Best running headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best running headphones 2021.
Whether you're going for a run once a day or once a week, a good pair of running headphones will make it all the more enjoyable.
The best running headphones will deliver great sound while offering sweat-resistant designs that stay in place, and with wireless options aplenty to choose from, you should get a decent battery life, too.
From cheap true wireless buds that completely remove the wire, to in-ear wireless earphones, neckband headphones, and even Bluetooth over-ears, these are the best running headphones we've reviewed.
How we choose the best running headphones
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year – and that includes plenty of headphones. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same price category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the best products to feature in our Best Buys. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
Theses are some of the best-sounding, most reliable running headphones you'll find for this money. There is a soft cable between the two buds, each of which uses an in-ear hook to keep them in place. We like the design here, complete with lightweight remote, and these running headphones are also sweat-resistant and IPX4 splashproof, too. The battery life is a modest six hours but we'd imagine that'll do most people for a few runs or circuits.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Wireless
These Sennheisers are designed with running and the gym in mind, with their rubberised ear fins and splash and sweat-resistant design. Fit is excellent and noise isolation is good. The earpieces are connected by a short run of cable which includes an in-line mic and controls. Battery life is a respectable six hours and sound quality is robust and powerful, just what you need when you're making a push for the finish line or your final set of squats. And now they're available for a bargain price.
Read the full review: Sennheiser CX Sport
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to running earphones and the JBL Reflect Flow is a hotly anticipated entrant to the flourishing, albeit rather niche, true-wireless-for-sports market.
In their niche category, though, the JBL Reflect Flow headphones impressive performers for the money, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the gym without resorting to a pair of over-ear headphones – and the 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) will outlast a seriously long gym session.
There are better wireless earbuds for pure sonic performance but if you want a sporty option, these might just be the best bet.
Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow
The best true wireless earbuds just got better! The latest version of Sony's earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 offer an all-new Bluetooth chip which sharpens up music synchronization and a noise-cancelling processor which claims to bring a 40 per cent upgrade on its predecessor. Everywhere else, pretty much everything has improved, from the fit, to the battery life, to the sound quality. A five-star all-round option and a decent bet for the gym, too.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3
Bowers & Wilkins has successfully made a smooth move into the headphone market, building on its almost unrivalled reputation when it comes to making speakers. In-ears of this design, which makes us think of sport and the gym, haven't necessarily been on the hit list however – fear not, B&W has knocked it out of the park with these wireless in-ears too.
The PI3 earphones are a dual driver design, complete with a flexible neckband. We would prefer a few more ear tips to get the optimum fit, so it might be one to try before you buy. They deliver a decent battery life and though they aren't technically waterproof, B&W claims they are "resistant to light rain, splash and sweat".
Happily, they deliver a clear, controlled, punchy and well-balanced sound. From rock to pop to hip-hop, the B&W PI3 earphones deliver a confident, entertaining sound. Another fine option from B&W.
Read the full review: B&W PI3
This little-known Hong Kong audio company doesn't have many products to its name but it has managed to do something that many bigger brands have not, and that's come up with a super-affordable set of true wireless headphones that are actually worth buying.
Not only do the Earfun Airs give a very worthy listen but they're feature-packed too. While you won't get active noise cancelling at this price, the noise isolation of these comfortable, well-fitting earphones does an excellent portion of that same job. They're also waterproof to IPX7 standards (1m submersible for up to 30 mins), they have voice assistance built-in and support Qi wireless charging.
Call handling is responsive and clear, and the battery life is a pretty stonking 35 hours when using the charge case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection never lets us down and, while the audio is no match for headphones at double the price, they still offer some grippy, energetic listening and an excellent sense of space.
If you’re after something inexpensive that’ll sound good on your run, the Earfun Air buds could just be the ideal proposition.
Read the full review: Earfun Air review
If top value sound quality from true wireless earbuds is what you're after for a pair of gym headphones, Cambridge Audio has answered your prayers. For an affordable price, the Melomania 1 earphones deliver an open, detailed sound that's hard to beat without spending more money.
A good fit is essential, and, due to the length of the earpiece itself, that might not be as easy to come by for everybody, but their sonic talent is such that it's worth the effort and potential purchase of extra buds.
With nine hours battery life from the buds themselves, plus four additional charges from the case, that means an impressive 45 hours of continuous use from this little set-up. There's no noise cancelling, but it is clear Cambridge Audio's focus has been on great sound over bonus features.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
By combining the magic of the original AirPods with active noise-cancelling, Apple will be hoping it has another hit on its hands. And while the AirPods Pros aren't the best-sounding noise-cancelling in-ears, they are still an utter joy to own and use.
Excellent noise-cancelling is complemented by a transparency mode that feels almost as natural as wearing non-isolating earphones. Here Apple has created a pair of headphones that’s as well suited to a long-haul flight as it is to a run around the block. For many, they could be the only pair of headphones they ever need.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
Built with sporty types in mind, the SoundSport Free in-ears are both sweat- and water-resistant, and have a suitably rugged feel to them. They stick out a bit more than some rivals, and you could argue that some of the competition look both more stylish and more discreet. But it's more than made up for it by the performance. After some initial connection issues, Bose seems to have sorted this with an update - and we never had a problem with the sound quality. There's no noise-cancelling but there is a bold but balanced sound with plenty of bass. Good battery life, buoyed by a charging case, are the icing on the cake.
Read the full review: Bose SoundSport Free
The Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless earphones are, predictably, wireless, offering Bluetooth connectivity, but they have a flexible cable between the buds. They also have a hook over the ear. The cable and the hooks mean they're highly unlikely to fall out of your ears, so they're ideal should earphones that stay put be a key priority.
They're comfortable, too, have a decent battery life of 12 hours, and offer a mic and volume controls on the cable. The sound is bassy and exciting, not offering the last word in clarity but perhaps ideal for the getting a sweat on to some pumping tunes. A solid bet if the feature set ticks your boxes.
Read the full review: Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless
We weren't sold on brand name alone but a thorough reviewing later and we were sold on their skills for such an affordable price. If you prefer on-ear headphones for the gym, then these deliver good wireless sound and decent noise-cancelling for a great price. Of course you get what you pay for, and much more expensive headphones will deliver better all-round sound, but for this price they're hard to fault.
Read the full review: Lindy BNX-60
The Jaybird Vista are true wireless earbuds aimed at athletes. They’re the company’s second shot at truly wireless in-ears and the latest in a fairly long-line of sports headphones from Jaybird. And it shows, with a comfortable, secure fit and an accompanying set-up app that's a joy to use. And they sound good, too, with only the best wireless earbuds (see the top of this page) offering a slither more detail and composure. They're sweat-proof, comfortable, secure and come with a range of features, ensuring they're a good bet for any budding runner.
Read the full review: Jaybird Vista
If you can tolerate their slightly bulky, slightly dated look and design, then you'll be rewarded with a great-sounding pair of noise-cancelling earbuds that will work on your run as well as they work on your commute.
There’s an impressive nine hours of battery from the earbuds, plus a less impressive nine hours from the charging case. They’re built up to IP55 standard, meaning they’re resistant to dust, sweat and water - up to a point, at least - and control is available via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, with the mic array ensuring your instructions are heard reliably.
The Sony WF-SP800N aren’t perfect – they can be coarse at the top end and their default bass response is perhaps too rich for its own good – but they can be finessed to deliver a really energetic, well-balanced and enjoyable sound.
Read the full review: Sony WF-SP800N
Anyone looking for an affordable pair of running earbuds should look this way. Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours – nine hours from the buds, nine hours from the case, while their IPX4 water resistance rating provides protection against ‘water splashing’. They're light and secure in your ears, too.
The WF-XB700 are part of the company’s Extra Bass range of audio products and are tuned to emphasise low-frequency response, rather than deliver a neutral sonic balance. And although there’s meat behind their low-end, it doesn't overshadow mid and high frequencies. It's actually complemented by decent punch and pleasing tautness and agility. Some rivals boast greater detail and subtlety, but at this price, you could do a lot worse.
Read the full review: Sony WF-XB700
A 2019 Award-winner, these AKGs are compact, convenient and surprisingly affordable considering what's on offer. They're a headband design, which probably doesn't make them the best running headphones, but they're a decent shout for the gym. The noise-cancelling is impressive and the AKG sound is dynamic and punchy.
Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless
A cheaper version of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds? Sounds good, right? These more affordable Bose earbuds certainly get close to delivering on that promise but don't quite match the performance value of the flagship buds.
They feel a little cheaper, which is to be expected, but you still get a choice of three finishes and a selection of eartips. They're IP4 sweat and water resistant, battery life is a pretty average 5 hours, with a total of 15 hours thanks to the case. Connectivity doesn't seem quite as slick as the more expensive models but if you will only be connecting to one device - rather than, say, a phone and a laptop - that will make it easier.
In terms of audio quality, they deliver a balanced, full sound. The very best pairs at the top of this list deliver a little more detail and a little more subtlety, but these remain easy to listen to. Their musical, powerful balance is easy to get along with and they will work well for sporty types who don’t really want a bass-heavy sound.
Read the full review: Bose Sport Earbuds