Best sports headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best sports headphones you can buy in 2021.
If you're looking to up your fitness levels in time for summer 2021, then a new pair of sports headphones is a great way to give yourself some extra motivation. You can't beat your favourite tunes when it comes to finding that extra motivation to finish your run, ride or (home) gym 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, neckband headphones, and even Bluetooth over-ear headphones, these are the best sports headphones we've reviewed.
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. Lucky us. 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.
- Running down the differences: Beats vs JBL vs Bose running headphones: which should you choose?
- No wires: our pick of the best wireless earbuds
Theses are some of the best-sounding, most reliable running and gym headphones you'll find for this money. If you really care about sound quality, then these might just be the best sports earphones for you.
They're not 'true wireless', as there is a soft cable between the two buds. Each of the buds also has 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 would imagine that will do most people for a few runs or circuits.
The Bose sound is perfect for this kind of earphone too, delivering the kind of powerful, punchy bass that might get you running that bit faster. The SoundSport Wireless sound dynamic and make music sound lively – perfect for getting you over the line with that workout, or even just off the couch.
Read the full Bose SoundSport Wireless 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
If you're looking for premium sports headphones to slip into your ears, these sweat-resistant Sonys need to be at the top of your list. There's dynamics and detail in spades and it's 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
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 AirPods alternatives.
The Bose are 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.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by these AirPods alternatives 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
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of sports headphones. But perhaps it should be.
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 the 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 earbuds are superb for the money. A great buy on a budget.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W 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
Bowers & Wilkins has moved effortlessly 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, might not have been a priority for the brand. But fear not, B&W hasn't cut any corners on these wireless in-ears.
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 they 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 B&W PI3 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 be one of the pairs you consider.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
If you want cheap and cheerful wireless sports earbuds, you need to give the Earfun Air a try.
These sports headphones are packed with features. You don't get noise-cancelling at this price point (you need the Earfun Air Pros 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 Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are arguably the most refined-sounding sports headphones that we've heard.
The earpieces are slim and comfortable, while, unlike the 1st Gen pair, they now sport noise-cancelling. And it works extremely well. They're nice to use too, with touch-sensitive pads on each earpiece which can be customised to control music playback and features.
Battery life is competitive, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges, bringing the total battery life up to a solid 28 hours.
Sonically, highs and lows are composed and controlled, while still delivering impressive dynamics. The Sennheisers present a detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority. They're a little pricier than other sports headphones, but if your budget can stretch, your ears will be rewarded, and your workout will fly by. Money well spent.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
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 Pro aren't the best-sounding sports headphones, 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 Apple AirPods Pro 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 rival wireless earbuds, and you could argue that some of the competition look both more stylish and more discreet. But it's more than made up for by the performance.
Bose sorted some initial connection issues with an update, and now we're treated to great sound without a hitch. 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
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 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 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 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, 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
If you're an Android smartphone owner looking for sports headphones that won't break the bank, this is one pair for your shortlist. The Pixel Buds A-Series, the latest earbuds to be launched by the search giant and their best effort to date.
They're light and comfortable, making them ideal for exercise, and while noise cancelling is off the menu, they do a good job of noise isolating. Your colour choices are either white or 'Dark Olive' and the earbuds also boast IPX4 water resistance so you can use them for general exercise and running.
The five-hour battery life isn't exactly class-leading but should be enough for most people. You also get another 20 or so from the carry case. Pairing Pixel Buds A-Series is extremely simple, especially if you're using an Android smartphone or tablet that boasts the Fast Pair feature.
Come music time, there's a lot to like about the Pixel Buds thanks to their approachable, balanced sound. It doesn't favour any part of the sonic spectrum which can't always be said for sports headphones at this level. They're well-rounded performers and available at a great price.
Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
If you can tolerate their slightly bulky design, then you'll be rewarded with a great-sounding pair of sports headphones that will also work well 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 might lack a little refinement at the top end, but they still deliver a really energetic, well-balanced and enjoyable sound.
Read the full Sony WF-SP800N review
Anyone looking for an affordable pair of sports headphones should look this way. Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours – nine hours from the earbuds, 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 IPX4 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 Bose Sport Earbuds review
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