The best wireless headphones for running: Truly wireless and budget options

The top wireless, Bluetooth and sports headphones for runners
​The best running headphones

There’s never been so much choice for wireless running headphones – and now true wireless buds are the top choice for fitness fans. Lightweight with great battery life, there's no longer any need to get tangled up with annoying wires, getting in the way during your workouts.

But there's still plenty to think about. The type and comfort of fit is paramount – as well as things like in-line controls for volume and music control, calls and volume, plus things like water and sweat resistance.

Essential reading: Best running shoes for the road

If you'd rather watch than read, you can see the full rundown of our guide to the best wireless headphones in this detailed video made with the team over at The Running Channel (don't forget to subscribe for more awesome guides for runners).

We've reviewed and tested all these pairs of running headphones for the last few months – and this is our definitive verdict.


Best on test: Jaybird Vista

The best wireless headphones

If you like the idea of cutting the cords completely then the Jaybird Vista are hands down the best true wireless buds you can buy right now. The upgrade to the already-solid RUN and RUN XT, the Vista are smaller, lighter (just 6g per bud) and more comfortable.

Totally wire-free buds, the Vistas have a tiny charging case which is easy to slip into your pocket. The buds magnetically snap in with some force, with a reassuring build quality matched by the soft silicon finish and IPX7 water-resistance, which is more than enough to battle sweat and rain.

Once paired, they connect as soon as you pop them in your ears, along with a quick message to remind you of the battery level. We did have a couple of annoying connection outages, when one headphone packed in mid-run and needed to be put back into the charging case to repair.

We had to size down the Jaybird Vista's tips to fit our ear – which is unusual – or it felt ear-splittingly large. But once this was done the Jaybird was one of the more comfortable on test. The tips provide decent isolation, and they’re light enough to wear for extended periods.

Despite the small size of the charging case the Vistas are one of the better lasting buds on test, with 6 hours of battery, boosted by a further 10 hours in the case. That means a marathon is well within their limits – as is a week of commuting for most people.

You can take calls on the Vistas, and start/stop music or reject calls from the large button on either bud. And a double tap enables you to skip tracks, although there's no volume control. You can, however, customise the button and fine tune the EQ in the partner app – if you can be bothered to install it.

So how do they sound? Solid if unspectacular. In their favour the Vistas are louder than most on test. They don’t pack a punch anywhere near the Beats Powerbeats Pro, but when you’re pounding the pavement on a run or hitting the weights section, they more than do the job.

Key features: Custom EQ, music and calls

Waterproof rating: IPX7

Battery life: 6 hours + 10 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



Beats Powerbeats Pro

The best wireless headphones

Unsurprisingly, the Powerbeats Pro sound the best on test – with a richer sound and deeper bass than any of their rivals. And that's not surprising, given the extra bulk – the Powerbeats, while smaller and more manageable than the previous generation, use a hook design, which is obviously more cumbersome than simple buds.

For runners and HIITers, this actually makes for a more secure fit, and we have found that some buds – namely the Jabra – can start to lose their security in the ear when the sweat starts to flow.

The bigger design also means more audio controls. A button on the side will pause/start music, two presses will let you skip forward and three will skip back. There's a volume rocker positioned on the top of each unit too.

Ideal for iOS users, the Beats connect just like the AirPods – just open the case and your phone will do the rest. No messing around in the Bluetooth menu. However, Android users will need to open the case and look for the device in their Bluetooth menu. These were the most reliable to pair on test.

However, the larger design means a larger charging case – and the Powerbeats Pro is huge. Yes it fits in your pocket, but it's seriously noticeable. If portability is key, you might want to consider the Jaybird Vista.

The upside however, is better battery life and you get 9 hours listening and 24 extra hours from the case. That's seriously impressive, especially given the sound quality. The downside is a lack of any obvious indicator of battery levels, so remember to pop your USB-C cable into the case to keep things topped up.

Another downside is that the Powerbeats Pro has a lower water resistance rating than any others. At IPX4 it will still repel a lot of sweat and a bit of rain – but they're unlikely to survive the wash.

And then there's the price. At $219.99 the Powerbeats Pro are the priciest options on test. But they sound great, work well on long runs and workouts and, for iOS users especially, come highly recommended.

Key features: Music and calls, quick connect to iPhone

Waterproof rating: IPX4 “sweat-resistant”

Battery life: 9 hours + 15 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



Jabra Sport Elite

The best wireless headphones for running: Truly wireless and budget options

Possibly the least comfortable on test, the Jabra Sport Elites always felt big and cumbersome in our ears – although everyone's lugs are different. They filled our ears which limited wear time, and they felt a little heavy when running, and sometimes needed pushing back in on sweaty runs.

Pairing, however, was seamless and sound quality was exceptionally detailed – especially at higher frequencies. Jabra’s technology filters down from its headphones, so you are getting a good pedigree.

The case itself is also a lot larger than the Jaybird Vista’s (although nowhere near as big as the Beats), and the buds don’t snap in magnetically, which meant we had one issue where a single bud didn’t charge.

There's a good smattering of controls, although they're a little harder to master. Each bud has an up/down button. On the left that's volume or track skipping if held. On the right is play/pause and call answering/dropping. The only thing we found is the up/down buttons are very small and stiff to press, demoted by a tiny pimple, so control is fiddly.

But the Jabra Sport Elite has a trick up its sleeve. It lists a built-in heart rate monitor among its specs – although you’ll need to be using the ageing Jabra app to really get the most from it, which we wouldn’t recommend. You can also use the headphones with various smartphone workout apps as an external sensor – although frustratingly Strava just removed support.

While it might seem a gimmick, the ear is a fantastic place to take a heart rate reading and our testing of the older Jabra Sport Pulse – which uses the technology – showed it to be just as accurate and even more responsive than wrist-based optical monitors.

Key features: Custom EQ, music and calls, heart rate detection

Waterproof rating: IP67 – 1m for 30 mins

Battery life: 4.5 hours + 9 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



JBL Reflect Flow

The best wireless headphones for running: Truly wireless and budget options

JBL’s latest True Wireless earphones have a feature sheet, build quality and sound performance that punch well above their sub $“150” price tag.

The Reflect Flow buds are a bit bulky and, at first, seem a bit daunting. However, the lack of any protruding buttons around the edges and the earfin adapters (JBL calls these “Freebit enhancers”) means they are an incredibly comfortable and snug fit.

You will, of course, get different sized buds and fins in the box and be sure to test them all to get your correct fit. The Reflect Flow’s sound is big and bassy and you’ll want an almost air-tight fit to make sure that you’re not letting that booming sound escape.

Audiophiles beware though, there’s no EQ adjusting with the Reflect Flow and you may find that bass boosted JBL Signature Sound just a little bit too punchy for your liking. There’s also no physical volume adjuster on the buds themselves, so you’ll have to make use of your paired smartphone’s volume controls.

The 30 hour battery life you’ll hear JBL shouting about doesn’t quite tell the full story – although you will get a 10 hour life span, backed up by a couple more 10 hour charges from the battery box. With the volume up full, however, you can expect to see battery life drop to around 7 hours. The good news, though, is a 10 minute charge in the case buys you another hour of life.

Talking of the charging box, it’s nice; sturdy and compact. It’s reassuringly solid and you’ll not worry about it getting squashed or damaged at the bottom of your gym bag. It’s Micro USB for connecting to power though, rather than USB-C.

All of your physical controls are done through various taps on either earpiece – it’s easy once you get them memorised. It’s as simple as a quick tap on one of the buds to access the Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes; the former lets in outside sound and the latter lowers music volume and heightens the voice – using the built-in mic – of whoever is talking to you.

Siri and the Google Assistant are on hand, or rather on ear, depending on what smartphone OS you are using, and making a call is nicer than on some wireless buds as your call buddy’s voice comes through both ears.

Key features: Ambient Aware and TalkThru, calls and music

Waterproof rating: IPX7

Battery life: 10 hours + 20 hours

Charging cable: Micro-USB



AfterShokz Aeropex

The best wireless headphones for running beats

The AfterShokz range of open ear bone-conduction headphones have become a bit of a cult smash in the running world. The new Aeropex starts with that already popular formula of a lightweight headset that allows for good situational awareness, and takes it further.

At 26g, they’re 12% lighter than previous models and 30% smaller, making them much more comfortable to wear generally on the run but also with hats and sunglasses. They’ve also addressed one of the biggest bugbears with bone conduction; they’re less leaky and they’ve managed to improve the bass and make them sound louder.

You get 8 hours of battery life from a single charge – enough for a marathon but less than most true wireless buds that you can boost with a carry case.

They’re also IP67 rated – that’s a step on from the IP55-rated AfterShokz Air – so they’ll survive in water up to a depth of 1 metre for 30 minutes.

The introduction of a proprietary charging cable is a bit of a step backwards but if you’re looking for bone conductors, these should be top of your list.

Key features: Approved for use under the UK Athletics Rules of Competition

Waterproof rating: IP67

Battery life: 8 hours playback time

Charging cable: Proprietary cable



Bose Soundsport Free

The best running headphones to buy in 2019

When the audio gods at Bose jump on the truly wireless bandwagon, you know it’s here to stay. The company’s first cable-free headphones are typically great-sounding and reassuringly expensive.

The buds themselves are a little larger and protrude further from the ear than some rivals, but the design is colourful and attractive. Despite the added bulk, the Soundsport FREE buds will remain in place due to the tips that spread contact evenly over the surface of the ear.

The wireless charging case is also a little bulkier than options from Jabra and Jaybird, but it does deliver an additional two full recharges for 15 hours of total playback. There’s no full waterproofing but there is IP4X, making them sweat, rain and splash resistant. And there’s a helpful Find My Buds feature in case the SoundSport FREE buds make a break for it.

Key features: StayHear+ Sport tips, volume-optimised equalised sound

Waterproof rating: IPX4

Battery life: 5 hours + 10 hours

Charging cable: Micro USB



Jabra Elite 65t

The best wireless headphones for running: Truly wireless and budget options

We've already covered the Jabra Elite Sport in this list due to the clever inclusion of heart rate tracking, but Jabra has more than one trick up its sleeve in the shape of the Elite 65t.

When stacked up against the other headphones around at the moment the Elite 65t offer some of the most impressive specs you'll find, covering everything from size and weight to sound quality, features and the all-important battery life.

At just under 7g per bud, they're an impressively tiny piece of kit and we found that they fit into the ears straight away without any need to utilize the additional selection of EarGels supplied. That snug fit also delivered the goods when we tested on multiple runs and gym visits, not once feeling that either of the buds was going to slip out.

The case is also small enough to slip into a pocket when you head out for a run, however, like the Jabra Elite Sport, there are still no magnetic connectors to help guide the buds into the case. To be honest, they're not as hard to navigate in as the Elite Sports, but it's still annoying when the feature is so common against the competitors.

The other area where the Elite 65ts falls slightly short is the water and dust IP rating of 55. Although that does mean that you're covered against sweat and dust, you're not going to be able to accidentally drop these in water. Not an essential feature but one that many other headphones are including as standard.

We found absolutely no issues when pairing the Elite 65s. Once we'd connected them via Bluetooth they worked consistently every time we popped them out of the case. We had no dropout or connection issues in over 30 hours of test time.

The battery life is by no means the most impressive in this list but it is pretty good considering the diminutive size of the case and buds. At 5 hours in the buds and an additional 10 in the case, the Elite 65t are just one hour below what you're getting in the Jaybird Vistas. Most runners should have enough battery in these without having to take the case – but if you did need more than 5 hours charge it's still small enough to slip into a waist belt.

There are also a host of additional features in the Elite 65ts, that includes one touch access to Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, HearThrough functionality to allow ambient sound to be heard and the ability to modify the sound quality through the Jabra Sound+ app.

That app is a relatively detailed piece of tech which allows users to play around with the equalizer settings of the buds, update firmware, modify voice control settings and use the very useful find my buds feature. Ultimately, it's main feature is to modify the sound setting though – and it's fairly good at it. It doesn't have the customization options you'll get in the Jaybird Vistas, but it's more than enough to get a great sound.

Which finally brings us to the sound quality. The Elite 65t are one of the most impressive options on the list if that's your primary focus. They offer one of the loudest, clearest experiences and, with the use of the app, there's a lot of scope for customization. Again, they're not as good as the Beats Powerbeats Pro, but they're up there, if not better than, the Jaybird Vistas.

It's also worth noting that the Elite 65ts have now been superseded by the Jabra Elite 75t, so its likely that there may be some great offers to be found on them

Key features: HearThrough, EarGels, Jabra Sound+ App

Waterproof rating: IP-55

Battery life: 5 hours + 10 hours

Charging cable: Micro USB

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