The best workout headphones should be wireless — and ideally, true wireless earbuds — to avoid wired headphones getting in the way of your stride. Although a surprising number of people still prefer wired headphones. When you’re going on a long run, the last thing you want to do is stand on your front porch, shivering in your shorts, trying to figure out why the right earbud isn’t connected. But for obvious reasons, wireless headphones are much more convenient when doing other strenuous physical activities.
More importantly, they should give you a secure and comfortable fit, whether they’re over-ear headphones with a squishy earcup or wireless in-earbuds. After all, losing one earbud during your run is the worst.
Decent sound quality is also essential, as are durability, reliable performance (with minimal dropouts), battery life and noise cancellation (as well as hear-through or transparency modes). And lastly, they need to be sweat-resistant, if not fully waterproof, for obvious reasons.
If you like working out outside, it is very much recommended that you invest in a pair that has an over-ear clip or ear fins to hold them securely in place. The same rules for wireless buds apply: A tight, secure seal ensures that you get that big bass sound to power you through the last mile, and that they don’t fall out!
We’ve researched and put together a selection of wireless gym headphones that have been tested and are well-suited to become your go-to exercise headphones. Whatever your activities of choice, these buds and sports headphones will soundtrack your path to fitness.
Bose Soundsport Free – Best True Wireless Buds for Gym (But not running)
The way the Bose SoundSport Free buds protrude from your ears gives a look that is somewhat less than icy cool. But if you work out a lot, you probably value performance over appearance, and are well used to looking a tad ‘off-beat’. And there is no doubt that at the gym, the SoundSport Free perform.
Sonically, these are a better true wireless option. They give you five hours of battery life, with 10 more hours provided by recharging in their case. A quick-charge facility gives you 45 minutes use from 15 minutes charging.
Although perfect for the gym or home, these are not great earbuds for running outdoors, or cycling. The fit is brilliantly comfy but less unshakeable. The way they protrude also makes them impossible to wear with your hood up in winter, as they will catch on it. The real problem with the way they protrude, however, is wind noise. They whoosh quite a bit in a breeze and in a high wind.
However, the weird fit is also why they’re so comfortable, and with notably great audio, and a more unshakeable fit than the RHA true wireless, the SoundSport Free are among the very best true wireless buds for the gym and other sports where no wind is likely. Yes, you look a bit stupid wearing them but, come on, you’re working out – you probably already look daft.
Curiously, calls only come through one SoundSport Free bud rather than both, so if you’re buying these with the intention of making or receiving a lot of calls, bear that in mind. It is weirdly jarring.
Apple AirPods Pro – Lightweight Noise Canceling
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While they’re not advertised as sports earbuds, the AirPods Pro are very good truly wireless headphones for running. That’s largely due to their winning lightweight design and fit, improved bass performance, effective noise cancellation and excellent call quality. While you can’t run with the standard AirPods (those in-ear headphones don’t fit your ears securely), you will have no trouble running with the AirPods Pro, which have a noise-isolating design with a silicone tip that sits snugly in your ear.
For runners, it’s worth noting that there’s a transparency mode that allows sound to leak in. You’ll still have to lower the volume of your music to hear the sound of traffic noise. The AirPods Pro are also officially rated as being sweat-resistant.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Sport – True Wireless Buds
If you want sports earphones that don’t look like sports earphones, this is where it’s at. Beoplay E8 Sport is – in every sense – a premium pair of true wireless earphones, but with design and features that suits runners and gym fiends.
You get water/sweat resistance, but also a grippy secure fit from the rubber outer of the earbuds. With B&O, you know you’re getting great quality sound in a package made from high end materials. In every way, this is just as much focused on sound and premium feel as any other B&O product, but they also happen to be great for working out too. You even get the convenience of wireless charging in the case.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live – Innovative Design
Say what you will about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live’s bean-shaped design, but they might just be the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of the year. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design — you don’t jam an ear tip into your ear — and they’re quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. These wireless buds are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear, which reduces wind-noise while biking. You can use them for running and biking, and they’re great for sporting activities if they fit your ears well, but one warning: Some people won’t get a secure fit, so buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy.
They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise reduction so callers can hear you clearly even when you’re in noisier environments. While they feature active noise canceling, it’s mild compared to the noise canceling in earbuds that have a noise-isolating design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not their noise-canceling features.
Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats – Best Headphones for Running and Gym
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Powerbeats (without the ‘Pro’ bit) are almost $100 cheaper and they sound identical – which is to say they sound superb for workout music. And, come to that, superb for non-workout music.
Since they’re not true wireless Powerbeats also boast a longer battery life (15 hours to the Pro’s 9). Yes, yes, there is that little bit of wire between the buds but because the in-ear fit is also identical to the market-leading Powerbeats Pro, the wire is less irritating than on the many similar-looking buds of this type – you don’t feel the snag and drag that you sometimes get.
At its price what you’re looking at a very premium, high-quality product that you could still just about call affordable – especially when compared to its more illustrious, true wireless big brother. They’re similarly excellent for making calls and controlling Siri, too.
Sony WF-SP800N – Best Noise Canceling for Runners
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 is considered one of the best sets of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds. But to the dismay of some people, it lacked any sort of water resistance, making it unsuitable for sports. It took a while, but now we finally have a new true wireless noise-canceling sports model from Sony: the WF-SP800N.
This isn’t quite the WF-1000XM3 with a water-resistant body. It’s missing Sony’s QN1e processor, but there’s still a lot to like about it, including very good sound, solid noise canceling and good call quality. It’s definitely a nice upgrade over the WF-SP700N, which came out in 2018, and its “arcs” (sports fins) lock the buds in your ears. Just make sure you get a tight seal from one of the included ear tips, or else both the sound and noise canceling will be lackluster.
Workout Headphones Compared
Reasons to Buy
Bose Soundsport Free
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 Sport
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats
|Battery life: 5 hours |
(plus 10 hours from recharging in its case)
Sound isolating: Yes
Very good sound
|Battery Life: 4.5 hours|
Noise cancelling: Yes
Ultracompact, lightweight, sweatproof and very comfortable to wear
Delivers better overall sound
Making calls is top-notch
|Premium materials and design|
Comfortable and secure fit
Great sound that’s customisable
Waterproof enough that you can rinse them clean
Wireless charging case
Protects against light splashes).
Comfortable ergonomic fit
Open sound with good bass
Good noise reduction when making calls
Battery life: 15 hours
Sound isolating: Yes
Great battery life
Very good sound with strong bass
Active noise canceling and good call quality
IP55 water-resistant (splashproof and dustproof) and secure fit
Excellent battery life (up to 9 hours with noise canceling on)
Responsive touch controls
Reasons to Avoid
|Bose Soundsport Free||Apple AirPods|
|Bang & Olufsen||Samsung Galaxy |
|Beats by Dr Dre Powerbeats||Sony WF-SP800N|
Incredibly susceptible to wind interference
They look stupid even by true wireless standards
Some competitors sound better
Unclear if these have better long-term battery life than the original AirPods
No active noise-cancelling (ANC)
Really quite pricey
Noise canceling is comparatively mild
Open design lets some ambient sound in
Little bit of distortion at high volume
|Not true wireless|
Earbuds stick out from your ears a fair amount
Noise canceling and sound quality aren’t quite as good as the WF-1000XM3’s
No XL eartips in the box