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I tried the new AirPods 3 for running — and I’m shocked

AirPods 3 in ear
(Image credit: Future)

I didn’t have high hopes for Apple AirPods 3. I once lost one of my second-generation to a sewer drain, and when I tried AirPods Pro for running, it was a total fail. Wireless earbuds simply don’t stay put in my ears.

So I’m not sure what sorcery looms inside the latest AirPods product, but these buds won’t fall out. I’ve worn them walking in New York City and while futzing around my apartment. And since Apple's latest inner-ear amplifiers are sweat-resistant, I wore these $179 earbuds and performed the ultimate test: going out for a run.

During my two-mile run, the buds didn't budge. A few times I felt it necessary to adjust them in my ears, yet never once did an earbud fall hit the ground. Sadly, that meant I couldn't excuse a pause. I guess that's the point of running for exercise, though.

I’ve tested several different sporty earbuds over the past months, mostly in an attempt to incorporate a little bit of running into my workout routine. I tried Powerbeats Pro for running, Jabra Elite Active 75t for running and bone conduction headphones for running.

I even bought an $11 AirPods Pro accessory to fix my fall-out problem. And I did a lot of running to reach this personal conclusion, especially in regards to the AirPods Pro, which would fall out constantly. Maybe too much running, if you ask me.

Despite my mixed feelings towards cardio, I think the AirPods 3 are instead some of the best running headphones you can buy. The shorter stems offer less chance to knock one out while I’m fixing my mask or hair. The oblong bud fit snug without putting any additional pressure on my inner ears.

It would be nice if they offered active noise cancellation, so I could better ignore my fellow gym goers. But when it comes to walking or jogging around the neighborhood, I still like being able to hear what’s going on around me. Plus the AirPods 3 get spatial audio, so I can remain immersed in whatever I’m listening to or watching, because yes, sometimes I watch Netflix while running. 

Without an ear tip fit test, it’s hard to promise the AirPods 3 will fit you as well as they fit me. Without changeable tips, it's very much one-size fits all affair. But if you’ve struggled with past AirPods designs, you might find luck with the third-generation earbuds.

There aren’t many Black Friday deals expected for AirPods 3 given its recent release. There is one AirPods Black Friday deal on Amazon that takes a few dollars off, though.

AirPods 3 (2021): was $179 now $174 @ Amazon

AirPods 3 (2021): was $179 now $174 @ Amazon
The new AirPods look similar to the AirPods Pro, but lack the Pro's eartips. The third-gen AirPods now offer Spatial Audio, which creates immersive listening experiences for music-listening, movie-watching, and more. They're also IPX4 sweat and water resistant, a feature that was previously exclusive to the AirPods Pro. They're now $5 off. 

Fit isn't the only thing you should consider when buying headphones, of course. Sound and battery life are important factors, too. 

When it comes to audio, the AirPods 3 received the Pro treatment, offering full sound and customization options. I need strong bass to keep me motivated while running, and the AirPods 3 delivered. Again, I didn't mind the ambient sounds seeping in, but it's important to note without true ear tips, you can hear more than just your music.

As for battery life, you'll see up to 6 hours of continuous listening time, with an extra 30 hours of battery available with the charging case. This is an hour more than both the AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro, and plenty to get me through my relatively short runs.

I can't say AirPods 3 are everyone's ideal running headphones. But for me, they've nailed a sweet spot of solid sound, great battery life and — my top priority — a secure fit.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.