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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 are ideal companions for keeping fit. And not just because they can maintain your motivation by blasting your workout mix — any pair of headphones, or the best wireless earbuds, could do that.

The headphones on this list emphasise durability and a snug, secure fit, as the strenuous exercise of sporting activities can cause less specialized earbuds to simply fall out. Waterproofing, or at least sweat-proofing, will also protect your investment in particularly heavy workouts or simply if you get caught running out in the rain. These are the conditions that the best sport headphones can thrive in, so read on for our top picks.

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

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

Loud, full sound
Doesn't budge during runs
In-app audio customization
Active and passive noise cancellation
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

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

Magically seamless setup, just like with AirPods
Lengthy battery life
Well-balanced sound
Comfortable, stable fit for running
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

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

Modern, functional design
Great active noise cancelling
Expanded, easy to use controls
Comfortable semi-custom fit
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

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

Well-balanced audio
Companion app with several EQ settings
Stable and sturdy design
Super-compact charging case
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: Amazfit Powerbuds

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

5. Amazfit Powerbuds

Smart workout earbuds with tons of functionality for under $100

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

Bass-forward sound with adjustable EQ
Long battery life
A ton of features, including heart rate monitoring
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)

6. Bose Sport Earbuds

The best sport earbuds by Bose

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

Bright, balanced sound
Secure, personalized fit
Bluetooth 5.1
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)

7. Beats Powerbeats 4

Reasonably affordable high-performance running headphones

Size and Weight: 2.2 inches tall, 0.9 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours | Bluetooth Range: 100 feet (30 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Highly secure fit
Impressive sound and call quality
Best battery life on a single charge
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: Adidas RPT-01

(Image credit: Adidas)

8. Adidas RPT-01

Durable on-ear sports headphones with impressive sound

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

Flexible and sustainable design
Up to 40 hours playtime
Customizable sound
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.

Best sport headphones: Jaybird Tarah Pro

(Image credit: Jaybird)

9. Jaybird Tarah Pro

Lengthy battery life and a personalized audio profile

Size and Weight: 19.3 x 0.7 x 0.8 inches (including cable), 0.7 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 14 hours | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Lengthy battery life
Can tweak the audio profile
Customizable fit with fabric cord
No setting to allow more ambient noise
Buggy volume

The Tarah Pro look just like Jaybird’s other Bluetooth sport earphones, but don't be fooled. This is the set you want hanging around your neck during workouts. It offers 14-hour battery life, which will carry you through a week of workouts, commutes and phone calls to family and friends. We also love its intuitive power management, automatically turning off the earphones when inactive for 15 minutes. A customized audio profile setting in the Jaybird app fine-tunes the sound, so it's perfectly tailored to your ears.

Build quality is the true highlight here, as the Tarah Pro comes with an IPX7 rating, making it waterproof and sweatproof. The fabric cord is extremely tough and won’t get damaged easily like the silicone cables on other models. Our only complaints are the lack of a transparency mode and unexpected volume dropout when switching from playback on your mobile device to the remote module. If $130 still seems too pricey for you, we strongly recommend its more affordable brother, the Jaybird Tarah ($35), one of the best cheap running headphones deals out there.

Read our full Jaybird Tarah Pro review.

Best sport headphones: Jabra Elite Active 65t

(Image credit: Future)

10. Jabra Elite Active 65t

Cordless sport earbuds with amazing performance

Size and Weight: 1.2. x 1.1 x 0.9 x inches,0.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours, 15 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Water Resistant: Yes

Superb sound
15-hour battery life
Accelerometer for run tracking
Charging case is annoyingly difficult to open
HearThrough can't be disabled while tracking runs

The Elite Active 65t set the standard for true wireless sports earbuds by blending advanced features and superb sound into a compact, water-resistant package. And granted it’s an older model, it still performs highly in all major categories. We found that they stayed in place even during the most strenuous exercises and hold up well against sweat to prevent slippage. We also appreciate how Jabra managed to stuff an accelerometer inside the buds for run tracking, meaning the Elite Active 65t can double as an activity tracker for when your Fitbit dies.

The fact they sound just as good as their successor, the Elite 75t Active, also speaks to their quality. You also get access to the Jabra Sound+ app to customize audio and enable different modes like HearThrough for ambient listening. With excellent fit and 15-hour battery life, you’re getting superior performance at an amazing value.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 65t review.

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.

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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