The best running headphones to buy | True wireless, bone conduction and budget options

[UPDATED FOR 2022] Covering sound quality, battery life, portability and more
​The best running headphones to buy

The evolution of true wireless earbuds in recent years has meant that the technology is no longer reserved for those with an unlimited budget. Now you can pick up devices that have great sound and a range of features specifically designed for fitness without breaking the bank.

But choosing the right pair is no easy task. Even if you fork out for the most expensive ones available there's no guarantee that they'll work for you. The key is to work out what the most important features are for your lifestyle and training, whether that's sound quality, battery or portability.

Essential reading: Best running shoes for the road

We've reviewed and tested all these pairs of running headphones over the last few months, testing each across a range of features – here is our definitive verdict.


Best on test: Jaybird Vista 2

Jaybird Vista 2

If you like the idea of cutting the cords completely then the Jaybird Vista 2 are hands down the best true wireless buds you can buy right now. The upgrade to the already-solid Vistas sees an array of new features that make the investment well worth a look.

Totally wire-free buds, the Vista 2s have a tiny charging case that 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 IP68 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 – something we've had no issues with since using them over four weeks of run testing.

The Vista 2s combine the bud and wingtips into one easily connected eargel. However, this only means you have four different sizing options to work with and can be tricky to select an option that fits the ear perfectly. For many, the supplied options will be fine, but for some, finding a size that fits perfectly might be an issue.

Despite the small size of the charging case, the Vista 2s are one of the better lasting buds on test, with 8 hours of battery, boosted by a further 16 hours in the case – a generous improvement on the total 16 hours from the original Vistas. 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, along with holding down the buttons on both buds for volume control. You can also customise the button and fine tune the EQ in the partner app – if you can be bothered to install it.

The Vista 2s have seen a number of enhancements to the features available in the previous iteration. The most notable of these are the addition of SurroundSense, which allows you to hear external sounds for safety, and a welcome upgrade to the active noise cancellation technology to dampen out those sounds.

The result is an impressive sound quality that, alongside the EQ customisation that can be done in the app, should keep most runners happy when it comes to enjoying anything from deep house to podcasts and audiobooks.

Additional features include a "Find My Case" function that means you can locate the case via the app using GPS, case wireless charging and WindDefense fabric over the mics to enhance call quality in windy conditions.

Key features: Custom EQ, SurroundSense, active noise cancellation, music and calls

Waterproof rating: IP68

Battery life: 8 hours + 16 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



Jabra Elite 7 Active

The best running headphones of 2021 | True wireless, bone conduction and budget options

The battle for the true wireless top spot continues to be increasingly competitive as more and more brands add new features. However, despite that onslaught of new tech, Jabra and Jaybird are still the ones to beat. The Jabra Elite 7 Active take learnings from the impressive Elite Active 75t and make a few modifications to improve across a couple of key areas.

The first of those is is battery life, adding a few more hours over the Elite Active 75t to bump up the total juice to 30 hours. Not a massive improvement, but one that means they now confidently sit in the upper echelon of true wireless buds.

The Elite 7 Active also see a new ergonomic design to help keep the buds in place while training. In testing, we've found the new shape improves upon the Elite Active 75t – which had a tendency to loosen when running or training in the gym – but they still lack the secure fit of the Jaybrid Vista 2s, largely due to the lack of a wingtip.

Aside from those updates little has changed when compared to the Elite Active 75t, although Jabra has priced the Elite 7 Active slightly lower than their predecessor. The RRP for the Elite 7 Active is £169.99 while the Elite Active 75t came in at £179.99.

The Elite 7 Active have an ANC mode to drown out external sound as well as a HearThrough awareness mode. The ANC is one of the best we've tested on true wireless buds and it does an impressive job at producing an immersive sound experience, especially if you're in a busy gym. The HearThrough awareness mode is slightly less impressive, but we've yet to find a pair of sports headphones that can digitally pass through ambient sound clearly.

Overall sound quality with Elite 7 Active is the best we've tested and if this list was based on that alone they'd take the top spot. There's a good range when listening to music and the level of bass is impressive. You can also modify the sound to your own preference using the partner app, an intuitive system that makes customization very simple.

The Elite 7 Active have an IP-57 waterproof rating, which still sits below what you'll find in the Jaybird Vista 2, but is more than enough to protect most users from sweat and rain. In addition, the case is one of the smallest we've used and can be slipped into a pocket or running belt if you're planning on exceeding the 8 hours of battery in the buds.

Key features: Music and calls, ANC, HearThrough, sound customization

Waterproof rating: IP57

Battery life: 8 hours + 22 hours

Charging cable: USB-C


Beats Powerbeats Pro

Beats Powerbeats Pro

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: Lightning



Jaybird Vista

Jaybird Vista

The original Jaybird Vistas were our previous top pick for true wireless running headphones and when compared to the Vista 2s they still have more than enough going for them if you're looking for some headphones that tick a lot of boxes.

The size and shape of the Vistas are almost identical to the Vista 2s, offering a tiny charging case that can fit into the smallest of pockets. The buds also magnetically snap into the case easily and come with a handy toggle loop which can be hooked onto a clip to ensure you don't drop them mid run.

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.

The Vistas still offer one of the best battery lives available, with 6 hours of battery in the buds, enhanced with a further 10 hours in the case.

Functions include taking calls, start/stop music or reject calls from the large button on either bud, a double tap for skipping tracks and volume control. Like the Vista 2s, you can also customise the button and fine tune the EQ in the partner app.

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, and the Vista 2s are a noticeable improvement, but for most users, the sound quality is more than good enough when combined with the other features available.

Key features: Custom EQ, music and calls

Waterproof rating: IPX7

Battery life: 6 hours + 10 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



Jabra Elite Active 75t

Jabra Elite Active 75t

Jabra has had an impressive run with headphones over the last few years and the Elite Active 75t are no exception. Its range of true wireless headphones has continued to develop over the last few iterations, with each evolution taking what was good from the predecessor and moving it – at least – one step further.

Those new developments here are focussed heavily on the active market, with minimal differences when it comes to the nuts and bolts where sound and features are concerned – not a bad thing considering the Elite 75t are an exceptionally good pair of headphones with some of the best audio capabilities we've seen across true wireless.

The main difference here comes in the form of durability. Where the Elite 75t offered an IP55-rating the Elite Active 75ts up that to IP57, meaning that you're covered for sweat as well as dropping them in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Not essential for everyone, but a feature that's become a standard across active headphones.

Like the Elite 75ts, the battery life sits at 7.5 hours in the earbuds and a further 20.5 within the case. We've found that to be fairly accurate through constant use, although we have noticed that case charge can drop if you leave the headphone unused for a few days. So worth making sure you've topped them up before any major usage.

Speaking of case, the Elite Active 75ts offer one of the smallest case options that you'll find across the truly wireless options out there. Considering that battery life, it's an impressive feat of technology and sits up there with the Jaybird Vista for being compact.

As with most earbuds that fit into your ear through the rubber tips alone, there's a certain level of fiddling with the different size options to get it right. Three different sized eargel options come included and you need to get the right ones on otherwise you'll know about it halfway through a run.

After an initial period of trying the options out, we found the right combination of bud size and slight screwing into the ear. We have found that they can come slightly loose on longer runs when you start to get sweaty. Not a deal-breaker and we've spoken to many other users who claim that they offer one of the most supportive fits around.

When tested in the gym during weight sessions we did find the buds would frequently fall out as we grimaced and contorted facial expressions when lifting. It's an issue we've had with many different buds and one we've only really seen resolved when there's some form of grip outside of the ear – like that seen in the Beat Powerbeats Pro.

Sound quality from the Elite Active 75ts really is impressive and offers one of the best options if audio is your primary concern. The partner app allows for customization of the equalisation and means that you can make some noticeable changes to the already impressive sound quality. You can also use the MySound tool to run a test on your own hearing and adapt the setting accordingly.

Other features include HearThough technology that allows you to tap the buttons on the bud to allow ambient sound through the external microphones, Alexi, Siri and Google support, and multiple colorway options.

Key features: Music and calls, HearThrough functionality

Waterproof rating: IP57

Battery life: 7.5 hours + 20.5 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



JBL Reflect Flow

JBL Reflect Flow

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, may seem 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 also 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


Adidas Z.N.E. 01 ANC

The best running headphones to buy | True wireless, bone conduction and budget options

Adidas has had a decent go at releasing a range of headphones over the last few years, however, it wasn't until the latter part of 2021 that it tried its hand and true wireless buds. The first model was the Adidas Z.N.E 01, a cheaper alternative to some of the premium options available that did a good job at replicating some of the most popular features without breaking the bank.

The Adidas Z.N.E 01 ANC is, unsurprisingly, an upgraded version of those original headphones that include active noise cancellation technology to produce a more immersive sound experience. However, that update comes at a cost and the price tag of the Adidas Z.N.E 01 ANC sits within the realms of other premium buds on the market.

The biggest winning feature of the Adidas Z.N.E 01 ANC is the surprisingly good sound quality. There's a good level of bass, especially when using the ANC feature, and the partner app offers a selection of sound preference settings that deliver a welcome level of customization. Unfortunately, there's no ability to modify these settings on a more granular level at present, but we're hoping this appears in a future firmware update.

There's also competent battery life, with 4.5 hours in the buds and an additional 15.5 hours in the case, although they still stumble behind options like the Jaybird Vista 2 and the Jabra Elite 7 Active. In addition, there's an eco-charging feature that's designed to prolong the lifespan of the battery through smart charging and a quick charge feature which should give you around 60 minutes off a 15-minute charge.

We were particularly impressed with the lean design of the headphones and case. The latter making them one the smallest options we've tested, allowing them to easily be slipped into a running belt or a pocket with minimal fuss. For long-distance runners that's a bonus and means that you'll have 20 hours of battery life at your disposal.

The headphones offer a nice fit as well as a good level of noise isolation if you play around with the spare gel tips that are included. Unlike many options in this list, Adidas has opted for the AirPod-style bud design, something which will be a plus point for many users. We had no issues with fit when running in them and found the lightweight build held in place for long-distance training.

The buds have an IPX5 sweat-proof and water-resistant rating which is enough for most users but still falls behind options like the Jaybird Vista 2 and the Jabra Elite 7 Active.

We did find that the touch controls on the buds do take some time to get used to. This caused some frustrating runs where we'd pressed something and couldn't work out what we'd done and then had to stop and manage using the phone. The on-bud controls use a multiple tap system for the usual commands: play, pause, skip track and repeat, but while running it can be difficult to do this effectively. We also found that when the buds got sweaty this became a bigger problem.

Overall, the Adidas Z.N.E 01 ANC do many things right and the experience is largely positive. However, when compared with headphones like the Jaybird Vista 2 and the Jabra Elite 7 Active there are a number of aspects that fall short of what we've come to expect from premium products. If the price of the Adidas Z.N.E 01 ANC was lower they would be an excellent alternative to the more expensive options, but they struggle to compete at the RRP.


Shokz Aeropex

Aftershokz Aeropex

The Shokz 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 as well as 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 Shokz 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


Urbanista Athens

Urbanista Athens

If you're after a pair of truly wireless earbuds but don't want to spend a lot of money, the Urbanista Athens should be strongly considered. They're one of the cheapest earbuds on this list. But that doesn't mean they don't pack in plenty of features.

By far the strongest selling point is their stamina in the battery life department. They'll last up to 8 hours on a single charge, but on top of that, you'll get a further 24 hours of charge from the charging case. That's a total of 32 hours of playback. That should see you through even the most taxing endurance events. The charging case itself is conveniently petite, so will fit easily in a pocket, and they securely hold the earbuds in with magnets. You use USB-C to top up the charging case's internal battery.

The earbuds themselves are rated as IP67 water-resistant, meaning they're safe to sweat in but you can even swim to a depth of 1m for 30 minutes, or shower with them still on. You get three different GoFit silicone tips and wingtips to help secure them in your ears. We found the fit to be excellent and the earbuds never became dislodged during running or explosive Olympic lifting movements. You get a respectable amount of isolation from outside noise, which might not be what you want if you're running outdoors, however.

Sound quality is somewhat on the bassy side. They don't sound quite as tight and punchy as some of the other more expensive rivals on this list, but the sound certainly isn't a letdown. There's enough presence here to power you through a workout for sure.

Other handy features include a microphone for hands-free calls, Google Assistant and Siri support, and multi-use buttons on each earbud. The controls are somewhat fiddly, however, and it'll take you some time to memorize the button presses for different functions.

Trying to press the earbuds' buttons during a run is also more difficult than we would like and you'll end up forcing the earbuds into your ear canals to do so, which can be a bit painful. Still, shortcomings aside, these are fantastic value.

Key features: Music and calls, 3x GoFit tips

Waterproof rating: IP-67

Battery life: 8 hours + 24 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



Adidas RPD-01 Sports In-Ear

Adidas RPD-01 Sports In-Ear

The RPD-01 headphones are the third addition to Adidas's fitness range, offering a lightweight option that delivers a heap of benefits at a surprisingly palpable price.

The most noticeable design aspect of the RPD-01s is the addition of a supportive neckband that rests over the shoulders. Unlike traditional semi-wired Bluetooth options this feature ensures that nothing is swinging around as you move about.

There's just enough weight in the neckband to stay in position without being uncomfortable which means that the wire from each earbud remains relaxed enough for you to turn your head without snagging. At an easy or moderate pace it delivers a stable and comfortable experience, although we did find that in windy conditions – especially when you're picking up the pace – the band can fall off. Not great if you're planning on using them for race day.

The RPD-01s come with a selecting of three additional wingtips and three earbuds. After spending fifteen minutes playing around with the various options you can get one of the most secure fits we've experienced in a pair of headphones. Once we set them up to the optimal size for your for our lug holes we found they were flawless at staying in.

Considering the price, it's no surprise that the sound quality isn't as impressive as some of the more premium products in this list, and if you're an audiophile you may want invest in something that offers more. There is an app which works with the headphones that offers a degree of audio customisation, but overall the sound can feel like it lacks the range and depth that you'll get from slightly pricier options.

One of our favourite features of the RPD-01s is the addition of a customisable button that sits on the left of the neck band. This offers the ability to choose from a limited selection of commands that can be actioned from one press; from accessing a voice assistant to automatically playing a Spotify playlist.

Overall the RPD-01 headphones offer an excellent mid-price option if your primary focus is comfort when you're out on training runs. The battery is very good and the fit is impeccable. If you're after perfect sound quality, though, you may need to look at spending a bit more.

Key features: Music and calls, supportive neckband

Waterproof rating: IPX4

Battery life: 12 hours

Charging cable: USB-C



Shokz OpenMove

AfterShokz OpenMove

If you're looking for a pair of bone conduction headphones but don't want to part with the cost of the Aeropex, the OpenMove are a great option to go for.

Like Shokz' premium offering, the OpenMove headphones deliver sound through the bone in front of the ear, instead of directly into the ear canal. The main benefit of that is the fact you can still hear ambient sound when out running. It also means that you can still wear them in many organised events where conventional headphones are banned for safety reasons.

The OpenMove functions almost identically to the Aeropex. The multifunctional button allows you to pause music, skip tracks and answer calls whilst the two left button control the power and the volume. There are also additional features managed through a different series of taps, perhaps the most important of these being the selection of equalizer preference.

Those equalizer options cover three formats: Standard mode – for general music playback, Vocal Booster mode – for crisper sound when listening to audiobooks or podcasts, and Earplug mode – used when blocking out external sound with the supplied earplugs.

The difference in sound between the Vocal Booster mode and the Standard mode is noticeable in quieter surroundings, however, we did feel that the OpenMove didn't quite have the volume capacity of the Aeropex, meaning we were often struggling to hear the music when on a busy street. However, it still delivers a solid experience in most cases, especially considering the price difference.

In addition to an IP55 rating, which will cover you for rain and sweat, there's six hours of music and calls in the battery. The Bluetooth 5.0 technology also delivers a good connection with a range of up to 33ft from your device.

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

Waterproof rating: IP55

Battery life: 6 hours playback time

Charging cable: USB-C



JBL Live Pro + TWS

JBL Live Pro + TWS

Although the JBL Live Pro + TWS true wireless headphones – unlike the majority of options on this list – aren't specifically designed for runners, they offer a good alternative for those looking for a sleeker design that combines great sound with the capacity to be used for active use as well.

They offer an impressive sound quality, combining a deep, immersive sound that allows for a lot of customization through the JBL partner app. Setting up can initially be somewhat tricky with an overzealous bass that needs to be adjusted to achieve a good balance. But, once you've found the right settings they can handle a wide range of formats, from dance and rock to podcasts, very well.

The battery life is by far one of the most impressive aspects of the Live Pro + TWS headphones, delivering 28 hours in total from the buds and the tiny case. There's also a 10-minute quick charge feature that will give you a convenient hour of listening time.

The active noise cancellation in the buds does an impressive job at drowning out external sound, whether you're outdoors or trying to listen to your music over an onslaught of Europop over the gym speaker system. By contrast, the smart ambient setting allows external sounds in comfortably without removing too much quality from your music.

Calls deliver well using the headphones and we had no issues with mic quality. They also support Google and Alexa voice assistant – although the latter is only available on Android phones at present.

Controlling the buds is done by the touch-sensitive areas on the outer surface of both buds and we've found them to be very responsive, to the point where it can take a while to get used to it. The sensitivity delivered well in testing with sweaty fingers when running, although it did affect the responsiveness of the commands.

The buds come with a selection of four separate tip sizes that can be used to get a good fit. These are standard in size and we had no issues in finding one that fitted our ears to get the best sound and to avoid them falling out when running.

The biggest issue for us when testing the Live Pro + TWS was connectivity. Although not a major issue, we did find that the buds would cut out for a couple of seconds whilst listening to music occasionally before reconnecting.

Overall, the Live Pro + TWS offer a good alternative for those runners that want a pair of general true wireless headphones that can tackle running as well as daily use. Like the Airpod Pros, they're not the best if you purely want a designated pair of runner headphones, but for those who want a balanced pair for day-to-day use, they tick a lot of boxes.

Key features:

Waterproof rating: IPX4

Battery life: 7 hours playback time + 21 in case

Charging cable: USB-C

Tags:    Running
Tagged    Running