Joggers, runners and fitness enthusiasts everywhere will likely all have a favourite pair of headphones. Listening to music while on the move is now quick, easy and enjoyable in 2021. But what should runners be looking for in a great pair of headphones? Which features should be prioritised, and how much should they expect to pay? In this guide, we will help you find the right answers.
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Headphones which are ideally suited for running are going to have a few features common between them. They will need to be durable, they will need to be comfortable, and they will likely need to be wireless for maximum ease of movement.
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You will likely be able to use a standard pair of earphones or headphones for exercise unless you have specific needs. However, we think it’s becoming more and more important to look for headphones which are specifically built to use while working out.
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Whether at the gym or out on the street, you’re going to need to find a pair of cans which will withstand regular, heavy use.
Wired or Wireless?
Plenty of people are happy to use wired headphones or earphones while running or exercising. However, particularly in the gym, cords and wires can become a bit of a nuisance. What’s more, they can even become a safety hazard.
Therefore, for maximum safety, movement and comfort, we always recommend you look for wireless headphones if you need a pair for running or exercising. You should consider Bluetooth connectivity for absolute ease of use and compatibility, as most portable devices will connect to applicable headphones or earphones with a minimum of button presses.
Previously, we would have suggested that wired vs wireless headphones for running was a matter of taste. However, with safety concerns coming into play, and with wireless headphones being more affordable than ever before, we think all runners should be going wireless.
Many different types of headphones are now resistant to water damage. That means you may be able to take some cans swimming! However, for runners and general gym goers, it is more likely you will need a pair of headphones that can withstand regular sweating. It sounds gross, but it’s true. Excess sweat could leak into your headphones and cause a malfunction.
On a separate point, we also think the best headphones for running should be easy to clean and maintain:
• They should be easy to wipe down and dry off
• There should be no visible openings or slots where fluid or debris can get in
• They should be simple to put back together if you need to open them up to clean
Durability and Resistance
All good headphones built for running and exercise should be durable. Look for a pair which boasts shock resistance and robust casing, or design which is unlikely to get damaged during heavy, continued use. Headphones used during exercise must be conditioned to constant, sudden movements, and must be ready to bounce back if they are thrown off or cast aside.
There are many different headphones and earphones which are more durable than they look. You don’t necessarily have to look for headphones which are bulky or clunky. In fact, we would likely advise against these models.
Considering that wireless headphones are probably going to be the best way to go for regular exercise, we recommend you buy a pair of headphones with healthy battery life and an obvious indicator of how much juice you have left. Battery life of around 10 hours per charge should be generous enough, especially if you are the sort of person who enjoys running long distance.
However, for those who go to the gym for a few hours at a time, you may not hold this factor in too high regard. It will all depend on your exact exercise regimen and what you need from your headphones long-term.
When you’re running, you don’t want to have to reach in and change the song on your device every five seconds. That’s why some of the best headphones around have onboard controls.
Whether on a mini remote on corded headphones or on the earpieces themselves on wireless models, there should be a way for you to change the volume and skip tracks without having to handle the device in your pocket. This way, you’re not getting distracted. If you’re jogging or running out and about, the last thing you want to do is to fiddle around with a device, for reasons of safety.
Types of Headphones
By this, we mean how do they look? Some headphones for running are over-ear, others are over-the-head, or even in-the-ear. The choice to make here may often be down to what you personally find comfortable. However, we would strongly advise against anything that’s going to weigh heavy on you.
The best headphones for running are those which are streamlined in their design. They’re lightweight, but robust, and can take a beating. They are comfortable on your head and ears, and what’s more, they won’t distract you from your surroundings if you are out and about.
Sound quality, of course, is going to play a role in any headphones purchase. That means while you will be largely looking at physical features of headphones for running, you should also consider how good they sound.
If you’re going to need to turn the volume up to the max, you’re probably better off looking for a different pair. Check and compare dB levels of headphones on the market. Consider checking bass and treble options, too. When it comes to running in a gym, if you want to drown out machine noise and whatever may be playing on the sound system, you’re going to need to look for noise cancellation or at least a decent focus on audio quality.
Here are some questions runners generally ask when it comes to buying the right pair of headphones.
How Much Should I Pay for Headphones for Running?
As with other headphones we’ve covered elsewhere, the higher the price, the more functionality you’ll get. A general look at the market, however, suggests you should be paying anywhere between £100 and £150 for a good pair of headphones which have been specifically designed for running and rigorous exercise. It is worth paying this amount as opposed to using generic headphones for a lower price.
Can Headphones Measure My Heart Rate?
Yes! There are headphones specifically built to measure fitness activity and heart rate. These can be accessed via an app which can be loaded up and synced with your headphones on purchase. It’s a great little feature which some of the best models introduce to bring fitness and private listening together.
Are There Headphones With Data Built-in?
Yes. Some runners dislike having a phone or music player on their person at all. Therefore, there are a few headphones on the market which come with storage built-in, meaning you can simply load the hardware into your PC or Mac and transfer MP3s straight across.
How Else Can Running Headphones Help Me?
Some premium headphones designed for running even have a ‘coach’ function built-in. This can let you know how far you’ve run and what your heart rate is all without you having to touch a button. This feature can be streamed into your ears alongside the music you are playing. It’s incredible technology which may well appeal to plenty of different runners, though may be seen by some as an added gizmo that’s simply a bit on the flashy side.
Why Should I Buy Running Headphones?
Headphones built for running and exercise are, naturally, designed for that very purpose. Therefore, they are lightweight, ergonomically designed, have a number of fitness features built-in, and can be used in a variety of high-energy situations. Using normal headphones – designed for use at rest, at work or otherwise – may be uncomfortable or even unsafe. That being said, millions of people continue to use standard headphones while exercising. However, with running headphones available at very reasonable prices, it may be a worthy investment to consider.
Who Are the Leading Manufacturers of Exercise Headphones?
The big players in running headphones include Bose, Anker, KuaiFit, Jabra, Jaybird and even Under Armour, who have released a range of sports headphones in recent times. When it comes to buying headphones for exercise, we suggest you consider a brand you trust and one who has provable positive feedback online.
Music and audiobooks can be great fun to listen to while exercising. However, there are still plenty of things you need to consider if you want to take your audio with you on a jog or a run! Think carefully about when and how you need to use your headphones. Consider setting aside £100-£150 for a good, reputable pair of sports headphones which will be safe to use during vigorous exercise and which will last years of constant use. Do also take a look at fitness gizmos if you’re interested!