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I tried AirPods Pro for running — and it was a big fail

How to reset AirPods and AirPods Pro
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I never thought the day would come where I would want a pair of running headphones. Not because it’s a bit frivolous to buy a headset solely for running, but because I swore off running as a regular form of exercise several years ago.

When I test the best fitness trackers or best smartwatches, I prefer to hop on an exercise bike, show up to a pilates studio or go on a long walk to analyze activity-tracking metics. Running reminds me of my bygone sports career and the souvenir aches of sprinting the outfield as punishment or logging miles on the treadmill to stay in shape during softball offseason.

But I recently found myself interested in running again. I’m not trying to learn how to train for a half marathon or anything — I just want to diversify my cardio workout regimen. Plus, I live in a city where running is a popular social activity, often rewarded with iced lattes or green juices afterward. 

Realizing I need to bank some solo training before I indulge in overpriced beverages with my buddies, I headed to a track last weekend. I prepared properly, wearing supportive sneakers, loading up on electrolytes and stretching beforehand.

So it’s too bad the experience was ruined by something as trivial as headphones (and a pretty pricey pair at that).

AirPods Pro don’t cut it at the track

AirPods Pro running

(Image credit: Future)

When I go on leisurely walks, I usually opt for the AirPods Max with active noise-cancelling and killer sound quality. But since those aren’t sweat-proof, I rely on the classic Apple EarPods (from back when they still came with new iPhones) for bustling commutes or power walks.

The wired, tangle-prone buds are a pain to run with, though. And while I broke up with wireless earbuds last year, I’ve held onto my AirPods Pro for work meetings, train rides and pretty much any occasion when I want to listen to music and I’m not moving around. 

So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I brought AirPods Pro along for my first run. I guess I had read about an AirPods Pro workout test where Apple’s premium earbuds stayed secure during high-impact exercise. But even knowing my proper fit thanks to the ear tip setup process, I still spent half my time at the track retrieving fallen buds (which bounced off rather chaotically, depending on how fast I ran).

Testing AirPods Pro alternatives for running

Despite my rocky, soundtrack-less start, I’m now determined to find the best running headphones that won’t eject from my ears every other step I take. Over the next few weeks I’ll try alternatives, both to find the right pair and to motivate me to keep up with my running workouts. 

Here are the running headphones I’ll test, and why they made this list.

AfterShokz Aeropex: $159.99 at Best Buy
Maybe my ears are the problem. AfterShokz Aeropex are a pair of affordable bone conduction headphones that strap securely around your ears, but don't go inside them. It isn't the most attractive headset I've seen, but they get 8 hours of active battery life and can withstand runs in the rain with IP67 waterproof rating. View Deal

Jabra Elite Active 75t Earbuds: $149 @ Amazon
The Jabra Elite Active 75t are considered one of the best wireless earbuds options to buy. These fitness-specific earbuds with active noise-cancelling and water resistance were recommended by many of my Twitter friends when I requested help finding running headphones.View Deal

Powerbeats Pro: $179 Amazon
I used Powerbeats Pro before and wasn't impressed by comfort, but I'm willing to try again. Not to mention, I think they look cool. They also have a nine-hour battery life and water-resistance, and feature the Apple H1 headphone chip for easy pairing.View Deal

Will I find my perfect running headphones? Stay tuned for hands-on testing with all the above models. I know I can't be the only one who needs the right gear to make the most of my workouts.

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.


  • rattlhed
    For every negative review, there's a positive one...

    I've been running with AirPods pro for a year now, averaging about 180 miles a month, including a couple of half marathon races. They are easily the best headphones I've used for running. They sound fantastic, the transparency mode allows me to enjoy music while hearing everything around me. And they stay in my ears without any issues. Yesterday I ran 14 miles and didn't have to touch/adjust my AirPods in my ears once.

    Everyone's ears are slightly different. They fit mine perfectly and stay put. Sorry they didn't work out for you, but I thought I'd share my story for any readers who are considering these for their own workouts. Give them a try, they might fail you, or you might be like me and find them the best headphones you've ever used for running.
    Reply
  • Elterrible
    Every time I run, I run with the AirPods pro and never have an issue with them. Not sure what you’re doing wrong here.
    Reply
  • Rob B.
    Same as both guys above me. I've been running with my AirPods Pro 5 to 10 miles a day for almost 5 months now and never have I had a problem with them falling out. The sound is amazing, and the transparency mode lets me hear my surroundings. It'd be very tough for me to replace these with something else. The integration with my iPhone and Apple watch is just phenomenal. These are definitely keepers for me.
    Reply
  • Utink
    I run around 3-4 miles a day with the AirPods pro. I've done HIIT workouts, free-weights, even swimming without them coming loose. I really don't understand this article. Maybe she doesn't have the right tip in her ear?
    Reply
  • DJ Just B
    How about instead of shaming the product because YOU couldn't operate them properly and try foam tips from comply. I use them for running 6 days a week and they NEVER fall out.

    They sound perfect, the noise cancel and transparency features work awesome with the full seal that the foam eartips provide. BEST running headphones / earbuds ive ever had. Im a DJ and audiophile and have had bose, jaybirds, samsung you name it. Airpod pro's are the best by a landslide.
    Reply
  • Isthistheinternet
    I love my airpods pro when i am at my desk, but if i move they fall out. The latex earhooks are the only product that kept them in place, and while that worked it hurt my ear. I do however love using the powerbeats pro for running. I dont agree with other comments that anyone is wearing them wrong. Everyone has a different shaped ear.
    Reply