Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Top three best headphones for running

By Daniel Nissenbaum

Improve your performance with a pair of headphones that are light, comfortable and make your running playlist sound fantastic.   

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Listening to some motivational tunes can make going for a run or heading to the gym a far more enjoyable experience. However, if you don’t have the right pair of headphones for the job, your music could end up being more of a hindrance than a help.

The wrong pair won’t fit securely in your ears, so you may constantly have to readjust them on your run. In contrast, the best sports headphones stay in your ears, make music sound great and have handy features, such as splashproof design.

We’ve rounded up our top models for exercise in the table below, so you can focus your efforts on that workout.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which?

Top three best headphones for running

Lowest price (in stock) £74.95
Which? score 85%
Reviewed Nov 2014
Best Buy
Overall sound quality :
5 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
3 out of 5
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Works with phone:
Member exclusive

The sound quality from these superb in-ear headphones is great, and they’re also amazingly comfortable to wear. They have a special ‘wingtip’ design that helps them to stay secure in your ears while you’re working out, and they come with a wired remote so you can control your music on the go.

Lowest price (in stock) £23.71
Which? score 71%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Best Buy
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Works with phone:
Member exclusive

These headphones offer good sound quality and comfort, but the real selling point is that they’re wireless. You won’t have to worry about your headphone cable bouncing around while you’re out for a run, and they’re also water-resistant so you’ll have no problems if you get caught in a downpour.

Lowest price (in stock) £42.97
Which? score 70%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Best Buy
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 5
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Works with phone:
Member exclusive

These wired in-ear headphones deliver excellent sound quality at a low price. You won’t find better sports headphones for less than £40. With adjustable wingtips to keep them in place and a wired remote control, you’re not missing out on too many features either.

Pricing, recommendation and test scores correct at April 2017. 

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.

And here are three pairs of sports headphones to avoid

As well as the sterling examples we've picked out in the table above, we've seen some terrible headphones during our testing, some so bad that they'd actively hinder your workout. The worst offenders are so uncomfortable that you'll be in pain before you're even making any gains, and have sound quality so bad that your ears will be getting tired before your muscles. We've rounded up some of the models you would really do best to avoid in the table below. 

Sports headphones to avoid

Typical price £110.00
Which? score 24%
Reviewed Aug 2017
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Works with phone:
Member exclusive

These wireless headphones look like they've been nicked from a sci-fi film set and the way they deliver music is pretty far out too. Rather than earbuds these headphones actually send the sound through your cheekbones. Unfortunately though they seem to do the job very poorly indeeed - steer clear.

Lowest price (in stock) £35.95
Which? score 28%
Reviewed Nov 2016
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Works with phone:
Member exclusive

On paper these headphones look pretty decent. They’re wireless, and they have small hooks designed to keep them secure in your ears when you’re out for a jog. However, the bass is overpowering and the worst crime of all is that they’re uncomfortable, so you won’t be able to get the most out of your workout.

Lowest price (in stock) £120.00
Which? score 30%
Reviewed Nov 2016
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Works with phone:
Member exclusive

These headphones are fully wireless - there’s no cable between the two earbuds at all. In theory this should give you ultimate freedom of movement, and they’re designed to integrate with your smartphone too. However, much like the other models featured in this table, they commit the cardinal sins of headphone design: poor sound and poor comfort. Battery life is pretty bad too – they’ll struggle to last for a long session in the gym.

More on sports headphones

Wired or wireless?

One of the major decisions to make when getting a pair of headphones for exercise is whether to stump up the extra cash for a wireless pair. But other than price, there are a couple of cons with wireless models. You’ll have to remember to keep them charged to avoid being left in silence mid run. You’ll also have to take a Bluetooth-capable device out with you, when you may prefer to run with a smaller and lighter standalone MP3 player.

However, there are some pretty big pros to going wireless. First and most obvious is the increased freedom of movement that you’ll have. It can be incredibly annoying to have a cable trailing around and catching on your clothes as you run, especially if it’s a particularly intense workout. Cables rubbing and brushing against you can also really ruin the sound of your music, as vibrations are carried through the cable to your ear, and a wireless model won’t be susceptible to this.

Getting a good fit

Most sports models will be designed with features to keep them more secure in your ears compared with normal in-ear models. This is often in the form of a rubber ‘wing’ that sits in your ear to provide extra grip. Many models have loops instead. These hook around your ears to keep the headphones from falling out.

The hook/loop-type models do tend to keep the headphones secure, but we’ve found that the rubber wing design tends to be more comfortable.

Waterproof models

Fully waterproof headphones (those that would survive being fully submerged in water) are quite rare, but they do exist. Some of them even have on-board memory so you can load them with your music and use them when you’re swimming.

Much more common, however, are water-resistant or ‘splashproof’ models. These will give you some added peace of mind if you get caught in the rain while running. Many models are also advertised as being ‘sweatproof’, which means they’re designed to withstand corrosion from salty sweat.

Fitness-tracking models

Manufacturers have also started selling headphones that have fitness-tracking features. This makes some sense as a concept – why have two devices with you when you’re out for a run, when you could have just the one?

Exact features vary between models. We’ve tested the Bose SoundSport Pulse, which measures your heart rate and transmits it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Some models go even further. The Samsung Gear IconX, for example, has on-board memory so you can use its advanced fitness-tracking features without a smartphone.

SHARE THIS PAGE

Related products

See all headphones