No matter how much you love it, running is exhausting which is why we compiled this list of the best running earbuds. Sweat-resistance, a comfortable fit, and reliable connection quality are the most important factors to look out for. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Now, lace up those shoes, slather on that deodorant, and get running.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on January 21, 2020, to account for price changes.
The best running earbuds are the Bose SoundSport Free
The Bose SoundSport Free true wireless made controversial waves when first unveiled for its bulky build and seemingly dubious fit. However, upon testing, we found that the StayHear+ ear tips perform adequately when running and weight-lifting. Unfortunately, these earbuds don’t include an official IP rating, but they are sweat-resistant due to a water-repellent mesh embedded in the ports.
Again, these are effective headphones for running, because they actually stay in despite their size. And the integrated playback and volume controls are easy to operate blindly due to the button separation. Battery life is better than average and clocks in at 4.58 hours on a single charge, and the charging case provides an added 10 hours of playback time. What’s’ more connectivity stutters rarely occur and if you lose the earbuds, you can use the Bose app to locate them. For runners who want the flexibility to comfortably use their earbuds in the gym and on the trail, the SoundSport Free is a great pick with a surprisingly bass-heavy sound.
Related: Best Bose headphones
What you should know about the best running earbuds
Running earbuds are subjected to a lot more abuse than our beloved desktop setups, so you’re going to need a pair of ‘buds that can withstand a bit of roughhousing. If you have time, make sure to read our in-depth feature on what makes good running headphones and how music can improve workout performance.
If you want the best sound quality and most comfortable experience, a proper fit is crucial. You could have the best earbuds in the world, but if they don’t stay in your ears, they’re worthless. If the provided ear tips aren’t working, look into third-party options. Then again, if you’re running outside, be sure to get a pair of earbuds with safety features like Ambient Aware mode or specially designed ear tips that allow the ingress of external noise. While audio quality will be degraded, it’s worth it to remain aware of your surroundings.
What’s an IP rating?
IP ratings indicate how water-resistant a product is, and the “X” in something like IPX4 is just a placeholder for a dust protection rating. If you get something that’s IPX7-certified, it can withstand full submersion for up to 30 minutes. However, this doesn’t automatically make something a pair of swimming earbuds. In order to listen to music underwater, you’ll need a pair of earbuds with on-board storage.
|IPX1||✓||Dripping water (1 mm/min)
Limit: vertical drips only
|IPX2||✓||Dripping water (3 mm/min)
Limit: Device max tilt of 15° from drips
Limit: Device max tilt of 60° from sprays
|IPX5||✓||Water jets (12.5 L/min)
Example: Squirt guns
|IPX6||✓||Strong water jets (100 L/min)
Example: Powerful water guns
Limit: 1 m. for 30 min
Limit: 3 m. for 30 min
True wireless connection strength is improving
There’s still plenty more room for advancement, though. Compared to its standard wireless alternative, true wireless connectivity still isn’t up to snuff. Although Qualcomm’s True Wireless Stereo Plus technology has been available for nearly two years, yet its expense has severely limited its implementation. Fortunately, we’ll see some exciting changes in Bluetooth coming down the pipes soon.
If you want heart rate monitor features, you have fewer options
Quantifying one’s life is all the rage, and heart rate monitor earbuds are a niche category with just a handful of viable options. It’s hard to pack in all those sensitive components into earbud housings, and if you’re getting a pair of total wireless heart rate monitor earbuds, they’re bound to be bulky.
That said, Bose has a popular pair: the Bose SoundSport Pulse Wireless, which are IPX4-rated and use the same StayHear+ tips as the other SoundSport models. Battery life is relatively short; you’re afforded just five hours on a single charge, but most of us don’t exceed 60-minute workouts anyway. Firmware updates are available via Bose’s free app.
Adjust the sound with the Jaybird Vista
As with Jaybird’s other earbuds, you can make EQ adjustments to the Vista earbuds via the MySound app. It allows you to save a sound profile directly to the earbuds, so you don’t have to re-create your preferred settings when switching devices. This is great for going from listening on your laptop to listening from your phone while running. You can also apply other users’ sound profiles, which is a neat way of making an otherwise run-of-the-mill app a social one.
Generally speaking, the Jaybird Vista retain many of our favorite features from the Jaybird Run, including IPX7 certification. There’s a new and improved JBS1 chipset, which remedies any connection issues that presented themselves with the Run earbuds. We didn’t experience any connectivity drops or stutters within the 10-meter wireless range while testing. Although things can get uncomfortable after prolonged periods of wear, these earbuds offer a stable fit with the pre-installed silicone ear tips. They’re stylish enough that you can even wear them on your morning commute or through the office.
Battery life is fine for true wireless earbuds: we squeezed out 5 hours, 37 minutes from a single charge. Plus, the earbuds and case support quick charging: five minutes of charging grants one hour of listening, the perfect amount of time for a typical workout. No matter where you go, the Vista can accompany you since the case features a braided loop. While these aren’t the most comfortable earbuds, they do have some great features like button reassignment. For ~$180, they’re worth taking out on the trails.
Cut the cord with the versatile Jabra Elite 65t
If you like the Bose SoundSport Free but need something a bit slimmer and with better battery life, the Jabra Elite 65t is an appropriate option. These IP55-rated earbuds are dust and sweat-resistant and include one-touch access to your virtual assistant. So if you’re running outside and need to know when the sun sets, just ask Siri.
What’s more, the Elite 65t has excellent battery life. Our objective battery testing yielded 5.85 hours of constant playback at 75dB(SPL). On top of that, the charging case adds two full charging cycles before needing to be topped up. Unfortunately, the product’s main downfall is its sound quality. The drivers can’t produce that bump that we’re used to hearing in the low-end, but this is also what makes the Jabra Elite 65t so versatile. Sure, they’re lacking in the bass department, but that makes the earbuds better for everyday listening.
With the Jabra Elite 65t you can use the Jabra Sound+ app to EQ your music like the Jaybird Vista. One of the most important features for outdoor runners is the ability to adjust how much environmental noise can permeate the earbuds. This allows you to be aware of your surroundings while jogging, making the Jabra Elite 65t some of the best running earbuds. Plus, you can choose your voice assistant and alter how much ambient noise can permeate the earbuds.
The Creative Outlier One costs just $24
These are the best bang for your buck when it comes to running headphones. For less than $30, you get IPX4 earbuds, plenty of wing and ear tips, and 9.4 hours of constant playback according to our objective testing. On top of all of that, these earbuds feel more premium than their price lets on. Unfortunately, the in-line mic leaves a lot to be desired, but who’s going to take a phone call while running anyway?
While Adam had these for our in-depth review, he noted how impressed he was with the isolation. This is great for blocking out the pounding of your feet on the treadmill, but again, if you’re going to be outside, listen with caution and scroll down to our final pick. If you frequently skip songs mid-run, then you may want to get something with a slimmer in-line control module. This one is unusually bulky and cheapens the feel of the model’s build. That said, considering how affordable the Creative Outlier One is, it’s easy to forgive. If you want the true wireless version of these ‘buds, look into the Creative Outlier Air.
Have an iPhone? Runaway with the Beats Powerbeats Pro
Beats gets a heck of a lot right with its debut true wireless earbuds. These are IPX4 sweat-resistant and feature a sleek design. It uses the same H1 chip as the Apple AirPods, so you benefit from greater power efficiency (aka longer battery life) and voice-activated access to Siri. It also makes pairing and auto-connecting to iPhones a breeze.
Many true wireless earbuds suffer from terribly short battery life, but that’s not the case here. No, the Powerbeats Pro defy the rest with its 10-plus hour battery life. The charging case is pretty big and charges via Lightning cable, generally not favorable qualities. However, those are the two biggest drawbacks of the earbuds. Otherwise, the fit is excellent, sound quality is superb for what they are, and the official IP rating assuages any potential durability concerns. We have no problem recommending these: they’re that good.
If you don’t exercise often, consider the Apple AirPods Pro
Alternatively, if you seldom run but still want a great pair of iPhone earbuds that can withstand your sweaty days, consider the Apple AirPods Pro. These noise canceling true wireless earbuds are IPX4-rated and securely fit to the ear, thanks to the angled nozzles. Battery life isn’t nearly as good as the Powerbeats Pro, a consequence of demanding ANC technology. Apple kept the H1 chip in the new AirPods Pro and redesigned the on-board touch controls, so now they’re registered by squeezing either earpod stem.
Who should buy the best running earbuds?
Well, if the title of this list weren’t enough of a giveaway, these earbuds are for runners. Whether you’re an ultramarathoner or a couch-to-5K runner, there’s a pick on here for you. But, if you aren’t a runner, stick around a while. Our top five picks are versatile and many use them for daily listening too. Plus, the water-resistance and IP-certifications make these earbuds impervious to splashes and spills.
- Jaybird X4: Jaybird makes great running earbuds and the wireless X4 are perfect for accompanying you on the trail or treadmill. The proprietary wing tips comfortably keep the earbuds in place and the IPX7 rating denotes waterproof properties.
- Jaybird Tarah: Need the Jaybird X4 but restricted by your budget? Get the Tarah instead; these earbuds provide nearly all the same functionality of the X4 with the exception of a shorter battery life.
- BeatsX: These earbuds are sleek and work seamlessly with iPhones. We even have a full comparison of the Apple AirPods, BeatsX, and Beats by Dre Power Beats.
- Fitbit Flyer: If you’re already using a Fitbit, you might as well grab a pair of headphones that are compatible with it.
- Jabra Elite Sport Wireless: These are the predecessor to the Jabra Elite 65t, the best true wireless earbuds, so you know that the Sport Wireless is good.
- JBL Endurance Peak: If you’ve been wondering what your next pair of workout earbuds should be and don’t want to shell out $200 for Bose’s bulky true wireless solution, the JBL Endurance Peak is a great alternative.
- Jabra Elite Active 45e: These let you hear your surroundings at all times without activating Ambient Aware mode because of how the ear tips are shaped. The ear hooks keep the fit secure despite the bulky housings.
- JLab JBuds Air Sport: These are an affordable pair of running earbuds. They’re IP66-rated, include advanced touch controls, and the ear hook design keeps them stable. For a more versatile pair of earbuds with a more compact design, look at the JLab JBuds Air Icon.
- Jlab Epic Air Sport: While these are a bit pricier than the above JLab model, they offer a more secure, comfortable fit because of the well-constructed silicone ear hooks. The earbuds also have a standalone battery life of nearly 10 hours.
Related: Best true wireless earbuds
How we tested the best running earbuds
We take a dummy head with a mic inserted between the ears to test things like frequency response, isolation, and battery life. If you have the desire and time, you can read all about our testing methodology here. True, our testing is kept simple, but we focus on the key areas of concern for wireless earbud users. Additionally, bear in mind that battery life will fluctuate depending on the volume levels you’re listening at. And, as always, if you need to improve isolation you should invest in third-party ear tips.
Of course, they were also used outside of a lab environment for actual running. I’ve logged miles upon miles in the name of headphone testing for SoundGuys, and each pair of running earbuds listed is durable enough to withstand my obscene perspiration habits. Well, that, and they’re all equipped with a sweat-resistant nano-coating or received an official IP rating.
Why you should trust us
We’ve spent countless hours reviewing audio products and Adam, Chris, and Lily each have years of experience when it comes to reviewing consumer audio products. We make sure to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of audio products and know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
At the end of the day, all we want is for you to enjoy your purchase and, in the case of running earbuds, be able to exercise along with your favorite tunes. None of us SoundGuys are allowed to benefit from directing your eyes to one product over another. Granted, this site does make money from referral links, we writers are compensated on our work even if no one clicks the “buy” icon at the bottom of the screen. The SoundGuys ethics policy is available here.
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