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The best running headphones to buy in 2023

Nick Harris-Fry Pete Wise
27 Jan 2023
Runner wearing running headphones while drinking from a bottle of water in front of a city skyline at dawn

Discover the wired and wireless running headphones that are guaranteed to sound great and help you go the distance

Running pushes you physically and mentally, but the best running headphones can provide you with the audio inspiration you need to push through the pain barrier and rack up the miles.

Running headphones aren't hugely different to those intended for commuting or home use, but they do typically include unique features tailored to maximise performance during physical exertion. In this article, we'll explain how to work out which running headphones suit you best and help you to decide which features you really need. 

Pressed for time? Then our at-a-glance list below will give you quick links to our favourite running headphones at a range of different prices. 

Best running headphones: At a glance

  • Best budget wireless: Tribit Flybuds 3 (~£40) | Buy now
  • Best budget wired: Sony MDR-XB510AS (~£25) | Buy now
  • Best for noise-cancelling: Apple Airpods Pro (~£185) | Buy now
  • Best for battery life: Adidas FWD-01 (~£30) | Buy now
  • Best for sound quality: NuraLoop (~£140) | Buy now

How to choose the best running headphones for you

Which type of headphone is best for running?

When you picture running headphones, you probably think of a compact in-ear design and the majority of products on the market are exactly that. In-ear headphones are light and unobtrusive, so perfect for running. 

On-ear or over-ear headphones do tend to sound better (and aren't a bad shout for lower tempo gym visits) but are liable to get hot and sweaty once you start really pushing yourself, so that's why we've not included any in this round-up. If you're dead set on bigger 'phones, then check out our guide to the Best Bluetooth headphones

Wired or wireless?

Wired models don't ever need charging which is nice, but unless your audio device doesn't have Bluetooth, we'd generally recommend going wireless. That's because wires can get in your way, and if you accidentally catch the cable while running it can infuriatingly tug the earbuds out of your ears. What’s more, some modern smartphones lack a 3.5mm jack, so you might need to use an adaptor to connect your wired headphones. That’s not a big problem, but it’s another accessory to deal with.

What kinds of wireless earbuds are there?

When it comes to wireless headphones, there are two designs to choose from: some have the left and right units cabled together or joined on a band, whereas 'true wireless’ models use separate left and right earbuds. The latter are more convenient for running, but tend to have shorter battery life.

What about sound isolation?

One final design factor you should consider is ambient noise. Certain earphones sit deep in your ear canal, with a rubber plug that excludes almost all external sound. This is great for zoning out and losing yourself in the music – but if you’re running on busy streets, consider a more open design that lets a certain amount of noise in, to keep you in touch with the potential hazards of the outside world. Or, alternatively, consider a headphone which uses bone-conduction technology, such as those manufactured by Shokz, as these don't block your ear canal at all.   

How much do I need to spend?

Good wired headphones generally cost between £20 and £50.

Decent wireless headphones start around £30, but often compromise on battery life, features or sound quality. The best wireless models start at around £70 and the best true wireless earbuds cost £150 plus.

Are there any other key features to look for?

  • Waterproofing: First of all, make sure the headphones you’re looking at are sweat and water-resistant. There are plenty of trendy earphones out there that don’t pass this test.
  • Fit: Running can involve lots of jolts and jars so it’s vital that your sports headphones fit your ears snugly and securely.
  • Battery life: Obviously, this isn’t an issue for wired sports headphones. For regular wireless units, you can typically expect around eight to ten hours of music per charge. True wireless buds are often rated for only three to five hours of playback per charge, but this isn’t as limiting as it sounds: many models come with a carry case that doubles as a charger, which tops them up between uses. In practice, you can probably go a week or two without having to plug them in.
  • Sound quality: Theoretically, wired headphones should give the best sound reproduction, while wireless technologies can degrade the sound very slightly. It's unlikely you'll notice the difference while running, however. 
  • Connectivity: Finally, it’s worth checking the reviews to see how quickly and reliably they connect to your phone or MP3 player – there are few things more annoying than earbuds that won’t pair, or randomly cut out while you’re in the middle of a run. Many cheap headphones have more difficulty with this than you might expect, but rest assured that the models we’ve picked out below won’t let you down.

READ NEXT: The best headphones and earphones you can buy

The best running headphones to buy

1. Tribit Flybuds 3: The best budget running headphones

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

Trying to find a quality set of wireless headphones for under £50 can be a frustrating affair, but when you stumble across a diamond in the rough like the Flybuds 3 it makes all the searching worthwhile. These £40 headphones can match many sets that cost twice or even three times as much, both in terms of audio and build quality, and they have a secure fit for running thanks to the varied wings and ear-tips provided in the box.

The battery life on the buds is solid enough at five hours, but the case is a marvel, adding another 95 hours of use and packing a USB port that lets you charge other devices from it. The sound is clear and the bass is punchy, and even at high volumes there’s almost no distortion. With an IPX8 rating, the headphones are also fully waterproof. The only real negative to the buds is the often unresponsive touch controls, but this can be forgiven for the overall quality you’re getting for £40.

Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX8; Battery life: 5hrs (100 total with case)

2. Shokz OpenRun Pro: The best running headphones for racing

Price: £160 | Buy now from Selfridges

White Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones sitting on a desk

Shokz' range of bone-conduction headphones are the only headphones approved for road races under the UK Athletics Rules of Competition. That makes them the de facto pick if you're a competitive runner but more casual runners will also appreciate the benefits bone conduction technology offers.

With you ears free, you can hear what's going on around you, hold conversations and your risk of headphones-related ear infections is reduced, too. Sound quality of bone-conduction headphones is no match for traditional headphones but the OpenRun Pro are the best-sounding option in their style and have the longest battery life of any bone-conduction headphones as well. IP55 certification means they can withstand sweat and rain and their comfortable fit ensures you can wear them for the longest of races without any issues.

Read our Shokz OpenRun Pro review for more details

Key specs – Style: Wireless bone conduction; Water resistance: IP55; Battery life: 10hrs

3. Sony MDR-XB510AS: The best cheap wired running headphones

Price: £24 | Buy now from Amazon

Although more and more companies are opting to make wireless running headphones, there are still some great wired pairs available and Sony’s MDR-XB510AS is one of them. They’re IPX5-certified so not only are they sweat- and water-resistant, but you can clean them under the tap after you’ve finished your run.

The MDR-XB510AS feature Sony’s trademarked EXTRA BASS, which provides full, rich low-end reproduction and the headphones come packaged with a range of different-sized eartips and arc supports to help you get a stable fit in your ear. The 1.2m cable is long enough to ensure you don’t catch it when running and also houses a small in-cable control box.

Available in four different colours – black, red, green and blue – the MDR-XB510AS are a good quality, affordable option for those not wishing to make the leap to wireless headphones.

Key specs – Style: Wired earphones; Water resistance: IPX5; Battery life: N/A

4. JLab GO Air Sport In-Ear True Wireless Earbuds: Cheap and wireless

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

The GO Air Sport from JLab gives you wireless audio at an astonishingly affordable price.

As you’d expect, this headphone’s sound quality isn’t on the same level as most mid-range or high-end wireless earbuds. The audio is pretty thin, and there’s a tendency for one earbud to momentarily lose Bluetooth connection from time-to-time, while you run. Nevertheless, the GO Air Sport offers lively bass, a fair level of detail, and the capability to cut through ambient noise.

We were particularly impressed with the fit of this headphone. Getting the earhooks to fit nicely around the ears may take a few tries, but once we’d jiggled the earphones abound a bit, the GO Air Sport stayed snugged and securely in-place.

Another strong point to this headphone is its charging speed. With the charging dock plugged into a power outlet, the GO Air Sport charged sufficiently for us to take them for a run within about fifteen minutes.

Key details – Type: Wireless earbuds; Inputs: Bluetooth 5.1; Water-resistance: Yes (IP55)

5. Apple AirPods Pro: The best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds for running

Price: £189 | Buy now from Amazon

The AirPods Pro are the first true wireless headphones we’ve come across that offer active noise cancellation (ANC) while also having a secure enough fit for running. They’ve immediately become our go-to option for runs as a result.

There are some situations when you don’t want ANC activated when running – if you’re on a busy road, for example – so you can switch to the AirPods Pro’s transparency mode, which filters in external noise to your music so you’re aware of your surroundings. However, when you can enable the ANC it’s a joy, making your music more immersive and blocking out the distractions of the world around you so you can focus on your run.

The sound quality of the AirPods Pro is excellent thanks to the in-ear design, and the fit is comfortable to wear for long periods while also being secure enough for running. The battery life of the buds is solid rather than spectacular at 4.5 hours with ANC enabled (you can get five hours if you turn it off), but the quick charge feature, which nets you an hour of playback from just five minutes in the case, means that you’ll never be caught short of juice before your run.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review for more details

Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX4; Battery life: 4.5hrs (24 total with case)

6. NuraLoop: The best-sounding headphones for running

Price: £140 | Buy now from Amazon

While the NuraLoop are designed with musicians in mind more than athletes, these are some seriously good earphones for running. The loops that give them their name create an extremely secure fit over your ears so there’s no danger of the earbuds popping out while you’re on the move. They offer sweat-resistance to protect them against damage during those more intense outings and with battery life upwards of 16 hours charging is a lot less frequent than with many of their competitors.

Where they truly shine is in the audio department. Using patented technology, the NuraLoop create a personalised profile just for you, with extraordinary results. Their active noise-cancelling is also second-to-none. If you want to shut out the world as you complete laps around the park, you can, but there’s also an effective Social Mode, which enables you to be more aware of your surroundings.

Read our NuraLoop review for more details

Key specs – Style: Wireless earphones; Water resistance: Yes but no IP rating stated; Battery life: 16hrs

7. Dottir Freedom On-Grid: Best running headphones for stability

Price: £120 | Buy now from Dottir

If you find regular true wireless earbuds fall out of your ears or shift position while running, the Dottir Freedom On-Grid are the headphones for you. Their design incorporates earhooks that wrap over your ears to keep them in place during vigorous activity and they do the job extremely well.

They’re no one-trick pony, however, with an IPX7 rating for water resistance certifying them protected against sweat and immersion in water up to 1m in depth. They’re very comfy too, and have ample in-ear battery life of 12hrs, so will keep going throughout the longest of ultramarathons.

Sound quality is solid for the money, with the Freedom On-Grid delivering warm, powerful sound that’s great at pushing you that extra mile when you've hit the wall. They’re not the most detailed listen around but do benefit from active noise cancellation, which helps you focus on your music and stride patterns rather than external distractions.

Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX7; Battery life: 12hrs (72 total with case)

Buy now from Dottir

8. Jaybird Vista 2: The best waterproof running headphones

Price: £190 | Buy now from Amazon

The Vista 2 buds are the closest competitors to the Jabra Elite Active 75t when it comes to all-round quality, and while we still rate the Jabras as slightly superior (and cheaper), the Vista 2 headphones have one advantage which is their fully waterproof, IP68-rated design. Another nifty feature is that the case is IP54-rated, so it will resist water and sweat if you slip it in your running belt or backpack and bring it with you.

Jaybird has always done a great job of focusing on fit with its sports headphones, and that’s the case with the Vista 2 buds, which come with three different “eargels”, which are a combination of ear-tips and wings that allow for a secure and comfortable fit. The sound quality is impressive too, and you can adjust the EQ in the partner app to suit your taste, and the buds have both ANC and an awareness mode.

Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IP68; Battery life: 8hrs (24 total with case)

9. Cleer Goal: The best open-fit earbuds for running

Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon

The Cleer Goal true wireless earbuds feature a design that lends itself perfectly to running. They don’t use silicone eartips to seal off your ear canals which means you can remain aware of your surroundings but feature removable “Freebit C-skirts” that nestle in your outer ear and help achieve a secure fit.

Sound quality is very clean thanks to the Goal’s impressive ability to articulate with mids and treble. Despite their open-fit design, the Goal’s 14mm drivers deliver a decent bass thump, though it doesn’t have quite the level of richness you’d get with buds incorporating silicone tips. Touch controls are implemented simply and effectively. Playing, pausing, track skipping and hailing your voice assistant are executed via single, double and triple taps, while volume adjustment requires you to double tap and hold your finger on the bud.

Six hours of in-ear battery life is backed up by a further 14 hours of charge in the accompanying case and an IPX4 water-resistance rating means the Goal are excellently equipped to handle sweat and rain when pounding out the miles.

Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX4; Battery life: 6hrs (20 total with case)

10. Adidas FWD-01: The best running headphones for battery life

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

It’s difficult to find much fault with Adidas’ FWD-01 neckband Bluetooth earphones. Their main selling point is their superb battery life, which extends to 16 hours or more between charges. Should you forget to charge them, they also offer superfast USB-C charging, meaning you can top them up to 60% in a mere 15 minutes.

Aside from this, we’ve found the FWD-01 to be very well suited to running because their design deliberately doesn’t create a perfect seal in your ears. This means not only are you more aware of your surroundings when running but also you don’t get that irritating amplification of every step.

Despite this, the earbuds remained snugly in our ears and we were really fond of the sound quality, too. As with most sports-orientated headphones, they’re a bit boomy but there’s plenty of detail through the mid-range frequencies and treble. In fact, our only minor gripe is that the magnet that holds the earbuds together when they’re hung around your neck isn’t very strong. Coupled with the lack of grip from the fabric-coated cable, there's a risk of them slipping off when they're not in use.

Key specs – Style: Wireless earphones; Water-resistance: IPX4; Battery life: 16hrs

11. 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro: The best noise-cancelling neckbuds for running

Price: £130 | Buy now from OnBuy

Neckband headphones may not be particularly popular for general use but are very well suited for running and these neckbuds from 1MORE are among the best around. They deliver supremely detailed audio thanks to their balanced armature drivers and feature two levels of active noise cancellation - mild and strong - to help reduce unwanted distractions when on the road. There’s also a handy wind noise resistance feature, which is particularly welcome when you’re running in breezy conditions. You can't have both ANC and wind noise resistance active at the same, though, which is a shame.

IPX5 certification means the Dual Driver ANC Pro are perfectly equipped to handle both rain and sweat, the neckband controls are nicely laid out and the earpieces fit comfortably in your ears, with very little movement even when running at full pelt. All-in-all, they’re our number one recommendation if you’re a fan of the neckband style and require noise-cancelling capabilities.

Key specs – Style: Wireless neckband; Water resistance: IPX5; Battery life: 20hrs

Buy now from OnBuy

12. Bose Sport Earbuds: The most comfortable running headphones

Price: £179 | Buy now from Amazon

Given their high price, the Bose Sport Earbuds look a little under-specced compared to their competitors. The battery life is modest at five hours, there is no ANC, you can’t adjust the EQ, and the water-resistance rating is only IPX4 – sufficient for running in all weathers, but not fully waterproof.

However, what the Sport Earbuds do well, they do really well. For one, they sound fantastic, with a full-bodied but remarkably clear sound profile. For two, they are comfortable and secure to wear for hours on end, which is not always the case with headphones that use wings. If you struggle to keep in-ear headphones in place, find wings painful to wear for long periods and don’t want to use ear hook headphones, the Bose Sport Earbuds should be your top pick.

Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; Water resistance: IPX4; Battery life: 5hrs (15 total with case)