Best sports headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best sports headphones you can buy in 2023.
If you're looking to up your fitness levels, a new pair of sports headphones is a great way to give yourself a boost.
You can't beat your favourite tunes when it comes to finding that extra motivation to finish your run, ride or gym workout routine – and a good pair of headphones is critical. (Of course a best running songs playlist will help too.)
The best sports headphones will deliver great sound while offering sweat-resistant designs that stay in place, and with wireless options aplenty to choose from, you should look for a pair of sports earphones with good battery life, too.
From cheap true wireless sports earbuds that completely remove the cable, to in-ear Bluetooth wireless earphones and neckband headphones, these are the best sports headphones we've reviewed. All are four- or five-star pairs, so are guaranteed to perform brilliantly.
How to choose the best sports headphones for you
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A few things to consider when picking your new sporting buddy. First, do you want wired or wireless headphones? All of our models below are wireless, because of the added convenience and no snagging your arm on a dangling cable.
If you do plump for a wireless model – and we strongly suggest you do – you'll need to consider battery life. We've given three indicators of battery life in our specs: the battery life of the buds themselves, how long the charging case will last before needing juicing up from a wall socket, and the total battery life (which is the other two measurements combined).
If you're exercising in the great outdoors, you'll want some kind of waterproofing in case of a downpour. IPX4 is the minimum you'll want (all of the below have at least this rating), as that means they'll withstand water splashing. But some models can be fully submerged for swimming or just a post-workout shower.
Also consider the charging case. Some models have different waterproof ratings for the case, which is worth remembering so it doesn't get ruined.
Noise-cancelling will neutralise background noise and help you focus, and be better for your hearing as you can hear the detail of your music without cranking the volume up. But it could be a hazard if you're out exercising as it makes you less aware of approaching cars.
Lastly, weight. Around 5g per earbud is very good indeed, but some can weigh twice that. In some cases, the listing only gave the weight of the buds and case combined. We've made clear in the specs where that's the case.
The standard Reflect Flow have been a mainstay on this list since they launched in 2019 (and can still be found further down this list). JBL's newer, pricier, premium-er Pro pair replicate that success admirably.
They add active noise cancellation to the mix, along with ambient and TalkThru modes that make you more aware of your surroundings (handy while you're out running). They're dust-tight, and can be fully immersed in water, so won't be troubled by even the heaviest of downpours.
They sound pretty great too, with plenty of bounce to power you through that fifth mile. They're not quite as refined as a dedicated music pair, but for sports-focussed buds, they tick all the boxes.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review
If you're looking for premium sports headphones to slip into your ears, these sweat-resistant, 2021/2022 Award-winning Sonys need to be at the top of your list. They have dynamics and detail in spades and deliver 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 sports headphones should find the eight hours promised by the Sonys more than sufficient for any activity. The wireless charging case also extends this by a further 16 hours.
The Sonys are comfortable to wear too, 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 sports headphones the WF-1000XM4 need serious consideration.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Say hello to the 'Best wireless earbuds over £200' at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022. As the title of the award suggests, these premium Bluetooth in-ears sound amazing and set a new benchmark for wireless earbuds at this level.
They're not a sports pair, but they are rated IPX4 water resistant. Which is good enough for most activities on dry land.
Smaller and lighter than the original QC Earbuds, the Earbuds II provide a comfortable fit and lots of features. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, and the Bose app allows you to alter the amount of noise-cancelling on offer via a number of customisable presets.
Speaking of noise-cancelling, the Bose are at the top of their game. They can automatically adjust the amount of ANC on offer so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises and the effect is deeply impressive. As for sound, it's balanced and neutral and overflowing with fine detail.
It's a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, nor is there wireless charging or Bluetooth multipoint. But we don't think this is the end of the world when you consider that these classy buds ooze such sophistication.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of sports headphones. But perhaps it should be.
These 2021 Award-winners are its first true wireless models, and they're very impressive. 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). 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 sizes.
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 sports headphones are superb for the money. A great buy on a budget.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
When it comes to wireless earbuds, Sony has sewn up the high end with the WF-1000XM4. But can it do the same at the budget end of the market with the WF-C500?
Last year, the C500 won a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award, so we would have to say the answer is yes. They handle the basics very well, with Bluetooth 5.0, and compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs. Battery life is a healthy 10 hours from the earbuds themselves, and another 10 from the charging case, making a total of 20.
They pair with Sony's consummate Headphones Connect app for sublime controls, and numerous extra features (like the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, which upscales audio files to something approaching ‘hi-res’ quality). Voice controls come via Google Assistant and Siri, and while they're not a dedicated sports model, the IPX4 rating means they're resistant to water splashes.
Sonically, they're even-handed and nicely balanced, with well-shaped bass notes. In short, they offer a lot of what makes Sony's high-end buds so compelling, without cutting too many corners. Definitely one for the shortlist.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to sports headphones and the JBL Reflect Flow are an excellent and seriously affordable pair of sports-oriented earbuds.
The JBL Reflect Flow headphones are hugely 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. The 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) should be more than plenty for long gym sessions.
There are better options for pure sonic performance but if you want an affordable sporty option, with an enthusiastic sound to match, these might just be your best bet.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review
The Earfun Air 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 you want to concentrate on your form.
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 exercise.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
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
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. 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 sports headphones the 1 Plus should definitely be in the running, if you'll excuse the pun.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
If you want cheap and cheerful wireless sports headphones, you need to give the Earfun Air a try.
They're packed with features. You don't get noise-cancelling at this price point (you need the Earfun Air Pro higher up this list), but the Earfun Air do provide excellent noise isolation and they feel comfortable, too. They're also waterproof to IPX7 standards (submersible in one metre of water for up to 30 mins), support virtual assistants and include Qi wireless charging if you've got a suitable charger to hand.
Battery life is seven hours from the buds and a further 28 hours from the charging case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection is solid and stable, calls sound clear and for the money, the headphones offer an energetic and spacious sound.
If you’re after a pair of affordable and entertaining sports headphones, the Earfun Air are definitely worth investigating.
Read the full Earfun Air review
The Momentum isn't Sennehiser's sporty range of earbuds, but the IPX4 rating does make them suitable for sports – they'll withstand water splashing, so you can run in the rain and sweat profusely without worrying about breaking them.
They're a step up from the True Wireless 2, with support for the aptX Adaptive codec (up from standard aptX on their predecessors). That means (compressed) transmission of up to 24-bit music files, lower latency, and more robustness to eliminate drop-outs when you're taking your phone out of your pocket or bag.
Sound Zones and profiles also help create a more bespoke sonic performance.
The noise-cancellation is effective, rendering background sounds to a dull murmur, while sonically they're some of the most sophisticated earbuds we've heard. Clarity, refinement and spaciousness are the order of the day here, and it's all taken to new heights while boosting detail resolution levels. All of which makes for a stunning pair of earbuds.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review
The Jaybird Vista are aimed squarely at sporty types. They’re the company’s second shot at truly wireless in-ears and the latest in a fairly long line of its sports headphones. And it shows, with a comfortable, secure fit and an accompanying set-up app that's a joy to use.
They sound good, too, although the very best sports headphones offer a touch 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
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 IPX4 sweat and water resistant, battery life is a pretty average 5 hours, with a total of 15 hours thanks to the case. Connectivity isn't 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 Bose Sport Earbuds review
Stylish, work-out friendly, active noise-cancelling earbuds aren't all that common, which makes this Beats pair all the more noteworthy. We love the innovative new wingtip design which provides a more secure fit when you're throwing yourself around, while the Beats app for Android allows non-Apple users to reap the benefits and features of Apple’s own brand products, which are usually closed off to anyone not in the iOS ecosystem. They even have Spatial Audio, and for a price that's quite reasonable.
They're lightweight and comfortable to wear, with the aforementioned wingtips keeping them in place. You can get them wet – but not submerged – thanks to the IPX4 rating, while the 27-hour battery life is impressive for a pair with active noise cancellation.
Sonically, they've lively and enjoyable, which is exactly what you want from a pair of sports headphones. And there's enough detail in the mix whether you’re listening to Wet Leg or Nick Cave
Read the full Beats Fit Pro review
The Elite 3 are the most affordable true wireless in-ears that Jabra has ever delivered. But are they worth a look? Or are their compromises a step too far?
There's no noise-cancelling (hardly surprising at this price), but otherwise, the spec list is seriously impressive. Bluetooth 5.2, Qualcomm’s aptX codec, 6mm full-range dynamic drivers... plenty to like. Battery life is a healthy 28 hours total (seven from the buds, plus 21 from the case), and the headphones boast IP55 water- and dust-resistance.
Voice controls come via Amazon's Alexa assistant, and the buds provide a comfy, stable fit that stays put no matter how vigorous your workouts get.
Sound quality isn't half bad, either. Opt for the 'smooth' preset, and you'll get the most convincing and likeable balance available. They’re pretty decent where rhythmic expression is concerned, and can organise a busy mix into something that’s expansive, well focused and easy to follow. Timing is good, and there’s a good level of insight and detail across the board.
Read the full Jabra Elite 3 review
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 true wireless models.
They're lightweight and we have no issues listening for 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 (it's bettered by the QuietComfort Earbuds II further up this list, for one). 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.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by these sports headphones 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 rival at this level.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
How we choose the best sports 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.
Of course headphones – especially sporty ones like the above – are tested out in the field, how we would use them as if we had bought them ourselves. That gives us a chance to test the wireless performance, noise-cancelling, fit, water-resistance and more.
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 above, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.