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Best sport headphones in 2021: running and workout earbuds

Best sport headphones
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The best sport headphones demonstrate the value of specializing headphones or earbuds for fitness use. Whereas most of the best headphones or best wireless earbuds are excellent general-purpose options, the models we’ve chosen here — based on extensive, sometimes sweaty testing — have features that make them ideal for sport specifically.

That means they’ll stay snug in or around your ears when things get strenuous, be it through good ergonomics or more drastic measures like ear hooks or fins. Water resistance and sweatproofing will also let you exercise with peace of mind. Keep reading for our picks of the best sport headphones, and to find out more about how they can keep you entertained while you keep yourself healthy.

Editor's Note: The Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for audio have been announced, and the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC has won the Best sports headphones award! Head to the audio awards page to see all the winners and recommended runners-up.

What are the best sport headphones?

Based on our testing, our pick of the best sport headphones for working out is the Jabra Elite Active 75t. They provide amazing comfort and outperform most competitors in several key categories, including battery life, durability, sound, and special features. It is one of the few products to earn a perfect score from Tom’s Guide.

iPhone owners have the luxury of choosing  from between the AirPods Pro (another perfect score recipient), Beats Powerbeats Pro, and the Beats Powerbeats 4. All three models produce impressive sound and are a cinch to pair with any Apple smartphone, while boasting their own distinctive features. The AirPods Pro comes with active noise cancellation, whereas the Powerbeats Pro and Powerbeats 4 have longer battery life and a more suitable fit for intense workouts. Apple’s H1 chip also powers each device and opens the portal to many cool iOS tricks. 

Budget-conscious exercisers who want quality performance at a low cost can look into the Amazfit Powerbuds, which somehow manages to cram a heart rate sensor and tons of other features into an $80 set of wireless buds.

The best sport headphones you can buy today

Best sport headphones: Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

1. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best totally wireless sport earbuds

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Loud, full sound+Doesn't budge during runs+In-app audio customization+Active and passive noise cancellation
Reasons to avoid
-Can be extremely loud at max volume

An all-around performer that hits every mark, the Elite Active 75t currently stands as the best sport headphones for working out. Jabra somehow managed to scale down the design, while increasing battery life (7.5 hours per charge, 28 hours with charging case) and the IPX rating (IP57), making these buds waterproof, dust- and sweat-resistant. Jabra also sells the buds in a variety of striking colorways, including Copper Black, Grey, Mint, Navy, Sienna, and Titanium Black.

Even with its smaller form, the Elite Active 75t affords great comfort and on-ear stability. Seriously, they didn't move at all while we were working out. You’ll also enjoy the same vibrant audio associated with the Elite series, only this time the bass has been fine-tuned to achieve full, detailed sound. You can further customize the audio through Jabra's app, too. And to top things off, Jabra just released a free over-the-air ANC update, so now all Elite Active 75t (and Elite 75t) owners will have active noise cancellation at their disposal to block out ambient noise when exercising in rowdy environments.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.

Best sport headphones: Beats Powerbeats Pro

(Image credit: Brian Coule/Tom's Guide)

2. Beats Powerbeats Pro

The best wireless earbuds for iPhone owners

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.2 x 2.2 inches, 0.7 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 9 hours, 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 100 feet (30 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Magically seamless setup, just like with AirPods+Lengthy battery life+Well-balanced sound+Comfortable, stable fit for running
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky charging case

Do you like the convenience of Apple's AirPods earbuds, but aren't enamored with their design? Apple's Beats by Dre brand offers an alternative with the sporty Powerbeats Pro. The wire-free, sweat-resistant earbuds hook around the ear for stability and use Apple's H1 chip (also found in Apple's AirPods Pro) for seamless integration with iPhones, but their all-black, wrap-around design makes them less noticeable. Updating to iOS 14 gives exercisers the luxury of automatic switching to other iDevices, should they prefer to jump from their iPhone to MacBook Pro while working out from home.

Controls on both buds let you change tracks and volume, summon Siri, and take phone calls. We also found that the Powerbeats Pro delivered well-balanced audio — no bass explosion here, as with other Beats products. With more than 24 hours of battery life (9 hours in the buds and 18 in the somewhat thick charging case), these earbuds are a no-brainer purchase for those who are looking for a set of the best sport headphones that will go the distance. While we're fans of the original lineup, the company's new vibrantly colorful models (Glacier Blue, Cloud Pink, Lava Red, and Spring Yellow) are even better.

Read our full Powerbeats Pro earbuds review.

Best sport headphones: AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

3. AirPods Pro

The only true workout-friendly AirPods

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 8.8 ounces
Batttery Life (Rated): 4.5 hours; 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Modern, functional design+Great active noise cancelling+Expanded, easy to use controls+Comfortable semi-custom fit
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life could be longer

AirPods were never designed for exercising, yet we’re still seeing them at every turn on our running routes. Well, Apple finally made a version that you can wear to work out: the AirPods Pro. The sweat and water resistance adds an extra layer of protection that its predecessors lacked. The included ear tips also make a big difference for comfort and sound quality, maintaining a secure, relaxed fit and improving clarity by sealing out ambient noises. 

Speaking of which, the AirPods Pro welcomes active noise cancellation to the party, and it’s very good. You’ll be able to silence external sounds around you, whether in the gym or on neighborhood speed-walks. There is even a Transparency Mode for outdoor runners to hear their surroundings more clearly without pausing their music. The enhanced controls, hands-free “Siri” feature, and cool updates like spatial audio to enjoy theatrical-like audio when binging Netflix shows on the Peloton also make this one of the best sport headphones for iOS devices.

Read our full AirPods Pro review.

Best sport headphones: Jaybird Vista

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

4. Jaybird Vista

Totally wireless sports buds for runners

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.9 x 0.7 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 10 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Well-balanced audio+Companion app with several EQ settings+Stable and sturdy design+Super-compact charging case
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life

The Jaybird Vista is a remarkable choice for sprinters who want dynamic sound and on-ear stability minus any cables. Underneath the durable, waterproof shell are powerful 6mm drivers that deliver bass-forward sound to fuel workouts. Fit is also customizable with Jaybird bundling a variety of ear tips and fins to accommodate different ear shapes. They're good at passively blocking out sound, but almost too much so; it was hard to hear oncoming traffic when we were out for a run, music blasting.

Battery life is decent at 6 hours on a full charge, though many of its rivals are rated higher. Noise isolation is also great. However, it’s a shame Jabra didn’t program these buds with a transparency mode to provide listeners better awareness of their surroundings. This exclusion makes the Vista more practical for indoor exercising. Right now, you can score the Vista for $40 less on Amazon, but only in Nimbus Gray. Runners who appreciate abstract designs might want to consider gifting themselves the all-new Planetary Green color.

Read our full Jaybird Vista review.

Best sport headphones: JLab Epic Air Sport ANC

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

5. JLab Epic Air Sport ANC

The best sport headphones for affordable ANC

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 0.3 ounces
Batttery Life (Rated): 15 hours (ANC on); 55 hours (ANC on with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Stable design+Affordable+ANC and transparency modes+Great battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Battery level reporting is unreliable-Poor call quality

You can usually find the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC, which is impressive considering it delivers the best sound quality of any JLab wireless buds and very impressive battery life. We got 9.5 hours out of a single charge, enough for a full week’s workouts even without the charging case.

As the name suggests, this affordable pair of sports headphones also provides you with active noise cancellation. You should be careful using this when out on runs, as it can mask the sound of oncoming traffic and pedestrians, but for the most part ANC is ideal for shutting out nearby noise and letting you focus on your workout. And, if you do need to hear the outside world, you can always active its pass-through transparency mode.

Read our full JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review.

Best sport headphones: Amazfit Powerbuds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

6. Amazfit Powerbuds

Smart workout earbuds with tons of functionality for under $100

Specifications
Weight and Size: 3.2 x 2 x 1.2 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 8 hours, 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Bass-forward sound with adjustable EQ+Long battery life+A ton of features, including heart rate monitoring
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky and stick out-Amazfit app works with only a handful of other apps

To call the Amazfit Powerbuds an impressive product would be an understatement. It’s remarkable to see the amount of functionality jammed into these buds, especially for under $100. They have a PPG heart rate sensor that collects biometric data, which can be saved on the companion app. Speaking of which, the Zepp app has a lot of activity tracking fields (e.g. calories burned, BMI, step count) and personalized settings, from a customizable EQ with multiple presets to workout modes. Then there’s the generous playtime (8 hours) you get on a full charge, along with impactful bass response to keep adrenaline levels high.

Comfort may be an issue with some users, as the buds are on the bulky side, and the sensor, which nestles against the ear for stabilized fit, presses against the skin. It would have also been nice if the app worked with more of the best running apps; Strava and Relive seem to be the only ones compatible right now. Still, it’s impossible to overlook the level of performance you’re given for such a low MSRP.

Best sport headphones: Bose Sport Earbuds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

7. Bose Sport Earbuds

The best sport earbuds by Bose

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.7 x 1 x 0.8 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours, 15 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Bright, balanced sound+Secure, personalized fit+Bluetooth 5.1
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life lower than competition-No EQ or Transparency Mode

Bose’s latest release is a sportier version of the popular QuietComfort Earbuds, minus the listening modes and massive design. They are lighter and smaller than their noise-cancelling sibling, come with water-resistant protection (IPX4), and have a variety of tips bundled to accommodate different ear shapes. The low end has been toned down from the SoundSport Free, which can be a positive or negative, depending on your sonic preference. However, music lovers will appreciate the punchy bass and nice detail these buds deliver. Connectivity is also a highlight with Bluetooth 5.1 at the forefront; pairing is seamless, and wireless range is higher than advertised (est. 40 feet).

Fitness fanatics looking to use the Sport Earbuds daily will need to keep their eyes on the battery levels since the buds and charging case do not hold the longest playtimes. There aren’t many features to work with in the Bose Connect app either.

Read our full Bose Sport Earbuds review.

Best sport headphones: Beats Powerbeats 4

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

8. Beats Powerbeats 4

Reasonably affordable high-performance running headphones

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.2 inches tall, 0.9 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours
Bluetooth Range: 100 feet (30 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Highly secure fit+Impressive sound and call quality+Best battery life on a single charge
Reasons to avoid
-Interfering wire-Feel uncomfortable after a while

The Powerbeats 4 is practically identical to its cordless sibling, minus one or two features, different colors, and the wire-free design. Does that make it inferior? Hell no. These are still the best sport headphones in its class. They make the most of the H1 processor to give iPhone users terrific wireless performance across the board. Connectivity is instant with all major Apple products, plus the Beats app makes it easier to pair the earphones with Android devices.

But what really makes the Powerbeats 4 a superior upgrade from the Powerbeats 3 are the sturdier aesthetics and improved sound and call quality. The latter is to be expected since Beats uses the same drivers and beamforming mics as the Powerbeats Pro. Comfort could be a little better and the wire becomes annoying after a while, but all is forgiven when considering its $150 price of entry.

Read our full Beats Powerbeats 4 review.

Best sport headphones: Sennheiser CX True Wireless

(Image credit: Future)

9. Sennheiser CX True Wireless

Snug and secure earbuds with sweatproofing

Specifications
Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.8 x 1 inches, 0.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 27 hours
Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Strong yet comfortable fit+IPX4 rating+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-No ANC

The CX True Wireless isn’t designed to be a fitness device specifically. In fact, from the outside it looks like a fairly unremarkable pair of sub-$150 earbuds. Looks are very much deceiving here, though: the unfalteringly secure fit, which nonetheless remains comfortable, will keep the CX True Wireless in place through any workout.

In a significant upgrade from the older Sennheiser CX 400BT, the CX True Wireless also gets IPX4-rated water resistance. While this means they’re not entirely waterproof, when things get sweaty you can keep pushing through with the knowledge that your earbuds don’t mind getting wet.

Read our full Sennheiser CX True Wireless review.

Best sport headphones: Adidas RPT-01

(Image credit: Adidas)

10. Adidas RPT-01

Durable on-ear sports headphones with impressive sound

Specifications
Size and Weight: 2.8 x 5.6 x 7.5 inches, 7.6 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 40 hours
Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Water Resistant: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Flexible and sustainable design+Up to 40 hours playtime+Customizable sound
Reasons to avoid
-No carrying case-Feels uncomfortable after an hour of use

Adidas isn’t a brand you think of when discussing sports headphones, but the RPT-01 has the design and features to draw your interest. These on-ear cans share the same sustainable aesthetics as the company’s running shoes, wrapped in a stylish, strong mesh fabric and IPX4-rated water-resistance protection. You can even remove and wash the ear cushions and inner headband.  Sound quality is where the RPT-01 showcases its dexterity with Adidas launching a companion app featuring multiple EQ settings that are fine-tuned to select music genres and sound great. The controls are inventive as well, from the multi-directional knob that executes multiple commands (playback, calls, power) to the Action button that users can assign to pull up the Siri/Google Assistant or Spotify. 

While the ear pads feel gentle on the ears, the headband is a bit aggressive and applies more pressure than necessary to remain fixed atop the skull. We also wish Adidas included a carrying pouch with the purchase.

How to choose the best sport headphones for you

The best sport headphones offer some form of water or sweat-resistant protection. Some might say they can withstand water and sweat, and some are IP-certified. If you want to know you are protected, look for headphones with at least an IPX4 (or higher) rating.

Still, as earbuds like the JBL UA True Wireless Streak can show, waterproofing isn't everything. You'll also want to look at the design of the headphones and consider how you want to wear them while working out. They should not only be easy to wear, but also stay on your head without the need for constant readjustment. For earbuds, look at how many ear inserts and wings the pair comes with, to give you the best fit option. Some people may prefer over-ear or on-ear headphones because they tend to do a better job of blocking noise, but some prefer earbuds for their secure fit and lightweight portability.

For headphones with cables, make sure to check for an inline remote, which will let you easily control your music without pulling out your smartphone. Completely wireless fitness earbuds allow you to control your music with physical buttons or tap gestures on the earpiece rather than a remote. Some headphones are device-specific; make sure you get a pair that's fully compatible with Android and iOS. 

If you're considering wireless sport headphones, make sure they have the endurance you need. Some people need headphones with only 6 to 8 hours of battery life to last through a week of workouts, while others might want a device with extended longevity to get through long runs, bike rides, and hikes.

How we test the best sport headphones

When creating our list of the best sport headphones, Tom’s Guide tests devices to see how they stand up to vigorous workouts, evaluating both how securely they fit during exercises and how well they handle ambient sound (e.g. noise at the gym, oncoming traffic). Our reviewers also test every feature for app-enabled headphones, along with ease of setup.

During the testing phase, each pair of headphones is worn for 2 hours at a time throughout the course of a week. On occasion, we’ll perform further testing when comparing top-rated and popular models for our Face-Off features.

To determine sound quality, we listen to many tracks across multiple music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronic, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. Movies, podcasts, and video games are also considered, when necessary.

Once testing is completed, we rate the best sport headphones based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that hit nearly every mark are awarded an Editors' Choice badge.  

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