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Best cheap running headphones in 2020

Best cheap running headphones
(Image credit: Jabra)

The best cheap running headphones are usually the ones that offer a great fitness experience at an unbeatable price. Affordable Bluetooth options abound, and wired earbuds are still available if you still own a smartphone that has a headphone jack (we don't discriminate at Tom’s Guide). But which ones are actually worth more than what their markdown price suggests?

Since you’re going to work up a sweat with these headphones, it’s highly recommended you own a pair with sweat and water resistance. Energetic sound is a given as well. You may even stumble upon models with cool features like programmed presets to enhance audio, digital assistant support for hands-free operation, and built-in virtual trainers that log your fitness activity.

After many months of testing, we’ve discovered some awesome headphones and earbuds from a variety of manufacturers, including Jabra, Plantronics, Anker, JLAB, Sol Republic, and heritage brands like Koss.

From everlasting danglers to waterproof IEMs, if you’re looking for a reliable audio workout companion at a bargain price, we advise you start here. Let’s get you warmed up with a quick look at the best cheap running headphones.

What are the best cheap running headphones?

For every Beats Powerbeats Pro, there is a JLab JBuds Air True Wireless, superb true wireless sport buds that squeeze lots of functionality and warm sound into a tiny, sporty package. They also happen to sit atop our best cheap running headphones list. We love the fast setup process and how quick they automatically pair when enabling Bluetooth mode, and the cleverly designed charging case with integrated USB cable, which spares you from having to carry around any extra wires.

Our runner-up is the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 2100, which maintains the traditional behind-the-neck design for a secure fit and incorporates sweatproof and waterproof protection. We consider them the best cheap wireless running headphones for their dependable battery life (7 hours on a single charge), customization via BackBeat smartphone app, and the level of ambient noise they allow in during outdoor runs.

Third place goes to the Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro, fitness-centric Bluetooth earphones praised for their practicality and sturdiness.  The 10-hour battery is also fantastic for exercisers who need extra playtime to get through two-a-days. 

For standard wired running headphones, we’re fond of the Koss FitClips KSC32i, a super-affordable choice that is priced under $20 and delivers solid overall performance. 

These are the ones we selected to represent our expert picks, each one designed specifically for running, and to save you money. Gear up, as we break down the best cheap running headphones under $50.

Keep in mind that Tom’s Guide is always on the hunt for the latest headphones bargains, which you can check out on our deals page. Any popular models that receive markdowns are strongly considered for inclusion on our best cheap running headphones list.

The best cheap running headphones under $50 now

Best cheap running headphones: JLab JBuds Air True

JLab JBuds Air True (Image credit: JLAB)

1. JLab JBuds Air True Wireless

Best cheap running headphones overall

Size: 1.8 x 3 x 1.6 inches | Weight: 0.17 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours (18 hours with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Powerful and punchy bass
Strong connectivity
Durable charging case with built-in charging cable
IP55-certified
Chunky
Can only take calls in mono

The JBuds Air are the best cheap running headphones on the market, no matter what sub-category it falls under. It won’t be mentioned in the same conversation as in-class leaders like the Jabra Elite Active 75t or Beats Powerbeats Pro, but it’s no pushover, offering impressive bass and sporty features at a killer price point. 

Powerful lows dominate the soundscape, making Spotify workout playlists sound livelier. The buds are a bit on the chunky side, but light and very durable with IP55 sweat resistance to ensure long-lasting performance. Bluetooth 5.0 also maintains strong connectivity between devices. Its 5 hours of use is standard for what most other models offer and having two extra charges available via charging case is huge when you’ve forgotten to recharge overnight. Aesthetics alone make this a worthy purchase for runners who don’t want to be tethered to their devices. 

Best cheap running headphones: Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100

(Image credit: Poly)

2. Plantronics BackBeat FIT 2100

Best wireless earphones for runners under $50

Size: 4.33 x 6.34 x 1.89 inches | Weight: 0.99 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 7 hours | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Sweatproof and waterproof
Extended functionality through the BackBeat app
Pliable and rugged design
Stable battery life with quick charging
Bass and treble need work
Latency in controls

A remaster of the original BackBeat Fit, the Fit 2100 welcomes a number of improvements, from advanced features to a more relaxed, sturdier design. The BackBeat app grants users access to customize the controls, instantly select their favorite Spotify playlist, and locate their misplaced earphones via FindMyHeadset setting. Playtime is advertised at 7 hours, though several factors like high volume and wireless streaming bring it down to about 6.5 hours, which is still solid for a good week’s worth of exercising. Quick charging is also clutch, giving you an hour of playtime in 15 minutes. The IP57 rating ensures the earphones are resistant to wear and tear caused by sweat, water, and other perspiring hazards.

There is a touch-sensitive button on the left bud to control volume, while the right bud has a multifunctional button to enable several functions (e.g. playback, power on/off), though intended commands often experience a two-second delay. We also felt the accentuated bass muddies up the soundstage; listening at moderate volume scales it down to make the vocals and ambient noise more audible.

Best cheap running headphones: Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro

Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro (Image credit: Anker/Soundcore)

3. Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro

Super-cheap sports headphones with great sound

Size: 23.6 x 1.3 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 0.6 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 10 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Extremely affordable
Comfortable fit
Durable design
Great audio quality
Built-in magnets to keep earbuds together
No companion app
Lacks Bluetooth 5.0

The Anker Soundcore Spirit Pro currently ranks second on our best cheap running headphones list. These Bluetooth earphones deliver solid audio, noise isolation, and an estimated 10 hours of battery life at a seriously affordable price. Thanks to their IP68 rating, the device is heavily protected from water, sweat, and dust. On-ear stability is another highlight on these earphones, as the tips create a tight and secure seal that keeps them on your ears during intense runs.

Despite the lack of EQ options, you get some solid audio to enjoy a number of music genres; the low end really shows out when listening to hip-hop and rock songs. It being an older model, you do lose out on modern features like Bluetooth 5.0 and the Soundcore app with numerous music presets. But even without these perks, the Spirit Pro hits every other mark to achieve top-notch results.

Best cheap running headphones: Koss FitClips KSC32i

Koss FitClips KSC32i (Image credit: Koss)

4. Koss FitClips KSC32i

The best cheap running headphones value

Size: 6 x 1 x 2.6 inches | Weight: 1.28 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): N/A | Bluetooth range: N/A | Water Resistant: No

Comfy and personalized fit
Impressive noise isolation
Great sound for the price
Available in multiple vibrant colors
Requires a dongle to use on newer smartphones
Not water resistant

Koss' FitClips are stylish and sporty sweat-resistant wired headphones that nail the trifecta of comfort, great sound, and price. While Koss' packaging describes the FitClips as designed for women by women, these headphones fit just about everyone. Their flexible hooks can be adjusted to fit over any ears — even when the user is wearing glasses — and they come with three tip cushion sizes to make them fit more comfortably.

Where cheap headphones usually fall short in sound, the FitClips KSC32i excels, blocking out most street noise to enjoy full, rich sonics. In fact, the audio quality is way better than that from the Apple EarPods (the ones that come free with an iPhone) that many people wear when working out. The FitClips KSC32i’s only two downsides are that it doesn't come water-resistant and requires a headphone dongle to use on modern smartphones.

Best cheap running headphones: Aukey Latitude EP-B40

Aukey Latitude EP-B40 (Image credit: Aukey)

5. Aukey Latitude EP-B40

An all-around performer for cheap

Size: 25.67 x 0.94 x 1.14 inches | Weight: 0.46 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Strong battery life
Warm sound profile
Plenty of accessories to accommodate fit
Water resistant
Bland design
Cable tugs when turning head

Aukey's Latitude EP-B40 isn't the flashiest set of Bluetooth earbuds. In a sea of cheap Amazon listings, you'd be forgiven for skipping over them. However, this pair of sweat-resistant headphones is worth buying. The Latitude EP-B40 is ultra-affordable, easy to set up, extremely low maintenance, and sound really good. You get 8 hours of playtime as well on a full charge. There are no bells and whistles, but who needs them?

Aukey includes three additional sizes of silicone ear tips and three fins to ensure a comfortable fit. I used the default options that shipped with the headset, which stayed put through a windy 3-mile run. The sound is well-balanced for low-priced Bluetooth buds, if a little heavy on bass. Most budget models don't handle bass well, but these exceeded expectations. For the price, you really can't ask for much more.

Best cheap running headphones: Sol Republic Relays Sport Wireless

Sol Republic Relays Sport Wireless (Image credit: Sol Republic)

6. Sol Republic Relays Sport Wireless

Sports buds with excellent fit and sound

Size: 4.53 x 2.56 x 0.79 inches | Weight: 1.12 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Solid audio performance
Two listening modes
Secure fit
Good noise isolation
No carrying pouch
Build quality could be better

One of the biggest problems with low-cost Bluetooth earphones is subpar sound quality. Sol Republic's Relays Sport is a solid pair of sweat-resistant buds that successfully manage audio output with two modes: Indoor and Outdoor. You can switch between the modes by pressing the middle button and the volume-up button on the inline control at the same time. There is a noticeable boost in bass when enabling Outdoor, which you should also switch to before hitting the ground running; pressing those buttons at the same time while pounding the pavement isn't exactly easy. 

Outside of their audio performance, the Relays Sport offers a comfortable, super-lightweight fit with an adjustable cord for a custom experience. Battery life is on point too, generating 8 hours of playtime on a full charge and supporting a quick-charge feature to juice up the earphones quickly.

Best cheap running headphones: Jabra Sport Coach

Jabra Sport Coach (Image credit: Jabra)

7. Jabra Sport Coach

Smart wireless earbuds with training features

Size: 20.78 x 0.52 x 0.93 inches | Weight: 0.48 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Comfortable, secure fit
Good overall sound quality
Easy-to-follow, guided workouts
TrackFit motion sensor
Battery life is shorter than competitors
Not as loud as other sports earbuds

The Jabra Sport Coach is more than just one of best cheap running headphones out there – it also doubles as a personal trainer. Thanks to the Jabra Sport Life app, these smart sports earphones send audible workout tips to your ears and help you get through a variety of demanding CrossFit activities. If that isn’t enough, they have a built-in fitness tracker to monitor your exercise stats (e.g. distance, pace, steps).

On top of its useful coaching features, the Sport Coach offers comfortable ear inserts and enough booming sound to keep you pumped up during any workout. The buds also do a solid job of blocking ambient sound from entering your ears, so you can enjoy full, boomy sound during workouts. If only the battery life was longer; while rated at 8 hours, it’s really about 5.5 when factoring in guided workouts and volume.

Best cheap running headphones: Braven Flye Sport

Braven Flye Sport (Image credit: Braven)

8. Braven Flye Sport

The best waterproof running headphones

Size: 6.25 x 1.38 x 3.88 inches | Weight: 1.76 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 12 hours | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Comfortable and lightweight
Extended playtime on a single charge
IPX7 waterproof
Nice-sounding mids and highs
Bass distorts at high volume
Large battery pack bounces around during runs

Budget hounds who want great audio in a damage-proof package will want these sporty earbuds in their gym bag. Wearability is the Flye Sport’s best feature, as the tangle-free cord stays out of the way to give exercisers more range of motion. The battery pack also aids with weight distribution and keeps the buds balanced on each side. Braven designed its headphones with a waterproof shell to ensure they are fully protected from heavy splashing or submersion in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

Mids and highs have a presence on the soundstage, but it’s the heavy bass response that steals the sonic spotlight. You can expect punchy resonance when zoning out to EDM and hip-hop tracks, but beware that listening at high volume causes distortion. There are more attractive options out there, but many of them won’t match the Flye Sport Fit’s battery life or durability.

Best cheap running headphones: Anker SoundCore Spirit X

Anker SoundCore Spirit X (Image credit: Anker/Soundcore)

9. Anker SoundCore Spirit X

Stable sports headphones built for longevity

Size: 27.17 x 1.69 x 1.1inches | Weight: 0.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours | Bluetooth range: 40 feet (12 feet) | Water Resistant: Yes

Some of the best battery life in its price range
Deep bass response
Dust and waterproof
Lots of accessories
Painfully loud at max volume
Buds don’t form tight seal in ears

With its secure ear hooks, thunderous bass, and near-indestructible design, the Soundcore Spirit X is the versatile workout buddy you want spotting you during hardcore workouts. The IP68-rated design provides the highest level of dust and waterproof protection. Anker throws in several ear tips and fins to personalize fit. Songs are definitely heavy on the low end, but the sound is pretty well balanced for Bluetooth headphones at this price. Just don’t listen to music at max volume if you value your hearing. 

The 18 hours of playtime on a full charge is also huge for those who hate being tethered to their charging cable. Lastly, the Soundcore Spirit X boasts Bluetooth 5.0, so you’ll enjoy a stabilized connection and other cool features like multi-point connection to pair the sports earphones to two devices simultaneously.

 

Best cheap running headphones: Monster iSport Victory Wireless

(Image credit: Monster)

10. Monster iSport Victory Wireless

Casual-running headphones with bass that moves you

Size: 4.33 x 1.50 x 6.93 inches | Weight: 0.52 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours | Bluetooth range: 20 feet (6 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Strong, detailed lows
Sweat-resistant and washable design
Secure fit
Available in several colors
Short wireless range
Stiff controls

At the height of Monster’s popularity, the headphone manufacturer welcomed some solid additions to the wireless audio space that didn’t feature the Beats logo on it. The iSport Victory Wireless was one of them. These wireless sports earphones were built for longevity, boasting a sweat-resistant design that can even be washed, should you want to save your skin from any lingering bacteria. The neckband-style cable combined with flexible fins and tightly sealed ear tips help optimize fit as well. Audio is another strong point, primarily the low end, which is sculpted well to enjoy bass-heavy tracks.

However, the iSport Victory Wireless does have its fair share of performance drawbacks. The control module is stiff and requires pressing buttons with extra force to enable commands, while Bluetooth 4.0 limits your wireless range to about 20 feet before dropout occurs.

How to choose the best cheap running headphones for you

When shopping for the best cheap running headphones, make sweat and water resistance your priority. This is practically your insurance policy and prevents the headphones or earbuds from suffering any damage caused by excessive moisture . The specialized coating can also fend off scratches and scuffs, depending on the IPX rating (aim for IPX4 or higher). There are a handful of extremely durable models out there that are not sweat- or water-resistant, which are still serviceable for long-term use, granted they run a higher risk of breaking sooner than later. That all depends on how much you abuse them.

Audio is what fuels your workouts, so make sure whatever pair you settle on has some sonic kick to it. Bass plays a pivotal role in how you want these headphones to sound, and you want a model that can handle it well and not distort your music. If you can find headphones that offer a little of everything on the frequency spectrum – lows, mids, and highs – more props to you. 

Those in the market for wireless sports headphones need to consider battery life. Look for Bluetooth models with 6 hours (or more) of playtime on a single charge. Should you go the truly wireless route, be certain that your wireless earbuds come with a charging case that can hold multiple charges to juice the buds on the go. If you want to stick with the more traditional wired setup, get something that has an in-line remote and mic, and remember to have a dongle on hand in case your smartphone doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Accessories should be the last box you check off. You’ll want extra ear tips, fins, and a carrying case, if available.

How we test the best cheap running headphones

In determining the best cheap running headphones and earbuds, we consider fit, battery life, sound quality, design and value (are they worth the price?). We also factor in features like how well the controls work and how easily the earbuds pair with phones. 

Of course, we also take them running, to see how well they stay in our ears when moving. This gives us a chance to test the headphones' sweat resistance, as well as any other fitness-related features they may have. On special occasions, we’ll perform further testing when comparing top-rated and popular models for our Face-Off features. 

In terms of audio, we listen to many sample tracks that span a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance. If the earbuds can also be paired with a voice assistant such as Siri or Google Assistant, we evaluate how well that interaction works.

During the testing phase, our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for hours at a time throughout the course of a week. Reviewers will make note of battery life and how well it matches the rated battery life provided by earbud makers.