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Best running headphones 2022: to boost your performance and motivation

Male runner wearing headphones pausing in woods
The right running headphones will take your escapism to the next level (Image credit: Getty)

The best running headphones will let you enjoy music, podcasts or audiobooks while you hit the trails or pound the pavements, without bouncing or budging. Some runners are purists who prefer to use their training sessions to enjoy the sounds of nature, but if you'd rather listen to your favorite tunes then we've put together a list of the very best headphones for the job. 

Some of our recommended running headphones are true wireless earbuds, while others are bone conduction headsets. Each type has its own advantages and drawbacks. Earbuds offer better audio quality, and the ones we've chosen here also have a 'through' mode that allows you to hear what's happening around you via built-in microphones. However, you don't get a good sense of where sounds are coming from, which isn't ideal if you need to be aware of cars, cyclists and other hazards.

Bone conduction headsets, on the other hand, don't usually sound as good, but because your ears are left open, you get much better spatial awareness and can pinpoint potential dangers. If you're interested in racing, it's also worth noting that bone conduction headphones are usually the only type permitted because they'll allow you to clearly hear instructions from marshals and sirens from emergency vehicles.

With that in mind, here's out pick of the very best running headphones you can buy today. We update this guide regularly with new options, so you can be sure you're getting the best advice.

Woman wearing Shokz OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones

(Image credit: Shokz)

1. Shokz OpenRun Pro

The best running headphones, whether you're a fan of technical trails or pounding the pavements

Specifications

List price: $179.95 / £159.95
Weight: 1.02oz / 29g
Battery life: 10 hours
Uses: Trail running, road running, outdoor workouts

Reasons to buy

+
Light, comfortable design
+
Excellent bass
+
Don't budge during runs

Reasons to avoid

-
Some noticeable vibration

Shokz (formerly known as Aftershokz) is the biggest name in bone conduction running headphones, and when you try the OpenRun Pro, you'll see why. Although they're a great choice from a safety point of view, allowing you to remain aware of your surroundings, bone conduction headphones are usually seriously lacking when it comes to sound quality. Not the OpenRun Pro. This headset (a successor to the original OpenRun) has new bass transducers and when we tested them, the difference was remarkable. The sound was easily on par with regular earbuds, but without obscuring the outside world.

Shokz has also repositioned the charging port so the headphones are easier to power up, and the control buttons are slightly larger and easier to tap while you're on the move. One thing that hasn't changed, though, is the overall shape and comfort. There's no pinching at all, and the OpenRun pro don't budge or bounce even when you're powering up steps or tackling a technical descent.

The only real downside was that we could sometimes feel a faint tickling sensation when we turned up the volume, but this only happened when we were enjoying some seriously heavy music on our runs. Only metalheads are likely to notice it, and even then it's not too distracting.

Man running wearing Beats Powerbeats Pro headphones

(Image credit: Beats)

2. Beats Powerbeats Pro

Running headphones that loop over the ear for a secure fit over rugged ground

Specifications

List price: $249.95 / £219.95
Weight: 0.74oz / 21g (without case)
Battery life: 9 hours
Uses: Trail running, road running, gym work

Reasons to buy

+
Very secure fit
+
Excellent sound quality
+
Some ambient sound can be heard

Reasons to avoid

-
Large charging case
-
Works best with other Apple devices

The best thing about the Beats Powerbeats Pro ear buds for adventurous runners is that the hoop over the top of your ear pretty much guarantees they will stay in place however gnarly the terrain. This, combined with four different eartip sizes, ensures a great fit for all. Battery life is excellent at nine hours, plus double that from the somewhat large charging case, and you can adjust volume and change track from either ear.

Being an Apple product they pair faster with other Apple tech, and you can use Siri with them. Many trail runners will like the fact that they don’t totally cancel all ambient noise, so you can hear some surround sounds from the landscape you’re running across. The splash-proof IPX4 rating is good enough for most adventure situations, but don’t drop them in a deep puddle, as they are not completely waterproof. The sound quality is good – not overly bass-heavy – but there is no option to alter the EQ to your personal tastes.

Man running wearing Amazfit Powerbuds Pro headphones

(Image credit: Amazfit)

3. Amazfit Powerbuds Pro

Super smart running headphones that collect stats as you sweat

Specifications

List price: $149.99 / £119.98
Weight: 0.24oz / 6.7g (without case)
Battery life: 9 hours
Uses: Trail running, road running, gym work, outdoor workouts

Reasons to buy

+
Tracks heart rate automatically
+
Measures pace and distance
+
Monitors posture
+
Affordably priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Less accurate than a GPS watch

Amazfit is well known for making affordable fitness trackers and smartwatches, and it's also branching out into running headphones. The Powerbuds Pro don't just feel and sound good, they also track vita stats as you run.

These smart headphones will detect when you break into a run, and track your heart rate, pace, and distance automatically. The results aren't as accurate as you'd get from your best GPS watch (distance is calculated using an accelerometer rather than satellite positioning), but if you prefer to run without anything on your wrist it's an excellent option.

When you're not sweating it out on the trails, the Powerbuds Pro will be looking out for your health. It's all too easy to end up slumping over your desk at work, but these little earbuds can detect when your head is out of alignment and warn you that you're putting your neck at risk. This doesn't happen automatically (you have to choose when to check your posture), but it's a handy tool and it can be very alarming to hear that you're putting so much strain on your cervical spine, you might as well be carrying a toddler on your head.

Man wearing Jabra Elite Active 75T running headphones

(Image credit: Jabra)

4. Jabra Elite Active 75t

Super light, dirt-resistant and water resistant running headphones with personalized sound

Specifications

List price: $249.99 / £189.99
Weight: 0.38oz / 11g (without case)
Battery life: 7.5 hours
Uses: Trail running, road running, gym workouts, outdoor workouts

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely light earbuds and case
+
Dust and water resistant
+
Ambient sound feature

Reasons to avoid

-
Slower to recharge than others
-
Can’t use one bud at a time

These super light, dust-resistant and waterproof running headphones are brilliant for exploring. There are three sizes of grippy eartip to ensure a good fit for most ear-shapes and they fit very close to the head. The quick recharge function is longer and the battery life is on the shorter side compared to others in this test, but 7.5 hours from the headphones is still good, and with the streamlined case only weighing 35g it’s very easy to take that extra 20+ hours of charge with you.

The Jabra Elite Active 75t have fully customizable sound levels through the Jabra Sound+ app, and you can use Siri and Alexa too. Trail runners will enjoy the HearThrough mode which allows ambient sound through, however ultra runners can’t use one bud at a time to extend battery life on long races as removing and re-inserting one earbud automatically pauses and resumes playback.

Woman wearing Shokz OpenRun bone conduction headphones

(Image credit: Shokz)

5. Shokz OpenRun

Excellent open-ear running headphones that won't break the bank

Specifications

List price: $159.95 / £149.95
Weight: 0.91oz / 26g
Battery life: 8 hours
Uses: Trail running, road running, gym workouts, outdoor workouts

Reasons to buy

+
Comfy open-ear fit
+
Very secure wraparound design
+
Dust- and water resistant

Reasons to avoid

-
No charging case
-
Sound lacks bass

The Shokz OpenRun (known as the Aftershokz Aeropex before the company rebranded itself in early 2022) don’t go in your earholes at all. The next-to-ear bone-conducting technology leaves the ear completely open to hear ambient sound, which is fantastic for those who find in-ear buds uncomfortable and/or want to clearly hear the sounds of nature, traffic or others running up behind them. Shokz also supplies foam earplugs to block out any excessive sound like strong wind or traffic splashing past.

The flexible, wraparound design fits all head sizes securely and works fine with sunglasses and headlamps. There is no charging case to boost the battery life, but they'll still last a very reasonable eight hours between charges. For music connoisseurs the sound is definitely not as lush as that of the higher-end OpenRun Pro, but podcasts are as good. There are only two EQ levels, but you can adjust the volume easily, take calls and hook up to Siri or Alexa.

What to look for when buying running headphones

1. Size/fit

The best running headphones first and foremost need to be secure and not drop out as you hammer around the trails, twisting your body in all different directions and fighting your way through various patches of undergrowth. For some, the in-ear earbud design will fit perfectly (look for different sizes of eartip to get the most accurate fit) but others will welcome the more secure styles that hook over the ear.

2. Comfort/weight

Some running headphones have an earbud that inserts directly into the ear hole, whereas a bone-conducting headphone sits just outside. Some might find the in-ear buds can be tiring after a few hours, so if you can’t bear something being inside your ear for too long, bone-conducting headphones might be for you. Lighter is better too, but with most of the best running headphones on the market right now there is not much to choose between them here.

3. Battery life

No matter how long your runs are, the longer the battery life the better, so you can reduce the faff of charging. Many of the earbud designs charge within their case, which is a super nice feature – simply take the fully charged case with you for an extra power boost on the go. If you run longer distances like ultras, how you charge the headphones will be an important factor for you – look for earbuds you can use one at a time to extend battery life even further.

4.  Functions

At the most basic level a pair of running headphones should give you the option to pause and skip tracks and adjust the volume, but some can also take calls and pair with smartphone features like Siri, so decide how whizzy you need your headphone tech to be before you buy.

5.  Personalization

Sound is very subjective – one person might love a heavy base while another prefers a different balance entirely, and different music suits different EQ levels too. Some headphones give you the ability to completely personalise the sound through an app, or there might be a choice of a few EQ levels, and others just dole out a set sound. If sound quality is of the utmost importance to you, choose a pair of headphones with the ability to fully personalise EQ.

6. Protection level

Each headphone will have an IP rating to show how dirt, dust and water-resistant they are. Usually sports headphones designed for outdoor activities like running will have a good level of protection against sweat, grit and light showers or splashes, but not many are fully waterproof enough to take swimming with you or survive complete emersion dropped in a lake, so check the IP rating carefully if this is one of your requirements. There are two numbers after the letters IP (which stand for Ingress Protection), the first relates to how dustproof the headphones are (often you just see an ‘X’ here, because it’s not a major factor for headphones) and the second number tells you how waterproof there are. The higher the numbers the better: IPX4 means a pair of headphones are merely splash-proof, while IP67 mean they are fully dust-proof and totally waterproof.

7.   Price/value

Price varies wildly with running headphones. You can wing it with a cheap knock-off on Amazon from little-known companies for about $30, but if you want the security of excellent sound quality, durability and good customer service if anything goes wrong, you might prefer to invest in a more expensive pair from a well-known brand.

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better). 

With contributions from