Colors: Blue, Black, Grey, Red
Battery life (rated): 8 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Processor: Qualcomm QCC3024
Size: 1.7 x 4.3 x 5.1 inches
Weight: 0.9 ounces
The Shokz OpenRun, orginially called AfterShokz Aeropex, is great pair of bone-conduction headphones. For those unfamiliar with the concept, bone-conduction headphones play sound by sending vibrations into your cheekbones, intentionally leaving your ears open so you can have conversations or listen out for sounds like traffic. As such, they’re well suited to runners and gym-goers, as well as to people with hearing loss.
The biggest drawback of the bone-conduction approach is that audio quality is no match for the best wireless earbuds. However, not only does the Shokz sound surprisingly decent, but its secure fit, waterproofing and long battery life could be enough to make fitness fans convert.
Keep reading our Shokz OpenRun review to find out why it’s one of the best sport headphones you can buy. And be sure to check out our Shokz OpenRun Pro review for the low-down on a newer bone conduction option with 10 hours of battery life and boosted bass.
Shokz OpenRun review: Price and availability
The Shokz OpenRun is a specialized pair of headphones, but not an overly expensive one: It costs $159, about the same as the cheapest Apple AirPods model.
It comes in four colors — Blue Eclipse, Cosmic Black, Lunar Grey and Solar Red — and is sold through Amazon (opens in new tab), Best Buy (opens in new tab) and B&H (opens in new tab), among other retailers.
Shokz OpenRun review: Design and comfort
The design is broadly similar to that of the AfterShokz Air, with the vibration drivers on the ends of over-ear hooks that connect to each other via a thin but rigid yoke. However, the Aeropex is a little more compact than the Air, particularly around the drivers and the electronics-housing modules at the base of each hook. As a result, the Aeropex is also about 0.2 ounces lighter.
Thanks in part to this barely-there weight, the Aeropex lands perfectly between comfort and the kind of secure fit you’d want from a set of sport headphones. I couldn’t shake the Aeropex off, or even loose, but it never felt like the drivers were clamping down on my head. I could wear these for hours without complaint — and I have.
Still, it’s worth noting that you can’t adjust the Aeropex in any way. You can get a smaller “Mini” version for the same price, which AfterShokz recommends if the distance between the backs of your ears is less than 9.3 inches, though with both this and the standard model you’re relying solely on the flexibility of the yoke.
Not that the Aeropex is shoddily made. If anything, the opposite is true: The whole thing has a pleasant soft-touch finish, and it’s IP67-rated for both dustproofing and waterproofing. Although AfterShokz says you shouldn’t take the Aeropex swimming, it will survive full submersion in up to 1 metre of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
Shokz OpenRun review: Controls and digital assistant
The Aeropex uses physical buttons, which makes sense; touch sensors rarely play well with sweat and water. A single multifunction button sits on the left driver housing, while a volume rocker (which integrates the power button) is on the underside of the rectangular section behind the right ear hook.
The selection of controls is basic but functional. Besides the self-evident volume adjustment, the MF button can pause or play with a single tap, or skip ahead with a double tap. While that might sound underwhelming to earbud owners who can triple-tap and swipe to perform additional inputs, it is enough for normal playback, and I never had to repeatedly attempt an input as if the buttons were finicky tough sensors.
Besides, there’s one more use for the MF button. Holding it down will activate Google Assistant or Siri, depending on your phone, and the onboard microphone has no trouble picking up voice commands. It all works effortlessly and seamlessly.
Shokz OpenRun review: Sound quality
If you’ve never tried a pair of bone-conduction headphones before, we wouldn’t blame you if you found the Aeropex flat and muted. Compared to even the best cheap earbuds, there’s a definite lack of definition that earbuds and headphones can easily avoid by piping music directly into your eardrums.
However, that’s pretty much an intrinsic limitation of bone-conduction tech. And when considering how the Aeropex sounds within those limitations, and next to similar bone-conduction headphones, it actually exceeds expectations.
Electronic parts seem particularly compatible with being shot through a skeleton. The main synth riff in The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” wasn’t diminished at all, and La Roux’s “Bulletproof” was pleasantly punchy. Vocals are usually nice and clear too, and delivered with enough detail that it’s possible to pick out all the layers of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Guitar-heavy tracks can be hit or miss; there’s enough low-end for enjoyable renditions of Biffy Clyro’s epic “Mountains” or the dynamic, swaying “Rope” by Foo Fighters. Certain effects can sound scratchy, though, and the bass never goes truly, powerfully deep.
Whether all this is a dealbreaker depends on what exactly you want from your headphones. If you want something general-purpose, with some fitness capability on the side, there are dozens of better-sounding alternatives. If, however, you need a pair that won’t hurt your spatial awareness when out on runs or bike rides, the Aeropex sounds good enough to seriously compete with halfway-there models like the Bose Sport Open Earbuds.
Shokz OpenRun review: Features
There’s no companion app for the Aeropex, and in truth it doesn’t really have any bonus features beyond the waterproofing and digital assistant support.
Even so, it’s worth restating the efficacy of its water, sweat and dust protection. Even expensive earbuds struggle to match the Aeropex’s IP67 rating; the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro comes close with IPX7, but that means it lacks any form of certifiable protection against dust, dirt and sand. AfterShokz’s effort is a much hardier, outdoor-ready alternative in that sense.
The Aeropex also provides a “Moisture Detected Alert”: When connected to the charging cable, the Aeropex can sense if there’s any moisture around the cable connectors. If you haven’t dried it properly, the Aeropex will simultaneously beep, flash a red and blue warning LED and continuously vibrate. It’s a thoughtful touch, and could help prevent accidental damage down the line.
Shokz OpenRun review: Battery life
AfterShokz rates the Aeropex for 8 hours of music and calls, but I got nearly 14 hours of pure music playback on a single charge.
There’s no charging case, so you'll always need to recharge using the included USB cable, but this longevity batters most true wireless earbuds on a per-charge basis. Even the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC, one of the longest-lasting we’ve tested, can’t match up — though in fairness that has the added drain of active noise cancellation.
Shokz OpenRun review: Call quality and connectivity
Call quality is a rare stumble for the Aeropex. I apparently sounded somewhat fuzzy in comparison to both my handset and the conventional headphones I usually use for calls, and loud background noise was a common complaint too.
On the bright side, the Bluetooth 5.0 connection was always rock-steady. There were no dropouts or degradation around or even beyond the “official” 33-foot range; this might come in handy if you’re at the gym and want to leave your phone safe in a locker.
Shokz OpenRun review: Verdict
The AfterShokz Aeropex is, admittedly, an unusual kind of Editor’s Choice award winner — unless you want an open-ear pair of headphones specifically, it’s not something we’d recommend. It’s just too easy to get better sound quality from a pair of wireless earbuds.
But if you do want to keep your ability to listen for ambient sounds, there aren’t many better options. Remember that by the standards of bone-conduction headphones specifically, the Aeropex actually sounds good, and its durability and fit are practically perfect for running and workouts. Check it out if you want something more specialized to stand in for your everyday headphones during fitness sessions.