My Hunt For the Best Running Earbuds
To alleviate boredom on long runs, I knew it was time to invest in some running earphones. Earlier this year, I started training for an Ironman event to be completed in 2022. Unfortunately, one huge part of that was something I definitely wasn’t a big fan of. Running.
I wouldn’t say I liked the running part of triathlon training; at 6’3 and 220lbs, I find it hard on my body, especially over long distances. However, having got into podcasts and audiobooks in a big way over the past couple of years, I now had something that would take my mind off of pounding the pavement for hours on end.
One issue that had arisen was that running for upwards of 4 hours each day meant that I routinely destroyed my earphones. Seriously in the first half of this year, I went through 4 sets. It was time to stop using whatever was near and sniff out the best earphones for running. earbuds that would last, fit securely, and sound good.
Our Top Reccommendations
My Requirements For Running Earphones
I know my situation is a little different given that I live in a hot climate country (Cyprus) and I run long periods daily instead of the odd 30-60 minute run a few times a week like most sane people. But what that allows me to do is review a whole bunch more headphones and earphones. I have time to test a lot of models and that’s exactly what I did.
So since June I have switched it up once every week and narrowed it down to the 10 best earphones. Then continued to review those earbuds in a cycle. These earbuds have all spent a lot of time under stress, dealing with typical snagging and pulling, and dealing with moisture (humidity and sweat), and all were subjected to abuse constantly.
What I needed in a set of earphones and headphones for running was:
- Something that would be highly resistant to sweat, preferably with an IPX rating.
- An earphone that would be rugged enough to withstand constant continued abuse.
- An earphone that has some form of control (remote) for switching tracks.
- Wireless running earbuds must have a good battery life
- Comfortable fit and a tight seal so they don’t move around or dislodge when moving
- Low microphonics (cable noise)
Running Earbuds vs. Running Earphones
I know many people prefer running earbuds as opposed to running earphones (in-ear) due to being able to hear what is going on around them. Whilst I agree that spatial awareness is important if running in a built environment, I still prefer to be isolated from distractions. I like to block out the world and be able to get on with my runs.
If you run in an urban environment where there is a lot of traffic, running earbuds might be the best choice and we include those in the recommendations below. For me, comfort was the biggest problem when using earbuds vs. earphones when running. They just never felt secure enough.
For some people, earbuds will be perfect, but I found them to be more hindered and less enjoyable to use over long runs.
Why Not Running Headphones
Come on now. The only reason I am going to include this section is that I know it will get asked in the comments section. Simply put, running with headphones is stupid, impracticable, and cumbersome. I have no idea how those folks at my gym get on the treadmill and run with a full-size set of Beats headphones. Even smaller models specifically designed for running seem like a terrible idea. Nope, serious runners use earphones for running.
If you do insist thought here are my top 3 headphones that do work well for running:
This list is in no particular order
We do not order our lists as this would make to list of the best running earbuds overly subjective to my own needs. Read on below to see why each earphone made the top 10 and make your own needs based on budget and requirements. Of course, if you want any further questions answered, please just drop me a comment in the section below this article.
The Tested Top 10 Best Earphones for Running for 2021
Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro
One of my surprise favorites for a set of running headphones this year has to be the terribly named (as usual) Sony MDR-AS800AP. You want to go for the wired version and not the Bluetooth version as you get many cool features for the money.
The earphones can thankfully be worn with or without the ear catch loops, so they become less fiddly to use when not working out. They are splash and sweat resistant (IPX4 rated), perfect for keeping them in working order during lengthy runs.
They include a 1 button inline remote for pause and play and a microphone for taking calls. The ear tips are Sony’s legendary hybrid tips and do a great job keeping the 800AP locked in place.
Sound-wise they are an energetic and fun-sounding earphone with lots of warmth and an elevated bass, which works well for getting the adrenaline pumping when you are struggling.
Bose Sports Buds
A couple of years back, we reviewed the Brainwavz S1 and declared them the budget gym earphone category’s kings. They were incredibly well made with a strong housing, a robust cable, and super thick strain reliefs. A lot of what made this one of the best headphones for the gym is the same thing that makes them one of the best earbuds for running.
The sound is punchy and clear with a deep and hard-hitting low end that is sure to get the blood pumping, and the over-ear cable design means that they are perfect for eliminating annoying cable noise when on the move.
These are one of our longest and hardest tested gym earphones and running, and they are still going strong almost 2 years down the road. When you consider that you can pick them up for under $40, they look like a hell of a bargain to us.
Apple Airpods Pro
One of the most comfortable earphones on the test has to be the Bose SoundSport earphones. Usually, we associate bose headphones as being pricey offerings, but the SoundSport costs less than $150, and that makes them a bargain.
The earphones are both sweat and weather-resistant, meaning they should cope with both your own sweat and anything the elements throw at you. When I used them whilst back on holiday in Scotland, I got rained on almost every day for 2 weeks straight, and they still sounded as good as ever.
The custom stay-hear tips did wonders at keeping the earphones locked in place every during sprints and agility drills and without wires to worry about (these loop behind the neck). They were a very hassle-free set of earbuds to use.
Sound is very natural, and Bose bucks the trend in the running earphone category by tuning the Soundsport to be a more accurate representation of the music than others on this list. Treble is rather crisp and bass just slightly enhanced, making the perfect companion into rock and pop music.
Apple Airpods Generation 3
There’s not much more I can say about the RHA T10i that I haven’t said numerous times before. There is so much on offer that makes these the perfect earphones for working out.
First up, the bass on these earbuds will melt your face off. It’s not just a thump. It’s a deep and powerful sub-bass that rattles as deep as any in-ear headphones on the market. The sound overall is ultra fun and really gets you energized for when times get tough.
Build quality is second to none as the T10i comes with the companies patent injection-molded aluminum earbuds, a nice thick cable, a great springboard strain relief system, and rugged knurled aluminum jack/splitter points. If earphones could be tanks, you would find the RHA on the front line leading the battle charge.
Other than that, the RHA T10i comes with adjustable filter tips, which allow you to alter the sound to your own preference. Want a little more top-end? No problem, install the treble filter. Little more emphasis on vocals? Midrange filter it is. Want your face to melt off and your eardrums to implode? Stick on the enhanced bass unit.
Click here to read our full and in-depth review of the RHA t10i.
Jabra elite active 75t
We just got finished giving the Alpha & Delta D2M a full review, and for the price, it’s tough to complain. Specifically designed to be a runner’s earphone, the D2M costs less than $40 yet still manages to offer most of the features you find on earphones more than 4 times the price.
The D2M has a rugged soft plastic build with strong cables and an easy-to-use inline remote and microphone. The strain reliefs were exquisite (something that is traditionally a weak point on sports earphones), and the whole headphone is again sweat resistant.
The sound is average and in line with other earphones under $50, but we like that it is warm and the bass is enhanced. It’s not the fastest sounding of all the earbuds on this list, but as a bang-for-buck offering, it is certainly hard to beat.
The WF-1000XM4 are the best earbuds on the market. Not just for running but in terms of sound, price, performance, and styling they hit every mark. Therefore it’s probably not surprising they also work well as a set of running earbuds.
What makes them good at this? Well of course they are water and sweat-resistant. They have some of the best quality noise cancelation technology on the planet but it can be switched to an ambient mode via the app when entering built-up environments. The battery life is 8 hours from full at 70% volume levels and they can be charged multiple times from the included carry case. Oh and get this, 5 mins on quick charge will get you a full 1-hour extra playback. Stunning.
This is a do-it earphone. It’s the class leader in our best true wireless earphone test as well as our best noise-canceling earbuds list. Its a premium IEM with the price tag to match but if you are looking for an all-rounder that can work for travel, play and sport there is not better than the might Sony WF-1000XM4.
Plantronics Backbeat Fit 3100
The Plantronics Backbeat Fit is my personal runner-up in this year’s best earbuds for running list. These are seriously good true wireless earphones that are easy to use. I love the secure fit of them with the comfortable and durable hooks going over the top of my ears. This was the same thing I liked about the Beats model above because it feels so secure whilst running fast.
They let in just enough ambient sound that I felt confident when running through crowds and urban environments yet at the same time provide enough sound dampening to allow you to enjoy your music.
Of course, the backbeat is waterproof as they should be and the only reason I didn’t choose them as my winners were the battery life was around 5 hours in my testing which I felt was short of the average. Still, the price on the 3100 is so low and they are so durable they are impossible to ignore, and if you don’t have runs and cycles lasting 4 hours you can still get away with charging every other day.
Whilst we recommend the XM4 earbuds above as a premium everyday earphone that can be used by runners the WF-SP800N is a fully sports focussed model. Sony just makes great earphones and this one is no different.
The WF-SP800N has a really secure fit system allowing you to go cable-free with confidence. They also have a sweat and dust rating of IPX55, which makes them not fully submergible but more than suitable for our needs. They also have a very fun bassy sound and include noise cancelation technology that works fairly well for earbuds at this price.
Battery life was very good but be warned it does vary. With ANC turned on we got 8 hours of running in between charges and with the ANC off that bumps up to 12.5. Luckily they also have a fast charge function which I love. Just 10 minutes of charging will give you a full hour of music playback at moderate volumes.
Jaybird Vista True Wireless
These Jaybird earphones are specifically designed for sport and running was a big priority in their design brief. This is the companies most advanced sports model and it’s a heavy hitter that offers many features the big boys don’t.
It’s one of the smallest true wireless earphones on the test and despite that, it still had a big hard-hitting sound with deep rumbly bass. Despite that, the rest of our music sounded clean and clear and this was especially noticeable when listening to voices in podcasts.
Build quality was highly impressive and not only are they IPX7 waterproof and sweatproof but they are also shockproof. If you drop the Vista then you shouldn’t have a problem picking them up and going.
Battery life was in the middle of the pack but it won our praise because of the rugged design elements on the shell and a seriously good ear hook system that kept them firmly locked in our ears. One other point to mention is that it tied the Sony XM4 we list above for the strength of the signal and even when meters away from our source device we didn’t experience any dropouts.
Bone conduction headphones are perfect for runners because by. transmitting the sound through your bones as opposed to through your ears they allow you to have full spatial awareness. That makes them great for running or cycling in built-up areas as you can still hear cars and people around you.
Aftershokz are leaders in the space and the new Aeropex is their most advanced model yet with even more refined sound and harder hitting bass to fuel your runs. The headphones are wireless via Bluetooth 5.0 and will last for 8 hours between charges.
I also like that they are fully waterproof with an IPX67 rating. During the test they proved themselves to be extremely durable and fun to use. In the end, you would have a hard time telling me they weren’t brand new.