I swapped my Powerbeats Pro for bone-conducting headphones — here’s what happened

a photo of the shockz open run pro
(Image credit: Future)

Despite working as a fitness editor and reviewing some of the best running headphones as part of my job, I’ve always been a little skeptical about bone-conducting headphones. I’m not sure if it’s the thought of sound traveling through my cheekbone, or the fact they’ve always been too big on my head when I’ve tried them on. But until now, my trusty Powerbeats Pro have been my go-to for most of my marathons. 

That is, until the Shokz Openrun Pro Mini arrived. They boast Bluetooth connectivity, 10 hours of battery life, and a new, shorter headband that’s 0.83 inches shorter than the regular Shokz Openrun Pro headphones to accommodate for smaller heads. I no longer had to cope with the back of the headphones bouncing against my neck as a ran, so I connected my headphones, dug out my audiobook, and started running. Read on to find out what happened. 

I swapped my Powerbeats Pro for the Shokz Openrun Pro — here’s what I liked 

How much I was able to hear around me

Harassment is a sad, but regular occurrence for me as a female runner who often runs alone. I’ve been followed, catcalled, filmed, and frightened more times than I’d care to recount. Each time it happens, I defiantly shout, I cry, and more often than not, I walk home, abandoning my training for the day. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told not to run listening to music — a well-meaning comment, but one that never fails to make my blood boil. Why should I run in silence when my boyfriend and brothers can run, music blaring, without a care in the world?

Running with the Shokz Openrun Pro allowed me to hear everything around me as if I weren’t wearing headphones. I could hear the traffic whizzing past, but also the quiet electric car creeping down a side street as I ran to cross the road. I felt a lot safer being able to hear everything around me, and while I still don’t feel safe running in the dark, and am in no doubt that these headphones won’t stop men harassing me as I run, I was impressed by the difference these headphones made.

Shokz OpenRun Pro in hand

(Image credit: Future)

How quickly they charged

The Shokz OpenRun Pro is rated for 10 hours, and the battery can last up to 10 days when the headphones are turned off. The postman dropped the OpenRun Pro headphones on my doorstep about 10 minutes before I was heading out for my run, so I stuck them on charge and was impressed to find a five-minute charge would leave me with an hour and a half of playback — not bad. 

I also loved how easily they connected. A huge bugbear of mine with my Powerbeats Pro is that nine times out of ten, only one earbud connects when I get them out of the case. I’ve owned two different pairs of the same headphones (I killed one pair with my sweat — gross), and it’s happened frequently with both. 

How easy they were to control

I was worried it would take me a while to get to grips with the controls on the headphones, especially as I tend to pause my music or audiobook when grabbing a coffee, yet found the Openrun Pro easy to navigate around. A single multifunction button sits on the left driver housing facing out, while the volume rocker (which integrates the power button) is on the underside of the rectangular section behind the right ear hook. 

Shokz OpenRun Pro MF button

(Image credit: Future)

How light and comfortable they were on my head

I tested these headphones on an eight-mile run, wearing a cap as (once again) it was raining. The Openrun Pro is rated IP55 sweat-proof, so I didn’t need to worry about being caught in a shower with them, and I was impressed with how light and comfortably they fitted against my head. Shokz has a handy sizing chart on their website, so I was able to measure the distance between my ears beforehand and select the smaller size. They fit really well, and I barely noticed they were there. 

I also really enjoyed not having earbuds in my ears on the run. It’s a disgusting (but relatable) problem many runners experience, but on three-hour long runs, earbuds can leave me with rather sweaty ears. 

I swapped my Powerbeats Pro for the Shokz Openrun Pro — here’s what I didn’t like  

They gave me a slight headache

As I mentioned before, I’ve never run with bone-conducting headphones before and found that, as I was trying to listen to an audiobook, I had to crank the sound up pretty loud to be able to hear it. This caused the buds to vibrate against the side of my head and left me with a bit of a headache by the time I took them off an hour later. 

I tried them again a few hours later when walking the dog and playing music, which I didn’t need to have anywhere near as loud, so I won’t write the Openrun Pro headphones off just yet. That said, the vibrations of bone-conducting headphones can give some people headaches, so I’ll probably save them for better weather conditions. 

The sound quality just wasn’t as good

I tested these headphones on a particularly windy day — according to my iPhone, there were wind gusts of 40 miles per hour when I was running. My route took me along a main road, and then along the River Thames for about six miles, so I wasn’t exactly sheltered from the wind. Due to the nature of the headphones, I struggled to hear my audio book when the wind was really blowing. However, when it wasn’t I could hear perfectly. 

Bottom line  

Sure, the sound isn’t quite as good as my noise-cancelling AirPods Pro, or my Powerbeats Pro, but I’d argue they’re not designed to be. By nature of not having an earbud in your ear, bone-conducting headphones are always going to be competing with outside noise, but when you’re running alone, this is a good thing. Bone conduction caters specifically to those who want to be able to hear what’s happening around them, and as a female, this is a must. It’s also worth noting that a lot of running races don’t allow runners to wear headphones, but do allow the bone-conducting type, so even if you spend a lot of time running with a group, these might be worth investing in for race day. 

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Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.