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How to choose headphones for running

Power your workouts with music

Man running with Bose headphones

Research shows that music can motivate you to power through tough workouts and to have fun in the process. With music moving you along, you're less likely to focus on physical strain. So you'll push yourself harder and exercise longer.

As a runner, you're going to need comfortable headphones that stay in place and out of your way. Here are some tips on how to find the best sports headphones.

Safety first

headphones in bright colors for safety

Headphones in bright colors with reflective accents increase your visibility.

When you're running with headphones, it's important to be aware of what's going on around you. Sports headphones with an open design let in ambient sounds to keep you tuned in to your environment.

They have to be tough

Built to endure rigorous workouts, sports headphones are moisture-resistant so they won't be damaged by sweat or rain.

As you shop, you'll see weatherproof rating numbers like IPX6 or IPX7. Read our article about IP weatherproof ratings to understand what those numbers mean.

Water-resistant sport headphones

Moisture-resistant sports headphones are built to withstand your active lifestyle.

Comfort and fit are key

Earbuds are the best style of headphones for working out, because they don't add extra weight. But regular earbuds tend to fall out of your ears if you run or move around a lot.

Sports headphones are specially designed to stay in your ears. They come with soft silicone tips in different sizes to ensure a secure, comfortable fit in nearly anyone's ears.

Bose SoundSport in-ear headphones

Some sports headphones, like the Bose SoundSport, have tips with extensions that brace the earbuds against your outer ear to keep them in place.

Stay in control

When you're on a roll with your workout, the last thing you want to do is stop in the middle of what you're doing and pull out your device to skip a track or adjust volume. Most sports headphones have in-line remote controls. If you need to take important calls, make sure to get a pair with an in-line microphone that works with your phone.

Klipsch AW-4i with inline remote

In-line remote controls help you can stay focused on your workout when you need to skip a track.

Avoid cord entanglements

Sports headphone cables are extra-durable and have a flat, tangle-free design, so you can toss them into a gym bag without worrying about damaging them. You'll also find them to be a more manageable length than regular earbud cords. Some sports headphones even come with a shorter cable you can use if you wear your device on an armband.

JBL Reflect Mini BT

Flat cords keep tangles to a minimum.

Tired of dealing with cords altogether? Try a wireless pair

Wireless sports headphones have built-in Bluetooth® for wireless music streaming. A short cable connecting the earbuds runs behind your head, with an in-line remote on one side, positioned near your ear.

Keep in mind that Bluetooth headphones won't work if their built-in batteries aren't charged. You'll need to plan ahead to keep the tunes pumping throughout your run.

Bose SoundSport Wireless headphones

Bose SoundSport Wireless headphones play music wirelessly from your phone via Bluetooth.

Don't forget about good sound

A lot of design considerations go into making a pair of headphones suitable for running and other tough activity. Of course, it's just as important they sound good enough to keep you motivated.

Brands like Klipsch, Bose®, JBL, and Beats by Dr. Dre® all have a solid reputation for good sound. If you're not sure, check customer reviews before you settle on a pair, to see what others have to say about their sound. You can also email or call an Advisor at 1-888-955-6000 for help sorting through our selection.

Last updated 9/24/2019
  • Steve Stevenson from Aurora

    Posted on 4/13/2018

    I agree with Chuck--a runner should not interfere with his own ability to hear threats. Plus, when I used to run all the time, if I even got distracted by random thoughts, forget music, I would slow down and not maintain my target speed.

  • Deb Gilbert from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/11/2018

    As a runner and a former race director, I see both sides of the headphone discussion. Safety is a huge concern when running outside, but many people use the motivation and pacing of music to help get them through the run. You need to hear traffic, race instructions, animals, and other people around you. That's why the headphones with an open design are listed prominently. I've been to many a group run where someone didn't notice traffic or didn't hear someone coming up behind them to pass. Open design is the best suggestion for people who still want to wear headphones. I personally only use headphones when I'm running on a treadmill. It really helps break the monotony of the indoor run, and makes it a bit more enjoyable.

  • Chuck from Morehead City

    Posted on 10/28/2016

    I have been running/jogging/walking for over 40 years. I suggest that a runner not use earphones or anything that interferes with their senses. A person constantly needs to be aware of cars, predators etc. and you can't do that with your ears plugged up! For example, I can see a car coming at me from the front but also can hear one coming from behind and will pass each other right where I am at. Need to know information for obvious reasons.

  • chris

    Posted on 7/30/2016

    Safty is important. A tragic moment happened near my home when a jogger was killed by a falling tree. I wonder if the jogger would have heard the tree falling or notticed something was wrong if it were not for the headphones. Same thing can happen with traffic, we need our hearing not just for entertainment but also to keep us alive.