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The best running headphones in 2021

Included in this guide:

Best running headphones
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The best running headphones can do a whole lot more than simply play music. Of course, that’s not to understate the motivational value of having a workout playlist blasting as you push yourself through a tough run — all the headphones and earbuds on this list will help you with that, no problem.

To be a truly great pair of running headphones, though, requires more of a specific fitness focus. That can mean a canny design that will stay firmly in your ears even as you jog along, or IP-rated protection against water and sweat. Of all the headphones we’ve tested extensively, then, these are the models best suited for hitting the pavement: the best running headphones overall.

What are the best running headphones?

Our current top pick of the best running headphones is the Jabra Elite Active 75t. This set of true wireless earbuds is wonderfully light and, despite the lack of ear hooks or wingtips, manages to maintain a secure and dependable fit. Add in good battery life, high audio quality, and full waterproofing and this will serve you well on any run.

In second sits the Beats Powerbeats Pro, which uses the same Apple H1 chip as the superb AirPods Pro for fast and seamless connections to iPhones. The Powerbeats Pro also exhibits a more balanced sound signature than more Beats headphones, and while it doesn’t support active noise cancellation (ANC), you can get this for cheap on the great-value JLab Epic Air Sport ANC.

Special mentions also go to the AfterShokz Aeropex, an excellent pair of bone-conduction headphones, and the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro. This is a looser-fitting set of sports buds, but its assortment of built-in fitness tracking tech has no equal.

The best running headphones you can buy right now

The Editor's Choice Jabra Elite Active 75t held in hand

Jabra Elite Active 75t (Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

1. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best running headphones overall

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Loud, full sound+Doesn't budge during runs+In-app audio customization+Active and passive noise cancellation
Reasons to avoid
-Can be extremely loud at max volume

Rich-sounding, compact and stylish, the Jabra Elite Active 75t is a fantastic pair of wireless earbuds in general, but there’s a lot here that also makes it a near-perfect set of running headphones. First is the fit: it’s unusual to find a pair of true wireless buds with no wing-tips or ear hooks that manages to stay planted so securely in the ear.

Then there’s the weatherproofing, which scores an IP57 rating: enough to completely protect against dust and even full submersion in shallow water. Sweat or a spot of rain, as such, poses no threat. Battery life beats that of the AirPods Pro, too, and Jabra’s buds even offer ANC for a lower price. And check out our AirPods 3 vs Jabra Elite Active 75t showdown to see if the AirPods 3 can beat this beloved pair of wireless earbuds.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.

The Beats Powerbeats Pro in Lava Red

Beats Powerbeats Pro (Image credit: Brian Coule/Tom's Guide)

2. Beats Powerbeats Pro

The best running headphones for iPhone owners

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.2 x 2.2 inches, 0.7 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours, 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 100 feet (30 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Magically seamless setup, just like with AirPods+Lengthy battery life+Well-balanced sound+Comfortable, stable fit for running
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky charging case

The Beats Powerbeats Pro might not look like it, but do take strong inspiration from Apple’s AirPods headphones. In fact it even uses the same Apple H1 chip as the AirPods Pro, so shares the ability to instantly pair with iPhones. And, if you’ve updated to iOS 14, you can instantly switch to other iOS and Mac devices you might have at home.

That’s all well and good, but how does the Powerbeats Pro handle running? Extremely well, it turns out. Those ear hooks keep each bud in place during strenuous jogs, the sound signature is suitably powerful and an IPX4 rating notes the inclusion of water resistance. It’s not fully waterproof, but the Powerbeats Pro will stand up to sweat well enough.

Read our full Powerbeats Pro review.

The AfterShokz Aeropex displayed on a wooden table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. AfterShokz Aeropex

The best bone-conduction headphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 1.7 x 4.3 x 5.1 inches, 0.9 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours
Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable, secure fit+Long-lasting+Fully waterproof+Respectable sound
Reasons to avoid
-Not adjustable-Earbuds sound better

Bone-conduction headphones are great for running as they leave your ears open to listen for potential hazards. And the AfterShokz Aeropex is as good an example of the form as you can get right now: it's not too expensive, but it's easily one of the best-sounding bone-conduction headphones around, and in our battery testing it lasted far longer than any pair of true wireless earbuds.

It also sports an enviable IP67 rating, more than enough to ensure protection against sweat and splashes, and despite the lack of adjustment it fits beautifully. You won't have to worry about the Aeropex wriggling loose as you're out on a run, even though it's comfortable enough to wear for hours without fatigue.

Read our full AfterShokz Aeropex review.

The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC propped against a backdrop of the Intracoastal Waterway

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

4. JLab Epic Air Sport ANC

The best cheap ANC running headphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 0.3 ounces
Batttery Life (Rated): 15 hours (ANC on); 55 hours (ANC on with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Stable design+Affordable+ANC and transparency modes+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Discharge times are off-Poor call quality

At $99, it’s hard to find a better noise-cancelling bargain than the JLab Epic Air Sport. Sound quality is JLab’s best on a pair of true wireless buds to date, and battery life is excellent: we got 9.5 hours of ANC playback time from a full charge. Just don’t trust the remaining charge percentages your phone tells you.

Crucially for running, it also provides a sturdy fit, and feels more comfortable to wear for long periods than the Beats Powerbeats Pro. IP66 protection covers you for the worst of rain showers, and if you want to briefly switch away from noise cancellation  to listen for traffic, the Be Aware transparency mode will give you that extra awareness without you needing to take an earbud out.

Read our full JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review.

The Beats Fit Pro's multifunctional button being shown

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

5. Beats Fit Pro

Beats wireless earbuds with AirPods Pro performance

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.75 x 1.18 x 0.94 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours (ANC on), 7 hours (ANC Off), 27 hours (ANC on with charging case), 30 hours (ANC off with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Well-balanced sound quality+Strong ANC and Transparency modes+AirPods Pro features for less+Comfy, secure design
Reasons to avoid
-Android app could use more features-Eartip Fit Test isn’t accurate

The Powerbeats Pro is only ranked higher than the Fit Pro because of its securer earhook design, which is ideal for running and other sporty activities. Besides that, the Fit Pro is the more superior model in many ways. Audio is better balanced and more immersive, thanks to a new transducer and Spatial Audio support for select Apple Music songs. ANC is just as good as what the AirPods Pro offers, silencing most ambient noise in different environments. Most features tied to the H1 chip are accessible, including automatic switching, “Hey Siri” voice activation, and FindMy to help locate misplaced buds. Most importantly, the wingtips mold perfectly into the cymba for optimal fit. 

Our only real complaint is that Android users don’t get to experience many of the same features as iOS users, mainly because these are tied to the H1 chip.

 Read our full Beats Fit Pro review.

The Jaybird Vista charging case open at the gym

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

6. Jaybird Vista

Exciting running headphones with customizable wing-tips

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.9 x 0.7 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 10 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Well-balanced audio+Companion app with several EQ settings+Stable and sturdy design+Super-compact charging case
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life

It takes great sporty earbuds to compete with category leaders like the Elite Active 75t and Powerbeats Pro. The Jaybird Vista is a model that has been overlooked since its launch, offering the best durability and charging case of the group. Each bud is covered in IPX7-rated casing that meets U.S. military MIL-STD 810G rugged compliant standards. In other words, the Vista has passed shock, vibration, drop, crush, and wetness tests. How’s that for durability? The charging case is reliable too, holding up to 16 hours of juice when fully charged and featuring a braided loop that can attach to other items, be it your camping backpack or workout shorts.

Fit is another strong point and Jaybird ensures the most stabilized fit possible by bundling these buds with a variety of ear tips. You’ll likely wear them no longer than an hour because they will cause some slight discomfort. Also, monitor the battery levels because six hours can go by faster than you think, especially for runners who keep their focus on the road.

Read our full Jaybird Vista review.

The Amazfit PowerBuds Pro out of its charging case

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

7. Amazfit Powerbuds Pro

The best running headphones with built-in health tracking

Specifications
Weight and Size: 1.3 x 0.7 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 5.5 hours (ANC on), 9 hours (ANC off), 19 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 30 hours (with charging case and ANC off)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Energetic sound+IP55 rating+Doubles as a fitness tracker
Reasons to avoid
-Loose fit-Not all tracking is accurate

The original PowerBuds had its own smarts — namely, a built-in heartrate monitor — but the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro takes health monitoring to a whole new level. This pair of lively-sounding earbuds can automatically detect when you start running or cycling, and can track your steps or distance without any outside help. Granted, it's not as accurate as one of the best fitness trackers, but how many other headphones have this much of a health focus?

The PowerBuds Pro is also a much-improved set of earbuds in general. While still fairly affordable it's gained some effective active noise cancellation, and you can switch to ambient Thru mode if you want to listen out for traffic when out on a run. As long as you don't mind it's looser fit, this could serve well as both your running and everyday earbuds.

Read our full Amazfit PowerBuds Pro review.

The Bose Sport Earbuds placed on a Yoga mat

Bose Sport Earbuds (Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

8. Bose Sport Earbuds

The best Bose running headphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.7 x 1 x 0.8 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours, 15 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Bright, balanced sound+Secure, personalized fit+Bluetooth 5.1
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life lower than competition-No EQ or Transparency Mode

If you’re at all familiar with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, you might have an idea of what makes the Sport Earbuds so good. This pair doesn’t have the same ANC functionality but adopts a similar winged design that keeps the Sport Earbuds locked securely in your ear canal, not matter how vigorous your running style.

It’s also smaller and lighter than the QuietComfort Earbuds, while the detailed sound impresses during exercise and resting alike. IPX4 water resistance adds to the list of fitness-friendly features, and the 5 hours of battery life should be good for almost any exercise session even if it’s well short of buds like the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC.

Read our full Bose Sport Earbuds review.

The Beats Powerbeats 4 and carrying pouch

Beats Powerbeats 4 (Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

9. Beats Powerbeats 4

High-performance running headphones at a reasonable price

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.2 inches tall, 0.9 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours
Bluetooth Range: 100 feet (30 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Highly secure fit+Impressive sound and call quality+Best battery life on a single charge
Reasons to avoid
-Interfering wire-Feel uncomfortable after a while

The two earbuds of the Beats Powerbeats are connected by a cable that runs behind the back of your neck. Some runners don’t like this design as the wire can bounce around distractingly, but otherwise this pair of headphones is a viable lower-cost alternative to the true wireless Powerbeats Pro.

Aesthetics, build quality, sound quality and call clarity are all significantly upgraded from the old Powerbeats 3, and the looped design is just as effective at keeping the buds in place as it is on the Powerbeats Pro. And long battery life and an accessible price are just two more reasons to outweigh that errant cable.

Read our full Beats Powerbeats 4 review.

The Jabra Elite 7 Active held in hand for display

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

10. Jabra Elite 7 Active

Feature-laden running headphones with waterproof protection

Specifications
Size and Weight: 1.58 x 0.64 x 2.74 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours (ANC on), 11 hours (ANC off), 35 hours (with charging case), 42 hours (with charging case and ANC off)
Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Powerful sound with multiple personalized settings+Customizable ANC+Long battery life+Excellent wireless performance
Reasons to avoid
-Underwhelming noise reduction-Bass comes on too strong in standard mode

Jabra’s line of sporty wireless earbuds never disappoints, and its latest creation is a welcome addition to the series. The Elite 7 Active has a variety of settings that let you personalize the buds to your liking. If it isn’t adjusting the ANC levels to control how much noise you want to block out or let in, it’s the MySound feature that automatically tailors sound to your ear or creates your own sound profile by manually adjusting the EQ’s frequency levels. An IP57 rating means the buds come waterproof, sweatproof, and “workout-proof,” whatever that means. It’s also great to see workout buds that can last up to 9 hours with ANC on, some of the longest in the category.

Our testing has shown that the Elite 7 Active’s noise cancellation isn’t as powerful as other models, nor is the Eartip Fit Test as accurate as the Apple/Beats version. Nonetheless, the buds’ true value lies in customization.

Read our full Jabra Elite 7 Active review.

How to choose the best running headphones for you

You might prefer an earbud design that hooks over your ear, or sits entirely within your ear. For running, we generally found there’s not much inherent difference between the two styles in terms of stability, though if you wear glasses the addition of an ear hook might mean its gets in the way of your specs.

More: I tried this $11 AirPods accessory — and it fixes the biggest problem

Even if you’re averse to running in the rain, we’d strongly recommend a pair of running headphones with come certified water resistance to protect against sweat. An IP rating of IPX7 denotes full waterproofing, while IPX4 represents basic moisture resistance; consider what you’ll need and what the risks are your headphones getting seriously wet.

A lot of the best running headphones feature ANC, but this isn’t necessary for running. In fact you may want to turn if off for better situational awareness near traffic and pedestrians — it will depend on how much you want the absolute best sound quality when exercising. ANC lets you focus on your entertainment but may need to be paused occasionally for safety.

How we test the best running headphones

Like any kind of headphones, we test running headphones by listening to a wide range of music genres — including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronic — and will use them for at least one 2-hour session over the course of a week. This lets us both give a fair appraisal of how they sound, and how comfortable they are when worn for long periods.

For running headphones specifically, we’ll take them out for a few runs to see how they hold up when exercising. This includes judging how well they stay in place, as especially with small earbuds, a seemingly stable fit when relaxing can come undone when running ad otherwise working out.

Once all our testing is complete, we rate running headphones on a five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). The very best running headphones are awarded an Editors' Choice badge. 

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James Archer

James joined Tom’s Guide in 2020, bringing years of experience in consumer tech and product testing. As Audio Editor, James covers headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also covers the occasional spot of computing and gaming news, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.