Fiftharious studies have proven the benefits of running to music over the years. The results show that doing so can help regulate exercise frequency, make exercise easier and reduce mental fatigue. But it is important to choose the right pair of running headphones.
When running, you need headphones that stay in place, feel comfortable, and provide sound good enough for you to hear and appreciate your music over other noises. However, it is also essential for safety that you can still hear other sounds above the music, such as approaching cars, cyclists, or other hazards. By the way, you’ll want to steer clear of earphones that only offer music in noise-canceling mode.
The earbuds also need to be weather- and sweat-resistant, attach to your phone easily, fit well, and provide enough charge to complete your sessions. With all this in mind, we put seven pairs of earbuds through their paces to see which one hits the mark.
Best playback headphones
The Shokz (formerly Aftershokz) Aeropex uses bone conduction technology and places great emphasis on providing situational awareness when running outside for a safer user experience. At first, we were skeptical that these headphones would feel secure on the move, but the weight distribution (26g total) of the headphones helps them sit comfortably on and around the ear, so you don’t have to worry about them falling out.
The Aeropex is specially formulated for working out, and it has an IP67 waterproof rating, which means it will work even in heavy rain. In terms of sound quality, it’s not far behind the options of Bose, JLabs, and RHA, and far outperforms similar designs when tested.
FifthThe olume controls also work well once you get used to them, although the bone conduction will never be as loud as the ear buds. The Aeropex’s battery that claims eight hours of work should come in handy for endurance athletes.
Verdict: The safest in the test, with great sound and waterproof construction.
JLab Epic Air Sport
These high-value headphones are lightweight (21 grams per pair), sweat-resistant and stay put throughout sessions. It also comes with six different earbud tips, allowing you to choose the one that fits your ears best. There are three noise-cancelling modes, including on, off, and ‘Be Aware’, which allow outside noise, and all three modes work as intended.
The earbuds also come with three preset volume settings and one customizable setting, allowing you to adjust levels in the app. These work well and we were impressed with the sound quality in the preset modes, with strong bass and good clarity.
You can also control the music and settings by tapping on the earbuds themselves, with different combinations that achieve different functions. It can be frustrating at times, but you can customize it (or turn it off) using the app. The battery life is 15 hours, while the charging case is said to provide an additional 55 hours.
Verdict: Great battery, great sound and great value.
Bose Sports Headphones
We’re not sure what that “lifelike sound” should sound like, but the Bose Sport Earbuds had some of the best sound quality in our test, out there with JLab and RHA. Yes, it’s a little tricky to secure it in the ear at first, but it feels comfortable once you get used to the wing design, which aims to distribute pressure points evenly, with three different earbud sizes for good tuning.
Although the sprouts come in at less than 7g each, they are bulkier than many of the other sprouts here, which can take a while to get used to. On the go, it’s easy to switch tracks, change the volume, and take calls with a single tap.
Like ONESONIC, these devices have an IPX4 waterproof rating, which means they’re resistant to splashes but don’t keep raining. We love the noise-cancelled sound and how fast the Bluetooth connection is. The battery life is up to 5 hours, and the case is said to add another 10 hours.
Verdict: Epic sound and functionality but battery life cuts them down.
RHA TrueConnect 2
TrueConnect2 is a ‘noise-isolating’ earphone with one of the best acoustic qualities in the test. It has great depth of bass and crystal clear sound. Dynamically, they allow you to safely enjoy music while staying aware of environmental sounds while running.
The lightweight buds come in at only 6g each, and have tips of various sizes that are adjustable, although we still struggle to keep them in our ears at times; In fact, we had to push them too far into the ear canal so they wouldn’t fall out, which could cause a fair amount of discomfort.
An upgrade from the previous model sees touch control of the buds, which work well and make them very practical. The alleged 9-hour battery life on a single charge is better than many in the test, with the slim charging case reportedly providing another 35 hours. Meanwhile, the IP55 rating means they can withstand light showers and not get damaged by dirt/dust.
Verdict: Pure sound with a great battery, but lacks comfort.
MU6 . ring
The Ring headphones may look like something out of Star Trek, but they fit securely and prove comfortable in testing, weighing just 34 grams. Having said that, there is no adjusting for the belt itself, so it may not fit all head shapes and sizes.
Meanwhile, the speakers can be rotated up to 120 degrees, allowing you to position them however you like. The headphones connect easily to your phone and use air conduction instead of bone conduction. The sound is clear and allows you to hear what’s going on around you, but the quality and depth are not on the same level as the others in the test, especially when it comes to bass.
There is only one button to control the headphones, with simple controls like play, pause, volume control, and skip songs available. The MU6 says it’s also water-resistant, and we haven’t seen anything to suggest otherwise until now. The claimed battery life of 10 hours at 70% volume is more than reasonable.
Verdict: Comfortable, reasonable and safe sound for urban operation.
Compact is the word for these headphones. From the slim case to the slender buds, ONESONIC headphones are portable and lightweight. They connect to your phone without a fuss and, like Bose, claim up to 5 hours of playtime, with another 20 hours of portable charging available out of the case.
Sound quality is good, but not as deep and range as RHA, JLabs, and Bose. It’s also splash-proof only, so we won’t reach it in heavy rain. In terms of safety, noise is canceled out by “environmental noise blocking”, which can be dangerous as you can’t hear cars approaching when you’re outside.
Although there is an Ambient Sound Mode, we find that this doesn’t make much difference. These buds come in three sizes of silicone tip to choose from, which we find fit securely in our ears. With just a double or one tap, play/pause and volume can be controlled on the go.
Verdict: Compact and useful, but the sound and security are not at the same level as the others in the test.
ninka runner pro
The Runner Pro headphones are similar in design to the Aftershokz headphones but are slightly bulkier (36g). It’s comfortable, light, and fits well, draping over the ears with the strap at the back hanging down over the neck. They use bone conduction technology, which means you will always be able to hear ambient noises around you.
However, we felt the max volume wasn’t raised enough, especially in the noisier places. Sound quality is reasonable, with good music balance, but the bass lacks depth and the sounds weren’t as clear as they should be.
Battery life isn’t the best either with 6 hours at 65% (which is pretty quiet). Meanwhile, the charging cable is weak and the connection is poor, which can be annoying.
Recovery features include a waterproof body, easy connectivity, and 8GB of memory, allowing you to load your music onto the earbuds and play it without a phone.
Verdict: Good waterproof memory but battery and sound are poor.
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