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Sports headphones reviewed: which pair is best for you?

We've tested headphones from Bose, Sony, Skullcandy and more to find the ones that will motivate you to stay active and help you reach your fitness goals

Sports headphones reviewed: which pair is best for you?

If you’ve made a new year’s resolution to get more active, or are simply looking to make the most of your time outdoors, headphones designed for sport and fitness could be just the ticket. But the latest designs can be expensive. We’ve looked at whether they’re worth the money, or if there are cheaper options instead. 

Not all headphones are suitable for sport. Apple AirPods, for example, are incredibly popular, but few would recommend them for running or other vigorous activity. Their loose fit makes them likely to jiggle about and come out during exercise, and they’re not water-resistant either.

Fortunately, there are plenty of headphones that are designed specifically for sport – such as Bose’s £179 Sport Earbuds, which have ‘StayHear’ eartips for a more secure fit in your ears.


Best headphones – whatever type you want, our expert tests reveal the headphones that sound great, fit well, and are easy to use.


The best sports headphones

You may not need to splash out the best part of £200 to get headphones suitable for activities. We’ve just introduced a dedicated ‘secure fit’ assessment to our headphone tests, to help you identify the sets more likely to stay firmly put on a jog or garden circuits session as you move your head about.

We’ve rounded up a selection of the headphones that look well-suited to sports and exercise below, including a £160 pair from sports and running headphones specialist Jaybird, plus a couple of cheap alternatives. We’ve summarised key features of each, below – click through to our full reviews to find out whether they’re any good.

Bose Sport Earbuds, £179

  • Type: Truly wireless in-ear headphones
  • Claimed earpiece battery life: 5 hours
  • Total claimed battery life with case charges: 15 hours

The Bose Sport Earbuds are Bose’s new, truly wireless headphones designed specifically for sports. They replace the similar-looking Bose SoundSport Free headphones (£140), which are unlikely to be available much longer (though this could mean you’re able to find some good deals on them, if you search out remaining stock).

They’re optimised for sports and exercise, with IPX4 water resistance to protect them from sweat or getting caught out in the rain.

They are designed to stay secure in your ears, regardless of how you move your head about during your workout, while remaining comfortable. Our expert panel gives its verdict on whether they live up to these claims in practice in our full review.

Find out whether these are great-sounding headphones that are perfect for sports – and worth the price – in our exclusive Bose Sport Earbuds review.

Jaybird Vista, £160

  • Type: Truly wireless in-ear headphones
  • Claimed earpiece battery life: 6 hours
  • Total claimed battery life with case charges: 16 hours

Sports and running headphones are what Jaybird does, so the good-looking Vistas could be a good bet. They’re a bit cheaper than the Bose Sport Earbuds, too. Jaybird says they’re perfectly designed for ‘athletes, runners and fitness fanatics’.

They promise a very secure fit, featuring flexible ear fins to hold them in position during exercise. Unlike many rivals, these are fully waterproof (IPX7 rated), meaning they should survive even the most torrential downpours (they’re not suitable for swimming, though).

There’s a full-featured Jaybird ‘My Sound’ app for extra settings on your Apple or Android device, and push controls on the earpieces themselves for basic music and call controls.

Sound like the ideal pair for you? See whether they deliver on the promise in our Jaybird Vista review.

Bowers & Wilkins PI3, £169

  • Type: Corded, wireless in-ear headphones
  • Claimed battery life: 8 hours

Truly wireless headphones aren’t for everyone – there’s always going to be a risk an earpiece will fall out, and for longer fitness sessions the shorter battery life of truly wireless sets might not be enough. For additional security, some ‘wireless’ headphones come with a short flexible cord between the two earpieces, which you wear round the back of your neck.

The PI3 from British brand Bowers & Wilkins aren’t designed specifically for sports, and aren’t water resistant, but if you’re used to wired in-ear headphones and are looking for an upgrade, these could be for you.

They’re well-made with a nicely robust, lightweight build, and the headphone material is soft, rubberised and flexible. The battery life should be enough for even marathon-length events, too.

Our experts assess whether they’re worth the price in our comprehensive Bowers & Wilkins PI3 review.

Skullcandy Jib+ Wireless, £15

  • Type: Corded, wireless in-ear headphones
  • Claimed battery life: 6 hours

Some will never be willing to spend £100 or more on headphones they simply plan to abuse out on the track. This Skullcandy set isn’t water resistant, but if you’re looking to upgrade from a cheap wired pair the Jib+ Wireless headphones could be what you’re looking for.

They’re lightweight, with a full in-line remote control on the cable between the two earpieces to change the volume, adjust music and calls, or activate the voice assistant on your Apple or Android device.

They come with optional ear fins, already attached in the box, which hook inside your ear for additional stability during activities.

But is the sound quality up to scratch at this price, and how comfortable are they? Our professionals put them through their paces in our full Skullcandy Jib+ Wireless review.

Sony MDR-XB50AP, £19

  • Type: Wired in-ear headphones, with in-line control button on cable

If all you need is a great-sounding, comfortable pair of cheap wired headphones you don’t need to worry about taking too much care of, this pair from Sony could fit the bill.

They come with a soft carry pouch to stow them away when not in use, and they’re part of Sony’s Extra Bass range, promising extra oomph to help motivate you despite their affordable price.

Sometimes simplicity is all you need. Find out if these Sony headphones will help you stay active in our Sony MDR-XB50AP review.

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