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The best workout headphones

The 'best' one depends in part on what sport you'll be doing.
Wirecutter, @wirecutter
02.01.19 in AV
Kyle Fitzgerald/Wirecutter

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By Lauren Dragan

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full workout headphones guide here.

Over the past two years, we've tested nearly 200 sets of headphones designed specifically for working out. Whether you're looking for earbuds that can handle high-impact gym sessions indoors or long-distance jogging outdoors, we have wireless and wired options for gym rats, runners, weightlifters, and swimmers, as well as everything in between.

Who this is for: If you use your headphones regularly at the gym, you need workout headphones specifically designed to stay in place through a variety of high-impact moves.

Why we like it: The Jabra Elite Active 65t true-wireless earbuds have onboard volume, track, and digital-assistant controls, so you won't need to fuss with your device mid-workout. The adjustable situational-awareness mode allows you to have a conversation or keep an ear on traffic without removing your earbuds. Five hours of battery life per charge is more than enough for most gym sessions; plus, the charging case can store up to 10 more hours of juice (and the rapid-charge function gives you 1½ hours of use from just 15 minutes in the charging case).

Workout headphones

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Although we adore the Elite Active 65t, we do have a few small quibbles. The first is that when you push the buttons that control tracks and volume, you may also push the earbud farther into your ear. The sensation isn't uncomfortable but it is mildly annoying—we found that holding the tiny arm that contains the mics with two fingers to stabilize the earbud while pressing the buttons alleviates the problem. Second, even though the embedded accelerometer on the earbuds is a neat idea, at the moment it tracks only steps. It does so fairly accurately, but if you are a fitness enthusiast, you likely already have a fitness tracker that does this and more. Last, the Elite Active 65t is plagued by the same limitations as many true wireless earbuds: battery life and latency. However, the five-hour battery life on this pair ranks among the longest we've seen for this style of earbud, and the slight audio lag is generally minimal enough to avoid being distracting—especially if most of your time watching is also spent in motion.

Battery life: Approximately five hours

Warranty: Two years

Protected against: Sweat and water damage

Read our full review of these headphones in our guide to the best wireless workout headphones.

Best headphones for running

Who this is for: If you run outside (as opposed to on a treadmill), you need headphones that not only stay in place unobtrusively, are sweat resistant, and are easy to use, but also allow you to hear your surroundings so you can stay safe from traffic or other hazards.

Why we like it: Plantronics's BackBeat Fit line of earbuds have been our favorite running headphones for two years now. They're comfortable and easy to use while you're moving, and they're resistant to sweat, rain, and dust. The BackBeat Fit 2100 offers great sound quality, better than what we've heard from just about any other unsealed headphones we've ever tested. The earbuds feel lightweight and stable—you can just pop them onto your head and go. A hook over the ear and a small wing just inside the outer ear keep each earbud in place. The BackBeat Fit 2100 has a claimed battery life of seven hours. If you run out of juice and are in a hurry, the pair's quick-charge feature will give you one hour of use after only a 15-minute charge.

Workout headphones

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Flaws but not dealbreakers: For the most part, the BackBeat Fit 2100 is fantastic, but we have a minor quibble. If you run with a scarf in cold weather or have a high collar on your jacket, the thick, rubberized cable that connects the earbuds may occasionally brush against it, but we never felt as though the earbuds were tugging or at risk of falling out.

Battery life: Seven hours

Protected against: Water, sweat, dust; IP57

Warranty: One year

For more info, see our full review of the best running headphones.

Best budget workout headphones

Who this is for: These wireless workout earbuds are for people who want to exercise without tangles but who don't want to spend a lot of money.

Why we like it: If you can't spend a lot but still want to listen to music while you work out, the Aukey Latitude EP-B40 is a good choice, as it fits comfortably and sounds pretty good and can stand up to gym conditions. The silicone wings and tips keep the earbuds secure in your ears, while the IPX4 rating means this pair won't short out when faced with a splash of water or a little sweat. The eight-plus-hour battery life will last you through more than a week of 60-minute workouts before you have to recharge, and magnets in the earbuds allow you to clip the pair around your neck when you take a water break. Additionally, Aukey's two-year warranty protects against manufacturing defects.

Workout headphones

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Flaws but not dealbreakers: These Aukey headphones aren't as well-built or as likely to be as durable as our top wireless exercise picks, and the long cable between them can bounce annoyingly during high-impact moves and tug a bit when you turn your head.

Battery life: Eight hours

Protected against: Splash of water; IPX4

For more info, see our full review of the best wireless workout headphones.

Best wired workout headphones

Who this is for: If you don't want to worry about charging your headphones and don't mind a wire running to your device, these are the gym headphones for you.

Why we like it: The Skullcandy XTplyo earbuds are made of a grippy material that helps to keep them secure even during high-impact workouts, and the cable is thin enough to avoid making too much cable noise. The sturdy water- and sweat-resistant build can take a good amount of abuse, and a single-button remote controls music and takes calls.

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Because the headphones only come with medium and small tips, people with very large ear canals may have trouble getting a perfect fit.

Protected against: Sweat and water; not IP rated

Warranty: Lifetime

For more info, see our full review of the best wired workout headphones.

Best headphones for weightlifters

Who this is for: Weightlifting at the gym often requires frequent communication. Earbuds can be a pain to take in and out, so many weightlifters prefer the traditional headphone design.

Why we like it: The BackBeat Fit 500 wireless headphones fit comfortably but stay in place, and they're sweat resistant and easy to keep clean. The simple-to-use controls allow you to change tracks, adjust volume, take calls, and access your phone's digital assistant without taking the pair off your head. These headphones also had a fun, bass-forward sound in our tests, and they offer an 18-hour battery life.

Workout headphones

Photo: Rozette Rago

Flaws but not dealbreakers: In our tests, the sound quality on the BackBeat Fit 500 was decent, although not quite as great as that of our standard Bluetooth headphones picks. Overall, this pair was pleasant for us to listen to, but the highs had a sibilant edge. The downside to headphones as opposed to earbuds is that because they are bulkier, they move a bit during high-impact exercise, and they can feel hotter on your ears after you get really warmed up.

Protected against: Sweat and water

Battery life: 18 hours

Warranty: One year

Connections: Bluetooth and 3.5 mm jack

For more info, see our full review of the best wireless workout headphones.

Best headphones for swimmers

Who this is for: Avid lap swimmers who need musical motivation, and poolside loungers afraid of wrecking their mobile device, will appreciate some truly waterproof headphones.

Why we like it: Underwater Audio's earbuds seal out water and stay in place, even when you're pushing off the wall, doing flip turns, or practicing aggressive strokes such as the butterfly. The Syryn package includes everything you need to dive right in: a waterproof MP3 player, earbuds, and a pair of goggles. The player is unobtrusive when clipped to your goggles or suit, and the cable on the earbuds is adjustable to short or long, so you can listen comfortably in and out of the water.

Workout headphones

Photo: Lauren Dragan

Flaws but not dealbreakers: Getting a watertight seal with the headphones can take a few tries, so you may want to plan to swap out the tips on your first swim. Also, the player requires your files to be in MP3 or WMA format and DRM-free, so your protected iTunes files won't play.

Protected against: Water immersion

Warranty: One year

For more info, see our full review of the best wired workout headphones.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commissions.

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