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The best running headphones 2021: great sounding, comfortable and sweatproof

The best running headphones
(Image credit: Shift Drive / Shutterstock)

The best running headphones should help boost your performance and keep your mind occupied while you run. They also need to stay in place above no matter how vigorous your workout may be, and if they make your music sound fantastic – even better.

Your gear will also need to be able to withstand sweat and possibly rain, depending on your location. What's more, we believe that the best running headphones can improve your performance significantly; there's plenty of research that proves music can transform your runs.

Just as waterproof headphones are best for swimming, so too are the best running headphones optimized for the unique challenges of staying secure while you jog and sprint your way to optimal fitness.

We've put these headphones to the test on long, slow runs, sweaty hill climbs, and intense speed drills to make sure they don't bounce, rub or come loose, and have the battery life to keep running as long as you do. For our pick of the very best running headphones out there, you'll find everything you need in the guide below.

We're expecting to see some great deals on fitness tech for Prime Day 2021, including offers on running headphones. Last year the excellent Aftershokz Aeropex got a particularly good discount, and we're hoping for more of the same this year.

The best running headphones: Beats PowerBeats Pro

Beats PowerBeats Pro (Image credit: Beats)

1. Beats PowerBeats Pro

Impressive-fitting workout ‘buds from Beats

Weight: N/A
Battery life: 9 hours
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Good sound+Immaculate fit
Reasons to avoid
-Case is fairly bulky-Limited noise isolation

Beat's latest true wireless earbuds, the PowerBeats Pro, are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out, which is why we think they're the best running headphones of 2020. 

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. 

Where we found the Powerbeats Pro to perform their best is in  near-quiet environments, like your office, your home or your gym - because you can use hands-free Siri, they’re great for setting timers in between sets and placing calls to friends and clients. 

But take them outside for a jog, and they'll still do the trick, thanks to their energetic sound.

Read our full Beats PowerBeats Pro review

The best running headphones: Sennheiser CX Sport

Sennheiser CX Sport (Image credit: Sennheiser)

2. Sennheiser CX Sport

The best no fuss buds with fantastic audio

Weight: 15g
Battery life: 6 hours
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: No (in-line remote)
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic audio quality+Sports-friendly design
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest option-Mids could be richer

If the most important aspect of choosing the best running headphones for you is the audio quality, these wireless earbuds from Sennheiser could be a fantastic choice. 

With a lively, bass-heavy presentation, and a comfortable fit, the Sennheiser CX Sport wireless earphones can really bolster your running performance through sound quality alone. 

They don't come with a heart rate monitor, but the inclusion of ear fins and sporty neon color scheme makes them ideal for casual workouts. 

With a battery life of six hours, they're great for your average running session, or even your daily commute – but marathon runners will want to look elsewhere. 

Read our full Sennheiser CX Sport review

The best running headphones: Aftershokz Aeropex

Aftershokz Aeropex (Image credit: Aftershokz)

3. AfterShokz Aeropex

Who wants to be isolated when they exercise?

Weight: 26g
Battery life: 8 hours
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and stable fit+Helps situational awareness
Reasons to avoid
-Low volume-Short battery life

The Aeropex is the top-end headset from Aftershokz, which specializes in bone conduction headphones that allow you to enjoy your favorite music without blocking out the sounds of cars, cyclists and other potential dangers around you.

The Aeropex uses vibrations to direct sound to your audiotory nerve, leaving your ear canals open so you can still hear the world around you. It's a significant upgrade from its predecessor, the Aftershokz Trekz Air, with a lighter weight that means it's barely noticeable when you're running, and an improved IP rating that makes it safe to wear even in the rain.

You might be able to feel the vibrations ever so slightly when you crank the volume up high, but if you want to be aware of your surroundings while you train, the Aeropex is hard to beat.

Read the full AfterShockz Aeropex review

The best running headphones: Adidas RPT-01

Adidas RPT-01 (Image credit: Adidas)

4. Adidas RPT-01

Running headphones with a marathon battery

Weight: 209g
Battery life: 40 hours
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Rugged design+Great battery life+Simple controls
Reasons to avoid
-Design is an acquired taste

If you're looking for some rugged running headphones, the Adidas RPT-01 could be a good fit – 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.

The knitted headband and ear cushions can even be removed and washed after particularly sweaty sessions. Plus, with a 40-hour battery life, they'll last you for multiple marathons. 

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 that final lap. They're certainly the best running headphones we've tested with this form factor.

Read the full Adidas RPT-01 review

The best running headphones: Jaybird X4

Jaybird X4 (Image credit: Jaybird)

5. Jaybird X4

Compact comfort, good quality, competitive price

Weight: 14.7g
Battery life: 8 hours
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent adaptable sound+Durable and compact design
Reasons to avoid
-Proprietary charging dock-Button lag

Now committed to a yearly refresh of the popular mid-range model, the Jaybird X4 manage to outdo both the previous Jaybird X2 and Jaybird X3 wireless Bluetooth earphones, with an upgraded IPX7 water-resistance rating. Whether you're sweating buckets or running doggedly through the rain, the X4 will be able to cope with it.

The Jaybird X4 running headphones also manage to keep the series' surprisingly good sound. These earphones are certainly fitness first, but that doesn't mean the other things people look for in a pair of earphones – you know, like music – have fallen by the wayside.

Jaybird's excellent app provides easy EQ customization as well as the ability to make your own sound profile, with various ear tip sizes to boot. A great all round choice for runner who don't want to skimp on sound – or be wary of the weather.

Alternatively if you're after an even more premium experience, the Jaybird Tarah Pro earbuds offer higher-quality audio and materials for a somewhat higher $159 £139 / AU$229 price tag.

Although we're still big fans of the Jaybird X4 headphones, take a look at the Jaybird Vista true headphones further down the list – they're our top pick if you're in the market for a pair of true wireless earbuds. 

Read the full Jaybird X4 review

The best running headphones: Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

6. Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones

Running headphones with big sound and simple setup

Weight: 17.9g
Battery life: 6 hours
Heart rate monitor?: Yes, with Pulse variant
On-ear controls?: Yes (in the neckband)
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and secure+Optional heart rate monitor
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be better-Heart rate monitor version is pricey

If you need your power song to push you through that extra mile, then the Bose SoundSport running headphones might give you that extra force you’re looking for. With the unmistakable sound signature of the audio heavyweight, these lightweight earbuds feature a comfortable and secure fit thanks to the StayHear+ tips.

For runners with NFC-enabled smartphones and music players, the SoundSport buds can be paired in the blink of an eye. The Bose Connect app also allows music sharing with more than one pair of earbuds, ideal if you’re out running with a buddy (and we love that they name which device is connected, something that's great if you're carrying around a phone, media player and tablet).

The SoundSport range comes in two flavors. For an extra $50 you can pick up the Pulse edition which features a built-in heart rate monitor. Depending on your training method, this could be a worthwhile investment as we've found their heart rate monitor to generally be fairly precise from the ears with these.

After true wireless earbuds instead? Read our Bose SoundSport Free review

The best running headphones: Under Armour True Wireless Flash

Under Armour True Wireless Flash (Image credit: JBL)

7. Under Armour True Wireless Flash

Running headphones with battery life for days

Weight: 16g
Battery life: 5 hours (25 with case)
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Snug fit+Plenty of battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No heart rate monitor-Hefty carry case

The Under Armour True Wireless Flash running headphones are a solid entry into the true wireless market, with strong audio, ergonomic design, and a hefty battery life (25 hours, including the case's four extra charges) to really make your purchase last throughout the week.

There are also two smart noise technologies that that help these earbuds stand out. Tapping the left earbud once will activate Talk-Thru, which quietens audio for momentary conversation or when you need to be on alert, while Ambient Aware (tap the left earbud twice) recreates outside noise using external microphones.

UA has gone for stamina rather than convenience with these running headphones though, and the charging case can feel like a bit of a brick to carry around – especially during exercise. You also won’t get any speed charging features here, meaning you shouldn’t wait until five minutes before a workout to plug the case into the wall. But for the sporty among you, the pros should certainly outweigh the cons.

Read the full Under Armour True Wireless Flash review

The best running headphones: Jabra Elite Sport

Jabra Elite Sport (Image credit: Jabra)

8. Jabra Elite Sport

Completely cordless design perfect for minimalists

Weight: 17.9g
Battery life: 4.5 hours
Heart rate monitor?: Yes
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Truly wireless+Includes a charging case
Reasons to avoid
-Only 4.5 hours of life-Very firm-fitting, can be painful

There’s wireless, and then there’s true wireless, and the top-end Jabra Elite Sport are the latter. Beyond the cordless design, the headline feature of these running headphones is the Hear Through tech that allows you to control the way the buds let in or filter out ambient noise – with just a quick button press.

The on-the-go charging case provides 13.5 hours of battery life in total, but with just 4.5 hours available from a single charge, slower marathon runners will probably want to jog on – although for 99% of your training, this won't be an issue.

Although not marketed for swimming, they’re also IP67 certified water resistant. The companion app also utilizes the built-in heart rate monitor to enhance your workouts, along with the internal accelerometer to monitor your reps of squats, lunges and the like.

These are expensive buds, but the amount they can do is incredible – for many, they'll be your go-to choice for your new running headphones.

Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport review

The best running headphones: Aftershokz Trekz Air

Aftershokz Trekz Air (Image credit: Aftershokz)

9. Aftershokz Trekz Air

So comfy, you'll forget you're wearing them

Weight: 1.05 oz
Battery life: 6 hours
Heart rate monitor?: No
On-ear controls?: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Exacting design+Comfortable & stable fit
Reasons to avoid
-Ear 'tickle'-Sound quality is lacking

If you don’t want to spend big on the company’s Aeropex running headphones, the AfterShokz Trekz Air offer many of the same features and overall audio quality for significantly less money.

Although not as compact or light in terms of their design, the Trekz Air do come with an IP55 rating, making them fit for sweaty workouts. Adopting the signature wraparound titanium frame, their 30g weight is distributed well to ensure they’re comfortable to wear and stay in place.

Pairing with devices over Bluetooth, these running headphones feature controls to adjust volume and a mute button to make it quick and easy to cut music in busy environments – or, if you need to have a conversation. 

Sound quality is as good as you’ll find on bone conduction headphones, although in busier environments, they’ll struggle to be heard. At full volume, you might experience some of the tickling sensation familiar with bone conduction, so these are best used at moderate volumes.

Offering six hours of battery life, the Trekz Air also come with a quick-charge feature that will get you an hour of listening time in just 15 minutes of charging.

Read the full Aftershokz Trekz Air review

The best running headphones: Jaybird Vista 2

(Image credit: Jaybird)

10. Jaybird Vista 2

Excellent earbuds for all kinds of exercise

Weight: 7g
Battery life: 8 hours
Heart rate monitor? : No
On-ear controls? : Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Secure and comfortable fit+Useful companion app
Reasons to avoid
-ANC not best in class-Not cheap-Need to EQ tinker to get best sound

The Jaybird Vista 2 are the true wireless successors to the Jaybird Vista, which launched back in 2020 and were one of our favorite pairs of headphones for running. The goal here remains the same; to offer workout-friendly buds that promise a secure fit, deliver strong audio quality, and give you plenty in the way of battery life too.

While the active noise cancellation isn’t as good as that offered by models like the Sony WF-1000XM3, the combination of fit, low profile design, sound quality, and solid battery life still make the Vista 2 some of the best truly wireless earbuds for working out as well as listening at home or in the office.

Read the full Jaybird Vista 2 review

How to choose the best running headphones

Which headphones style is best for you?

Check out TechRadar's exhaustive guides to the best headphones to buy today including the best over-ear headphones, the best on-ear headphones and the best in-ear headphones.

For some more specialist pairs, take a look at our guides to the best wireless headphones, best true wireless earbuds, best wireless earbuds, and the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Need a specific brand? We have guides to the best Sony headphones, the best Bose headphones, and the best Audio-Technica headphones.

Looking for some headphones you can take in the pool? Check out our guide to the best swimming headphones – or our round up of the best fitness headphones

There's lots to consider when it comes to choosing the best running headphones for your needs. Firstly, make sure that your new buds have 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.

Fit is also really important, particularly if you opt for true wireless earbuds, which can be prone to falling out – if that's a worry look for earbuds that sport fins to keep them securely in your ear, or better yet, a pair of neckbuds that are connected by a wire.

You'll also need a battery life that will last your longest runs and workouts, as well as your daily commute if your new running headphones will double up as your regular cans. 

These are the basics – some of the best running 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 running gadgets on the market.