The Best Running Headphones for 2021

A lot of runners will tell you that they can’t go on their morning jog or nighttime trek without a pair of reliable running headphones. Not every pair of earbuds are suitable for running. Wired headphones, for instance, might become a nuisance after a few minutes. 

Our top recommendation has to be the third-generation wireless headphones, but we’ve got a few more picks for you as well.

Further reading

Our team went the distance on this roundup, merging the expert opinions of our combined 50-plus years of audio industry experience with our serious fitness bench depth to finally land on our winning headphones. We’re extremely confident that the third-gen JLab Epic Air Sport are the best running headphones for most people, but we’ve also assembled a list of alternatives in case they’re not right for you. Each of these options has specific strengths, so consider your needs and decide accordingly. The selections below are the best headphones for running but also kick ass for general fitness, too.

The best running headphones at a glance:

The best running headphones: JLab Epic Air Sport

Why you should buy them: With a truly world-class 10 hours of battery life, total sweat protection, and sound quality that will inject new energy into your workouts, the JLab Epic Air Sport are epic indeed.

Who they’re for: Those who want it all — great battery life, comfort, sound quality, and sweat-proofing, at a price that won’t force you to cancel your gym membership.

Why we picked the JLab Epic Air Sport:

Is it possible to buy true wireless earbuds that deliver great sound, great comfort, battery life that is more than capable of lasting a full day, and sweat-proofing that withstand the most strenuous of workouts, all without spending upwards of $250? Even as recently as May, the answer would have been “no,” but things have changed, thanks to the latest version of JLab’s Epic Air Sport.

These true wireless earbuds seem to do the impossible: They offer up a no-compromises truly wireless audio experience for a price most people can afford. Their 10-hour battery life (70 hours if you include the juice in the portable charging case) is astounding, and even (ahem) beats the Beats Powerbeats Pro, the previous record-holder for endurance. Though not quite as hi-fidelity as the Powerbeats Pro, the Epic Air Sport’s built-in, app-free EQ adjustments will help most people find a sound signature that fits their preferred music genres. You can control volume, play/pause, track forward/back, EQ, voice-assistant access, and even “be aware” mode which pipes in outside sounds — all with a few taps on the sides of the earpieces.

With a protection rating of IP66, the JLab Epic Air Sport will be immune to any dust or water that comes their way, so long as you don’t take ‘em for a swim — making them among the most rugged on this list. They fit well and they stay in place during running workouts, and did we mention the price? These earbuds are just a great all-around value.

Read our full JLab Epic Air Sport review

The best running headphones for iPhone: Beats Powerbeats Pro

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Glorious sound quality with a battery that’ll outlast even the longest runs.

Who they’re for: iPhone users who want truly wireless earbuds that give them hands-free Siri, and sweatproof performance.

Why we picked the Beats PowerBeats Pro:

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 offer 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 the 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.

Read our full Beats PowerBeats Pro review

The best budget running headphones: Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100

Why you should buy them: These headphones are built from the ground up for running, but won’t make your wallet sweat.

Who they’re for: Serious runners who want a good pair of headphones under $100.

Why we picked the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100: 

If you’re looking for a more affordable audio option that still doesn’t skimp on running-friendly features, Plantronics workout headphones are right for you. They’re waterproof and sweatproof, have a very secure fit, and include a reflective finish around the band so that you’re easier to see when jogging at night. The eartips are also designed to let in a certain amount of ambient sound so nothing easily surprises you.

A full charge of the battery will last for up to seven hours. Keep in mind with the ambient sound design and low cost, audio quality isn’t going to be perfect all the time, but it’s good enough to enjoy music while working out.

The BackBeat app is also capable of some cool feats, including the ability to tap on the BackBeat FIT 2100 to begin a preset timer and playlist without ever pulling out your phone.

The best running headphones for Android: Amazon Echo Buds

Riley Young / Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Comfortable and secure, they give you hands-free access to Alexa, making them a great jogging companion.

Who they’re for: Android users looking for a set of true wireless earbuds that have a bunch of running-friendly features for a reasonable price.

Why we picked the Amazon Echo Buds:

We don’t know for a fact that Amazon designed the Echo Buds for runners, but it sure feels that way. These compact true wireless earbuds have a variety of fit options thanks to three different ear tips and three different “wing tips” which help lock the Echo Buds securely in place.

Their IPX4 water-resistance may not be as hardy as some other models on this list, but as long as you don’t try to swim in them, they should handle even the sweatiest workouts.

But two features will make you appreciate the Echo Buds as a jogging companion: Hands-free access to Alexa so don’t have to constantly raise your hand to your head to do simple tasks like skip tracks, change the volume, answer a call, or even trigger pass-through mode when using the excellent Bose Active Noise Reduction.

These features combined with great sound quality, a five-hour battery life, and — although Amazon is currently experiencing a stock shortage until August 14 — a price tag that means you don’t need to scrimp on your next set of kicks, make the Echo Buds a fantastic choice for runners.

Read our full Amazon Echo Buds review

The best running headphones with bone conduction: AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Headphones

Why you should buy them: You want unique headphones with strong sound that still keep your ears open.

Who they’re for: People who don’t want to compromise on their running headphones and are willing to try innovative technologies.

Why we picked the AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Headphones:

“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. AfterShokz has made steady improvements to audio quality in newer models with notable improvement and less audio leakage.

The AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Headphones can last up to eight hours on a single charge, and they are fully water and sweat proof (no swimming, though). They’re also surprisingly lightweight and comfortable despite the 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.

Read our full AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Headphones review

The best running headphones with a heart rate monitor: Jabra Elite Sport

Ted Kritsonis/Digital Trends

Why you should buy them: Between fitness tracking, sound quality, and full wireless design, the Jabra Elite Sport are decked out with features that serious athletes want.

Who they’re for: Runners who want the best mix of sound, features, and durability.

Why we picked the Jabra Elite Sport:

When looking for headphones you can wear while running — or engaging in any exercise — you’re likely looking for the lightest and least cumbersome option that also sounds great. Jabra’s true wireless Elite Sport headphones are all the above and are some of the best fully wireless headphones we’ve had the pleasure of testing. They are waterproof, offer great performance, and have a flexible-yet-secure– fit that puts them a cut above most other true wireless earbuds on the market.

In terms of performance, not only do the Elite Sport sound great, the lack of a wire eliminates that annoying jostling sound you get when wearing a pair of wired headphones that tend to ruin your listening experience. The lack of wire actually allows them to stay firmly in place in your ears too, as there isn’t an annoying cable pulling on them while you run.

Jabra went an extra step in making them great for runners by putting a heart rate monitor in the right earpiece. When paired with Jabra’s Sport Life app, the headphones provide heart-rate readings during workouts — you can even add and track specific workouts for more in-depth statistics.

We’re hoping Jabra releases an update to these buds soon — we love everything about them except their 4.5-hour battery life. These days (as you can see from this list) it no longer ranks among the best. That said, if you’re laser-focused on running, it should still be plenty to get you through your workouts. Their charging case has enough juice to recharge them fully twice. To top it off, the Jabra Elite Sport are IP67 waterproof, so rainy runs, or even short swims, are a go.

Looking for deals? Check out the best Black Friday headphone deals we found, so that you can take advantage of the Black Friday sales.

Read our full Jabra Elite Sport review

Research and buying tips

Do running headphones have built-in storage?

Not usually. Most modern running headphones stream music from your phone or smartwatch via Bluetooth.

Can I use running headphones with a smartwatch?

Yes, as long as your smartwatch features Bluetooth and supports local music storage and/or streaming music apps.

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.

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 res, consider checking out our best headphones for swimming list, 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. 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.

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