Comparing The Best Wireless / Bluetooth Headphones For Running

best wireless running headphones

What should you expect from the best bluetooth headphones for running?

No hassle, a comfortable fit, and you should feel the band running alongside you.

What else?

  • Quality sound,
  • Portable and light,
  • Water/sweat resistant,
  • Durable and
  • Wireless!

If you are in a hurry to get to the bottom line, here are the top choices:

  NameDesign TypeNoise Isolating/CancelingRating 
Best Overall
Phaiser BHS-730In-ear memory foamIsolating4.8/5Check Price
Read Review
Best Quality
ZipBuds 26In-ear (optional in-ear hooks)Isolating4.6/5Check Price
Read Review
Best Budget
SENSO ActivBudsIn-ear with over-ear hooksIsolating4.3/5Check Price
Read Review
Best Neckband
BestOnly MagneticIn-ear with neckbandIsolating4.2/5Check Price
Read Review
T

his guide will help you choose the best value wireless running headphones for your money.

You will be able to pinpoint what is a must while avoid those costly features you don’t need. Top brand headset manufacturers like to confuse you with lengthy, meaningless acronyms and tech-terms. Forget all that. Finding a good running HEADSET isn’t rocket science, and my guide is here to show you that it can be easy and within budget.

This guide is different. I am fully focused on headsets for runners. While there are tons of guides for audiophiles, none are as in depth and researched as this one for runners.

You can read the whole guide or just stick to this simple cheat sheet below on what to look for:

Best Wireless Headphones For Running

Wireless Running Headphones Comparison Chart

phaiser green
Best Overall!

Phaiser BHS-730

  • 4.8/5 Rating
  • In-ear memory foam
  • Isolating
  • 6-8 hours
phaiser green

Recommendation

Phaiser qualities are always made with runners in mind.You won’t be sacrificing sound quality for comfort with these. High-quality audio features, like a boosted bass and sound consistency at all volumes, Sweat-proof, easy-connecting with Bluetooth 4.1 and noise isolating technology make these an all-around top-notch product.

Our Rating: 4.8/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear memory foam
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
6-8 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
*Liquipel Nanocoating IPX7
Special Features
Anti-drop winged ear-phone tips

Phaiser BHS-730

Who Should Buy

Runners looking for a durable, sweat-proof set of headphones with great connectivity and sound. Can be used for any workout, but hands-free calling and lightweight design make these headphones ideal for runners specifically. What you get for the price here is the best.Click here for the Phaiser BHS-730

Review

Introducing the Phaiser BHS-730, the best overall choice on my list. As I mention in the 530 review, Phaiser have some great runner-specific technologies at their disposal. Take, for example, their memory foam ear tips for an airtight sound seal and features like in-built microphone and speaker for taking calls on the go. Standard features such as sweat-proof and up-to-date Bluetooth connection are present, of course, but what makes these headphones stand out is their improved sound quality over the 530s.
Compared with Phaiser’s earlier model, the 730 line has amped up its sound quality game. Both products are known for their fantastic bass, but the improvements to treble and excellent audio attributes in this headset are phenomenal. This is especially obvious when you consider the price range! The BHS-730 model has been designed to achieve a crisp sound at all volumes so that you don’t have to deal with crackle and hiss as you turn up the volume. As far as aesthetics goes, these are a beautiful set of headphones.
Now, on to comfort. My biggest problem with the 530s was that awkward, chunky design. No more. Bite-sized and adjustable in size, not to mention made with Phaiser’s Comply T-400 technology, the 730s make for a comfortable, firm fit. And once you’re done listening, each earbud is backed with a magnetic strip for secure, tangle-free storage.

Pros
  • Noise isolating with memory foam ear tips
  • The earphones fit snugly
  • Magnetic backing for easy storage
  • Noise-isolating microphone
  • The carrying case is solid and feels nice
Cons
  • Not fully isolating, some bass escapes
  • Slightly shorter battery life
  • Reports that customer service is poor
zipbuds
Best Quality!

ZipBuds 26

  • 4.6/5 Rating
  • In-ear (optional in-ear hooks)
  • Isolating
  • 15 hours!
zipbuds

Recommendation

Zipbuds 26 are my number one choice for both sound quality and battery life. With an in-built hybrid driver system (incredibly rare for wireless earbuds) and subwoofer, you can expect an incredible sound with perfect control. Runners who don’t just want to blast some bass while they run will certainly appreciate the sound quality produced by Zipbuds 26.

Our Rating: 4.6/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear (optional in-ear hooks)
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
15 hours!
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
IPX4
Special Features
Fitness lock stabilizers

ZipBuds 26

Who Should Buy

Audiophiles, listen up. If you are looking for a set of headphones for listening before, during and after your workout, these will last you all day-with top-of-the-line sound quality to match.Click here for the ZipBuds 26

Review

Introducing one of the world’s only wireless earbuds with an in-built hybrid driver system. For the general reader, this might not mean anything, but the audiophile is already tingling with excitement. Zipbuds 26 produce by far the cleanest, crispest sound of any headset on this list. An in-built subwoofer provides remarkable, though not overpowering bass, while maintaining sound quality at all volumes. For sound and audio quality, this really is the best item I’ve reviewed.
For style, the 26s also get my excited approval. The slender in-ear design is simple and doesn’t draw much attention, which I find a positive. Along the wire you’ll find the easy access controls for playback and calling, which might be about the bulkiest thing you’ll see in the design.
Zipbuds also score very well when it comes to comfort and fit. With 144 custom fit options included, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect shape for your ear. A supercharged battery promises up to 15 hours of listening and talk time, with 200 standby hours to survive even your busiest week. For quality like the Zipbuds 26, you’ll need to be willing to invest a little, but with a one year warranty guarantee on purchase you can feel a little more confident in your decision.

Pros
  • Audiophile quality sound
  • Bass is significant without being overpowering
  • Extremely lightweight due to its weight stabilizing system
  • Battery life claims 15 hours at its best, though this number might be reduced with loud volume
  • 144 custom fits for a perfect fit
  • White & rose gold color option is awesome
  • and forget headphones that crackle and hiss at the best bits of your favorite songs.
Cons
  • Highly priced for running headphones
  • Chunky button device hanging below earbuds, could be placed to be less visible
senso
Best Budget!

SENSO ActivBuds

  • 4.4/5 Rating
  • In-ear with over-ear hooks
  • Isolating
  • 8 hours
senso

Recommendation

From a relatively unknown headphone company we find one of the best budget options on the market. Filled with all the essential features a runner could hope for, like a sweat-resistant design, Bluetooth 4.1, over-ear hooks and more, Senso ActivBuds are made to move. The over-ear hook design is flexible and has a little give as you run–this makes for a very comfortable fit.

Our Rating: 4.4/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear with over-ear hooks
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
8 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
IPX7
Special Features
Over-ear support hooks

SENSO ActivBuds

Who Should Buy

Anyone who is serious about their workouts, but doesn’t want to dish out $100+ on a set of headphones. Great for outdoor runners who don’t want to fully block out ambient noise.Click here for the SENSO ActivBuds

Review

Senso’s ActivBuds are an impressive budget option. Noise isolating, sweat-proof, gentle on the wallet. Add to that list a handy battery life (up to 8 hours) and the latest Bluetooth specification (4.1), and they almost seem too good to be true.
The quality of sound is great-a genuine surprise for earbuds in this price range. So long as you don’t expect the same as you would from a $500 pair of studio headphones. The sound quality is comparable to many $100 headsets I’ve tested. You won’t be disappointed in the audio quality while listening to music while you work out. They produce incredible volume, too, so I never needed to go over 60 percent of my phone’s max!
Compared to other noise isolating headphones, these are a little less complete. Senso advertises the design as ‘noise suppressing,’ rather than isolating, and while the concepts are almost identical, the Senso ActivBuds do let in more ambient sound than other models. I don’t mind this though. Especially if I’m exercising in a busy gym and need to be aware of my surroundings; sometimes when the isolation is too good, you can get a little too lost in the music. This is fine if it just means dancing like no-one is watching, but running in traffic can be somewhat dangerous! All in all, I don’t mind some ambient noise.
Lastly, the design includes a pair of over-ear hooks for a firmer hold. At first, I was a little skeptical, but once you put them on you never notice them again. The hooks are a soft, silicone gel flex material, the Senso ActivBud hooks let you run, jump, and bend without hesitation, always keeping the music to your ears.

Pros
  • Noise isolating (suppressing)
  • The latest in Bluetooth connectivity
  • Long lasting battery
  • Comfortable fit with soft silicone gel hooks
Cons
  • Flexible ear-hooks sometimes bounce with heavy running
bestonly
Best Neckband!

BestOnly Magnetic

  • 4.2/5 Rating
  • In-ear with neckband
  • Isolating
  • 10 hours
bestonly

Recommendation

BestOnly has produced an excellent, affordable headset for exercising. Sweat-proof with 300 standby hours of battery life, this headset will last you a week’s worth of running. Not for the audiophile with a tuned ear, but certainly decent for any runners who enjoy the music as an accompaniment to their run.

Our Rating: 4.2/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear with neckband
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
10 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
Yes
Special Features
Flexible neckband

BestOnly Magnetic

Who Should Buy

Runners looking for a convenient, easy to set-up headset with comfortable neckband design and long battery life.Click here for the BestOnly Magnetic

Review

When it comes to bang for your buck, BestOnly are a top option. The flexible, silicon neckband design is comfortable and allows for a little more battery space. And with an impressive 10 hours of listening time (and 300 standby hours) per charge, they seem to have used this space well. The stand-by figure is particularly useful. It means even if you forget to charge them, you’re unlikely to get caught out with a dead battery.
Add to this a sweat-proof design and hands-free calling. A built-in microphone is located in the neckband. The microphone works great, even at a casual volume while you run. Button controls are simple to operate, and all of this can be quickly and easily setup through the latest Bluetooth connection technology.
BestOnly hasn’t spent the big bucks on advanced drivers or top-of-the-shelf audio quality. But they have focussed on producing a great bass sound, so if it’s bass you’re after to keep your run going, then this headset will serve you well. Many people won’t even notice the difference between the quality of this headset and other similar priced models. The difference is noticeable only in the sound range and consistency. All in all, the sound quality is more than acceptable if you plan on using the headset primarily for running and exercising.

Pros
  • – Great battery life, so you don’t need to charge each night
  • – Magnetic ear-pieces so that the wires do not tangle
  • – Noise isolating sound
  • – Deep bass to keep you going on your run
Cons
  • – Finer audio quality is lacking
  • – Eartips are not molded to the ear
  • – Some reports of poor durability
bose
Bose SoundSport
  • 4.2/5 Rating
  • In-ear with in-ear hooks
  • Isolating
  • 6 hours
bose

Recommendation

If you are looking for the best quality sound, and your willing to invest, these are the headphones you’re after. Bose is a worldwide name in the industry, and they have lived up to the hype with this headset for workouts. A sports-focussed headphones which is suitable for running, gym workouts and even individual training sessions (like solo skills sessions for basketball and soccer).

Our Rating: 4.2/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear with in-ear hooks
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
6 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1 + NFC
Sweat-proof
IPX4
Special features
In-built heart-rate sensor

Bose SoundSport

Who Should Buy

Bose’s SoundSport provides a listening experience worth the price tag. Runner-friendly design features like sweat and weather resistance make it perfect for runners, but it is sound quality which really sets this model apart from some others on the list.Click here for the Bose SoundSport

Review

Bose is a powerhouse in the headphones industry, so it’s no surprise to find them on my list. Recently, they have expanded into the exercising world and have done so in their usual fashion. With the highest quality. For sound and comfort, there are few headsets on the market to match Bose’s SoundSport. The fit is firm and tight, so firm that you will have trouble making them fall out even if you try.
With decades of research and experience in the business of making quality audio, Bose offer a remarkable sound. Some might question why the SoundSport doesn’t offer noise cancellation, since price is certainly not the reason. The truth is, for runners it is much more important to have a quality set of noise isolating headphones, and that’s precisely what these are. And when you can invest in quality drivers, bass, treble, consistency and balanced outputs at all volumes, then why bother with noise cancelling technology?
For convenience, Bose have developed an app which pairs directly to the headset. It includes basic options for playback and calling, along with some neat tracking features for your workout. Also, the headset boasts NFC pairing. This might not be an essential point, but it can be useful for a quick connection-it also bypasses any Bluetooth connectivity hassles you might experience on your device.

Pros
  • In-built sensor to track your heart rate
  • Bluetooth + NFC pairing for easy connection
  • High quality audio for listening on any occasion
  • Hands-free calling
Cons
  • Short battery life
  • Durability issues, with some headsets breaking down after a year
plantronics
Plantronics BackBeat Fit
  • 4.1/5 Rating
  • In-ear with over-ear hooks
  • Isolating
  • 8 hours
plantronics

Recommendation

The BackBeat Fit model from Plantronics is a quality option for runners. Made with exercise specific features like sweat and weather resistance, extended battery life for longer sessions, a quick charge time and over-ear hooks to keep the music where you want it, this headset will prove a trusted running companion.

Our Rating: 4.1/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear with over-ear hooks
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
8 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
IP57
Special Features
Smartphone armband included*

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Who Should Buy

For those looking to prioritize sound quality, fit and durability.Click here for the Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Review

The team at Plantronics are awarded my ‘best over-ear headset’ for their all-around impressive BackBeat Fit model. The flexible over-ear design allows for a comfortable, tight fit which lets you run without hassle. Made with a protective nano-coating, the headset is not only sweat resistant, but can withstand moisture on rainy days, too.
With up to 8 hours of listening time, BackBeat Fits should last a week’s worth of exercise. That being said, Plantronics also boast their quick charge technology which gives you an extra hour’s listening for only 10-15 minutes charging time. Easy access controls are located on-ear, where you can skip songs, control playback and take calls. The headset also connects with a companion app, made specifically for the BackBeat Fit model, which is available for both Android and iOS.
The sound produced has a stronger bass focus, but it’s still a good quality audio. Also, when it comes to noise isolation, this headset doesn’t block out as much ambient noise as some others on my list. Whether this is a positive or a negative factor, you decide for yourself-it just means that you can really hear buses and traffic while you run.

Pros
  • A couple of minutes of charging will give about an hour of play time
  • Flexible design
  • Strong bass
  • Easy-access controls on-ear for skipping songs and taking calls
Cons
  • Possibly too much ambient noise
  • The fit is a little uncomfortable and not as secure as some of its competitors
phaiser wireless headphones
Phaiser BHS-530
  • 4.0/5 Rating
  • In-ear memory foam
  • Isolating
  • 11 hours
phaiser wireless headphones

Recommendation

The in-ear memory foam is a great touch. I would go so far as to say the fit is one of the best from the headphones tried. The sound is quite bass-focused, which can drown out some of the more subtle audio qualities. However, the team at Phaiser haven’t taken any shortcuts when it comes to producing mind-numbing, blood-pumping bass. These headphones will have you shaking.

Our Rating: 4.0/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear memory foam
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
11 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
*Liquipel Nano Coating IPX7
Special Features
Noise-canceling microphone

Phaiser BHS-530

Who Should Buy

These are the perfect headphones for runners who enjoy loud, pumping music while they run. With a lifetime warranty for damage caused by sweat, these are made for intense workouts.Click here for the Phaiser BHS-530

Review

The battle for best budget headphones is a tight one, and Phaiser have put in their top contender. With their Comply T-400 memory foam ear tips, you can expect an incredibly tight sound seal for great noise isolation (see more in buyer’s guide: isolation v cancellation).

As to be expected with an intense bass, there’s a slight sacrifice made to the overall audio quality. However, this is only noticed in a quiet room, with a keen ear, and hardly a significant factor when it comes to an intense gym workout or the grind of your daily run. And when it comes to running, Phaiser’s BHS-530 headphones are tough to beat. Up to 11 hours listening time, combined with a lifetime warranty for any damage caused by sweat!
For me, personally, I found the design a bit chunky. The in-ear memory foam design worked very well, but the block-edged section which surrounds it wasn’t my favorite aspect, aesthetically. That being said, it’s a small price to pay for a pair of headphones that will stay the full length of your workout. And considering this product’s actual price-tag, you will have a hard time finding better value for your money.

Pros
  • In-ear memory foam for a consistent, unique fit
  • 11 hours battery life
  • Latest in Bluetooth connectivity
  • In-built, noise-canceling microphone
Cons
  • Chunky design
  • Bass overwhelms finer audio quality
  • Takes a while to secure a fit that feels even on both ears
lifebeam
Vi Fitness from LifeBEAM
  • 3.8/5 Rating
  • In-ear with over-ear hooks
  • Isolating
  • 8 hours
lifebeam

Recommendation

Vi Fitness from LifeBEAM is taking a somewhat new approach to sports headphones. The focus isn’t just on the headset itself, but on the companion app–the Vi Fitness artificial trainer which guides and assists your workouts. The audio and headset quality is of a decent standard, and I personally found the AI Fitness Trainer a good motivator for daily running goals.

Our Rating: 3.8/5

TECH SPECS

Design Type
In-ear with over-ear hooks
Noise Isolating/Canceling
Isolating
Battery Life
8 hours
Bluetooth Specification
4.1
Sweat-proof
IPX5
Special Features
A.I. Fitness Trainer

Vi Fitness from LifeBEAM

Who Should Buy

If you need a helping hand with your workouts, the Vi system could be perfect for you. Still developing in the AI Trainer technology, this could be an early trend for future fitness headsets to follow.Click here for the Vi Fitness from LifeBEAM

Review

Vi Fitness, and models like it, are what I expect to be the future of running headphones. The Vi Fitness system (or just Vi) is a new way of combining sport-specific headsets (with features like sweat-resistance and long battery life) with fitness-oriented applications and workout programs.
The design itself is aesthetically pleasing. Sleek and simplistic, without many added gadgets or chunky extras. They use magnetic strips for easy storage and Bluetooth 4.1 for a high quality connection. I like that they haven’t tried to pack too much into the headset and have focussed on the main thing they are looking to offer.
This is that Vi claims to be the first true A.I. Personal Trainer. It not only monitors things like heart rate and speed, but it checks in with you during a session. If, in the middle of your run, you start to slow down and gasp for air, Vi will suggest that you take a couple of minutes walking until your heart-rate steadies. Vi tracks the weather of your route, too, so that you can be ready for that thunderstorm which might otherwise catch you mid-run. And it’s safe to say that this is still very much a developing technology–who knows what other nifty options will be added in the future.
I will say, though, for an expensive headset like this, I would’ve hoped for better audio quality. It seems that you are paying mostly for the Vi fitness system, which is not such a bad thing-it only means that you can buy headphones for the same price with strictly better audio quality.

Pros
  • Innovative idea, likely to develop as a technology of the future
  • Useful features like ‘Run to the beat’ to improve your running cadence
  • Attractive, simple design
  • Hands-free calling
  • Can really help with your fitness goals: ‘I’m thanking Vi for helping me beat my PR’
Cons
  • Expensive, considering the audio quality
  • Not intended for workouts other than running
  • Somewhat in beta stage; Heart rate monitor can be inconsistent and lose its reading

How To Choose The Best Wireless / Bluetooth Running Headphones

The Definitive Buyer’s Guide

wireless running headphones buyers guide

What Type Of Running Headphones Should I Get?

The answer is simple: runners should stick with in-ear headphones. These models are placed deeper into your ear canal to achieve what is known as a sound seal (we will get into this more when I talk in-depth about noise isolation versus noise cancellation!). For now, just know that in-ear headphones offer great noise isolation and this is a huge plus. They are also incredibly portable, coming in both wired and Bluetooth options, and are great for exercising. Still relatively affordable, many in-ear models will produce a great sound without emptying your wallet.

What Other Types Of Headphones Are There?

Earbuds: These are perhaps the most common and affordable design for listening. Ranging from the cheap plastic models you receive on with your iPhone. Resting in the bowl of your ear, earbuds do not offer much noise isolation or cancellation (explained below), and usually you’ll need to listen to your music at a higher volume than other designs to receive the same effect. Not recommended for runners, they tend to fall out while running.

Over-ear headphones: Coming in both full-size and ear-pad models, over-ear headphones have the highest ceiling when it comes to quality. And price. These models use large pads or cups which cover your ear either partially or completely. Full-size headphones will create a great sound seal, and many models also offer high-end noise cancellation processing. The trouble with full-size models, however, is they can be a bit bulky. And unless you find the perfect fit, they can be uncomfortable for exercising and running. These models are best saved for long flights and public transport trips when you just want some peace and time to yourself.

Bone Conduction Headphones: Originally designed for military and medical purposes, Bone Conduction Technology (BCT) lets you hear sounds through the subtle vibrations of your cheekbones and jaw. It’s a way of bypassing the outer and middle ear. Instead, sound waves are sent directly to your inner ear, which is in fact the sensory organ for hearing. This means that your outer ear isn’t obstructed in the same way as regular headphones-for runners, this is especially useful since you want to be aware of your surroundings; whether it’s local traffic or your neighbor calling out to you!

In recent years the sporting headphones world has caught onto this technology and rapid steps are being made. Currently, there is still a difference in the fine quality of sound with BCT headphones. You want be able to receive the same high quality feedback as can be achieved with current in-ear headphones, however, the technology is still relatively new in the music industry.

Noise Isolation Vs Noise Cancellation

For running, noise isolation is what matters. No need to spend the extra cash for noise cancellation, unless you plan on using your headphones for other needs.

You have probably heard these two terms floating around in headphone conversation, so what do they mean and what are the differences between them? To put it simply, noise isolation blocks out unwanted sounds, whereas noise cancellation electronically cancels out sound waves. They both share the same goal: keeping out all the extra background noise which stops you from hearing what you are trying to listen to. This is also called ambient noise, and the isolation versus cancellation debate is simply a matter of blocking this out.

Noise isolating headphones block out the sound by sealing the area around your ear. When it comes to in-ear headphones, however, isolation largely depends upon how well the earbuds actually fit with your ear. Noise isolation is all about creating a sound seal, and if the fit is too

Noise cancellation, on the other hand, uses some clever processing to cancel out that unwanted ambient noise. These headphones actually use microphones to detect ambient noise and then create an inverse sound wave to counter it. Imagine that the sound of your car engine creates the sound signature x. Noise canceling headphones will pick this up, then feed you the sound -x for a sum total of 0 background noise. It goes without saying that some products achieve this end better than others. No cancellation is entirely perfect. However, these products are remarkably good at creating a quiet listening environment and are great for canceling droning, humming and low-level bass ambient noise.

Wireless Range

Most wireless headsets running on Bluetooth will offer up to 30ft of range. Of course, when you run with your phone or audio device, this is hardly an issue. However, the 30ft range gives you more than enough freedom to move around after or before a session without losing connection.

How To Choose A Great Sounding Set Of Headphones?

Matters of convenience and style aside, let’s start practically. First and foremost, you want your headphones to produce a great sound. Headphones that have range, pitch accuracy and control. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend on studio-quality headphones to find a quality sound. You don’t need to be an audio expert, either.

What to look out for?

Frequency

The standard frequency response range for most headphones is 20 to 20,000 Hz. Anything within this range will offer you the normal range of sounds that are audible to the human ear. The average adult can only hear soundwaves up 18,000 Hz, so don’t think you’ll be missing out on anything in the higher ranges. Other headphones may offer a wider range, with frequencies as high as 33,000, but this is generally above human hearing. Besides, these figures do not guarantee or correlate to better sound quality.

Bass

Headphones with the best bass usually achieve this by means of design. In-ear headphones with a tight fit and a complete air seal will achieve the best bass response. Bass sounds are lost when you move toward open-ear models of headphones, so if you like to listen to some deep bass sounds on your run, a tightly sealed pair of headphones will be key. In-ear headphones aren’t able to gain bass through larger driver sizes, so they really do rely on this air-tight seal.

Quality tests

There are a few simple ways to test the sound quality of your headphones. One is to play music from a time when audio files weren’t so heavily compressed. Throw on a Bob Dylan song and see if the headphones can capture that Dylan-esque harmonica. Poor quality headphones will give a scratchy, uneven sound. Better yet, play some orchestral classical to test how well the headphones can identify specific instruments.

Pre-recorded Sound Tests

There are also a number of pre-recorded sound tests and websites for testing headphone quality. These audio files play a series of sounds, telling you what each sound is supposed to sound like. Sometimes they will also test the range of your headphones. For example, tone #1 will test the bass extension while tone #4 will test dynamic range. You don’t need to worry too much about these tests, but if you’re interested in top-of-the-line products, then it might be worth your while.

Drivers

The part of the headphone which converts electrical signals into sweet, wonderful music is called a driver unit. These vary in size, shape, quality and style, with the most commonly produced drivers being dynamic. Dynamic drivers produce great bass with relatively low power outputs. On the high-end markets, you’ll likely find headsets run on planar magnetic or electrostatic drivers, for producing incredibly refined and high-quality audio.

Sensitivity

This is pretty much what it sounds like-how sensitive your headset is to the audio input. It will decide how much oomph you get for each volume increment. These values can be difficult to understand, and the figures themselves are useless without knowing the strength of your audio output.

Impedance

Without getting too deeply into the physics, impedance is basically a measure of how much current is flowing (or much is being resisted). The higher the impedance, the less current will flow. For the most efficient power transfer, impedance figures between the audio output and the headphones themselves should match. *This is a bit technical, and not so important for the average buyer.

NFC

This is the same technology used for features like PayWave and other ‘tap-and-go’ payment methods. It’s a way of connecting two devices simply by placing them in very close proximity (within 10cm, usually). This means that wireless headphones with NFC can be quickly and easily paired with other NFC devices, simply by placing them together. No passwords, no complicated pairing process, just a quick tap and you’re ready to go.

Wireless Vs Corded Earphones

For running, there’s no real competition. Corded headphones aren’t just aesthetically awkward, they’re impractical and less durable. When the wires aren’t busy getting tangled up in your backpack, they’re busy catching on your thumbs-yanking the music right out your ears. Corded headphones fray quickly with frequent use, and once the wire itself is damaged the quality of sound suffers. Wireless headphones are immune to all of these problems, with the added bonus of being incredibly stylish.

Choosing The Best Wireless/bluetooth Features For Your Headphones

Let’s face it: wireless headphones are a joy to use. A decent pair of wireless headphones is not only stylish, but convenient. The question is, do you need to make any sacrifices for this?

In 2018, the answer is a strong no. Not only do wireless headsets produce a great sound, but issues of battery life and consistent connection have been largely eliminated in most top-end products.

What Bluetooth Version Is Best

Of the three major Wireless headphone technologies, Bluetooth is the definite winner and most widely spread. The latest version to come out is 5.0, while the most prominent version is Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth 4.0 has improved on the sound quality and lag time of previous versions, silencing the wireless headphone critics.

The first models of Bluetooth weren’t intended for high quality listening. With the growth of wireless headphones, this has become an essential buying point and Bluetooth 4.0 no longer digitally compresses audio files, which means the sound quality remains higher.

Low Latency

This means that the lag time between audio and vision is minimal. Previous Bluetooth models were often criticized on this point, since the audio signal took too long to transmit into the wireless headphones. Versions 4.0 and higher don’t suffer from this issue, so if you plan on watching or streaming videos with your new headset, be sure to read the Bluetooth specifications.

Battery life

Wireless headphones run on a internal built-in battery. Your charge life is an important feature to be aware of. Most sets will typically offer over 6 hours when fully charged, with some models at 8-12 and other as high as 40 hours of listening time! 6 hours is enough for most people to run all week before needing a charge, so no real need for longer listening time. Also, more expensive headsets don’t always come through on this point, so don’t think that just because you’ve spent a pretty dime you’ll get a long-lasting battery life.

Form Factors & Comfort

For running, you really can’t go past the in-ear style. However, even within this choice there is considerable range, and finding a comfortable fit is one of the most important aspects of your search.
Neck sitting: Here you have your wireless headset connected to a slightly thicker neckband piece. This is where all of the electronic machinery is kept, and its what will hold your battery, too. Most models will keep this relatively loose-fitting, so that it can simply rest on the base of your neck, allowing for easy movement and on-the-go listening.

In-ear buds

These are the future of wireless running headphones. Totally wireless, and without any additional connecting pieces, these little guys simply attach at the ear and stay there. Technology for these models is still in its early stages-battery life is considerably lower than other in-ear wireless models.

Earbud Materials

In-ear headsets vary on style and form from brand to brand. Some use small hooks which lock into the shape of your ear, others use round, adjustable rubber pads. The goal is always to achieve the best possible sound seal and you’d be surprised how difficult this can be. So don’t be surprised if you put on a headset and find that it’s totally wrong for your ear! It might be the best for other people, but the best headset for you personally must always be a comfortable, tight fit.

Microphone and controls

Small buttons for play/pause/skip and return processes are common on most headsets these days. The trouble with some wireless models is that they don’t really think about the practicality of these buttons. They are thinking about style and aesthetics, and so you can find many products with buttons that are difficult to find by touch, or are otherwise awkwardly placed. Keep an eye out for easy-to-use controls on any future headsets. Also be sure to know where your headset’s microphone is placed-so when you’re taking a call, you won’t need shout like a madman down the street!

Heart Rate Monitor

In-ear heart rate monitors are yet another futuristic point on the wireless list. Using photoplethysmography to take snaps of your pulse, headsets with in-built heart-rate monitors save you the hassle (and often inaccuracy) of chest and wrist straps. Products such as Underarmour sport wireless will tell you your current heart rate at one tap of the left earbud, along with tracking many other cool fitness features.

Over ear support

If you’re still worried about your in-earbuds falling out while you run, there are models with an over-ear support built-in. This is usually a thin, curved strip of plastic which matches the curve of your ear. Once you place the earbud in your ear, the over-ear support should comfortably wrap around the back of your outer ear to ensure a tight, sturdy fit. This is probably the safest bet when ordering online.

Durability

Should I go with Running Sweat Proof?
Yes!

I have tested many non-sweat proof headsets while running and the results have been disastrous. At first, there usually isn’t an issue, but within 1 to 3 months, most headset will already show signs of damage. In many cases, I ended up with crackling noises or the death of the headset entirely. Sadly, some of these sets were over $200, so don’t make the same mistake as me! Sweat proof headsets are essential for runners.

Warranty

Many mid-range to top-end headphones come with one or two year warranties, and it is well-worth holding onto these receipts. Be sure to take a look at the product’s listed warranty. Not only will this tell you how confident the manufacturers are in their product, it will also give you some confidence in purchasing.

Does Running Damage Earphones?

No. Running may lead to a slightly faster rate of wear and tear, but it will not directly damage your headphones. Some headphones with sensitive heart rate monitors might get knocked about and lose tracking for a moment, but designers have made running headsets specifically with runners in mind-so don’t worry!

What Headphone Brand/type Is Best For Running With?

See our BEST OVERALL in the comparisons post.

Are Apple Earphones Good For Running?

No! The standard apple wired headphones are a runner’s nightmare. They are a ‘one-size-fits-all’ style of earbud which is likely to fall out several times per run. What’s more, once you begin to sweat these will slip and slide even more. Beyond all that, there are matters of sound quality and volume; and the fact that they are not wireless is an obvious no-go for serious runners.

How To Wear Running Headphones?

In-ear headphones are simple to wear, and once you find the right fit you’ll never need to adjust. Don’t worry about pushing too deeply, just make sure that the in-ear section is firmly placed within the outer ear canal. At first you might need to adjust the tip sizings, but always be sure that the earbuds are sitting tightly in your ears before running.

How To Stop Earbuds From Falling Out?

I always recommend getting models that come with a wide range of earbud sizes. Most headsets will come with different-sized tips and cones, so you can adjust accordingly. Worst case scenario, you can return them. In-store size testing can be difficult since people don’t really like putting used earbuds in their ears… most stores simply don’t offer this option, so you’ll need to take a slight leap of faith on this point. Otherwise, look for earbuds with hooks in their design, or models which use a deeper in-ear style.

How To Wear Back Neck Running Headphones?

It’s simple. Rest the neckband over the back of your lower neck, then place the connected earbuds in your ears. Turn on your bluetooth and connect to the headset, then start running!

Can You Electrocute Yourself From Earphones?

Always be sure that your earphones are in good condition. If the wires are obviously frayed, then you might consider buying a new pair or checking your warranty. But the short answer to this question is no. The sound cable does not carry nearly enough charge to seriously shock you, at worst you might receive a slight zap.

How Long Do Your Earbuds Last Before Dying?

This depends upon the quality, but an earbuds lifetime can be anything from ten days to ten years. The highest quality headsets will offer a two year guarantee, but with good care and treatment, most high quality earbuds should last for at least a few years.

How To Check The Potential Battery Life Of Your Wireless Earphones?

On each product you will find a listed battery life for the headset. These figures are always on the optimistic side, but are generally pretty accurate. If you are unsure, or cannot find it, feel free to look up your headsets online, or check my ‘best headphones for running’ list to find the batteries lifes of the best headphones out there.

Cheat Sheet

Which Design Type is Best For Runners?
In-ear models are the stand-out favorite. Other headset types include: earbuds, over-ear headphones, and bone-conduction technologies. None of these can match the in-ear design for runners, though.

Noise Isolating versus Noise Cancellation:
What’s the deal? To be perfectly blunt, for running, noise isolation is what matters. No need to spend the extra cash on noise cancellation technology, especially when this can be dangerous for runners who workout near traffic or other hazards.

How to Choose a Great Set of Headphones?
Factors to look out for include: Frequency, bass, driver size & type, sensitivity, wireless range, NFC, impedance and aesthetics. For more in-depth information on these points, scroll down.

Wireless vs. Corded
Wireless, wireless, wireless! For runners, wireless headphones are the only serious option.
Choosing the Best Wireless/Bluetooth Features You want to keep an eye out for Bluetooth versions 4.0 or higher. Previous version weren’t designed with high quality audio in mind, but these recent developments in wireless technology make for a powerful listening experience.

Form Factors & Comfort
Over-ear, neck sitting and in-ear buds are all viable options here, it’s just a matter of style. Neck sitting models typically allow for a longer battery life, while in-ear buds are incredibly light and portable.

Durability and Warranty
Sweat proof headsets are essential, and a one-year warranty is always a good sign. Beyond that, simply take good care of your headphones and they should last up to 5 years.

Other Features
Keep an eye out for running headsets with awesome features like heart rate monitors and fitness trackers. Also, be sure to check the button control layout and microphone placement. Some models are much better than others on this point!

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