Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best headphones for working out you can buy: Expert tested

We've ran, swam, hiked, and biked in these headphones to help you choose the best one from brands like Shokz, Bose, Apple, and more.
Written by Nina Raemont, Associate Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
Shokz OpenRun Pro | Best headphones for working out overall
The Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones.
Shokz OpenRun Pro
Best headphones for working out overall
View now View at Amazon
Nothing Ear (a) | Best workout earbuds for most people
A hand holding the Nothing Ear (a) earbuds
Nothing Ear (a)
Best workout earbuds for most people
View now View at Us.nothing
Bose Ultra Open Earbuds | Best high-end workout headphones
Bose Ultra Open Earbuds against city scape
Bose Ultra Open Earbuds
Best high-end workout headphones
View now View at Walmart
Sony WH-1000XM5 | Best over-ear headphones for working out
Closeup of Sony WH-1000XM5 headset
Sony WH-1000XM5
Best over-ear headphones for working out
View now View at Amazon
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) | Best workout headphones for Apple owners
AirPods Pro 2 in hand
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Best workout headphones for Apple owners
View now View at B&H Photo-Video
JLab JBuds ANC 3 | Best budget workout earbuds
JLab Jbuds ANC 3 against pink backdrop
JLab JBuds ANC 3
Best budget workout earbuds
View now View at Amazon
Show more (1 item)

Listening to music or a podcast may make your workout feel like it's going by faster, but that's only if your headphones are up to the sweaty challenge. It can feel nearly impossible to go on a run or finish your reps without your favorite songs blasting in your ears. As an avid runner, I need my earbuds to be charged and ready to play my favorite songs before I can pound the pavement. 

Also: The best fitness apps with live and on-demand workout classes

ZDNET and our team of exercise -- and headphone -- enthusiasts have done most of the figurative and literal heavy lifting by testing out our favorite earbuds and headphones at the gym, on runs, and while we stay active. We've logged miles and sweat with these headsets and considered options for all budgets. 

What are the best workout headphones right now? 

With a compact but secure design, water resistance, and sound performance in mind, we compiled a list of the best headphones for working out to compare and choose which fits your workout style -- and ears -- the best. The best workout headphones right now are the Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones, thanks to their long-lasting battery life, sweatproof and comfortable build, and compatibility with different exercises, whether you're a runner, a cyclist, or a gym rat. 

The best workout headphones of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Sweatproof
  • Can remain aware of your surroundings
  • No in-ear pressure build up
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • Sound isn't immersive or noise canceling
  • Wearing around your head can feel obtrusive
More Details

Finding the right earbuds to work out in is challenging, especially if you sweat a lot. Bone conduction headphones might be the perfect solution. By wrapping around your head and sitting near instead of entirely in your ear, the Shokz OpenRun Pros transmit sound through the bone architecture, allowing your ears to breathe. This is great for anybody who exercises for a long time, like people training for a half marathon or cyclists going on hours-long bike rides. 

The headphones deliver a 10-hour battery life, and according to Jack Wallen's testing, he's gotten close to a week's worth of running without needing to charge. In addition to the long-lasting battery, Wallen was also impressed with their sweatproof capabilities, especially given his track record of ruining running earbuds and their quality sound performance. 

Review: Shokz OpenRun Pro

"The OpenRun Pro sound offers more bass than you'd expect for a pair of bone-conducting headphones, and the fit is so minimal that you forget they're on your head," says Wallen. 

Finally, another 'pro' of bone-conducting headphones is the ability to hear your surroundings. This is especially important for outdoor runners who should be constantly aware of their surroundings, and Wallen assured that the OpenRun Pros helped him "avoid disaster." 

Bone conduction headphones aren't for everyone, but if you love exercising outdoors, rain or shine, want environmental awareness, decent sound for your music and podcasts, and a long battery life, the OpenRun Pro headphones are the platonic ideal of a workout headphone. 

Shokz OpenRun Pro specs: Weight: 1.02 ounces | Battery life: 10 hours | Bluetooth version: 5.1 | Waterproof: IP55 | Noise cancellation: Dual noise cancellation

Pros & Cons
  • Long battery life
  • Pinch controls are intuitive for exercise
  • Sounds great
  • Not the strongest ANC out of all the earbud options
More Details

I loved these earbuds so much while I was training for my half marathon that out of all the many earbuds I test for my job, these were the only ones I used the day of my race. 

The Nothing Ear (a) earbuds are the best workout earbuds for most people for these three reasons. First is the price: They're only $100. Second is sound: They sound incredible, with the perfect amount of noise cancellation that takes you away from distracting environmental noise without forcing complete unawareness. Third is touch controls: The Nothing Ear (a)'s touch controls mimic those of the AirPods Pro 2. They use pinch controls on the bottom stem of the earbud instead of touch controls near the top. 

Also: Nothing Ear (a)

As I write in my spotlight, I always run with earbuds in. When my ears get too sweaty and whatever pair of earbuds I wear begins to slip out, I accidentally touch and activate the pause button when attempting to press the bud back into my ears. Having pinch controls on the stem of the earbud negates this annoying issue. 

The three reasons above justify the Nothing Ear (a) as one of the best workout earbuds. But one extra feature that sweetens the deal is how cool these look in your ears. The transparent design is unique and creative, and the earbuds come in this sunshine yellow color (although you can also pick them up in white or black if you're looking for a less flashy earbud). 

The ear tips are super tactile and stick to your ears as you run and move, making them great for working out. They come with IP55 waterproofing, a solid and long battery life, and will work for Android and iOS users. All in all, these are a joy to use and exercise with, and it's refreshing to see technology packed with every feature you want, designed thoughtfully, and priced competitively. Apple should be scared. 

Nothing Ear (a) specs: Weight:  4.8g | Battery life: 9.5 hours in buds and 42.5 in case with ANC off | Bluetooth version: 5.3  | Waterproof: IP54 | Noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation

Pros & Cons
  • Allows for environmental awareness
  • Impressive battery life
  • Great alternative to bone-conduction headphones
  • No touch controls
  • No noise cancellation
  • Slight sound leakage
More Details

As I write in my spotlight of these unique earbuds, the Bose Ultra Open is "ideal for runners who want to enjoy their music while remaining aware of their environment, thanks to Bose's OpenAudio technology." Not everyone wants to be completely cut off from the sounds around them while on a run or at the gym. As an alternative to bone-conduction headphones, the Bose Ultra Open earbuds allow maximum environmental awareness while playing music simultaneously. The compact G-shaped design fits comfortably in your ear, almost like a clip-on earring, and despite their light weight, they are unlikely to budge even while running, lifting, or jumping around. I shook my head, expecting these to fall out of my ears, but they never did. 

Review: Bose Ultra Open Earbuds

While wearing these and running on a busy street filled with honking cars, I felt surprised by the near-magic of simultaneous awareness. I wasn't sacrificing my music for the traffic around me, nor the traffic sounds for the music. 

The earbuds have an IPX4 rating and an impressive 7.5 hours of battery life. Still, they don't have any noise cancellation technology, so they're the best fit for normal to moderately noisy environments where the ambient noise isn't going to override your tunes.

The one downside of these earbuds is the high price. Most people wouldn't want to spend $300 on earbuds to exercise in. Still, if you care a lot about stellar sound in your earbuds and want environmental awareness during your listening sessions, the Bose Ultra Open earbuds are in a league of their own. 

Bose Ultra Open specs: Weight: 11.2 ounces | Battery life: 7.5 hours | Bluetooth version: 5.3 | Waterproof: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: N/A 

Pros & Cons
  • Comfortable fit
  • Long battery life
  • Fan-favorite headphone
  • Expensive
  • Some users prefer the XM4 fit to the XM5
More Details

Headphones tend to be bulky while you exercise, but these fan-favorites from Sony pack a comfortable punch; Sony's WH-1000XM5 delivers superior sound, a comfortable form factor, and a lightweight design, all features that gave them ZDNET's title as one of the over-ear headphones. These are also Virginia Wooten's, CEO and founder of Dawn Fitness, favorite headphones for whenever she hits the gym or goes for runs outside. "[They have the] best sound quality I could ask for, and I love how they look and feel as an over-the-ear headphone," said Wooten. 

Powered by the QN1 Sony HD Noise Cancelling Processor, the Sony WH-1000XM5 Noise Cancelation is not only top-notch but customizable thanks to the Auto NC Optimizer, which automatically adjusts to the noise in your workout environment. Plus, the headphones pack in up to thirty hours of continuous music playback, so you can focus on supercharging your workouts instead of your headphones. 

Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH-1000XM5 specs: Weight: 8.8 ounces | Battery life: 30 hours | Bluetooth version: 5.2 | Waterproof: No | Noise cancellation: Sony HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 

Pros & Cons
  • Comfortable in-ear fit
  • ANC and transparency modes are top tier
  • Dynamic head tracking for "surround sound" feel
  • Battery life could still be better
  • Pricey
More Details

Out of all the AirPods models, the AirPods Pro 2 are hands down the best earbuds for iPhone users. With seamless iOS compatibility and Find My embedded into the buds, it makes sense why any Apple devotee would opt for AirPods over another brand. 

Take all those native perks and add in competitive ANC, spatial audio, waterproofing, and ear tips that should fit most ears. 

When a former ZDNET associate editor tested the second-gen Pros, she was impressed when they passed her sweaty sprint test on the treadmill with flying colors. 

Review: AirPods Pro 2

Along with fit, the AirPods Pro 2 are also able to block out the awkward weight clanking and grunting at the gym with excellent ANC. And with a transparency mode that lives up to the name, these AirPods are ideal for city runs where you still want to lock into the music without being hit by a car. Lasting six hours on a single charge and up to 30 while in the charging case, the second-gen Pros are a "no-brainer" accessory to throw in your gym bag and go. 

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) specs: Weight:  0.18 ounces | Battery life: 6 hours | Bluetooth version: 5.3 | Waterproof: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation

Pros & Cons
  • Long battery life
  • Stays in your ears
  • Affordable
  • Feels a little cheap
More Details

I can understand why people wouldn't want to spend an arm and a leg on headphones that they sweat in every day. That's where a good pair of affordable earbuds, like the JLab JBuds ANC 3, come in. These are $60 with competitive ANC, a marathon battery life in the earbuds plus 33 hours in the case, multipoint Bluetooth, and a tight and comfortable fit in my ears. I used these while training for my half marathon and loved how long I could go without charging them, especially as I was pounding pavement day in and day out. 

Review: JLab JBuds ANC 3

JLab JBuds ANC 3 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth Multipoint | Battery life: 9 hours in the earbuds and 33+ hours in the case | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof? IP55

What are the best workout headphones?

The best workout headphones depend on your preference, like whether you want a bone conduction headphone, an over-ear headphone, an earbud, or something in between. 

HeadphonesFitPriceBatteryWaterproof rating
Shokz OpenRun ProBone conduction$180Up to 10 hoursIP55
Nothing Ear (a)In-ear$100Up to 43 hoursIP54
Bose Ultra Open EarbudsOpen-ear$300Up to 7.5 hoursIPX4
Sony WH-1000XM5Over-ear$400Up to 30 hoursN/A
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)In-ear$229Up to 6 hoursIPX4
JLab Jbuds ANC 3In-ear$60Up to 33 hoursIP55

Which headphones for working out are right for you?

Much like fitness, earbuds don't have a "one size fits all" approach -- it ultimately comes down to preference. And while specs speak for themselves, there are specific scenarios in which it's better to invest in one headphone pair over the other. Here's a chart to help you compare.

Choose these workout headphones...If you...
Shokz OpenRun ProWant bone conduction, sweatproof headphones that deliver 10-hour battery life. These are also great if you find noise-canceling options disorienting.
Nothing Ear (a)Want the best workout earbuds for most people. At $100, they promise substantial ANC, in-ear detection, a long battery life, a comfortable fit that sticks in your ears, thoughtful pinch controls that are way more convenient for exercise, and great sound.
Bose Ultra Open EarbudsWant to keep ambient awareness of your surroundings while running or working out, or looking for an alternative to bone-conducting headphones more suitable for movement.
Sony WH-1000XM5Are looking for a lightweight over-ear option great for both strength training and running. These are great for those who like to customize their ANC listening experience.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)Want a powerful noise-canceling pair of in-ear buds. Apple users, these work great with any device in your ecosystem in and outside of the gym.
JLab Jbuds ANC 3Want a great budget earbud with impressive ANC, great sound, and a comfortable fit, all for $60.

Factors to consider when choosing headphones for working out

These headphones were chosen based on an array of factors including:

  • Fit: From multiple ear tips to extra-soft materials, there are several ways to make your workout and running headphones more comfortable while you exercise.
  • Water resistance: The waterproof rating for your workout headphones is important in case you find yourself caught in a sudden downpour or in the middle of an especially vigorous workout. Some charging cases even include waterproofing. 
  • Sound quality: After all, what good are your headphones if you cannot hear your audio? Some headphones feature better technology than others to offer improved sound and call quality.
  • Special features: Spatial awareness can be improved with bone conduction, while active noise cancellation can help drown out the outside world so you can get lost in your workout. Whatever you prefer, consider which audio features are available for your next workout and running headphones. 
  • Price: The price for your headphones can vary significantly, with our top picks running from $50 to $250. Your budget may determine which workout and running headphones are available to you. 

How we test headphones for working out

If I didn't exercise in these headphones myself, one of my trusted colleagues has. Here at ZDNET, we only recommend products we have used ourselves, and use these products every day to understand just how long the battery life actually lasts, how the noise cancellation sounds in a loud environment, and how the microphones sound on calls and Zooms. 

Also: How we test headphones

Is it better to work out with headphones or earbuds?

Ultimately, it's not "better" or "worse" to work out with over-ear headphones versus in-ear buds, it simply comes down to preference. As a perfuse sweater, I prefer in-ear buds to avoid over-ear padding from getting soaked or potent. However, many strength trainers prefer over-ear models for stability, while sweaty runners opt for a bone conducting option.

Are bone conduction headphones good for working out?

Given their open-air, over-ear design, many runners like bone conduction headphones to hear their surroundings. There are also waterproof options that even let swimmers enjoy music during their laps. Slipping over your head and sitting outside rather than in-ear, people who sweat heavily during a workout also prefer bone conduction headphones for workouts. However, bone conduction headphones can lead to sound leakage issues and the over-head design isn't optimal if your exercise entails lying on your back. 

Are AirPods good for working out?

As an avid walker and pilates lover, I love my second-gen AirPods for low-impact exercise, especially since they came out with the extra small ear tip. In the past, however, I've had issues with my AirPods staying in my ears -- which is a shame given their otherwise excellent performance. If you don't want to buy a whole new pair of AirPods for the tips alone, purchasing separate ear hooks is an effective, low-cost solution to keeping AirPods in place. 

Are there alternative headphones worth considering?

There are many other types of headphones available for running and workouts. Here are three additional headphones to consider before buying your next pair of earbuds.

View at AmazonView at Amazon

Editorial standards