These earbuds and headphones will keep you humming at the gym or on the trails.
Music and workouts go hand in hand. Taking the occasional break to listen to your body is great advice, but the bulk of runs and gym sessions use music to motivate or distract. And then there’s that ever-growing queue of podcasts to binge.
To find the best workout headphones and earbuds, we spent hours listening to music and podcasts during stationary workouts and long runs. Sweat and the occasional “icy drizzle” were kept at bay by varying degrees of weatherproofing. (The industry has made great strides in this area, and any serious exercise earbud should offer waterproof ratings of IPX7 going forward, as they also keep out dirt and grime.)
And while there isn’t a single best earbud for every user, we’ve broken this list into categories to help you find the best headphones for your particular workout style. From wireless earbuds to budget-friendly headphones, there’s something for everyone.
The Best Workout Headphones & Earbuds of 2020
Best Overall: Under Armour Flash Wireless Earbuds ($150 on Sale)
Different buds and fins mean you can dial the fit on these truly wireless earbuds and appreciate their full sound comfortably during workouts and runs. The 5-hour battery life and 20 hours of backup in the charging case put these earbuds at the forefront of longevity.
Hefty construction and waterproofing make these durable enough for all kinds of outdoor workouts. We had a couple issues getting the Flash to quickly connect to Bluetooth when removed from the case, which is something we found other headphones did easily. But once connected, we didn’t lose signal.
We appreciated the rich sound and strong bass. And the volume was plenty loud, even in a noisy gym environment. It’s worth noting that some phones have a known issue of limiting volume via Bluetooth. If you’re initially unimpressed with the sound level, try connecting to your computer or other device to diagnose the problem.
Battery: 5 hours + 20 hours from case
Weight: 16 g
Pros: Big battery; durability; rich bass; fit options
Cons: Initial connectivity issues; can feel bulky
Runner-Up Best Overall: The Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless Earbuds ($169 on Sale)
The Jaybird Vista wireless earbuds were quickly a favorite with a rich sound. Runners will like that these can be activated separately to allow for running with just one earbud. Prolonged use revealed some shortcomings in comfort and sound due to a less-dialed fit.
As our editor noted during review, “At $180 [MSRP], the Jaybird Vista falls on the steep end of the price spectrum for the category. But for that price, the brand offers up some impressive performance in terms of audio quality, fit, and software features.
“The Vista presents a great buy, but it does fall short when it comes to the clarity and quality of the wearer’s voice on phone calls and video chats.”
Battery: 6 hours + 10 hours from case
Weight: 12 g
Pros: Big battery; full sound; compact charge case
Cons: Fewer fit options
The Best Budget Workout Headphones: JBL Endurance RUN ($20 on Sale)
These adjustable, wireless, in-ear buds can also be worn behind the ear when you need to be more aware of your surroundings. They’re sweat-resistant (IPX5) and have magnetic buds to keep them together while stored.
The fit was comfortable, and we didn’t have any problems with slippage. The sound isn’t as rich as some higher-end headphones, but for just 20 bucks they’re a great value.
Battery: 8 hours
Weight: 11 g
Pros: Sweatproof; inexpensive; tangle-resistant
Cons: Floppy cord
The Best Headphones for Running: Jaybird Tarah Pro ($130 on Sale)
Anyone who prefers round earbuds will want to check these out before the Vistas. The 14-hour battery life means you don’t have to worry about heading out for a long run. And the quality sound is great for workouts.
The magnetic snap is convenient for keeping cords tidy and for wearing around your neck when not in use. And while some wired earbuds flop annoyingly, the cinch on these makes for a comfortable, custom fit. There’s also an app that allows you to connect with the Jaybird community and find recommended playlists and podcasts.
Battery: 14 hours
Weight: 21 g (with band)
Pros: Big battery; waterproof; fabric cord
Cons: Priced like true wireless
Best Over-Ear Headphones: Plantronics Backbeat Fit 500 ($100)
Anyone who prefers over-ear Bluetooth headphones should consider this wireless pick. We like that they’re sweat-resistant and easy to clean. We found them comfortable after hours of use. And they offer up an impressive 18-hour battery life.
The sound wasn’t as rich as some of our favorite earbuds, but overall it’s decent (especially considering the price). Our main complaint is one we have with every over-ear headphone: movement. During rigorous workouts, the Backbeat is prone to slippage.
But these work great for lifting weights, walking, or circuit training around the gym.
Battery: 18 hours
Weight: 155 g
Pros: Budget-friendly; sweatproof
Cons: Heavier; can shift during extreme workouts
Best for Situational Awareness: AfterShokz Air ($120)
These bone-conducting headphones are a comfortable and safe option for outdoor pursuits. Instead of filling the ears with sound, they rest on the bone in front of the ear and conduct sound via vibration. It seems crazy, but it works. It allows for full enjoyment of music or podcasts while still being aware of what’s happening on the trail or when biking or running around town.
We were able to comfortably wear them with glasses and a helmet. And at just a little over one ounce, they were light and easy to wear for long rides. The only time we noticed any vibration was at full volume. And because they don’t fill the ear, they aren’t noise-canceling. But you can pair them with earplugs to achieve full noise cancelation.
Battery: 6 hours
Weight: 30 g
Pros: Easy fit; situational awareness; ambient sounds
Cons: OK sound; vibrations at high volume
Best of the Rest
Jabra Elite Active 65t ($128 on Sale)
The Elite Active 65t are proven earbuds that have come down in price. These lightweight, truly wireless earbuds connect out of the case and automatically pause sound when removed from the ear. We also like that the volume is easily adjusted on the side of the left earbud.
The sound was solid — but not as good as our top picks. Our big complaint was that their midrange sound felt constrained and often tinny.
These are designed to fit farther in the ear and only use gels to secure a fit in the ear canal. While this is comfortable, it can leave them feeling less secure during vigorous workouts, though they never fell out during test runs.
Battery: 5 hours + 15 from case
Weight: 6 g each
Pros: Lightweight; four microphones for voice calls
Cons: Tinny midrange
Apple AirPod Pro ($235 on Sale)
The Pro version of Apple’s wireless earbuds finally come with different-size silicone tips to seal the ear canal and ensure getting the most of the active noise-canceling qualities that adjust what you hear by monitoring surrounding sounds.
For workouts, transparency mode will help you keep aware of your environment. It’s worth noting, though, that these are only sweatproof (IPX4). At $250 MSRP, you better hope you never get stuck in the rain — and that Apple has fixed issues with the long-term life of its earbuds.
Battery: 4.5 hours + 24 with wireless case
Weight: 5.4 g
Pros: Adjustable fit; great sound; noise cancelation; headset features
Cons: Pricey; questionable long-term battery life
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 ($100)
These are a great value for truly wireless, sweatproof earbuds. Plus, they boast an impressive battery life. There can be frustrating issues with connecting both earbuds to Bluetooth. And the sound quality lags in comparison to other earbuds in the category. While these are decent earbuds, we’d generally spend a little more or search for better models on sale.
Battery: 7 hours + 28 hours in case
Weight: 11 g
Pros: Sweatproof; single-use earbuds; call quality
Cons: Subpar sound and connectivity
How to Choose the Best Earbuds & Headphones for Your Workout
For our ratings, we prioritized the interrelated factors of fit and comfort, which ultimately affect sound quality. An improper fit will likely create a muffled, underwater sound.
Features like phone calls aren’t factors for workouts — we hope — though, for the price, you’ll want to use these beyond exercise. Other important features were those that added to functionality and safety, like dropping sound quickly to hear your surroundings.
The first goal of fit is to keep the earbuds in the ear. The stems of in-ear headphones wedge into the ear canal while a “fin” or “wing” tucks into (the concha part of) the outer ear to prevent lateral movement.
Getting a great fit is crucial to both comfort and sound quality. Most earbuds come with smaller and larger tips and fins, and we advise trying those out no matter how well the default options fit out of the box.
Wired headphones have been around for generations and are now included with most smartphones. For many, these work fine, but an athlete’s sweat can quickly gunk up the wires — if they don’t snag one on gym equipment or a branch first.
Once you experience the freedom of wireless earbuds, subtracting an annoyance may prove worth the expense. The truly wireless versions tend to be favorites for workouts. Though some runners prefer banded wireless earbuds for the peace of mind in knowing that if an earbud falls out mid-run, it’s still within reach.
In general, truly wireless earbuds have a (slightly) shorter battery life, though this gap is closing. Battery life and accessory apps are where companies are making the most advances. Updated versions of existing product lines are gaining hours of use (extended as well by charging cases) and offering personalized EQs to create customized sounds.
At this point, those are nice additions, but all the earbuds we reviewed have sufficient battery life for a decent marathon time, and charging them is easy.
We put these headphones through a series of exercises to test for comfort and, of course, to see if they’d fall out. We even chewed gum during workouts to change the shape of the jaw and ear.
Some fit better, and feel better, than others during the constant jostling of runs, while they all performed well during workouts — including burpees, which jostle the head at different angles.
To test the waterproofing, we walked and ran with these during misty and rainy days. Back at home, we sprayed them with a mist of water to check for any loss in audio quality. We found proper fit had more to do with the sound than any exterior element.
Have a favorite workout headphone we missed? Let us know in the comments for future updates to this article.