Whether you run to the latest Drake album or pump iron listening to the Missing Richard Simmons podcast, one thing is certain: Having something to listen to at the gym or while hitting the pavement can make your workout that much better.
That’s why a solid pair of headphones are some of most important workout gear you can get these days, next to a good pair of sneakers. And not just any old pair will do. When it comes time to jog, walk, or bike, you don’t want a tangle of wires getting in the way.
These headphones, all of them wireless, feature great audio, they’re comfortable and sweat resistant, and they pack added features that make them ideal for exercise. So strap some on and get inspired to reach that runner’s high, burn calories, and hit new personal bests.
For a Perfect Fit: Jaybird X3
Packing very good sound for such a small package, the Jaybirds come with an array of tips and wings that help them to fit any ear shape and size. Out of the box (and with the great seal made by the ear tips), the Jaybirds have ample volume, solid bass, and good balance — and if you don’t like the default sound signature, you can change it using Jaybird’s companion app.
While they lack the bells, whistles, and heart rate monitoring capabilities of other headphones, for $130, with an eight-hour battery life, and in a very compact form factor, the Jaybird X3s can’t be beat for overall quality.
For Budget Buyers: JBL Reflect Mini BT
There’s not much to the JBL Reflect Mini BT — and that’s exactly the point.
A pair of lightweight, soft, rubber earbuds joined by a string-thin cable, these Bluetooth workout headphones are water resistant and sound much richer than their price tag would suggest. But it’s really that tiny cable that makes these inexpensive earbuds great workout buddies. When you’re running, biking, or lifting, you can hardly tell the cord is there, giving you the feeling of totally wireless earbuds without the cost. Meanwhile, the Mini BTs have very good in-ear speakers and eight hours of playback time.
Some spendthrifts may point out that there are cheaper headphones with less name recognition available for sale online. While a lower price sounds good to everyone, beware that you might get what you pay for. Though airline safety officials haven’t revealed the brand of the headphones that burst into flames on a recent flight, exploding hoverboards were linked to Chinese manufacturers that use less expensive batteries to cut costs. (That said, here’s our favorite pair of super-cheap earbuds.)
Buy now: Amazon, $52+
For the Gym Rats and Marathon Runners: Beats PowerBeats 3 Wireless
You lace up, stretch, hit the pavement, and go to power up your Bluetooth headphones — and that’s when you realize your body wasn’t the only thing that needed to be recharged after your last workout.
Thankfully, with 12 hours of battery life, that shouldn’t happen with the $199 Beats PowerBeats 3, the longest-lasting headphones on this list. They don’t get high marks on uptime alone. Powered by Apple’s new W1 chip, they connect to iPhones (and Apple’s other products) quickly and consistently, meaning you won’t skip a beat while trying to keep your running pace. Also connecting via standard Bluetooth, they work just fine with non-Apple devices, too.
The PowerBeats’ chunky design might feel like they’re a bit much — the ear pieces have adjustable hooks that wrap over the ear and wires that connect behind the neck — but the fit is actually comfortable and natural. Hulking mega-athletes like LeBron James and Michael Phelps might model these like a star, but even if you’re on the scrawny side, they’ll look fine on you. Still, the PowerBeats are about sound, not looks, and acoustically they’re very good for workout headphones, clear unless you crank them up full blast, and with ample bass to get your body moving.
Buy now: Amazon, $199
For the Metrics-Obsessed: Bose SoundSport Pulse
When people think of Bose, they typically think of high-end sound, not working up a sweat. It might be time to change that perception, because the $199 Bose SoundSport Pulse can handle a little bit of perspiration and a whole lot more.
Covered in a soft, pliable, tangle-free rubber, the winged earbuds slip right into the ear, forming a seal that not only keeps your music in and outside sound out, but is also extremely comfortable whether you’re exercising or not. The SoundSports output like most Bose headphones — clear and well balanced, but not particularly dynamic — but it’s their heart rate monitoring that set them apart from the pack. Compatible with apps like MapMyRun, Runkeeper, and Runtastic, these Bluetooth headphones capture a fairly accurate pulse from within the ear, meaning you can dump your fitness band or chest strap and still record some data from your run.
While the SoundSports are clear winners, it was a close race between them and the Under Armour Sport Wireless Heart Rate headphones. But in the end, the Bose headphones won out, with a six-hour battery life just edging the five hours of power put out by the Under Armours.
Buy now: Amazon, $199
From their completely cordless construction — there’s not even a wire connecting the two earbuds — to their uber-smart companion app, the Jabra Elite Sport ‘true wireless’ earbuds were made to move. In fact, they perform so well that we included them in our list of the best true wireless earbuds.
Locking into the ear with a range of ear fins, these little in-ear speakers don’t budge a bit, and forming a tight seal in the ear, they’ll cancel out every other grunting gym rat around you. If you’re taking them outside for a run, Jabra’s “Hear Through” technology can pipe in the sounds of cars and traffic to keep you aware of your surroundings.
Also tucked into these buds is a heart rate monitor, helping the Elite Sport double as a great fitness coach when paired with the Jabra Sport Life app. The app not only tracks runs and pulses, but also can walk you through everything from a total fitness analysis to post-workout recovery time calculations. (Yeah, it’s that intense.)
The earbuds only get three hours of battery life — which isn’t a lot for a $249 device — but their case doubles as a battery pack, putting the total to nine hours before needing a recharge.
Buy now: Amazon, $250
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