workout earbuds & headphones
A workout isn’t the same for everyone. You could be lifting in a gym, going for a long run, or out riding a bike, and that’s why having the best headphones for your workout can add to your motivation to keep going. Whether it’s music, podcasts, or audiobooks that propel you while breaking a sweat, all of these options are capable of delivering something inspirational when you’re pushing yourself. So here are some of the best wireless headphones for working out.
Best overall: Jaybird Vista 2
For durability and audio customization, the Jaybird Vista 2 stand out as one of the best you can find. The original Vista earbuds were a big step in this direction, but this second attempt gets a lot of the otherwise missing pieces right.
An IP66 rating gives these a higher water and sweat resistance level for starters, making them well suited to any run or workout. Jaybird considers them to be waterproof, crushproof, drop-proof, and sweatproof, so it’s reasonable to expect these earbuds to sustain a certain level of punishment. You may want to draw the line at swimming, though, since they’re not really made for constant submersion. Want to run in the rain? No problem, but best to keep them out of the pool or tub. Keep them clean after every exposure, and you likely keep them going for longer.
You’ll want to keep them going because there’s plenty to like. Jaybird added active noise cancelation (ANC) and improved passive isolation to enhance audio playback further. Assuming the fit is ideal for your ears, the resulting performance should be agreeable. By default, the Vista 2 lean toward a heavier sound, with enough bass to satisfy anyone looking for a little rumble in their tunes. The best part is that you can expand on that a whole lot more through the Jaybird app.
Aside from learning about its controls and features, the app also has an equalizer with a very active community of fellow users who create and contribute their own EQ presets. You can sample and apply these to the Vista 2 earbuds at any time, effectively changing how they sound on a whim. So, if you like deeper bass to get pumped up in the gym, but prefer a more dynamic or neutral sound signature any other time, you can just select the preset to give you that. You’re free to create your own as well, making these earbuds among the most customizable available.
Battery life isn’t exceptional, but good enough for working out or going out on a run. You can expect up to six hours with ANC on (eight hours when off), and the earbuds get closer to those numbers because the default volume is pretty loud to begin with. Did I mention that the case also has its own IP54 rating? Well, it does, giving it a certain level of durability unto itself, including a lanyard built into it. And you can track it through the app as well. Not to mention the extra 16 hours in battery life the case has, giving the earbuds an additional two full charges. You can also quick charge them via USB-C or lay them down on a wireless charging pad.
- Good audio quality
- Audio customization abounds
- Comfortable fit and rugged design
- Decent ANC and ambient modes
- Improved battery life
- Case is trackable and water-resistant
- Still just as bulky as before
- aptX support would’ve been great
Runner-up: Jabra Elite Active 75t
By the pace of successive earbuds today, the Jabra Elite Active 75t might seem like they’ve been surpassed already. While it is true that the Elite 85t are out, they’re not quite as ruggedized as these are. Plus, you arguably get better comfort for longer runs and workouts. The IP57 rating isn’t especially high, but it is high enough to get you that extra bit of sweat and water resistance you’ll need to push harder when trying to meet a goal.
What makes these earbuds even better is the combination of fit, comfort, and audio quality. They continue to be one of the best designs you’ll find for any pair of earbuds. Lightweight and nicely contoured to not feel intrusive or obtrusive. You could probably wear these for hours and not always notice. The sound starts with a smooth, bass-heavy audio profile, but you can always play around with that in Jabra’s Sound+ app. Use the onboard EQ and customize a profile that works best for your own tastes or mood.
Jabra was the first to add ANC to a pair of earbuds through a firmware update, which makes the Elite Active 75t among the first ever to receive such an upgrade that way. Because the fit is so snug, passive noise isolation is quite good in helping the cause, but this isn’t the kind of ANC built into the hardware, so the effect won’t be as effective or pronounced as it otherwise would be.
Battery life is pretty decent at up to seven hours per charge — a number that’s competitive, but hardly amazing by today’s current standards. Still, consistency is something you’ll appreciate if you’re looking to stay active with them regularly. The included case gives you another two and a half charges for an overall total of about 25-28 hours. Despite the lack of wireless charging, USB-C does help charge it all back up faster, so at least there’s that.
One thing we can’t overlook is the physical controls. Rather than use touch-based gesture controls, these earbuds have buttons to handle all the basics, vastly reducing the number of false positives. There is a downside in that only the right earbud can work in mono mode.
- MySound and MyControls
- More comfortable fit
- Water and dust resistance
- Smaller charging case with USB-C
- Decent ANC performance
- Solid app support
- No wireless charging
- Mono mode only in right earbud
Best value: Beats Powerbeats
True, it’s not as vogue now to have any cables present when talking about wireless earbuds, but the Powerbeats are good value when you value key things, like fit, comfort, and battery life. The ear hook design is great for stability, especially when you’re being active and don’t want the earbuds to fall out at the wrong time. With stability, you often get better comfort, and the two do go together well here.
The IPX4 rating is modest by water and sweat resistant standards, but their design makes them easier to manage and keep clean. Wipe them down after a workout, and you should have these playing for some time to come. Apple’s H1 chip is inside, and you derive no benefit from it as an Android user, but that’s okay. If you’re just looking for earbuds that stay firmly in place while you work out or go for a run, these will do just fine.
You do get Beats-style audio quality, so if you’re into heavier bass, you’ll feel at home moving to tunes coming through. There are no actual special audio treatments beyond that, though you can download the Beats app and see if there’s anything there worth utilizing. The most important part is the fit itself, where the amount of bass is based on which ear tip you use to seal it into your ears.
Battery life can last up to 15 hours per charge, depending on volume level. It’s just unfortunate that they charge via Lightning and not USB-C. The one saving grace is that a quick five-minute charge can get you up to 60 minutes of playback.
- Bass-heavy sound
- Comfortable fit
- Modest water resistance
- Long battery life
- Good color options
- Not truly wireless
- No ANC
- Uses Lightning to charge
Best battery life: JLab Epic Air Sport ANC
There are two things that JLab Audio got right about the Epic Air Sport ANC off the bat. First, while hardly proprietary, the ear hooks suggest that stability is as important to the overall design as comfort is. Second, the number of ear tips in the box clearly tries to cater to various ears and preferences.
Ear hooks aren’t for everyone, but it’s hard to argue with their ability to maintain a good seal since the weight and pressure are largely allocated to the hooks rather than the buds. These are flexible enough to find a happy medium in many respects, even if the fit doesn’t feel perfect the first time. JLab includes two large-sized silicone tips, one of which is molded for taller inner ears. There are even medium sizes doing the same thing. There’s even a CloudFoam pair included to truly deform into your inner ear’s proportions for the tightest seal yet.
The IP66 rating gives them a pretty good level of durability from the start, though you will want to be careful not to expose them to too much water. You shouldn’t have any issues with runs or workouts, provided you keep them clean after you sweat all over them. Whether dry or sweaty, the touch controls are finicky on these, which is a shame since physical buttons might have been the better option.
When it comes to listening to music with them, the default sound signature is a good starting point that you can tweak through the JLab Epic Air ANC app. While presets are limited, you can create your own for whatever sound you’re looking for. Either way, you can expect the battery to go for a long while. Without ANC, the earbuds can play for up to 15 hours per charge, or 11 hours with it on. Those are truly impressive numbers at this stage. The case adds another 55 hours or 44 hours, depending on where ANC is set.
- Good audio quality
- Very stable fit with extra tips
- Ridiculous battery life
- Pretty good durability
- OK ANC mode
- Good app support
- Touch controls need work
- Mediocre call quality at best
- Case is larger than most
Best noise-canceling: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung never ventured into ruggedized territory with its earbuds before the Galaxy Buds Pro but found the right time to do it. These earbuds are packed with features to make them stand out in the crowd, and that combination is better because of the extra durability that goes with it all. The IPX7 rating is by far the highest of any Samsung earbuds to date, letting you get in a solid run or workout without much fuss.
Though the design takes a lot from previous models, like the Galaxy Buds+ and Galaxy Buds Live, these are easily the best ones for running or working out. Small and nimble, they do have some extra girth to pack in ANC and all the other tech inside, plus larger drivers to produce a bigger and clearer sound profile from the get-go. ANC has two settings (high and low) to drown out background noise, plus four Ambient mode settings, both of which can work together in unique ways.
If you need to talk to someone for any reason, Voice Detect lowers the volume of whatever you’re listening to and turns up the Ambient mode once you start talking to hear the conversation. After 5-15 seconds, the audio comes back. If you want to adjust how the music sounds, your best bet is to use the six equalizer presets in the Galaxy Wearable app, even though there is no custom EQ to create your own.
Unfortunately, you won’t get a ton of battery life to go with all that. Expect up to five hours per charge max when ANC is on, or eight hours if you keep it off. The included case gets you three extra charges, which you can charge via USB-C or wireless charging pads. So if you need some tunes for a run or workout and are low on battery, a quick five-minute charge can get you up to an hour of playback.
- Excellent sound
- Effective ANC
- Rugged water and sweat resistance
- Comfortable design
- Spatial 360 Audio
- Reliable microphone quality
- Lower battery life than before
- Finicky touch controls
- Needs custom EQ
Best over-ear: Anker Soundcore Life Q35
Over-ear headphones may not be everyone’s cup of tea for a workout, but if they’re your preference, then you may like the Soundcore Life Q35 for their value and performance. They don’t have a particular durability rating, but you can get away with using them while working out or being active. What helps these achieve that is the larger earcups that do a nice job of staying in place. While not ideal for runs (maybe on a treadmill), they should stay in the gym.
These headphones are very similar to the Soundcore Life Q30, with the only difference being that these support the LDAC codec for lossless playback on any devices or content that can play it. They don’t have an ambient mode, but they auto-pause when taking them off, another feature that sets the Q35 apart. With ANC on board, you can cut off the world around you and focus on the work you need to do. Passive isolation is already excellent, so the ability to stay focused by drowning out background noise is just a button away.
It doesn’t hurt that they sound good, too. The soundstage is vibrant, and if you find it to need something more, you can find it through the excellent Soundcore app. It has an equalizer you can use to tweak the sound however you want, plus over 20 presets to use on top of that. Even the ANC has three settings within the app, giving you a good level of control over what these headphones can do.
You also won’t be charging them all that often. These headphones last 60 hours per charge with ANC off or up to 40 hours when it’s on. So in the odd time you might find them dead and need a quick boost to listen to music for a workout, plug them in via USB-C for five minutes, and you’ll get up to four hours of playback.
- Superb audio quality
- Outstanding battery life
- ANC support
- Great companion app
- LDAC codec support
- Affordable price
- Limited touch controls
- Bulky design
- Unclear long-term durability
Best on-ear: Adidas RPT-01
It’s unique on its own that Adidas made a pair of headphones, but even more so that the RPT-01 are good enough to be on this list. The headband and earcups are covered with a fabric material to give them a softer feel all around. The rubber headband and ear cushions are removable, so you can wash them when they’ve gotten too dirty or sweaty, and while easy to remove, they are a bit tricky to put back on. It could be more elegant, but it’s not often that you can take pieces off your headphones and clean them this way, either.
Adidas didn’t engineer the best possible sound by default, but they do get loud, and there’s plenty of bass, which is perfect if you’re looking for that combination during a workout. The companion app has its own EQ with a bunch of presets you can choose from, as well as the ability to create your own for a custom sound. You could also edit the existing presets to tweak the sound just a little bit if you feel they sound right, but need a little work.
On-ear headphones aren’t known to be the most comfortable, which applies to the RPT-01. You should be fine if you’re only wearing them while working out, whereas prolonged periods may wear on your ears just by the sheer nature of the design. But if your workout is about an hour or so, you likely won’t even notice.
Battery life is pretty good at up to 40 hours per charge, giving you several workouts before needing to recharge them again. And you can charge via USB-C for the odd time you need to top back up again.
- Distinct fabric design
- IPX4 water resistance
- Excellent playback controls
- Great audio with deep bass
- Long-lasting battery life
- USB-C charging
- Prolonged use can get uncomfortable
- Removable ear cushions can be tricky
Best for Apple users: Powerbeats Pro
If you’re an Apple user looking for something sporty, don’t start with the AirPods; start with the Powerbeats Pro. It’s not just because Apple owns all things Beats; it’s because these earbuds are much better designed for activity. For example, the ear hook design gives them an edge in practicality for running because you won’t have to worry about them falling off. Also, despite a more modest IPX4 rating, the more rubberized finish offers greater sweat and water resistance than the more exposed AirPods.
The secure fit also helps deliver better sound than the AirPods. With multiple ear tip sizes and the hooks’ stability, it should be easy to find a fit that creates a tighter seal to improve the audio further. Once you do, you’ll find these have a nice sound signature with richer and cleaner output. There’s bass if you’re looking for that, which is even better when you find the proper seal.
If you carry a Lightning charging cable around for your iPhone, you can use the same one to charge up the case for these earbuds. It’s not a small case, making it less portable than others, but at least there’s a sizeable battery inside. You can expect up to nine hours per charge, with 24 hours coming from the case. So with a quick five-minute charge, you can squeeze out about 90 minutes of playback.
And since these are Apple-made, you get the H1 chip inside for super-fast pairing, plus always-on Siri for hands-free access. Of course, Android users can still use the onboard playback and volume buttons to control those things with relative ease.
- Good audio quality
- Comfortable fit
- Rubberized finish for some durability
- Stable fit with ear hooks
- Responsive control buttons
- Decent battery life
- No ANC
- Bulky case
- Android users get less integration
Best on a budget: Otium Bluetooth Headphones
They’re not true wireless earbuds, as you do have a cable connecting the two sides, but this affordable pair from Otium is all about value when you need to break a sweat. The IPX7 rating does provide a higher level of sweat and water resistance than you might expect from something at this level, but either way, they are meant to be sporty, so you shouldn’t be wary of working hard when wearing them.
Ear hooks ensure a snugger fit for the tips as they nestle into your ears. When they fit right, the seal should be tight enough to keep the best of the audio fidelity where it should be — in your ears. As you can probably imagine, Otium made these with more of a bass-heavy sound profile, so you can certainly enjoy that if you’re into music that sounds better when there is some thump to it.
Onboard controls are good because they’re physical buttons, so once you learn them, they stay consistent in doing what they’re supposed to. Battery life is decent at up to eight hours per charge, though you will have to charge them up using a Micro-USB cable, which is one of the drawbacks you’ll have to accept before you wear them for a run or workout.
- Good audio quality
- IPX7 water and sweat resistance
- Comfortable and easy fit
- Consistent onboard controls
- Affordable price
- Might be too bass-heavy
- Charges via Micro-USB
Best bone conduction: AfterShokz Aeropex
If you’d rather be active and free your ears entirely, you might want to consider going with bone conduction headphones as an alternative. These headphones work using vibrations through your jaw and skull to capture audio, so you can hear it that way, keeping your ears entirely open at the same time. AfterShokz has become a significant player in this particular category, and the Aeropex are among the best you’ll find.
These aren’t as heavily ruggedized as other headphones might be, but they’re meant for some activity. Running, cycling, or any activity you want to do with a desire to hear your surroundings is where these excel most. The smarter design sees sound spread out across the entire pad to help the skull absorb some of the audio output. This boosts the bass, often the toughest part of the audio spectrum to produce with bone conduction headphones. That’s why you should be aware that you’re not going to match what in-ear and over-ear headphones can do, but it’s still an impressive set of features here.
Battery life is good at up to eight hours per charge. The onboard buttons aren’t bad, mainly when it’s time to play/pause or bring up Google Assistant. However, they can be fussy when you want to make a call or turn them off, thanks to squishy buttons and their shared functions that can lead to false positives.
There is a dedicated voice assistant called “Audrey,” whose primary purpose is to pair the headphones quickly, but isn’t designed to be an alternative to Google Assistant.
- Comfortable fit
- Good audio quality
- Lower pad vibration
- Works with Google Assistant
- Solid battery life
- Water resistance
- Squishy buttons
- Voice pairing assistant is just OK
- No customization options
Finding a pair of headphones to wear when you want to casually is easier than finding a pair that you’d like to use while working out or exercising. This is because they can’t be too bulky, need to fit comfortably, and can’t wiggle around too much. Not to mention they also need to repel as much sweat or water as they can.
Regardless of what you’re ready to spend, this list has something for you. For most, the Jaybird Vista 2 stand out as our top recommendation for the sheer balance they give you. They aren’t the best in every category, but when you look at the combination of physical design and audio performance with customization, it’s hard to find that unique kind of value somewhere else. The Vista 2 are among the most ruggedized earbuds you can find and offer audio customization that few others can match.
That’s not to say the other options here aren’t worthy. You can still find great performance and comfort when wearing the Jabra Elite Active 75t or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, so your options are varied and effective here.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.
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