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I replaced AirPods Pro with bone conduction headphones for running — here’s what wins

Testing AfterShoks Aeropex for running to replace AirPods Pro
(Image credit: Future)

I’m on a hunt for the best running headphones that don’t fall out of my ears. When I tried AirPods Pro for running at the track earlier this summer, it was a total fail. Apple’s noise-cancelling buds spent more time scattered on the ground than providing a soundtrack for my laps.

Now, I’ve been trying to break up with wireless headphones for a while. Still, I’ve felt determined to discover the best wireless earbuds for running, even if I’ve worn down the tread of my sneakers in the process. But I decided it’s time to think a little outside the box — err, outside my ear canals.

A Tom’s Guide colleague recommended AfterShokz Aeropex, a $159.99 bone conduction headset with 8 hours of battery life and fully waterproof design. I’ve never tried bone conduction audio before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just assumed I’d experience insufficient sound quality compared to when I tried PowerBeats Pro for running or when I tried Jabra Elite Active 75t for running

Let me get this out of the way: AfterShokz Aeropex isn't the sexeist piece of tech. Luckily, that’s not the vibe I’m going for with my 12-minute mile. I only need comfortable headphones that stay put and sound good. So are bone conduction headphones my ideal running companion? Read on to find out.

Running with bone conduction headphones: Comfort and security

Thanks to a mere 0.9- ounce weight, the AfterShokz Aeropex offer a barely-there feel, landing perfectly between comfort and the kind of secure fit I want from running headphones. I didn’t have to test out a variety eartips since bone conduction headphones don’t require any. I simply charged the Aeropex up and paired them to my iPhone via Bluetooth. I missed the automatic pairing of AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro via Apple’s H1 chip, though.

As I ran, I couldn’t shake the Aeropex off, or even loose, but it never felt like the hooks pinched my ears as they did after a while with Powerbeats Pro. I sensed I could wear these for hours — in fact I forgot to take them off when I got home, even without music playing. 

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The only moment of discomfort came when I did finally try to take AfterShokz Aeropex off. Despite how smooth I made it seem in a TikTok I filmed, the neck band actually got tangled in my hair a few times. When I sweat, my sleek ponytail turns into an unruly lion’s mane, so I need to be more mindful than I am when I pluck buds out of my ears.

Running with bone conduction headphones: Sound quality

For those unfamiliar with the technology, bone conduction headphones send vibrations into your cheekbones to play audio. This leaves your ears open so you can have conversations or hear other sounds around you without needing a true transparency mode like on the AirPods Pro or the Jabra Elite Active 75t.

AfterShockz Aeropex are secure and comfortable running headphones with solid sound quality

(Image credit: Future)

That said, I had low expectations for the AfterShokz Aeropex sound quality. Yet respecting the limitations of bone conduction, the headset actually impressed. Sure, the bass didn’t resonate with my pace as much as it usually does on Eminem’s ‘Till I Collapse, but it kept me moving. The synth riff in Tame Impala’s Elephant even packed enough punch to extend my run to two and a quarter miles, instead of my typical two.

I wish the sound offered more complexities for me to get lost in, as to ward off imminent regret in my workout choice for the day.

Running with bone conduction headphones: Verdict 

AfterShokz Aeropex are the running headphones I’ve been looking for in terms of comfort and security. While the AirPods Pro and Jabra Elite Active 75t are disposed to dislodging from my ears, Aeropex isn’t going anywhere. The bone conduction headset doesn’t clamp uncomfortably like Powerbeats Pro, either.

I wish the sound offered more complexities for me to get lost in, so to ward off imminent regret in my workout choice for the day. But I appreciated the ability to hear the ambient sounds of the outdoors as I ran, as well as the promise of an 8-hour battery life, since the only excuse I need to skip exercise is dead headphones.

For now, AfterShokz Aeropex bone conduction headphones are the pair I'll reach for when I'm ready to tackle any outdoor workout. I still want active noise cancellation in the gym, so the Jabra Elite Active 75t will remain a top choice in my earbud arsenal. 

And where does this leave AirPods Pro? Well, I'm going to test out some accessories that promise a better fit for Apple's premium buds. In the meantime, if you're also struggling to find running headphones that don't fall out of your ears, consider giving bone conduction headsets a try.

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.