The headphone market is huge which can make it hard to choose the right pair. Many people like to listen to music when running or working out and that means there are headphones designed for fitness.
Lots of choice for consumers is a good thing but it can make the buying decision a bit overwhelming. Well, that’s where we come in as we’ve tested some of the best running headphones you can buy - whether they are earbuds, neckbuds or another style.
Of course, we can never test every pair that’s available, but here are the best headphones for running and fitness that we’ve fully tested and can recommend. They are either designed for the purpose or are perfectly suitable even if they’re not overtly marketed for sport.
We’ve got headphones in a range of styles and prices, with various different features depending on what you’re looking for.
Best running headphones 2022
Adidas RPD-01 - Best Overall
- Impressive fit
- Great audio quality
- Budget friendly
- Slow charging
- Limited battery life
- Awkward media controls
As you might expect from a brand like Adidas, these headphones are made for sport and exercise. They're also really affordable so you're not paying for a logo here.
The design is excellent with lightweight construction and different sizes of tips and fins to keep the earbuds nice and secure. There's also IPX4 water resistance.
Charging is a little slow for a full charge and battery life isn't a long as more expensive Adidas pairs but sound quality is good and again, the RPD-01 are very cheap.
Read our full Adidas RPD-01 review
Jabra Elite Active 75t - Best Wireless Earbuds
- Durable design
- Great battery life
- Fairly pricey
- Not the best sound
These aren't the most recent model from Jabra but remain our favourite. In part because the firm has retrospectively added active noise cancelling and we didn't find the 85t to fit very well.
Being older, the 75t are now reduced in price and offer a well-rounded experience for a pair of true wireless earbuds.
ANC aside, there's strong 28-hour total battery life, a decent fit with 'active grip' surface, reliable touch controls and high IP57 rating. They don't have the best sound quality we've ever heard but we've tested a lot of headphones.
Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review
Adidas FWD-01 - Best Lightweight Neckbuds
- Powerful bass
- Lightweight design
- Secure fit
- No auto-play tech
- Bulky earbuds
The backs of the earbuds are a little bulky but the FWD-01 are lightweight and secure headphones from Adidas with a secure fit thanks to integrated fins.
IPX4 water resistance, playback controls and an unusual braided design all add value but aren't the main pros here.
You're mainly getting great sound quality with booming bass and long battery life at 16 hours. Plus there's fast charging via USB-C, too, getting you to 60% in just 15-minutes.
Read our full Adidas FWD-01 review
JBL Reflect Flow Pro - Best Fit Wireless Earbuds
- Secure fit with IP68
- Balanced audio output
- Smart Assistant support
- Solid battery life
- Middling ANC & Ambient Aware
- No wireless charging
- Average microphone performance
Wingtips offer one of the most secure fits we've experienced on a pair of wireless earbuds and the Reflect Flow Pro also have a top-notch IP68 dust and waterproof rating, too.
Combine this with solid sound quality, hands-free access to digital assistants and solid battery life and you've got a great pair of earbuds for taking out on a run.
On the downside is the middling ANC performance when compared to the wider wireless earbud market. There's also no wireless charging for the case and the microphones are nothing to write home about.
Read our full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review
Huawei FreeLace Pro - Best Battery Life on a Single Charge
- Excellent build quality
- Long battery life
- Good sound quality
- High-quality ANC
- Can't adjust ANC
- Tricky fit with eartips
They're not really pitched as fitness headphones but the FreeLace Pro have many of the things runners and gym bunnies will be looking for.
There's IP55 waterproofing and last a whopping 24 hours on a single charge if you don't use ANC, which is decent even if you can't adjust it. Sound and build quality are very good, too, and the design is suitable for use other than fitness if you prefer not to have neon rubber headphones.
We didn't find the best fit as the wings are integrated into the tips but there's still so much to like here and they're already at a much-reduced price.
Read our full Huawei FreeLace Pro review
Apple AirPods Pro - Best for Everyday Use
- Easy to use
- Great ANC & Transparency modes
- Improved design
- No improvement to battery
- Not the best sound available
Perhaps not an obvious choice for running and sport, but the AirPods Pro are more suitable than you might think. So long as you find them to offer a secure fit, they have a lot to offer if you can afford the pretty high price tag.
They're sweat-resistant, can read out texts while you're running and have excellent noise cancelling with a transparency mode.
Apple users will find them very easy to set up and use, plus they're more than suitable for various other times when you're not out on a run.
Read our full AirPods Pro review
NuraLoop - Best Immersive Sound
- Superb sound quality
- Excellent ANC
- Good value
- Proprietary eartips and adapters
- No digital assistant support
- Bulky case
The NuraLoop headphones aren't overtly designed for running but they do the job nicely thank to the neckband design and loops that go over the top of your ears.
They're also great value now the price has dropped thanks to the introduction of the NuraTrue wireless earbuds.
What you get here is very comfortable headphones with decent battery life and ANC. But most important of all is Nura's impressive customised sound technology which will blow your mind.
Read our full NuraLoop review
Sony WF-XB700 - Best Budget Wireless Earbuds
- Great bass quality
- Secure fit
- Solid battery life
- Bulky shape
- No sound customisation/app
- No ANC
If you're looking for true wireless earbuds without breaking the bank then consider this pair from Sony.
The earbuds are a little bulky but they are light enough and offer a secure fit even without the addition of fins. They also have IPX4 water resistance.
Sony offers a total of 18 hours battery life and the XB in the model stands for extra bass and true to form, these will suit those who workout to thumping electronic tunes.
Read our full Sony WF-XB700 review
AfterShokz OpenMove - Best Bone-Conduction
- Reliable fit
- Keeps ears clear
- Good battery life
- Thin audio quality
- Misleading battery reporting
Bone-conduction technology has been around for a while and bypasses your ear canals by delivering audio through your cheekbones.
It's one of the best choices if you're primary concern is safety when out running in dangerous places. The fact you can hear what's going on around you can't be fully replicated by 'aware' modes or similar on rivals.
However, it does inevitably come at the sacrifice of sound quality, which is a little thin here. Otherwise, the OpenMove are affordable, durable and offer solid battery life.
Read our full AfterShokz OpenMove review
How to choose running headphones
There are lots of things to think about when buying headphones but the frequency range and sensitivity are not so important here.
Whether you’re going running or doing other sporting activities, you should focus on fit and design – fit and fitness go together because, after all, what good are headphones that fall out onto the floor every few minutes.
It’s perhaps not the end of the world if you’re working out in the gym, but running outdoors is not a good time to lose an earbud.
The problem is that fit is a personal thing, depending on the size and shape of your ears and ear canals. That’s why any earbuds come with different sizes of tips. However, fitness-focused headphones often come with additional design points such as hooks to go over the ear, or wings/fins that sit in the pinna to add support.
The good news is that there are different types to choose from. While wireless earbuds are all the rage, the neckbud design is well suited to running fitness. This is where the earbuds are connected via a band that sits around your neck – it means you can’t lose them, for some the weight isn’t on your ears and there’s more space for a bigger battery.
Most will be made of plastic or silicone to help with durability and keep weight down. So, don’t expect materials like leather or metal here.
While most headphones designed for exercise are some form of earbud-style, not everyone wants those so you might be better off choosing a more traditional design with a headband. They are rare but we’ll include any worth considering.
At the end of the day, choose the best design for your usage and click through to our full reviews for details on how we found the fit.
Another thing to look out for is the IP rating, which stands for Ingress Protection. It’s a system to indicate how durable a device is where the first number is related to dust and the second number is for water.
An ‘X’ means it’s not been tested for that part so you’ll often see IPX4, for example. The higher the numbers, the better the protection with this example being sweat and splash resistant only and full immersion when you get to IPX7.
With the key design and fit elements covered you can also consider whether to buy a pair with additional features. Some, although it’s still rare, have tracking such as a heart rate monitor giving you a more detailed picture of how your session went.
Battery life should also be high up your list, especially if you need headphones to last a long run or gym session. Most modern pairs will at least a few hours but check our reviews for figures if you need them to last multiple marathons before needing a charge.
We’ll of course let you know in our full reviews what sound quality is like and what kind of music the headphones are suited to.
What you’ll also need to consider is whether noise cancelling is a must. And we’re talking about active noise cancelling (or ANC) which digitally cuts out the noise around you – not to be confused with passive, which is just the physical nature of having headphones blocking your eardrum.
Not all ANC is created equal and going for a run near busy roads or just out in public with noise cancelling can be dangerous so you’ll want to look out for pairs that also offer control over the level or some kind of ambient mode that allows you to still hear your surroundings. These go by many names such as ‘transparency’, ‘aware’ and ‘social’.
Find out how we test audio.