As a semi-serious runner, I find that music is an important factor in pushing me through that the last mile. Whether it’s a curated workout playlist or the Hamilton soundtrack during a long run, music keeps me distracted and helps me pass the time—which is why I need a good pair of headphones, too. But my biggest mistake has been sticking with a brand that was most familiar instead of really weighing my options first.
For the longest time, I had been using the Apple headphones that came with my iPhone but I wanted to make a big upgrade. Running with them was honestly the worst. The long cord is constantly getting in the way (I have too many times sent my phone flying after accidentally hitting the cord while on the treadmill). Plus, for whatever reason, Apple's earbuds never seem to fit anyone properly and they were always falling out during particularly sweaty runs.
To calm my woes, I decided it was time to invest in a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones that would actually fit my ears and make my runs more enjoyable. But I did happen to make a couple mistakes along the way.
Mistake #1: Not researching enough
I cannot express enough how important it is to actually do your research before making a purchase on anything you consider to be a big investment. Good headphones can be pricey, which is why you want to make sure you're checking professional reviews (like ours!) and reading consumer reviews (and using Fakespot to make sure they aren't fake).
Our senior tech writer, Michael Desjardin, told me that when looking for workout headphones, battery life, comfort, and sweat-proofing should be the most important factors you consider.
Unfortunately, when I was shopping for my headphones, I didn't know Michael yet and did more limited research. I kept coming back to a brand I knew was big: Beats by Dre. I decided to get a pair of PowerBeats3. They were $200 at the time, but they came in sleek colors and I was excited to feel like a cool Beats chick while running.
Mistake #2: Buying for the brand
Brand recognition was a huge factor for me in purchasing these headphones. I figured the Beats brand was cool, reliable, and know for great sound, so I could trust them to hold up to their name.
Unfortunately, I was very wrong.
At first, my PowerBeats worked great—they were the best I'd ever used. They connected super easily to my phone's Bluetooth, had really good sound, and had me zipping through my runs no problem. I swear my pace was even improving because of them, too.
It was all fine and dandy until about six months or so into owning them, when I was faced with a flashing red light every time I attempted to turn them on. I tried recharging them, resetting them, and looking up every help guide on the Beats website, but no matter what I did, I could not get them to work again. I was low-key furious.
My practically brand new headphones appeared to be broken from what I assumed was water damage from sweat, which really goes against the point of buying water-resistant workout headphones. Or maybe I’m just too sweaty of a person for them—who knows?
Mistake #3 (kind of): Giving the benefit of the doubt
I was hoping there was something wrong with my particular pair of PowerBeats3 wireless earbuds. At the very least, I wanted it to be an issue that could quickly be resolved. I really wanted to believe I could use them once again.
So I sent them into Apple—Beats' parent company—to see if they could fix them or maybe just give me a new pair altogether. But after waiting weeks for Apple to send them back to me, the pair they returned only lasted only two weeks before dying once again. At that moment, I decided it wasn't worth it to continue to try fixing my clearly busted headphones, despite their year-long warranty.
It was truly disappointing because when they worked they really worked (not to mention the fact that I dropped $200 on them). But, alas, I had to go out and find a new pair.
What I should have done differently
Although I made an effort to research wireless headphones, the PowerBeats3 were relatively new on the market at the time, so many of the personal reviews didn’t mention that these headphones stopped working after a few months.
Additionally, even though review sites (like us!) put their products through rigorous testing, we can't always test every product forever. While these reviews give you a great sense of the product's quality, you don't always know if they're going to last long term. In fact, the PowerBeats3 was even once on our list of the best wireless headphones for running, but they have since been removed after reconsideration and additional testing because of issues like what I experienced. We even recently incorporated more reliability tests into our review process to assure deceptively great products like the PowerBeats3 headphones don't skew our results.
In hindsight, I think I believed that a Beats product was going to be good either way because they make such well-known and popular headphones.
If anything, this whole situation has taught me to be more wary about brand recognition. Just because something looks good and has athlete endorsements does not necessarily mean it's the best product out there (duh!). I also learned that I need to do deeper research when it comes to buying any expensive products to avoid feeling like I wasted my money.
Eventually, after doing much more research and getting recommendations, I got the best wireless headphones we've ever tested, the JLab Audio Epic Sport Wireless and I absolutely love them. Although they don’t fit quite as well or, frankly, sound as good as the PowerBeats3 did, they're cheaper and so far have lasted up to my sweat with no problems.
All and I all, I really like the JLab headphones. The bendable clasp was a bit tricky to figure out at first and I had to play with the different ear cushions to find my right size, but once I got everything adjusted to how I like it, they ended up working great.
Now, I confidently keep up my long runs without worrying about them short-circuiting on me.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.