Apple’s marketing team can make you believe anything. They create powerful narratives around their products that persuade consumers to upgrade to the newest models, even if the differences between the latest and previous versions are minor. Case in point: the AirPods series.
Yes, Apple’s white dangling earbuds are perfectly designed to complement your iPhone experience, specifically the AirPods Pro. The market’s best-selling wireless earbuds welcomed popular features like active noise cancellation (ANC) and spatial audio for 3D listening. Apple even integrated IPX4 sweat/water resistance and an ear tip design for a more secure fit — two things that they’ve finessed the public into believing make the AirPods Pro running headphones.
Let’s be clear. Neither the AirPods Pro, nor the regular AirPods, are running headphones. They were never designed to be such. Apple sells a fitness-centric alternative called the Beats Fit Pro — essentially a sportier version of the AirPods Pro with nearly the same features and sturdier aesthetics.
But no matter what, there will still be millions of iPhone 14 owners running on a treadmill or outdoor trail with a pair of Apple’s ANC buds lodged into their ears. To each their own.
However, I can speak firsthand on what it’s like using the AirPods Pro for running. I’ve tested them for years and against many of the best running headphones. Wearing the buds on jogs has sometimes been unsatisfying because of the subpar fit they provided when moving quickly on my feet.
Now that the AirPods Pro 2 earbuds have finally arrived, I figured why not give Apple’s flagship another shot and see if they make worthy running companions. Here are my thoughts.
New tips, intuitive controls and Adaptive Transparency enhance the running experience
Apple introduced a few upgrades on the AirPods Pro 2. One that hasn’t received much press is the new ear tip kit. The second-gen tips are still available in small, medium, and large sizes, but are now accompanied by an XS option (extra small), which is suitable for runners with very small ears. These tips look identical to what comes packaged with the first-gen AirPods. They’re also more functional for running.
The seal formed around my ear canal felt tighter and more secure; I wasn’t readjusting the buds every three blocks as I constantly did with the original AirPods Pro. Sweat absorption was also better, reducing slippage when perspiring heavily or running in the rain. What helped most was Apple’s Ear Tip Fit Test for achieving optimal fit. I’m always skeptical of the results these software programs produce, but Apple’s version was pretty accurate and reassured me the buds wouldn’t fall out of my ears and down a sewer drain.
It's tough operating wireless earbuds while you’re in motion. Luckily, the AirPods Pro 2 have the most user-friendly controls out there. “Hey Siri” voice activation is still available and performs flawlessly. I was able to make calls, pull up notifications, and switch Apple Music playlists hands-free. The mics also do a tremendous job with vocal capture, registering every spoken syllable when passing by loud settings like construction sites and highways.
More importantly, the new touch volume controls were clutch for raising and lowering sound. The first-gen model never offered this feature, which always resulted in me pulling out my smartphone to manually adjust volume, without stopping my runs. Well, first of all, our fitness editor, Jane McGuire, cites many reasons why you should stop holding your phone when you run. Shame on me for that. Secondly, the touch accuracy demonstrated by the force sensors was spot-on. That combined with “Hey Siri” allowed me to operate the buds freely without ever having to stop.
However, it’s Adaptive Transparency that makes the strongest argument for using the AirPods Pro 2 on a run. Sure, most sport headphones and earbuds come with an ambient listening mode to gain a greater awareness of surroundings when out and about. I can confidently say that most of them aren’t as dynamic as the AirPods Pro 2.
Apple engineered these buds to clearly capture noises across the frequency spectrum, while reducing the harshest-sounding ones simultaneously, and the results are astounding. Wearing the AirPods Pro 2 when running along the Intracoastal Waterway, I could hear everything from cyclists peddling several feet behind me to boat horns from a mile away. Any loud noises (e.g., crying babies, sirens) in my vicinity were greatly minimized, but still audible enough to identify. The feature showcased its strength most when running in gusty conditions; the whisking effects caused by heavy winds sounded calm.
My final thoughts…
The AirPods Pro 2 earbuds have impressed me enough to consider using them for running, but don’t mistake my words for a commitment. Apple has done nothing to strengthen their wireless earbuds design, constructing this model from the same cheap plastic as past entries. That alone has me fearful of using them on the streets, especially if I drop or run over the buds by mistake.
The Fit Pro earbuds are superior in craftsmanship and share many of the same features, including a reliable transparency mode. Fit is more secure too, thanks to the installed wingtips that increase on-ear stability. You can also find a few other well-built, high-performance running headphones for much less than the AirPods Pro 2’s asking price: $249.
If you’re that devoted to Apple’s ecosystem and wireless earbuds, then my opinion will only further sway you to upgrade to the AirPods Pro 2. And you won’t be disappointed. I just advise that you explore your options, specifically Beats models, or you may end up spending more on replacements in the long run, due to quick breakage and wear and tear.
Next: Some AirPods Pro 2 users have been reporting audio sync issues, get in touch if yours are affected.
More: This underrated AirPods Pro 2 upgrade fixed my biggest complaint. And I just tested the AirPods Pro 2 for workouts — and I was surprised.