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, 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.
If you're in no hurry to make a purchase, you might consider waiting, as there are some pretty awesome-looking headphones on the horizon. While none of them are running-specific, they are all true wireless earbuds, so could easily be taken out for a jog. The Apple AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 will look to build on the success of their predecessors, while Sony's WF-1000XM4 should pack similarly excellent sound quality with some natty new features. Something to look forward to.
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 Bose SoundSport Wireless review
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 Sennheiser CX Sport review
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 JBL Reflect Flow review
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 with a sporty design may not have been a central focus for the brand, but these wireless in-ears knock it out of the park.
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". Should do most runners.
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 B&W PI3 review
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; 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
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. And they're water- and sweat-resistant, too.
There's no noise cancelling, but it is clear Cambridge Audio's focus has been on great sound over bonus features, and there's nothing wrong with that.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review
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 Earfun Air review
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 Bose SoundSport Free review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of cheap wireless earbuds or sports headphones. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds 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'd 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
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 sweat- and water-resistant, comfortable, 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 Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless review
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. 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 Jaybird Vista review
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 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
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
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 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'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 sporty types who don’t really want a bass-heavy sound.
Read the full Bose Sport Earbuds review
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