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Listening to music or a podcast may make your workout feel like it's going by faster, but jumping, running, pushing up, and sweating aren't exactly the best combination for keeping in-ear buds remain stable in your ears.
Over-ear headphones might be secure, but they feature a bulky form factor that isn't always ideal for high-intensity exercise.
With a compact but secure design, water resistance, and sound performance in mind, we compiled a list of the best headphones for working out for you to compare and choose which fits your workout style -- and ears -- the best.
Also: The best earbuds
Jabra Elite 7 Active specs: Earbud weight: 0.2 ounce | Battery life: 8.5 hours | Bluetooth version: 5.2 | Waterproof: IP57 | Noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation
Featuring an ergonomic fit and Jabra's ShakeGrip technology that situates the earbud snugly within the ear without any extra wings and hooks adding unnecessary weight, the Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds live up to their name, prioritizing an earbud for activity. Even verified Amazon purchasers make clear in their reviews that while there's room for improvement on factors like the button control lag or Active Noise Cancelation, their sound, compact fit, and multi-point pairing make them "great for exercise."
Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds (and whether they protect your hearing)
Plus, with over eight hours of battery life, you can listen all day every day before needing to charge the buds, which is ideal if you're listening from work to the gym. Despite having a suite of features at a below "premium earbud" price tag, Jabra doesn't skimp on the sound quality. Equipped with 6mm speakers in each ear and the option to customize and adjust EQ levels on the Jabra Sound + app, runners and weight lifters alike can enjoy powerful bass and clear volume.
Shokz OpenRun Pro specs: Weight: 1.02 ounces | Battery life: 10 hours | Bluetooth version: 5.1 | Waterproof: IP55 | Noise cancellation: Dual noise cancellation
When it comes to earbuds, I personally struggle with finding the right fit in my ear, especially since I'm a profuse sweater. If you suffer from the same sweat saga, bone conduction headphones might be the perfect solution. By wrapping around your head and sitting near instead of fully in your ear, the Snokz OpenRun Pros transmit sound through the bone architecture, allowing your ears to breathe.
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 sweat-proof capabilities, especially given his track record of ruining running earbuds as well as their quality sound performance.
Review: I sweat so much it damages earbuds. Here's what I wear to run now instead
"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."
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
Sony's WH-1000XM5 deliver superior sound, a comfortable form factor, and lightweight design, all features that gave them ZDNET's title as the Best 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; automatically adjusting 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 amping up your workouts instead of your headphones.
Review: Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are basically perfect
By partnering with Amazon's Alexa, the WH-1000XM5 allow for hands-free operation so you can fully focus on the workout task at (or in) hand.
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
In September 2022 the second coming of the already revolutionary AirPods Pro model offered upgrades in transparency and active noise cancellation modes, battery life, and variety of silicone tips. I tested the second-gen Pros myself and was impressed that with the addition of the extra small ear tips, they passed my sweaty sprint test on the treadmill with flying colors.
Also: AirPods Pro 2 offer two big upgrades but connectivity chaos hasn't been tamed
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 just throw in your gym bag and go.
Bose Sport Earbuds specs: Weight: 24 ounces | Battery life: 10 hours (in case) | Bluetooth version: 5.1 | Waterproof: IPX4 | Noise cancellation: N/A
Bose is always a top player when it comes to sound, and their sports earbuds are no exception. The compact and lightweight design fits comfortably in your ear, and thanks to the winged tips, provide extra security as you run, burpee, or lift. While the Bose Sport earbuds may not feature Bose's incredible Active Noise Cancelation, Amazon customer reviews still boast about the sound quality overall, however noting they're heavier on treble than the bass. If you're a cyclist or outdoor runner, however, a bit of transparency might be nice to stay aware of your surroundings.
The earbuds are equipped with an IPX4 rating and 5 hours of battery life without the charging case, and an extra 10 hours in the case. To make navigating audio on the go easy, the buds also feature intuitive touch controls.
The Jabra Elite 7 Active headphones are our ultimate pick for the best in-ear workout headphone, but here's how other models on the market compare in fit, price, battery, and durability.
Jabra Elite 7 Active
Up to 8.5 hours
Shokz OpenRun Pro
Up to 10 hours
Up to 30 hours
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)
Up to 6 hours
Bose Sport Earbuds
In-ear with wing grip
Up to 5 hours
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…
Jabra Elite 7 Active
Want a comfortable pair of lightweight in-ear buds with "premium" earbud features like ANC, long-lasting battery, and runner-friendly button touch controls.
Shokz OpenRun Pro
Want bone conduction, sweatproof headphones that deliver 10-hour battery life. These are also great if you find noise-canceling options disorienting.
Are 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.
Bose Sport Earbuds
Like the security of a winged-tip without the built-up pressure. These are snug while remaining lightweight and deliver excellent sound quality.
These headphones were chosen based on an array of factors including:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bluetooth doesn't like water, but thanks to the Playlist+ feature on these headphones, users can load music straight to the hardware and leave their phones at home as they cycle, run, or even swim. Aside from the upgraded download feature, HzO Tri Pro Multi-Sport headphones have 8GB of memory, can withstand 12 feet of water submission, and last for a consecutive five hours.
The AirPods (3rd Generation) might not be in the 'Pro' family, but they're still great, offering solid sound performance, up to 30-hour battery life, and an IPX4 water resistance rating.
If you're a Galaxy user, look no further. These buds feature an ergonomic fit and deliver on ANC capabilities so you can block out extra noise and lock into your workout. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro come with five hours of listening with ANC on, an IPX7 water and sweat resistance rating, and Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity.