The best workout headphones are a must-have for anyone who needs a pounding beat – or the thrill of a great podcast – to power them through the toughest parts of their exercise routine.
But not all workout headphones are made the same. The earbuds that work perfectly for your run, probably won’t be suitable if you want to take a dip in the pool afterwards. And those you wear at the gym to drown out all the ambient sound won't serve you well if you're cycling and need to hear what's going on around you.
It's a good time to look for a new pair of fitness headphones. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, we expect lots of headphones in this guide to be discounted, especially models like the Powerbeats Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4.
There’s a lot of choice out there – and if you know exactly what you're after, be sure to check out our guides to the best running headphones and the best waterproof headphones. If not, this handy guide to the best fitness headphones for different kinds of workouts should be the perfect starting point.
How to choose the best workout headphones of 2021:
There are lots of factors to consider when choosing the best headphones for working out, including whether you need earbuds with an IPX water-resistance rating – essential if you’re taking your headphones swimming. You'll want to make sure your new buds have at least an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they'll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain.
Form factor is incredibly important, too; are you looking for comfy over-ear headphones that stay put for light exercise or compact in-ear headphones that never budge? Do you prefer the security of wired earphones so there's no chance you'll lose one or the freedom of true wireless earbuds? Do you want to be aware of your surroundings when you work out on roads or in public spaces, or do you strive to escape from the outside world with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones?
Battery life is also something to consider. Think about how long you typically work out for – do you want to charge in between every session? Or do you want a pair of gym headphones that will last for your weekly workouts and your daily commute combined?
These are the basics – some of the best fitness headphones also go one step further with features like heart rate monitors and AI personal trainers, which means they double up as some of the best fitness gadgets on the market in 2021.
- Check out the best fitness trackers of 2021
The best workout headphones of 2021:
You could opt for a pair of earbuds to wear to the gym, but if you prefer something more substantial, the Adidas RPT-01 could be the best workout headphones for you, particularly if you're doing something relatively static like lifting weights.
Sure, not everyone wants to wear on-ear headphones while working out, but the breathable design of these Adidas cans means you won't overheat – and they offer a far longer battery life than any true wireless earbuds.
The knitted headband and ear cushions can even be removed and washed after particularly sweaty sessions.
While the sound quality isn't the finest we've ever heard, the RPT-01s are suitably loud and bassy, which is something you'll want to push you through those final reps.
If you want to boost your run without the annoyance of cables, the Powerbeats Pro could be the best workout headphones for you.
Beat's latest true wireless earbuds, are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out.
They're ideal for running thanks to their close-fitting ear hooks and IPX4 sweatproof rating, as well as nifty additions like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their long battery life, and their superior sound quality.
As well as running, the Powerbeats Pro would make a great pair of earbuds to wear at the gym, and with the ability to summon Siri hands-free, they’re great for setting timers in between sets.
Depending on your tastes, you may be disappointed to learn that the Powerbeats Pro don't come with active noise cancellation – that means they won't block out environmental noise. On the plus side, it's great to be aware of your surroundings when you're running, but if you're dead set on listening to your tunes uninterrupted, check out the Sony WF-1000XM3 – the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds you can buy.
Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
Note: If you regularly run in races, don't forget that many require that you can to hear the commands of marshals and traffic on open-road courses. If you want to run with music in smaller races, look for a pair of bone-conducting headphones like the Aftershokz Aeropex.
Now, hear us out with this one. When you're cycling, it's really important to be aware of your surroundings, particularly pedestrians and oncoming traffic – which is why we're recommending that cyclists try out the nifty Bose Frames instead of a traditional pair of earbuds or headphones.
The Bose Frames combine your sunglasses with headphones by building in speakers that are pointed towards your ears.
This means you’re able to keep your ears and head free of anything but your pair of sunglasses (and your helmet, of course), while still being able to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks.
The sound quality is surprisingly good, albeit not as full or bassy as you’ll get from a dedicated pair of cans. You may find that bone conduction headphones like the Aftershokz Aeropex deliver a fuller sound, so it's worth checking out this form factor too, if you want to keep your ears free.
Plus, the Bose Frames come with the added benefit of shielding your eyes from the sun or any debris your front wheel kicks up as your cycle – for us, thats a win-win.
Read more: Bose Frames review
The Zygo Solo are the only set of waterproof headphones we've tested that can actually stream music and podcasts from a phone that's sitting by the side of the pool. Bluetooth signals can only penetrate water for a very short distance. The Zygo Solo gets around this problem by using an FM radio transmitter – an unusual, but effective approach.
The transmitter is quite large, but the ability to enjoy music, podcasts and coaching tips (provided by the Zygo app) without messing around with MP3 files is a real bonus.
The headset itself isn't as compact as the others in this guide, but in our tests it proved comfortable, and remained secure even when making turns underwater. The sound quality is impressive, too. Like the Aftershokz Xtrainerz and Sony NW-WS413 below, the Zygo Solo uses bone conduction to transmit sound to your auditory nerve, and while it sounds a little tinny on land, once you're in the pool the sound has an impressive amount of bass.
We're also big fans of the Zygo mobile app, which offers instructor-led workouts an drills to give you training some variety. In the future, the company plans to add Peloton-style interactive sessions, which will make use of the headset's built-in accelerometer to track your progress in the pool. The best waterproof headphones you can buy today.
Read more: Zygo Solo review
If you need to block out the world for an effective yoga session, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones are essential; however, a pair of bulky over-ear headphones could slip off of your head when you transition into downward dog.
That's why we're recommending these true wireless earbuds from Sony; the Sony WF-1000XM4 manage to offer a level of noise cancellation that's exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear headphones, but its a worthy trade off for that sleeker form.
Sony has really knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM4. Not only are these hands down the best-looking true wireless earbuds on the market, but they also combine serious noise-cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality – so if you like your yoga session to come with music, you're in for a real treat with these buds.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. The audio quality is among the best you'll get from a pair of wireless in-ear headphones, and DSEE Extreme upscaling means you'll get an approximation of high-resolution sound from standard-definition digital audio files.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review
- Sticking to a budget? Check out the best cheap fitness trackers