While many over-the-ear headphones offer uncompromising audio, even the most rigid audiophiles must consider fit, battery life, water resistance and durability if they’re going for a run. Luckily, some in-ear headphones don’t compromise much on quality.
The team at SpecOut compiled a list of the best headphones for running. Every pair is in-ear style, fits into the “sport” category and features a built-in volume remote. We’ve included a mix of traditional and wireless headphones, the latter of which are beginning to break into the market as price-competitive alternatives.
The headphones are ranked from lowest to highest Smart Rating, which factors in expert ratings, sensitivity, low and high frequency, and additional features. Note: Though price is noted on each slide, it is not a factor of the Smart Rating.
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#21. Denon AH-W150
Smart Rating: 74.95 Price: $99 Wireless: Yes Weight: 23 g Available Color(s): Blue, Black, Yellow
Although they’re pricier than the average in-ears, these sport headphones achieve better external noise reduction without sacrificing portability. Sweat proof and comfortable, the built-in mic lets users switch between streaming music and phone calls.
#20. Polk Audio Nue Era
Smart Rating: 75.35 Price: $45 Wireless: No Weight: 110 g Available Color(s): Tortoise, Black
Occasional distortion issues, which are limited to loud sub-bass, are balanced with these headphones by mids and highs that are crisp and true. Multiple ear-tip options are available and the inline remote gels well with mobile devices.
#19. SOUL SL99
Smart Rating: 75.48 Price: $55 Wireless: No Weight: 18 g Available Color(s): Black
Built to handle the strong basses associated with pop or rock, these in-ear sport headphones are branded by hip-hop artist Ludacris. The SL99 can handle deep, thumping bass at volumes that would result in devastating distortion with most headphones in this price range.
#18. Sennheiser CX 686G SPORTS
Smart Rating: 76.91 Price: $70 Wireless: No Weight: 22.7 g Available Color(s): Green
Secure, easily adjustable and complete with an inline remote, these in-ear headphones are equipped with interchangeable inserts. Strong, bass-receptive audio means they can follow you out of the gym.
#17. Westone ADV Alpha
Smart Rating: 78 Price: $250 Wireless: NoWeight: 17 gAvailable Color(s): Grey/Black
These crossover headphones are rugged and waterproof with hi-fi level audio. The unit is not cheap, but the detail, dynamic expression and depth give users exactly what they pay for.
#16. Soul Flex
Smart Rating: 78.72 Price: $69.99 Wireless: No Weight: 18 g Available Color(s): Green, Blue
Although they can be a bit bass heavy, and the in-ear buds can be tough to get out, these sport headphones are comfy and produce excellent sound. This is especially true for dance music, hip-hop, metal and other workout-friendly tunes.
#15. Klipsch Image S4i
Smart Rating: 78.8 Price: $100 Wireless: No Weight: 11.9 g Available Color(s): Black,White
Offering truly exceptional sound for the money, this unit goes beyond smartphone compatibility to offer extras like iPod playback. A drawback reported by some users is the thin, tangle-prone cord.
#14. Optoma NuForce BE6
Smart Rating: 79.5 Price: $119 Wireless: Yes Weight: 16 g Available Color(s): Gold, Grey
With virtually none of the compromises that plague most ultra-compact sport headphones, the BE6 stand out because they look like traditional earbuds. Not only do they stay secure during bouncing exercises like jogging, but they have bold, easy-to-access controls.
#13. Klipsch Image S5i Rugged
Smart Rating: 82.27 Price: $130 Wireless: No Weight: 11.9 g Available Color(s): Black
Water resistant, rugged and durable, these sport headphones produce excellent audio overall — including deep, pounding bass. They also are a good fit for sports that require helmets, like snowboarding, skiing and cycling.
#12. Sennheiser OCX 686G SPORTS
Smart Rating: 83.4 Price: $109.95 Wireless: No Weight: 23 g Available Color(s): Green
On top of the excellent build and design, these sport headphones offer well-controlled bass and strong isolation. Incredibly light, they come with an in-line remote housed under the Y splitter.
#11. Jabra Rox
Smart Rating: 83.83 Price: $79.99 Wireless: Yes Weight: 18 g Available Color(s): Black
Perfect for bass-heavy music during a demanding workout, these wireless headphones are Bluetooth ready. Near field communication enabled, the magnetic earpieces keep the cable free of annoying tangles.
#10. Yurbuds Leap Wireless
Smart Rating: 84.22 Price: $100 Wireless: Yes Weight: 17.2 g Available Color(s): Black
The $100 price point is a crowded field, and this wireless set boasts both audio and a secure fit that rivals most of the competition. Although the bass response is not booming, the headphones are washable and come with removable tips, which makes them perfect for runners.
#9. Klipsch S4i Rugged
Smart Rating: 84.37 Price: $78 Wireless: No Weight: 14.7 g Available Color(s): Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow
An excellent mid-range set of sport earbuds, some runners complain that the buds don’t always stay in. The sporty look, ease of use and quality sound, however, make them a great step up from entry level.
#8. Plantronics BackBeat Go 2
Smart Rating: 84.8 Price: $44.12 Wireless: Yes Weight: 14 g Available Color(s): Black, White
With a relatively short battery life acting as the only true spoiler, this wireless headset compensates with a case that includes a built-in battery for mobile charging. Although it looks similar to the original BackBeat Go, new engineering launches it near the top of the $100 Bluetooth class.
#7. Phiaton MODERNA MS 200
Smart Rating: 87.09 Price: $82.52 Wireless: No Weight: 5.6 g Available Color(s): Black,Red
Bass enthusiasts will love the clarity and lack of distortion, even at loud, thumping volumes. Although the eartips don’t always form a perfect seal, purists love the clean sound.
#6. Jabra Sport Coach
Smart Rating: 87.48 Price: $128.99 Wireless: Yes Weight: 16 g Available Color(s): Blue/Grey,Red/Grey,Yellow/Grey
Not only does the Coach offer powerful Bluetooth sound, but it provides runners with added fitness app functionality. Bass lovers will not be blown away, but these headphones provide all-around strong, exercise-centric functionality.
#5. Sennheiser CX 275s
Smart Rating: 88.41 Price: $39.33 Wireless: No Weight: 15 g Available Color(s): Black
Although the sound can at times be tinny and shallow, these headphones boast impressive bass response. Not only are they secure and smartly designed, but they are affordable when considering their functionality.
#4. AKG K391 NC
Smart Rating: 88.97 Price: $199.95 Wireless: No Weight: 8 g Available Color(s): Black/Silver
With strong, in-canal noise-canceling technology, these sport headphones provide a strong sound signature that isn’t muddled with distortion. The bass response is powerful and they offer convenient USB charging.
#3. Audio-Technica ATH-CKX9iS SonicFuel
Smart Rating: 92.33 Price: $66 Wireless: No Weight: 10 g Available Color(s): Black, Silver
With enough bass to get by, SonicFuel is built with in-ear security in mind. Although single button controls can be tedious, strong highs and powerful bass adjustment make for overall powerful audio.
#2. Atomic Floyd SuperDarts
Smart Rating: 92.91 Price: $260.15 Wireless: No Weight: 5.6 g Available Color(s): Red/Black
With a sleek, V-shaped design, these in-ear headphones provide amazing bass and super-crisp highs. Although they are not priced for the casual listener, enthusiasts will appreciate the overall quality.
#1. Logitech UE 900
Smart Rating: 96.63 Price: $299.99 Wireless: No Weight: 16 g Available Color(s): Blue
Pricing out all but the most committed audiophiles, the UE 900 provides enough sound quality and accessories to justify the price. Moderately elevated highs back up strong bass performance.