in any kind of water (although we note that’s a great way to lose an earbud).
The design is made to be minimal, with small tips and compact fins for stability, but inside, the 6.8mm drivers are doing serious audio work, so you won’t be skimping on sound quality. The eight-hour battery life is also great to see, and the case holds another two charges in reserve. These are incredibly well-rounded earbuds that make a particularly good pick if you play a lot by the ocean or on dusty trails.
Beats Powerbeats Pro
- Class-leading battery life
- Water resistant
- Secure fit, sleek design
- Bold, vibrant sound
- No basic battery gauge
- Massive case
- Intermittent connection issues
iPhone users who wanted a set of truly wireless earbuds that could take full advantage of everything their smartphone could offer only had one choice until the PowerBeats Pro were launched: Apple’s own AirPods. With middling battery life, no ability to deal with sweat or lots of movement, and sound quality that impressed no one, AirPods weren’t exactly a runner’s first choice. The Beats PowerBeats Pro changed all of that.
With a gargantuan nine hours of playtime on a single charge, it’s unlikely these earbuds will need to stop for a break before you do. They’re also more than able to deal with the moisture generated by even the most vigorous workout (though you should probably shower without them), and they’ve got that classic Beats sound: punchy in all the right places, especially in the low-end.
The PowerBeats Pro offers a comfortable yet secure fit, keeping the over-the-ear clip design of the not-fully-wireless PowerBeats 3 while managing to improve on that formula. Siri can be summoned simply by calling her name (or pressing a button), and the included volume rocker switch is a huge improvement over AirPods, which lack such a feature.
These earbuds don’t offer pass-through audio from the embedded microphones, so you’ll have to be cautious when working out near traffic or other hazards, but they do have an excellent (and customizable) auto-pause feature when you remove an earbud, which at least makes stopping for a chat more convenient.
Apple’s AirPods Pro, with their IPX4 rating and pass-through audio, are an excellent alternative for iPhone users, though we think serious joggers will prefer the more secure fit of the Powerbeats Pro.
Jabra Elite 8 Active
- Great fit
- Powerful sound quality
- Solid ANC
- Spatial Sound support
Let’s not beat around the bush: we love the Jabra Elite 7 Pro. But if you’re looking for the type of wireless buds that achieve all-day comfort that runners can truly benefit from, we’ll also need to shine a light on the Jabra Elite 8 Active. Designed from the ground-up for heavy-duty exercise, the Elite 8 Active is dust, water, and sweat-proof. And thanks to Jabra’s ShakeGrip tech, you’ll be able to pop these puppies in and never think twice about whether or not they’re going to fall out.
The Elite 8 Active also supports Spatial Sound from Dolby Audio, which automatically adjusts the way sound reaches your ears, based on the position your head and neck are in. These are also great ANC earbuds that deliver top-notch sound quality with or without some kind of noise-canceling engaged. We’re also big fans of the fact that Jabra thought to include Bluetooth Multipoint for switching between more than one source device.
For those of you who decide to download the Jabra app, you’ll also be able to customize the type of ANC your Elite 8 Active employs. For runners of all types, the Elite 8 Active is a set of earbuds that shouldn’t be missed.
Anker Soundcore Sport X10
- Comfy fit and stability
- Rugged durability
- Good sound quality
- Solid ANC and ambient performance
- Great app support
- Wind can break through
- No aptX support
- No wireless charging
Anker has updated its sports-friendly line of earbuds to include a version that finally has ANC, offering impressively solid cancellation with an effective ambient mode. The dynamic acoustic system is designed to pump up the bass without interfering with other ranges, while the IPX7 rating ensures that sweat, rain, and water are no obstacle to your workout tunes.
One of our favorite features of these earbuds is the set of ear hooks, which are both quite flexible and have a 210-degree rotation. That allows you to keep adjusting the earbuds until you find the perfect spot in your ear for them to rest, then hooking them in place. Everyone’s ears are different, and if you often have trouble with earbud placement (especially when running), you may appreciate the adjustability of the Sport X10s.
Battery life on these Anker buds is also solid, with up to eight hours on a single charge and a case that can hold up to three additional charges. We also really enjoyed our time with the SoundCore app, with a 21-preset EQ to play with, an eight-band equalizer for customization, and even programs for breathing while you stretch for your workout.
Anker Soundcore Sport X10
Shokz OpenRun Pro
- Open-ear conduction design
- Durable titanium design that still manages to be comfortable
- 10-hour battery life
- Bone conduction design isn’t for everyone
“Bone conduction” headphones use vibrations on bones near your ears to transmit sound, leaving your ears free for comfort and the ability to hear ambient noises while you are out jogging. This particular model uses small tabs that rest tightly on your cheeks just beside your ears, while early versions struggled with bass and definition.
When Aftershokz became Shokz, they updated their design and created the OpenRun Pro, a better and more comfortable model than ever before, with a titanium frame to keep the headphones from slipping. The new battery lasts for up to 10 hours for music or calls and features a five-minute quick-charge option so it will be ready for your runs whenever you are.
The OpenRun Pro is also fully waterproof and sweatproof (no swimming, though). They’re also surprisingly lightweight and comfortable despite their unique design. The experience isn’t exactly like traditional headphones, but this option keeps you safe while still allowing you to enjoy any music or podcasts you want when out and active.
Jaybird Vista 2
- Fully water and dustproof
- Compact and secure fit
- Great sound quality
- Wireless charging
- Very poor call quality
- ANC struggles with wind noise
We already liked the fit (including three gel tip sizes) and performance of the first Vista earbuds, but the second generation elevates them with even more useful features. One of the most notable is the hefty IP68 durability and MIL-STD 810G that combine to make these earbuds waterproof, sweatproof, dustproof, protected against freezing, and protected against shock or impact. You don’t really have to worry about something going wrong here.
But the design is clever in other ways, too: The 6mm milled drivers offer excellent audio, plus the ability to customize some EQ profiles for your preferred sound. If you need to make calls, however, it’s best to keep it indoors. Even with the presence of what Jaybird calls WindDefense fabric and beamforming mics specifically designed to block out the wind from movement or weather, our reviewer Simon Cohen found the wind to be an issue during calls.
Controls on the Jaybird Vista 2 also are easy with a two-tap method to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and SurroundSense.
About those last two modes — the Active Noise Cancellation is great to see, but SurroundSense is one of those newer modes appearing on outdoor-oriented earbuds. It reduces cancellation features so that you can hear ambient noise in your surroundings, ideal for watching for cars or others when going for a jog. Finally, the Vista 2 earbuds also received a battery boost with a new eight-hour battery and a case that can hold up to two charges.
- Excellent fit
- Great sound quality
- Volume capped at 85 decibels
Bone-conduction headphones offer a unique alternative to traditional silicone eartips, but they tend to falter a bit when it comes to features like sound quality and noise-canceling. This is why we’re big into open-ear headphones, which tend to strike the balance between in-ear and bone-conduction tech. And as far as excellent open-ears for taking a run are concerned, we’d like to bring your attention to the Attitud EarSport.
Right off the bat, we’d like to boast about the performance band that wraps around the back of your neck. This may not be a big deal to some people, but if you’re an active runner who hates reseating your earbuds every five seconds, the maximum-strength headband adds much needed stability to any high-endurance workout. And the Attitud EarSport also sound great, too.
This is thanks to the company’s dedication to adding as much comfort to the outside of your ears as possible, while directing sound toward your ear canals (but not directly into them). This makes for detailed audio that gets capped at 85 decibels, so you also won’t have to worry about affecting your hearing in the long-run.
While some form of noise-canceling would be nice, hybrid or even regular ANC isn’t the easiest tech to work into an open-ear concept.
- Incredibly comfortable and secure
- Stay fully aware of your surroundings
- Very good call quality
- Good battery life
- Mediocre sound quality
- Not great for noisy locations
- No wireless charging
Shokz may be best known for its awesome lineup of bone-conduction headphones, but the company also produces some pretty great open-ear earbuds. We’re specifically referring to the Shokz OpenFit, which we’re glad to label as the most comfortable earbuds we’ve ever worn. From the light fit to the impressive drivers, you’ll have no problem hearing your OpenFit buds, but you’ll also have no trouble listening to the world around you.
This is a big deal when it comes time to take a jog in the park, and thanks to air conduction tech (which negates direct contact with the ear canal), you’ll have no trouble hearing emergency vehicles, bikers, and other passersby. And as for sound quality, the OpenFit deliver decent performance, although audiophiles or more discerning listeners may want to look elsewhere for the types of running headphones that prioritize decibel-to-decibel delivery versus a cozy design.
Beats Fit Pro
- Comfortable, secure fit
- Excellent ANC
- Excellent transparency
- Very good sound quality
- Fun extras (head-tracking)
- No wireless charging
- Limited contol settings
- No EQ settings
Apple headphones continues to dominate, and we just can’t help but call attention to the amazing Beats Fit Pro. For those unaware, Apple and Beats are technically one entity, even though the former produces its own first-party over-ear and in-ear products. But in the case of the latter, the Fit Pro use a unique wingtip design that anchors and angles the buds directly toward your eardrums, making for phenomenal sound without having to make constant adjustments when running.
As far as sound quality goes, the Beats Fit Pro are terrific to say the least. From one musical genre to the next, the Fit Pro delivers an encompassing soundstage that will make all your favorite songs sound better than ever, especially while hitting the pavement. The ANC and transparency modes are exceptional, too. With ANC engaged, you’ll be able to cut down on droning environmental noise that might normally intrude on your listening experience. And with transparency engaged, you’ll be able to amplify whatever noises you’re near, as well as your own voice when you’re making a phone call.
We also love the fact that the Beats Fit Pro support Spatial Audio listening for all the Dolby Atmos die-hards out there, and that first-party Apple features like Find My can be found on this set of wireless earbuds, too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do running headphones have built-in storage?
Not usually. Most modern running headphones stream music from your phone or smartwatch via Bluetooth. Meany headphones suitable for swimming will have built-in storage though.
Should I buy wired or wireless headphones?
If you’re planning on being active, it’s usually best to get wireless headphones, as there are no cables to get in your way. Keep in mind that true wireless earbud models also remove the cable connecting the earbuds together. But that can also make it easier for earbuds to slip out during exercise. Some models help solve this problem with ear hooks or bands.
Should I buy waterproof headphones?
Not everybody needs waterproof headphones, although many people appreciate the assurance they provide. Runners’ headphones often end up covered in sweat and also tend to be exposed to the elements, such as rain. Waterproof headphones offer the most protection against moisture, but water-resistant ones will at least offer some protection.
Water resistance is a ratable feature on headphones, and it appears as an IP rating on the product details. Before you purchase anything, make sure to figure out what these IP ratings mean (and what rating you should aim for). If you need more resources, consider checking out our best headphones for swimming, since these should do the trick for runners, too.
Do running headphones offer a heart rate monitor?
While some headphones offer heart rate monitors, they are nowhere near as accurate as conventional heart rate monitors that you would strap to your chest or wrist. If you want the most precise heart rate reading, we would still recommend relying on chest-based monitors or even a smartwatch.
How do I find running headphones that fit my ear?
Headphones don’t have to envelop your entire ear to ensure they will stay on, and earbuds often come with multiple tip sizes to try on. Most modern running headphones come with various ear tips and ear fins to suit ears of all sizes. Still, we recommend trying on the headphones you plan to buy whenever possible since an in-person fitting is the best way to ensure a good, comfortable fit.