Sometimes being a runner can feel like a part-time job. With work, family, and life in general competing for your time, getting out there and getting some miles in can seem daunting. That's why we recommend picking up a great pair of wireless headphones for running: pristine-sounding music or your favorite podcast can make up that last bit of motivation. And if you’re looking for the perfect electronic running buddy, you can’t go wrong with the Jabra Elite Active 75t(available at Amazon for $149.99).
The Elite Active 75t earbuds have it all: a rugged and water-resistant design, tons of features (including both transparency mode and active noise cancellation), and easy-press controls so you can keep your phone packed away and keep burning those miles. But everyone has different needs when it comes to fit and features, not to mention budget, so we've lined up plenty of other picks from our favorite earbuds so you can customize your workout. Whether you like a wrap-around design or something wholly unique, we've got a pair for you below.
Here are the best headphones for running we tested, ranked in order:
Jabra Elite Active 75t
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC
Jaybird Vista 2
JBL x Under Armour True Wireless Flash X
Jabra Elite Active 65t
Beats Powerbeats Pro
Bose Sport Open Earbuds
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The Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great set of wireless earphones for just about anyone. But they're particularly suitable for folks who spend a lot of time running or working out, thanks to their nimble design and their rugged, IP57-rated dust and water resistance, allowing you to workup a sweat and safely rinse them off after a workout.
The Elite Active 75t offer nearly every major feature you might need, from a finder function so you won't lose track of them to transparency mode, which allows you to hear the world around you so you can stay aware when running in heavy traffic. They even offer relatively potent active noise cancellation (ANC), which helps make these already versatile buds even better as you move from the street to the office.
The Elite Active 75t sound good, though their bass-first sound signature won't be for everyone, and it might take some tinkering in the Sound+ app to find an equalization setting that fits your playlist. Still, their sound performance will satisfy most casual listeners and power users alike—especially for those pounding workouts—and it's bolstered by around 7 hours of battery life per charge (or 5.5 hours with ANC) for your next half marathon. That's especially impressive given their tiny form factor.
Runners also sure to love the Elite Active 75t’s playback controls; they're easy enough to press without needing much force, yet firm enough that they rarely get pressed accidentally. Jabra’s intuitive controls and customization make for one of the best user experiences in the true wireless game.
One small point of caution: Their small size and rigid plastic design isn't a perfect fit for everyone, and they also may wear on those with smaller ears after a few hours—though that's the case with most true wireless earbuds to some degree.
All in all, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are a great pick for folks looking for superb performance, durability, and a well-rounded running mate. In addition, if you don't see the need for your earbuds to be fully submerged in water—and you want to save a few bucks—the Elite 75t earbuds are nearly identical to their cousins, but with a less-rugged IP55 dust/water-resistance rating.
Either way, you'll be getting a great pair of durable earbuds, armed for virtually any scenario (running or otherwise) that you can throw at them.
JLab's Epic Air Sport ANC may look like they're sport first and everything else a distant second, but looks can be deceiving. Not only are they great for running, but they're also well suited for anyone worried about getting a good fit, especially those who struggle with traditional earbuds. They’re IP66 rated, meaning they’ve got good dust and water resistance—but don’t submerge them.
One big reason they work great for high-impact runs is the over-ear loop design. It’s a soft silicone we never found annoying, fitting comfortably even with glasses. Some people aren’t a fan of this style, but it allows for a far more secure fit than any other option—we never once felt that they’d fall out and get lost. That makes them a great trade-out if options like the Jabra Elite 75t won't work for your ears. The loops aren’t removable (see their non-Sport sibling), but the Epic Air Sport come with multiple silicone ear tip options, plus a very comfortable foam tip.
Overall the sound is a bit bass-heavy, but JLab's app allows for extensive EQ options to help you fine-tune your preferred sound. Battery life was slightly less than claimed. We measured around 13 hours per charge to JLab’s claim of 15, but still, that’s a ton for true wireless headphones. If you enable features like noise canceling, you’ll get less battery life, but still an entire workday worth on a single charge.
Speaking of noise canceling, like most true wireless options at this accessible price point, it’s pretty mild. It doesn’t hurt to have it, of course, but if you’re looking specifically for noise canceling, you’ll want to look at the top picks on our best wireless earbuds list, or our best noise-canceling headphones list. Like the majority of newer true wireless earbuds, the Epic Air Sport ANC also offer adjustable transparency mode, which JLab calls Be Aware, letting you hear your environment in high-traffic areas.
The case, a bit larger than the others in this category, also holds a big battery, offering about 3.5 additional charges. It has an attached USB cable, which is either a strength or a weakness depending on your gear. More importantly, it has wireless charging which is a great touch.
If you’re headed out for a run or long hike, these are a fantastic pair to grab, and at this price, they're very hard to pass up.
For this list, we focus on several key pain points that consumers typically run into when buying both wireless and “true wireless” earbuds (those completely free of any wires): battery life, ease of use, controls, wireless range, sound quality, sound isolation, water and dust resistance, and comfort, among other features.
For sound quality tests, we put earbuds through some basic audio tests in our labs in Cambridge, MA to give us data on a few things such as max volume, passive and active noise attenuation (including active noise cancellation), and how well each earbud blocked outside noise. We use all the earbuds extensively, playing a wide variety of test tracks ranging from classical to hip-hop, rock, jazz, and more.
The other features are all tested in real-life situations, including sweat proofing, short- and long-term comfort, battery life, microphone quality, and connectivity over distances and through obstacles like doors and walls. For sports options, we also put them through their paces in a variety of workout situations.
Perhaps the biggest missing link in all headphone reviews is durability. It's simply impossible for us to test a single pair and come to a meaningful conclusion about how well they'll hold up over time and with regular use (and abuse). To account for this, we noted any major issues that popped up in user reviews (where available), though this didn't impact the final scoring. We also use these earbuds over a prolonged period and update their firmware when available to test out the latest features and update relevant articles and reviews with our findings.
The truth is that wireless earbuds across the board have struggled with durability, so this is a major cause of concern for us. Since some of these models are quite new, we are reserving the right to re-evaluate our conclusions as we become aware of any major issues or pain points as time goes on.
What You Should Know About Running Headphones
You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your everyday life. While they have a number of different selling points, headphones are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear (including all earbuds), on-ear, and over-ear. For this article, we'll be focused on in-ear models. These are primarily designed to be inserted into your ear canal and, apart from audiophile options or professional in-ear monitors, the vast majority will connect to your source device wirelessly.
Knowing the basic terminology of modern headphones is the best way to estimate what you need, which will guide you toward deciding on where you may want to compromise to fit your budget. Below are a few important terms to know before you shop.
Bluetooth/wireless: A pair of Bluetooth headphones will let you unplug from your source device, while a set of "true wireless" earbuds are even more minimalist, offering totally wire-free listening with no cable between the earbuds. If you're looking for an experience that won't tether you to your phone, tablet, or laptop, Bluetooth headphones are what you need—and fortunately, they're ubiquitous enough these days that you can find them in every style and price range. Every pair on this list supports Bluetooth wireless connection.
Active Noise Cancellation: Noise-canceling headphones, i.e those with active noise cancellation (ANC), aren't just for frequent flyers. Originally developed for pilots, these headphones reduce the intrusion of ambient noise around you. Over the last several years they've become a mainstay for travelers, public transit commuters, gym-goers, and those working in distracting environments in the office or at home. Many of our favorite picks include ANC as the feature has become extremely popular and widely available.You can also check out our guide of the best noise-canceling headphones we've tested.
Transparency mode: This feature goes by many names, including HearThrough mode, ambient sound mode, Be Aware, etc. All of these phrases refer to the same technology, which uses tiny microphones on the exterior of your headphones or earbuds to filter in sound from your environment. The purpose is to keep you aware of your surroundings, letting you play tunes while you jog or hike, while still being aware of dangers or alerts. Not all transparency mode is created equal, though, and how a headphone’s hardware and software handle things like wind gusts can make a serious difference in the feature’s utility.
IP: You'll encounter an "IP" rating across a wide array of electronics but the term is perhaps most important (in the headphone world anyway) when it comes to products designed to take on the elements. You'll often see the code "IPX" with a number at the end, or you may see codes like IP67, etc. The first number is dust resistance—essentially how well the product stands up to ingress, and the higher the number the better. The second number is water resistance. The highest you'll likely see for headphones is "7" which means the product is certified to withstand being fully submerged in one meter of water (freshwater only) for 30 minutes. For workout headphones, anything from IPX4 (meaning the headphones can withstand splashes from any direction) and above is solid. For more info check out our IP guide.
Other Running Headphones We Tested
Sony's WF-SP800N are formidable running earbuds offering a ton of features for their price point along with impressive sound, a strong and stable connection, and a sporty, water-resistant design—something Sony's flagship WF-1000XM3 earbuds don’t have.
Packing everything from transparency mode and light noise cancellation to location-based audio adjustment and Bluetooth 5.0, the SP800N are incredibly well-appointed for their cost—especially since you can often find them on sale. They're also highly tunable thanks to Sony's Headphones Connect app, including a five-band EQ with a separate bass control so you can easily pull back (or ramp up) their booming "Extra Bass" feature.
As for negatives, the SP800N’s noise cancelation is nothing to write home about, the buds are fairly bulky, and the charging case stores only one extra charge, though their 9+ hours of playback per charge makes this a lot more palatable. In addition, we found a tear in one of the silicone ear fins after just a few days, but based on over 1,000 user reviews, we’re inclined to write this off as a fluke. Because their fins are fairly involved, it can also be a pain to put them in and take them out, but that’s also what makes them so stable for high-impact running.
Their incredible playback time of 9 hours with noise cancellation—and as much as 13 hours without it—helps make up for their charging case's shortcomings. Add in their wealth of other features and the SP800N are steeped with value, making them a great pair of action-ready sports buds.
The Jaybird Vista 2 are built to be true wireless earbuds that athletes can pop in their ears and enjoy no matter what the workout calls for that particular day. Thanks to a comfy (and nearly indestructible) design, above-average sound quality, and stellar active noise cancellation, the Vista 2 are the hot new sport buds that everyone should be talking about.
With an IP68 weather resistance rating and battery life that’s capable of reaching up to eight hours on a single charge, you’ll be hard pressed to find an activity that the Vista 2 won’t excel in. They’re also downright pleasant to place in your ears for long periods of time, offering a fit that feels good and stays secure during morning jogs in the neighborhood or evenings spent grinding it out in the gym.
While they sound just OK out of the box, the Vista 2 offer plenty of customization options when it comes to audio that should help most people find a sound that suits them. The more intriguing aspect of the Vista 2, however, is active noise cancellation. They block noise exceptionally well for their price point, both in an office setting and in a more public environment. Plus, they’ve got a solid ambient noise control feature to make it easy to bring in the desired amount of environmental sound.
The biggest issue we faced with the Vista 2 was initial pairing. Our first pair simply wouldn’t until we’d reset them multiple times. A second pair connected instantly with multiple phones, but we have to give a word of warning there, as some users have experienced similar issues.
In addition, the Vista 2’s call quality isn’t very noteworthy, and they face stiff competition from models like Sony’s SP800N and Jabra’s Elite and Elite Active 75t earbuds, among others. The bottom line, though, is that the Jaybird Vista 2 meet most of the expectations that everyday athletes should have for their earbuds of choice. If you’re willing to gamble on their potential pairing issues, they’re hard to beat when it comes to comprehensive workout companions.
If you're an athlete or a fitness enthusiast, you probably know Under Armour and its popular range of workout clothes and wearables. More recently, UA teamed up with JBL for the True Wireless Flash X. This pair is actually the second-gen baby of this fruitful collaboration, and they're a stalwart running buddy you'll definitely want to consider.
The True Wireless Flash X's tank-like design makes them great for getting out there and pounding the pavement. They have multiple useful sound modes for hearing what's going on around you, and the earbuds and case are extremely robust and impact-resistant. They're a bit on the pricey side for headphones that might not be your go-to choice for casual or work situations, but if you've got the budget for a more purpose-built pair of headphones that can moonlight for other use cases, they’re an excellent choice.
Where the Flash X really stand out from the pack is in the details of their design and physical components. The earbuds (and stabilizing wings) have been carefully built to be extremely firm and durable, composed of a firm but gently yielding rubber that makes for an extremely tight fit and seal. This is important for both keeping out exterior noise and stability in workouts. You can jump around, drop to the ground, or (we daresay) do a cartwheel through a waterfall and the True Wireless Flash will stay put.
While they can become uncomfortable over time, and forego some desirable features like active noise cancellation, they make up for it in terms of sheer stability. Combined with the fully aluminum charging case—a product that should be able to withstand even the most grueling situations—the Flash X might just be the saviors of your own personal running universe.
The Jabra Elite Active 65t are nearly identical to their predecessor, the Jabra Elite 65t, except that they're much better equipped to deal with rain and dust, similar to the newer Elite Active 75t. They have great sweat resistance, too. In our testing, the Elite Active 65t performed similarly to the standard Elite 65t: mostly distortion-free sound with great isolation and a fair amount of “oomph” on the low end, all for a great price.
While the AirPods get all the glory, Jabra’s aging 65t lineup helped kickstart the modern true wireless revolution, and they’re still solid running buds (and earbuds in general) today. They offer the basics you want, including transparency mode for keeping aware of your environment (though they don’t have any active noise cancellation). More importantly, these days they can be purchased for a song, especially when compared to most competitors.
They're not perfect, of course: we had some mild connectivity issues. We sometimes found ourselves needing to remove the Elite Active 65t from our phone or computer’s saved devices list and re-establish a connection.
That said, if you're just looking for a solid pair of wireless headphones that won't break the bank, the Jabra Elite Active 65t sound great, stand up to the elements, and offer desirable features alongside a stable fit. As such, they’re a great value, especially if you’re looking for an ultra-affordable, well-vetted pair of earbuds to help you maintain your running habit.
Priced similarly to Apple's AirPods Pro, the Beats Powerbeats Pro are impressive true wireless earphones in their own right. Though they've lost some luster in recent years due to heated competition, they offer impressive playback time per charge, great sound, and a durable, sporty design that stays put under duress.
They're relatively stylish (as you might expect from Beats), available in ivory, black, navy, or moss colors, and their adjustable ear hooks help to keep them in your ears during just about any workout.
They offer great water resistance and vastly improved sound quality over previous Beats earbuds, making them a good choice for general use, though their ear-hook design can get uncomfortable over time. They come with a pocketable charging case (thanks to their ear hooks, it’s a lot larger than most), but their impressive 9 hours of battery life per charge allows you to leave the case behind.
The Powerbeats Pro are less minimalist than Apple's AirPods, and come at a premium price point—especially for headphones that don’t include active noise cancellation or even any form of transparency mode. This makes them less-than-ideal for jogging in busy areas, but you can use just one of them at a time in such cases to keep aware of your surroundings. Their price point has also dropped a fair bit over time.
If you’re looking for fitness first, and don’t hold transparency mode as a must-have feature, the Powerbeats Pro are a fine choice—especially if you grab them on a good sale.
The 4th-gen Beats Powerbeats are basically the same headphones as the Powerbeats Pro—they simply aren't "true wireless," featuring a small cable that runs between the two buds and behind your neck.
However, what you're sacrificing by way of true wireless freedom, you're making up for in cost. People love the Powerbeats Pro, but they're often just too darn expensive (at full price anyway) for many budgets. The Powerbeats are a great stand-in, priced well below the Powerbeats Pro's suggested retail price, and their price tag is only falling. Not only that, but you'll also get longer battery per charge (though there's no charging case for a top-off).
Outside of the wire situation, Beats fans will be happy to know that the connected Powerbeats sound just as good as the "Pro" model, and offer similar levels of flexibility and style (i.e., they come in a bunch of colors). Like other Beats headphones, their sound profile is still bass-forward, but it’s thankfully restrained here for excellent clarity to power you through your workout. As you’d expect for fitness headphones, the Powerbeats are also sweat- and water-resistant so you won’t have to worry about going for the gusto.
They also offer shockingly good connection quality that outdoes their siblings, as well as any other true wireless earbuds we've ever tried. Seriously, they've got such good range you may actually forget where you put your phone. We do wish Beats included transparency mode to keep you safe on the road, but if you mostly run at the gym or don’t mind pulling out one earbud in dicey areas, the Powerbeats are a great buy.
Bose’s Sport Open Earbuds finish lowest in the rankings, partly because they simply don’t have the features that many of our top picks offer. But that’s also because the Sport Open are unlike virtually any other earbuds in existence right now, and given the right use case, they could be the perfect choice for your running adventures.
So what makes the Sport Open so different? Quite simply these are open-ear headphones (as the name helpfully spells out) meaning they don’t go in your ear canals, but sit above them to beam sound in from tiny speaker vents. What’s remarkable about this technology isn’t so much that you can hear things clearly, or even that it offers very minimal “bleed” into the world around you. No, what’s most impressive is that the Sport Open Earbuds actually sound good. And when you don’t have ear cups or even ear tips, that’s a feat in itself.
The Sport Open use an advanced version of Bose’s OpenAudio technology, which can also be found in the company’s distinctive audio sunglasses, the Bose Frames. The sound has been upgraded, however, adding the crucial element of full and rich bass to their already impressive upper register. The result is an enjoyable audio experience that also keeps your ears fully open and free to explore (and keep you safe from) the world around you. This makes them great for running and hiking, but they're also great for cycling, where the transparency mode of traditional wireless earbuds is rendered almost useless.
Bose adds to the package with impressive design, including simple setup, a relatively hearty chassis for each bud, and (crucially) IPX4 water resistance to protect them from the elements. They also offer around 7-8 hours of battery per charge alongside a minimalist, but relatively effective control system accessed via a small button on the bottom of each earbud.
There are some drawbacks to being different, starting with the fact that, unlike every other pair of true wireless earbuds we’ve tested, the Sport Open don’t come with a charging case to top off their battery on the go. They also have a relatively austere feature set (as you can imagine, there’s no way to add active noise cancellation here), including a pretty bare-bones app. And, for our ears anyway, they became relatively uncomfortable over time, making their use cases all the more limited.
That said, if you’re looking for groundbreaking buds that sound good and keep your ears naturally free in any environment, the Bose Sport Open Earbuds stand alone.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.