The best running headphones are smaller and more affordable than ever—and have almost entirely eliminated wires—yet it’s tough to know what kind of sound you can expect from these tiny wireless earbuds before you buy.
For the sake of making useful comparisons, we segmented our test pool into three categories: Truly wireless, truly wireless with ear hooks, and neckband earbuds. Neckband means that while there’s no wire to plug the earbuds into your cellphone, there is a wire or band that joins the two earbuds to each other.
The Best Headphones for Running
- Strongest Bluetooth Connection: JBL Reflect Mini 2 Sport Headphones
- Smallest Earbuds for Running: Jaybird Vista 2 Earbuds
- Best All-Day Headphones: Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds
- Best for City Runners: Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 Wireless Earbuds
- Best Earbuds for Long Runs: Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
Truly Wireless Earbuds
These buds have neither connecting wires nor hooks that extend around your ear; you just push them in and go. This design tends to fit snug in the ear canal to stop it from loosening midrun. The compact style makes them lightweight, and their small batteries can mean shorter runtimes. However, all of our test models came with charging cases that allow you to juice them up on the go. Truly wireless earbuds also tend to be the most expensive.
Truly Wireless Earbuds With Ear Hooks
Over-ear hooks take some pressure off the ear canal to hold these buds steady. Adding a hook can improve an earbud’s fit, too, since there’s a second point of contact to hold it in place. The hook can also store antennae or a battery, helping these buds play longer than their truly wireless counterparts. They’re generally marginally cheaper than truly wireless models, but some will cost more than $200 anyway.
These earbuds are still untethered from your phone, but they use a wire or band to connect the buds and store batteries, microphones, or an antenna. If you can get past the connecting wire, you’ll enjoy better battery life (eight or more hours, compared to four from some truly wireless models) and a significantly lower price. These buds are typically smaller (because the connecting wires house some of their electronics), and their lower weight can mean less fiddling with the fit.
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How We Tested
Our test editors love running with music—so much so that we even conducted a test on whether a song’s beat can influence your running pace. We run with music nearly every day, so we’ve collectively run hundreds of miles using each of the earbuds listed on this page.
When evaluating headphones for running, we evaluate them on key categories like fit, sound quality, and battery life. Here’s how we weighed each category of runner feedback during our testing:
Fit and Ambient Sound
The best running headphones will fit comfortably, so you can think about your run and not your aching ears. That fit also affects how much outside sound is let in—there’s no ideal balance for everybody. Some runners like buds that fit deep in their ears and block all outside noise, allowing them to crank up the tunes, while others prefer lots of environmental sound from a looser fit. (The latter fit is safer for running outside and among other people.)
Because isolating you from the outside world should lend a clearer sound, we expected better sound quality from earbuds that fit snug in the ear than we did from earbuds that let in a lot of noise. It’s becoming more common, however, for the best running headphones to offer an ambient sound mode, which uses the earbud’s microphone to bring in outside noise while maintaining a tight fit.
While we test each pair of running earbuds for at least two weeks—some far longer—we don’t typically encounter quality issues. But we ask our testers to discuss how the earbuds felt—you’d expect a $200 set of buds to feel premium compared to a $40 pair. For long-term quality assessment, we checked user reviews from Amazon and other retailers to identify any persistent issues. Plus, we’ll update our findings here if any issues crop up as we continue to run with these models.
Water- and Sweat-Resistance
None of our testers had issues with water or sweat ruining their buds, but in a long-term test scenario, moisture and salt can destroy earbuds that aren’t capable of repelling it. So, we factored in each device’s IP, or Ingress Protection, rating. The rating consists of two numbers.
- The first digit indicates dust protection. The second is for water protection, (or liquid ingress) which matters most to runners.
- “X” in place of either number means there’s no data (so an “IPX” rating means dust protection wasn’t evaluated).
- A score of one or two means an earbud can withstand dripping water.
- Scores of three to six mean it will survive increasing amounts of rainfall for longer periods of time.
- The gold standard is a score of seven to nine, meaning the earbud can be submerged in varying depths of water without failing.
Connectivity and Battery Life
We also asked testers to evaluate how quickly and easily the buds connected to their phones, and how far they were able to get from their phones before the signal cut out. In addition, we recorded any mid-run connectivity issues. To assess battery life, we checked manufacturers’ claims against our testers’ experiences and noted discrepancies where they occurred.
We’ll continually update this roundup with our test impressions of the best earbuds for running. Tell us what you think about your buds in the comments.
Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds
All the features for a bargain price
Jabra has come out with newer headphones for runners, but the Elite Active 75t remains a strong contender on our list because you can usually find it on sale and because Jabra nailed the shape here. Credit that to the angular build that nests snugly in the outer ear canal, without giving you that tightly sealed, high-pressure “thud” with each footstrike. The sound quality is crisp, dynamic, and full—rivaling Apple’s AirPods Pro—but these Jabras will cost you less and offer about 90 more minutes of battery on a single charge. (However, the hear-through mode isn’t quite as impressive.) For dust and water protection, they’re rated IP57, meaning they should withstand a sandstorm or a monsoon. Competing earbuds from Apple, Bose, Jaybird, and others may offer even better sound, superior comfort, or exceptional ambient-awareness modes; but, no brand does all of those things better than the 75t.
Jaybird Vista 2 Bluetooth Headphones
These compact earbuds for running are more durable than ever
The Vista 2 lasts eight hours on a single charge—long enough to get you to the finish line of your next 26.2—and two hours longer than the original Vista. Plus, you’ll get an additional 16 hours with the charging case. This update preserved the same earbud shape, with a secure fit that seals out dust and moisture. Speaking of moisture, the sweat- and waterproof 2 improves to a rating of IP68 from the first version’s IP67. Double-tap (don’t press) to change between Active Noise Canceling (ANC) and SurroundSense (ambient noise pass-through) modes.
Beats Fit Pro Earbuds
Impressive sound quality with dynamic head tracking
If I had to pick a single set of running headphones from Apple, I’d grab the Beats Fit Pro. They take everything we love in the AirPods 3 and Beats Studio Buds, but cram it all into a tiny set of buds with an ear wing to help them stay put. No matter how sweaty I get, these buds don’t budge, and they don’t ache when you get up to an hour or 90 minutes of running. Like the Studio Buds, you still get the delightful tactile buttons that require just a light press to play/pause, two presses to skip, three to go back, and a long press to activate active noise cancellation and transparency modes or Siri. It’s easy to use and there’s no fumbling for small buttons. The coolest feature, however, is one you might have never considered—spatial audio. When you turn your head, the audio rotates so it sounds like the band is in the same spot, just as the sound would change when you swivel your head at a real concert. It’s trippy, at first, so don’t actually trip while you’re running—you get used to the feature quickly. But, it’s not just neat audio effects at play here, as the sound is remarkable for small headphones.
Bose Sport Earbud
Sleeker design with best-in-class audio
These true wireless earbuds are a leap forward from the first generation SoundSport Free. Those older buds were enormous—sticking out of your head like the neck bolts on Frankenstein’s monster. The new buds, however, barely protrude from your ears and are completely button-free (touch gestures play/pause and skip tracks, while tapping and holding activates a phone’s voice assistant). And, they still have the great design that doesn’t completely seal your ear, blending excellent audio quality with a comfortable fit. In our testing, we found the Bose Sport virtually eliminates the dreaded “thump” you get with each stride when wearing typical earbuds.
Beats Studio Buds Wireless Headphones
Tiny noise-canceling earbuds for running
The Studio Buds are insanely small. “Each bud has a flat profile that you can grab, kinda like the tip of a Phillips head screwdriver,” said deputy test editor Jeff Dengate. This makes them slightly difficult to handle if your hands are greasy with sunscreen or drenched with sweat. Fortunately, moisture won’t affect sound quality, function, or fit. “No slipping during a sweaty 5-miler on an 85-degree day,” Dengate added. The tactile buttons require a one light press to play/pause, two presses to skip, three to go back, and a long press to activate ANC/transparency mode or Siri. You’ll save a $100 opting for these instead of the brand’s Powerbeats Pro. But, the latter Pro model’s sound is “punchier and richer” and all-around better for running, according to Dengate.
Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
The omnipresent earbuds get a big refresh
Apple overhauled its open-ear design to be a version that sits between its existing base model and the noise-canceling Pro. The third generation has a shorter stem and smaller case, like the Pro, but keeps that open-ear design (the Pro has sound-isolating ear tips). It’s been a love-hate feature of the original AirPods for many runners—they just don’t stay put for some people. The housing has been redesigned here and is a little more rounded. “To me, it feels like they almost don’t fit as well as the originals when I first insert them, but then they feel more secure as I start running,” Dengate said.
The sound has improved thanks to a new driver. It’s not on par with the Pros, because you’re still getting external sounds and street noise, but the bass is deep. The inclusion of spatial audio is a cool feature that makes you feel like you’re in a room with a band—turn your head and the focus automatically shifts to your forward-facing ear. We also like that you can click the stem once to play/pause, twice to skip, and three times to go back.
NuraTrue Wireless Earbuds
Sound customized for what you’re actually able to hear
NuraTrue is a new set of totally wireless buds that attempts to bring hi-fi sound to small in-ear buds. Their trick is to personalize the audio for what you’re actually able to hear. As the sound bounces around in your ear, the buds detect what you’re hearing and make adjustments to improve the quality just for you. The effect is neat and, in our tests, we found it makes music sound a bit more present and energetic. Do you need that in a pair of running buds, though? Not really. We found the effect is not nearly as pronounced or desired when we just want to crank some AC/DC on a tempo run.
The buds themselves also look a bit ridiculous, with the big flat disc and white logo sticking out of your head. Then again, Bose launched massive buds in their first generation and we got over that issue pretty quickly because the sound quality justified the design. The Nura does, too, plus it’s sweatproof, so it could be that single pair of headphones that gets you through your entire day.
JBL Under Armour True Wireless Flash Headphones
Ergonomically secure ear tips
This collab with Under Armour has a comfy, secure fit thanks to Sport Flex Fit tips that curve into your ear. The tips stay put, but still do a stellar job at letting you hear your surroundings. (The AmbientAware mode, accessible by pressing the button on the right bud, keeps honks from cars and “on your left!” shouts from fellow runners audible.) On a single charge, the buds last for five hours. However, our tester found she didn’t have to plug in the charger for two weeks at a time, despite running for over an hour per day, six days a week. Plus, you can leave your phone at home if you have a smartwatch with music storage. Our tester didn’t miss a beat running with the Flash and her Garmin Forerunner 245 Music GPS watch.
Sony WF SP800N Truly Wireless In-Ear Headphones
Best for podcasts and audiobook listening
A Jaybird Vista tester (see above) praised the sound quality of these Sony buds, after putting them to the test on a run through Queens, NY. “Best sound quality of any earbuds I’ve tried,” he said. “I didn’t have to turn up the volume as loud to hear my audiobook.” The sweat-resistant buds have a three-dimensional curved design for a fit that won’t slip or fall out. Pressed for time? A quick 10-minute charge gives you a full hour of listening.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds
Deep sound with customized audio, via app
The WF-1000XM4 has foam tips that stay secure and sound that pumps in deep and clear. There’s also automatic mode detection (the sound automatically switches to transparency mode when you speak with someone) and you can tweak the audio settings using the app. Because these buds are quite sensitive, there were rare occasions when the buds switched to “noise-canceling off” mode, due to a sudden downpour of rain. (The IP rating translates to “water-resistant,” not fully “waterproof.”) We found the connection was also sometimes spotty, requiring a quick touch on the right bud to turn-off/turn-on for a sound reset.