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Best running headphones and wireless earbuds 2021

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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, once a week or once a year, 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, you won't be short of choice. Most of them pack 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.

Best running headphones 2021: Bose SoundSport Wireless

(Image credit: Bose)

1. Bose SoundSport Wireless

Good sound and a comfortable fit, these are our pick as the best running headphones.

Specifications
Connector: n/a
Cable length: n/a
In-line remote and mic: n/a
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 6 hours
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable+Fun sound+Strong wireless performance
Reasons to avoid
-Very little at this price

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. If you outlast them, you deserve a medal.

Read the full Bose SoundSport Wireless review

Best running headphones 2021: JBL Reflect Flow

(Image credit: JBL)

2. JBL Reflect Flow

Great sound and battery life make for plenty of great runs.

Specifications
Connector: N/A
Cable length: N/A
In-line remote and mic: N/A
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 10 hours (30 hours with charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Good detail+Strong bass depth+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Can be beaten for dynamics-Carrying case is a bit big

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 are impressive performers for the money, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the treadmill without resorting to a pair of over-ear cans. Plus the 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) will outlast a seriously long running session. 

There are better wireless buds for pure sonic performance. But if you want a pair for running, these might just be the best bet.

Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review

Best running headphones 2021: Sony WF-1000XM4

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony WF-1000XM4

A premium pair of running headphones with style and serious substance.

Specifications
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 8 hours (24 hours with charging case)
Finishes: 2
Reasons to buy
+Clear, detailed bass performance+Wonderful sense of musicality+Comfortable+Class-leading battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Missing Sony’s Multipoint feature-Lacking ear tip choices-No aptX HD

If you're looking for premium running headphones to slip into your ears, these sweat-resistant, 2021 Award-winning Sonys need to be at the top of your list. They have dynamics and detail in spades and offer a balanced performance, with taut and weighty bass and sophisticated mids and highs. You can't help but be carried away by their sense of musicality. 

Those who prioritise battery life in their running headphones should find the eight hours promised by the Sonys more than sufficient. The wireless charging case extends this by a further 16 hours.

The Sonys are comfortable enough for a marathon, with touch-sensitive controls and ear tips that provide excellent noise isolation. Combine this with brilliant noise cancelling courtesy of Sony's Integrated Processor V1 and the WF-1000XM4 are difficult to fault.

Clever features like Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds – great for a mid-run chat. If you've got the budget for a premium pair of running headphones the WF-1000XM4 need serious consideration.

Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

Best running headphones 2021: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

(Image credit: Bose)

4. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Fantastic running headphones blessed with superb noise-cancelling tech.

Specifications
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6hrs (18hrs with charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Exciting, entertaining sound+Superb balance+Impressive noise-cancelling
Reasons to avoid
-Average battery life

Historically, the vast majority of Bose's noise-cancelling headphones have been on- and over-ear designs, but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are up there with the very best wireless earbuds for running.

They're lightweight and we have no issues listening for a hours at a time. For the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComforts are both sweat and weather-resistant) they are great to live with and they feel like a quality product too. Battery life is six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – decent, but by no means class-leading. Being able to customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation in the companion app, enhances ease of use. Touch controls for volume are the icing on the cake.

Sonically, their enthusiasm and excitement is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComforts squeeze out lots of detail.

All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are great all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. They’re more than a match for any running headphones they go toe-to-toe with.

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review

Best running headphones 2021: Sony WF-C500

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony WF-C500

Sony's no-frills budget wireless earbuds really hit the spot.

Specifications
Type: In-ear
Wireless: Yes
Battery life: 20 hours
Noise-cancelling: No
Waterproof rating: IPX4
3.5mm connector: No
Weight: 5.4g per bud
Reasons to buy
+Compact and comfortable design+Spirited, well-balanced sound+Fine control app
Reasons to avoid
-Ordinary battery life-Slightly small-scale sound-Numerous serious rivals

Think of Sony's WF-C500 wireless earbuds as a no-frills version of the WF-1000XM4 found further up this page. They deliver a lot of what makes those wireless earbuds a success without cutting too many corners.

They're good for running and sports, thanks to their IPX4 rating, while you also get ‘fast pair’ connectivity with Android devices and ‘swift pair’ with Windows 10 PCs.

The sound is nicely balanced, there's loads of mid-range detail on show and it's presented in a cohesive and musical package.

Battery life is 10 hours from the buds themselves, which should be plenty for most, and the case provides another 10 hours, so the total battery life can be bettered by some rivals. But if you're after some of the best running headphones for under £100, the WF-C500 should be on your shortlist.

Read the full Sony WF-C500 review 

Best running headphones 2021: Earfun Air Pro

(Image credit: EarFun)

6. Earfun Air Pro

Earfun's running headphones add noise-cancelling but keep the price low.

Specifications
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 7hr (+18hr from case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Solid, accurate bass weight+Effective noise cancelling+Classy build and finish
Reasons to avoid
-Harsh upper midrange

The Earfun Pro buds take the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and add active noise cancelling (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if your running route goes near noisy roads.

The headphones pair easily, and they're comfortable enough for even the longest of workouts. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback, while three skips to the next track. 

They're built to survive a downpour, so are happy to deal with however much sweat you throw their way. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for not a lot of money. Now you've no excuse not to get out and pound the pavement.

Read the full Earfun Air Pro review

Best running headphones 2021: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

7. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus

An impressive pair of running headphones at a tempting price.

Specifications
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 45 hours (low power mode)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Extra dynamic expression+Great clarity+Slick app support
Reasons to avoid
-No noise cancelling

These headphones boast app support, customisable EQ settings and both white and black colour options. But the real selling point is battery life. The 1 Plus will keep you entertained for an impressive nine hours off a single charge. Throw in an additional four charges from the carry case, and that makes 45 hours of total run time (excuse the pun). That's a long time between charges, even if you're racking up marathon-training-esque sessions.

There's no noise-cancelling onboard, but that's a small price to pay at this level.

The Melomanias deliver an open and powerful musical performance. They sound clear and more dynamic than the original Melomanias and there's a smidgen more detail too. If you want an affordable and accomplished pair of running headphones the 1 Plus should earn a place on your list.

Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

Best running headphones 2021: Earfun Air

(Image credit: EarFun)

8. Earfun Air

Affordable and feature-packed running headphones.

Specifications
Connector: N/A
Cable length: N/A
In-line remote and mic: N/A
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 7 hours (35 hours with charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Punchy, expansive sound+Great feature set+Classy build and finish
Reasons to avoid
-Treble needs more refinement

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 running headphones that are actually worth buying.

Not only do the Earfun Air 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 waterproof to IPX7 standards (1m submersible for up to 30 mins), they have voice assistance built-in and they 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 Earfun Air review

Best running headphones 2021: Bose SoundSport Free

9. Bose SoundSport Free

Thanks to a recent update, these running headphones are pretty much the perfect package.

Specifications
Connector: n/a
Cable length: n/a
In-line remote and mic: n/a
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 5 hours (extra 10 hours with charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Weighty, full-bodied sound+Deep, powerful bass+Even tonal balance
Reasons to avoid
-Thanks to an update, not a lot

Built with sporty types in mind, the SoundSport Free in-ears are both sweat- and water-resistant, and feel suitably rugged. 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 the performance more than makes up for any lack of style. 

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 Bose SoundSport Free review

Best running headphones 2021: Panasonic RZ-S500W

(Image credit: Panasonic)

10. Panasonic RZ-S500W

A hugely talented and affordable pair of earbuds.

Specifications
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 6.5 hours (+ 13 hours from charging case)
Charging: USB-C
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Expansive detailed presentation+Excellent noise cancelling+Superb touch controls
Reasons to avoid
-Fit could be an issue for some

Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of running headphones. But perhaps it should be. The 2021 Award-winning RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into a wireless noise-cancelling model and they're sensational performers at a low price.

Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and a battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). They're built to withstand rain, and a 15-minute USB-C quick charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss. 

You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we would definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.

Both noise cancelling and sound quality are excellent. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, while bass is deep and detailed. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money. A great buy for runners on a budget.

Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review

Best running headphones: Jaybird Vista 2

(Image credit: Jaybird)

11. Jaybird Vista 2

Solid sport headphones from one of the best in the business.

Specifications
Battery life: 24-hours
USB-C charging: Yes
ANC: Yes
Waterproof rating: IP68 (buds), IP54 (case)
Finishes: 3
App support: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Clear, energetic sound+Good ANC+Practical and comfortable design
Reasons to avoid
-Not sonically special

The Vista 2's case is a runner's dream, small enough to fit inside the pocket of a running belt. Wing tips keep the earbuds in place, and three sizes of interchangeable eartips mean you should get a decent fit.

The buds are resistant to water and dust, and so is the case (though to a lesser extent). Noise-cancelling is on board, but you can let some noise in if you like using Jaybird's SurroundSense mode (handy when cycling on busy roads).

Battery life is a very healthy eight hours, plus two full charges from the case, bringing it to a total of 24 hours. Sonically, they're clear, upfront, energetic, and on the right side of refined. A great companion, whatever your workout.

Read the full Jaybird Vista 2 review

Best running headphones 2021: Sony WF-SP800N

(Image credit: Sony)

12. Sony WF-SP800N

An excellent addition to the running headphones market from Sony.

Specifications
Connector: N/A
Cable length: N/A
In-line remote and mic: N/A
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Battery life: 9 hours (+ 9 hours from charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Vibrant, buoyant sound+Good noise-cancelling+Comfortable fit
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly coarse sound-Average battery life

If you can tolerate their slightly bulky, slightly dated look and design, then you'll be rewarded with a great-sounding pair of running earbuds that will work on your run as well as they do 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 Sony WF-SP800N review

Best running headphones 2021: Sony WF-XB700

(Image credit: Sony)

13. Sony WF-XB700

A reliable pair of relatively cheap wireless earbuds.

Specifications
Connector: N/A
Cable length: N/A
In-line remote and mic: No
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 9 hours (+9 from charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Clear, punchy sound+Decent battery life+Comfortable, lightweight build
Reasons to avoid
-Rivals offer more detail-Reasonably large earbud design

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 Sony WF-XB700 review

Best running headphones 2021: Bose Sport Earbuds

(Image credit: Bose)

14. Bose Sport Earbuds

Solid running headphones for sporty types.

Specifications
Bluetooth version: 5.1
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life : 5 hours (15 with charging case)
Voice control : Siri, Google Assistant
Finishes: x3
Reasons to buy
+Enthusiastic delivery+Balanced presentation+Weighty bass
Reasons to avoid
-Slight connection issues-Music lacks refinement

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 sweat- and water-resistant, while battery life is a pretty average five 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're only 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 runners who don’t want a bass-heavy sound.

Read the full Bose Sport Earbuds review

Best running headphones 2021: Jaybird Vista

(Image credit: Jaybird)

15. Jaybird Vista

Running headphones with an energetic sound and a secure fit.

Specifications
Connector: n/a
Cable length: n/a
In-line remote and mic: n/a
OS support: Android/iOS
Bluetooth: Yes
Noise-cancelling: No
Battery life: 6 hours (10 hours from charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Punchy, energetic sound+Meaty bass+Good app+Excellent fit
Reasons to avoid
-Can be beaten for detail-Quite expensive

The Jaybird Vista have been surpassed by their successors further up this list, but the originals are still a decent pair. And chances are they can be had on a deal.

They’re the company’s second shot at a truly wireless model, and another entry in its fairly long line of running headphones. So they have plenty of pedigree. And it shows, with a comfortable, secure fit and an accompanying set-up app that's a joy to use. 

They sound good, too, with only the best rivals 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 Jaybird Vista review

Joe Cox

Joe is Content Director for Specialist Tech at Future and was previously the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across print and online for more than 15 years, writing news, reviews and features. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung, reported from CES, the Bristol Show and Munich High End for many years, and provided comment for sites such as the BBC and the Guardian. In his spare time he enjoys mixing vinyl and cycling.

  • BarrenT
    Very timely and a good variety of options listed here. I have the Melomania's however and could not use them for running as they immediately fall out. I've tried alternative buds to make the fit more appropriate but then they won't charge while in the case so i have to swap buds every time. Any recommendations to make them useable as run capable 'phones please?
    Reply
  • Terryff
    BarrenT said:
    Very timely and a good variety of options listed here. I have the Melomania's however and could not use them for running as they immediately fall out. I've tried alternative buds to make the fit more appropriate but then they won't charge while in the case so i have to swap buds every time. Any recommendations to make them useable as run capable 'phones please?
    Yeah, mine have fallen out a few times now and they are hard to spot on the ground! They are fantastic buds but considering some bose just for the running.
    Reply