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Best Headphones for Running: The Top 3 Results of a Unique Analysis

Many runners have a bad (some even painful!) experience when running with headphones. Why? Mostly due to poor headphone choices.

Here's the deal:

If the pair of headphones that you're using is not fit for the task at hand, you're going to be fighting an uphill battle​ every single time you go out for a run. That's the last thing that you need!

The answer is simple, right? Just choose a proper pair of headphones.

Unfortunately not — there's enough information out there to overwhelm all of us.

And on top of that a lot of the information is just plain wrong!

That's why we decided to separate the wheat from the chaff. We took a data driven approach to finding the best headphones for running.

And today I'm going to share what we found with you.

Quick Comparison: The Top 3 Running Headphones

In a hurry? Just check out the results of our analysis below:

Picture

Name

Features

Score

Jaybird X2

Jaybird Sport X2

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

89.92

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics Backbeat Fit

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

65.51

Jabra Sport Pulse

Jabra Sport Pulse

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

52.78

Here's What We Did to Find the Best Headphones for Running

29 Experts Interviewed
31 Top Headphone Lists Crosschecked
367 Headphones Analyzed

A quick Google search will confirm that there are hundreds of 'Best Running Headphones' lists out there.

best headphones for running google results

​Now, that wouldn't be a problem if there was consistency across them...

...But as you probably guessed, these lists have little to no consistency at all. It seems most of them are just smacked together in order to get people to buy stuff.

Not very helpful at all, eh?

Fortunately for us, there are reputable sites out there that actually do the research and test these headphones. These are sites like TheWireCutter, RunnersWorld and PCMag.

To get a list of the absolute best headphones for running, we crosschecked 31 of these lists to see which headphones were recommended over and over again. This gave us a shortlist of potentially amazing candidates.

Here are the results:

The 5 Most Frequently Recommended Headphones

Picture

Name

Features

Number of Recommendations

PowerBeats 2

PowerBeats 2 Wireless

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

13

Jaybird Sport X2

Jaybird Sport X2

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

12

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics Backbeat Fit

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

11

Jabra Sport Pulse

Jabra Sport Pulse

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

8

Sennheiser CX 686G

Sennheiser CX 686G

  • Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

8

These are the 5 most frequently recommended headphones across the 31 lists that we processed. Undoubtedly, these are all great running headphones.

​However, as you've probably discovered by now, we don't leave anything to chance here.

We've already systematically removed a lot of recommended headphones that might not have been very good (because they only were recommended on one or two lists).

But how can we be sure that this list isn't purely based on celebrity endorsement?

Let me explain:

A lot of headphones and headphone brands get quite a bit of celebrity endorsement. The most recognized being Beats, which just so happen to be the most frequently recommended headphones for exercise.

Now, truth be told:

It's extremely difficult to get an unbiased opinion of anything in this world — least of all headphones, as they have quite a subjective nature to them.

One of the best ways to get an unbiased opinion on a subject where it is very difficult to get an unbiased opinion is to collect as many quality answers as you can get, and then analyze them.

This is often referred to as the wisdom of the crowd.

That's exactly why we decided to ask 29 running experts and enthusiasts what their favorite headphones for running are.

29 Running Experts Share Their Favorite Headphones

We asked 29 running experts and enthusiasts:

If you could only choose one pair of headphones for running, which headphones would you choose?

Here we're trying to gather unbiased opinions from people who are used to running with headphones.

Let me tell you, the answers we got from these 29 experts were nothing short of amazing. I've listed all of them below.

Read on to discover which headphones each expert uses while running. You can jump to your favorite expert by using the quick navigation menu below or grab a coffee and start scrolling (because there are quite a few answers).

Alternatively, you can jump to the results.

Responses Listed in Alphabetical Order

Aimee May

Aimee shares her stories on her running blog, She Is Out Running. You can find her on Twitter.

My apple earbuds have worked pretty well.

Anna

Anna blogs about her passions on her blog, Anna The Apple. You can find her on Twitter.

I personally love Jabra Sport Rox wireless ones. They fit nice and snugly in my ears and, most importantly, I don't catch my arms on any cables as they're wireless. Too often I've caught my arms on my headphone cables and yanked the bud out of my ear which is really annoying and painful! They're also really easy to set up. The sound quality is really good too 🙂

Ben Taylorson

Ben shares his experiences with running on his blog, Ben's Running Blog. You can find him on Twitter.

As a very sweaty runner with funny ears, I’ve yet to find that perfect pair of headphones. Over the years I’ve tried and killed a number of different types with my disproportionate cranial exudation, and usually well before I’ve effectively ‘drowned’ them, I’ve grown tired of them sliding out/off of my ear owing to a combination of excessive diaphoresis and the peculiarly large orifices of my external auditory meatus. I now don’t usually bother.

All of that said, on the occasions where I still attempt to enjoy some ‘running tunes’ I use a pair of ‘Skullcandy Ink’d’ in-ear headphones. They’re pink. I’d like to say they were bought as a result of well-thought-out research, but in actuality I found them hung over a wing mirror of my car one morning.

They do the job, for now.

Cathy White

Cathy blogs about running, cycling and general fitness on JogBlog. You can find her on Twitter.

I don’t know if any have been invented but I’d love a pair of Bluetooth in-ear Sennheiser headphones. Sennheiser are top quality and I need in-ear to keep out any outside noise and to prevent any sound leakage from my music annoying others.

Charlie Watson

Charlie runs the blog, The Runner Beans, where she provides helpful content for runners. You can find her on Twitter.

I'm afraid I'm not sure fussed about the headphones I use - I lose/break a lot so I typically opt for the cheapest pair of non-iphone headphones to do the job. I do like ones that I can use as a headset to chat on the phone with though!

Chris Dismuke

Chris is the founder of the running website, Run Infinity. You can find him on Twitter.

If I could only pick one headphone for running I would go with the Apple Earbuds. Obviously, they are nothing fancy, but they are ubiquitous: found in malls, grocery stores, electronics stores, desks, backpacks, and runners' ears all around the globe. This makes them an excellent go to choice as a "known commodity"- where ever I am I can pick them up toss them in my ear and have an exact idea of what I will get in terms of comfort, quality, and fit.

I've tried other types of headphones and had limited success. Most have issues such as poor fit (fall out of my ears), poor quality, or bad features (short cord length) so I truly prefer the Apple Earbuds.

Coco

Coco shares her thoughts and experiences with running and life on her blog, Running with Perseverance. You can find her on Twitter.

I use yurbuds for women because they work well for me! They fit me and don't fall out and survive my sweaty runs. 😉

Cynthia Steele

Cynthia posts regularly about fitness and health on her blog, You Signed Up For WHAT?! You can find her on Twitter.

I have a couple of pairs of headphones I like, but I most often use my Snuggbuds that I got at a running expo once and still love them after two years! I have a review here.

They've been working out great for running and exercising

Danica

Danica is a running enthusiast and coach who shares her journey on her blog, Chic Runner. You can find her on Twitter.

I love the Koss Wrap around headphones because they stay put and I never have to worry about them falling out when I'm running.

Jamie Pang

Jamie is a marathoner who regularly reviews gear on his blog, Jamie Pang. You can find him on Twitter.

The $79 waterproof Sony AS800AP has been a real joy to use. It has all the ruggedized features, great fit courtesy of the in-ear hooks and multiple-sized buds, and simply sounds fabulous. Its wide frequency response of 5Hz to 25KHz provides a controlled low-end (necessary to pump the juices up in a workout setting) yet has enough of the mids and highs to keep you engaged in the train ride home. The AS800AP would be the one I’d bring along anywhere.

There’s a significantly more expensive Bluetooth version as well but that one has a 5-hour battery life and a narrower frequency band. If you workout daily, and live a busy life, the last thing you need is forgetting to charge your Bluetooth buds. A pair dead buds is useless and that's why I've gravitated to the corded variety. The Sony AS800AP fits the bill for me.

Jason Fitzgerald

Jason is the founder of the massive running blog, Strength Running. You can find him on Twitter.

I'm not that picky! I wear very standard headphones but use a pair of yurbuds to keep them in my ear. They certainly make long runs more enjoyable 🙂

Kelly Caiazzo

Kelly blogs about the running life on her blog, I Am Running This. You can find her on Twitter.

I run exclusively with the Apple EarPods that come with the iPhone. I've found them to be no-frills, durable, usable and reliable. I love that they have the volume button on the side and you can double tap to quickly skip songs. They're inexpensive ($29), so it's easy to grab a second pair. I have a set in the gym near the treadmill, and a set in my gym bag for when I'm running out the door. I'm not worried about losing them or sweating on them, the sound quality is fine, and they fit my ears well.

Kelly Roberts

Kelly shares her experiences with running on Run, Selfie, Repeat. You can find her on Twitter.

I honestly haven't found a pair of headphones that I loved enough to spend more than $20 on so if I want music on my run, I use the earbuds that came with my iPhone. Boring but cheap and effective! (And I don't worry that sweat or water will ruin them because I can easily grab another pair.)

Kristina Allen

Kristina is a running enthusiast who blogs about her life on her blog, Blog About Running. You can find her on Twitter.

My absolute favorite pair of headphones for running are made by Yurbuds. They never, ever budge no matter how much bouncing or sweating I do. Right now I'm using the Yurbuds Inspire 300s but every pair of Yurbuds I've used in the past has been wonderful. I love that even on long runs they don't move or irritate my ears!

Lauren Fleshman

Lauren has been running since she was 13 years old. You can follow her on the blog, Ask Lauren Fleshman, as well as find her on Twitter.

The Jaybird Sport X2 with Comply foam buds hands down.

Lindsey Hein

Lindsey writes about running and coaching on her blog, Out for a Run. You can finder her on Twitter.

I actually just use super cheap headphones and I'm not sure what they are even called! I just looked at them and there is no name or brand on them. I'd like to invest in some better ones though so will be interested to read your article.

Lisa Selby

Lisa is a running coach and enthusiast who shares her experiences on the blog, Running Out of Wine. You can find her on Twitter.

I actually like to use Philips Over the Ear Headphones for running. I don’t always run with headphones, but will occasionally listen to a podcast on an easy or long run. I like that I don’t have to worry about losing or breaking these headphones because they are less than $10 a pair on Amazon! Also, they are the only headphones I have found that are comfortable and stay in my ear while I run. They may not be anything fancy, but they work well for me and get the job done!

Lora Mays

Lora loves running and posts regularly on her blog, Crazy Running Girl. You can find her on Twitter.

My favorite running headphones are the JBL Reflect Mini BT. I love the fit -- I have a targus piercing in one of my ears, so finding running headphones that don't slip or fall out are even more of a challenge. The sound on these is phenomenal, too -- even though they are small in size, the sound is incredible thanks to the JBL technology. As an added bonus, they are easy to recharge and super affordable.

Meaghan Murray

Meaghan is an editor of the blog, Believe in the Run, where they review and share their thoughts on running gear. You can follow them on Twitter.

If I could only choose one pair of headphones for running, it would probably be the J Lab Epic Bluetooth Earbuds. They’re designed well, have a strong battery life (ten hours!) and are water resistant. As a runner it’s nice to have a pair of wireless headphones you can take out in the rain. Plus, for $100.00, you can’t beat the price point.

Mirna Valerio

Mirna blogs about being an active larger girl in a thinner world on her blog, Fat Girl Running. You can find her on Twitter.

Yurbuds, of course. Nothing else will fit and stay in my ears!

Nicole Dobransky

Nicole is a runner, triathlete, Ironman and fitness lover who blogs about achieving her fitness goals on Fitness Fatale.

I use my iPhone to listen to music or podcasts while I run and love my Apple headphones because they are compact, high quality and allow me to adjust the volume and pause without accessing my phone.

Rebecca Trachsel

Rebecca is a music loving runner who shares her stories on the blog, Running with Music. You can find her on Twitter.

The only headphones that I will wear for running and racing are Yurbuds. They offer several different colors, sizes and styles, but my 'go-to' are the INSPIRE 300s.

I have ridiculously small ears and these never fall out because they twist and lock into place. The sound is also crisp and clear. I've done 13 marathons and countless other races and I've worn Yurbuds for all of them. For me, they are the one and only choice!

Ruggero Loda

Ruggero is an expert when it comes to running shoes. He reviews them on his blog, Running Shoes Guru. You can find him on Twitter.

For me it's an easy pick: Jaybird Sport X2.

Sarah Booker

Sarah writes about running and reviews running gear on her blog, Dreaming of Footpaths. You can find her on Twitter.

My preferred headphones are the Panasonic HJE 120 and I find them great for long long training runs as they mean I can get stuck into a really good audiobook and then the miles just fly past! The sound quality is great (I discovered them by accident in a discount store!) and the fit is brilliant too which means they block out sounds but the downside to this means I can only really use them on traffic-free and safe routes or with one earbud in for safety!

Stephen DeGenaro

Steve is a member of the Casual Runner team, a community of casual runners. They can be found on Twitter.

I'm a big believer in headphones with earhooks, instead of using just earbuds. They are almost as lightweight as just earbuds, but the hook stabilizes them enough so they do not fall out while I am running. So it's kind of a best of both worlds. Currently, I am using a set of Phillips Flexible Fit Earhooks as my running headphones. The earhooks have some give for adjusting to the size of my ear, and I like the buds because they feel more comfortable in my ear than usual. The ones I really want to get when they come out are these by Under Armor that also check your heart rate. We've tested Under Armor products before and loved them, and I imagine these earphones will be as good as their other products.

Steve Wagner

Steve has completed 18 marathons and been 'Addicted to Running' since 2008. You can find him on Twitter.

My preference would be the Jaybird X2 ... Love the Bluetooth option.

Sue

Sue shares her passion for running and leading a healthy lifestyle at This Mama Runs For Cupcakes. You can find her on Twitter.

I've been using Plantronics and love them! They are the Back Beat Fit Wireless Bluetooth headphones.

Tina Muir

Tina is a member of the Runners Connect team. They help people train smarter, stay healthy and run faster. You can find them on Twitter.

I am a HUGE fan of Jabra Sport Pulse headphones.

I was never really a headphones kind of person. I always became frustrated with the cords and they never seemed to stay in my ears. I was recently introduce to Jabra Sport Pulse, and now I am hooked. They are wireless, they are sweat proof, and they come with lots of different sized earbuds to make sure you can find the best size for you. The quality of sound is fantastic, and they really are, the ultimate runner headphones!

Tom Goom

Tom offers expert advice in preventing and managing running injuries on his blog, Running Physio. You can find him on Twitter.

I only use Yurbuds. Simple reason - they're the only ones that stay in my ears when I run!

Breaking Down the Answers

Wow! You still with me?

A HUGE thanks to all the experts who took time out of their day to contribute to what is already looking to be (very) long pots.

You might have noticed:

PowerBeats 2 did not even get a single mention from the 29 experts.

Before we look at what that means, let's collect the results in a proper table.

The 3 Most Popular Headphones Among Our 29 Experts

Picture

Name

Features

Expert Votes

Apple Earbuds

Apple Earbuds

  • Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

5 Votes

Jaybird Sport X2

Jaybird Sport X2

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

3 Votes

Yurbuds Inspire 300

Yurbuds Inspire 300

  • Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

2 Votes

That's interesting.

We immediately see a familiar face:

The Jaybird Sport X2.

It was second in the crosschecked list and is second again on our expert list. It's too early to tell, but it seems promising.

What about the other two?

They weren't among the 5 most frequently recommended headphones on the crosschecked list, but were they recommended at all?

Yes, the Yurbuds were.​ They were recommended on 5 different lists. Not too shabby. However, the Apple Earbuds weren't found on any of our processed lists.

How can that be?

My guess: Ease of access.

While the Apple Earbuds aren't particularly good for running, they get the job done for a lot of people and they can be found everywhere.

Just think about it for a second:

They come with the iPhone, and who doesn't have an iPhone these days? Well... I don't. But that's beside the point:

So many runners have already got the Apple Earbuds in their homes. They put them in their ears and go for a run, and don't experience any trouble.

If only we all were that lucky.

Most of us aren't (I know I'm not), and will need a proper set of headphones.

Let's therefore forget about the Apple Earbuds for now and just look at the other 6.

Let's combine them in a table with the number of recommendations combined with expert votes to get a quick overview.

Number of Recommendations on Lists vs. Number of Expert Votes

Picture

Name

Number of Recommendations

Expert Votes

Powerbeats 2

PowerBeats 2 Wireless

13

0

JayBird X2

Jaybird Sport X2

12

3

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics Backbeat Fit

11

1

Jabra Sport Pulse

Jabra Sport Pulse

8

1

Sennheiser CX 686G

Sennheiser CX 686G

8

0

Yurbuds Inspire 300

Yurbuds Inspire 300

5

2

As you can see, there are a few headphones with points in both categories. They're all a safe choice but as I said before, we want to find the best — we'll only settle once we've got a list of three of the best headphones for running.

How to Find the Best Headphones with Smart Rating

We've narrowed the list of 367 headphones down to 6. Now we want to get it down to three, and to do that we'll use Smart Rating.

Let me explain:

There exists a brilliant website that you may or may not have heard about before. It's called Graphiq.com (formerly FindTheBest.com).

They use something they call Smart Rating to rate products like headphones. It's really, well, smart.

As I mentioned above, the best way to get an objective assessment on a subjective topic, such as which headphones are the best, is to gather lots of individual quality assessments.

That's exactly what they do with Smart Rating. They gather user reviews, expert reviews, and amateur reviews. Then calculate a score based on the average rating of these categories.

By weighing the expert reviews more than the user reviews, the final rating resembles an objective collective rating quite successfully.

How to Use Smart Rating to Find the Best Headphones

Step 1: Head over to Graphiq and make a search

First, head on over to Graphiq and make a search for whatever you're looking for.

Graphiq screenshot

In our case it's the PowerBeats 2.

Graphiq search bar

Step 2: Click 'See More Details'

Once you've clicked search, click on the result that matches your query:

Graphiq results

Then click 'See More Details':

Graphiq detailed results

Step 3: Read the Smart Rating

You should now be able to see the Smart Rating of the headphones:

Graphiq headphone profile

As you can see in the demonstration above, the smart rating for PowerBeats 2 is only 50.

What does that mean?

It means that they're basically consistently getting review ratings that are in the lower end.

That's not a good sign for us!

If they're consistently getting negative reviews, the quality might not be what it seems at first glance.​

Let's run the others and combine the results in a new table:

Picture

Name

Number of Recommendations

Expert Votes

Smart Rating

PowerBeats 2

PowerBeats 2 Wireless

13

0

50

Jaybird X2

Jaybird Sport X2

12

3

72

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics Backbeat Fit

11

1

80

Jabra Sport Pulse

Jabra Sport Pulse

8

1

66

Sennheiser CX 686G

Sennheiser CX 686G

8

0

77

Yurbuds Inspire 300

Yurbuds Inspire 300

5

2

N/A

We've now gathered three different categories of quality, unbiased assessments as to what are the best headphones for running. All that's left is to process the data.

Putting It All together: The Master Formula

Alright, I admit it. Maybe calling it the master formula is an exaggeration. What we'll do is use a weighted average to calculate a score for each pair of headphones.

Because we're looking specifically for headphones for running, we'll assess the most weight to the 'Best of' lists.

These lists are created by people who know their fields and have done their research.

We'll assess the second most weight to the expert interviews. These are people who have been running for a long time. They've tested (many) different things. Some have worked. Some haven't. They shared what worked best for them with us, and we'll use that information to sort our shortlist.

Finally, we'll use the Smart Rating as a quality control. By assessing a reasonable weight to it, we guarantee that our top 3 list will only contain quality headphones.

These are the weights we'll assess:

The Assessed Weights

40
Best of Lists
35
Expert Interviews
25
Smart Rating

We'll normalize the sample by the maximum number of votes. That means that the theoretically perfect headphones would have:

  • 13 'Best of' list recommendations.
  • 3 expert votes.
  • 100 Smart Rating.

Obviously no headphone on our list will satisfy these conditions, but we're able to calculate a score based on this.

The formula we'll use is:

Where BL is number of 'Best of' list recommendations, EV is number of expert votes, and SR is the Smart Rating. The respective coefficients (40, 35, and 25) are the weights.

Let's use Excel to calculate the scores:

Excel sheet with top 6 headphones

We now sort by score and look at the top 3 results:

Excel data analyzer
Excel sort function
Excel sort options

This is what the top 3 of the sorted list looks like:

Excel top 3 running headphones

We've finally got our results!

The Top 3 Headphones for Running

Picture

Name

Features

Score

Jaybird X2

Jaybird Sport X2

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

89.92

Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Plantronics Backbeat Fit

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

65.51

Jabra Sport Pulse

Jabra Sport Pulse

  • ​Wireless
  • Microphone
  • Remote

52.78

Discussing the Results

We've done a lot of research and analysis to get this list of the 3 best headphones for running. But is it actually accurate? Is it worth anything at all?

I'll discuss some of the problems with this analysis here, as well as argue why this is a good way to choose the best headphones.

Problem: We won't find hidden gems

The whole idea behind this method is to get a shortlist of headphones with a proven track record. These headphones have been reviewed over and over again. They've been recommended and tested by dozens of people who swear by their quality.

We are deliberately cutting out headphones that don't get recommended and haven't been tested as much.

Why?

Because we can't guarantee quality for such headphones.

That's why by using this method, we find some fantastic headphones, but not many 'unknown' or 'hidden gems'.

Advantage: Quality is guaranteed

As I mentioned above, what we end up with is a list of 3 amazing running headphones.

How can we be sure?

Because we've heard experts and users praise them over and over again.

We've gathered so many different opinions and processed them analytically. This is a great way to get a real assessment of the quality of the headphones.

Neutral: We don't know how reliable the individual data is

How can that be neutral? It doesn't sound very neutral.

Let me explain:

When following the procedure outlined in this article, we get a collective assessment of the results. If two or three lists or experts are completely wrong, no big deal — they simply get 'voted down' by the reliable data.

Additionally, we only chose to include lists that we trusted.

Advantage: The results are trustworthy

Imagine that you have a jar of marbles. It includes a lot of marbles. Let's say 872.

You ask individuals to guess the number of marbles in your jar. Some people overestimate the amount of marbles, while others underestimate the number.

With a degree of certainty, we can assume that no one will give the exact answer. Yet, if you ask enough people — if you have a large enough sample of individuals and a large enough diversity in the group, the average of their answers will almost always be very close to the correct answer.

I find this fascinating.

It's the idea behind the wisdom of the crowd that I talked about above. It turns out that a collective answer to a question is almost always exactly right.

It doesn't matter if one or two or twelve people are completely off. The average corrects the end result.

That's what we've been implementing here.

Think about it:

We asked 29 running experts to name their favorite headphones. A decent sample size. Then we crosschecked it with 31 Best Running Headphones lists. Finally, we used Smart Rating (which also uses wisdom of the crowd) to sort the list in fine detail.

These three categories have a high diversity and a large sample size, and the assumption is that this will lead to good results.

Judging from the list we ended up with, that's exactly what we did.

You Still With Me?

If you read through the entire analysis, you know that the list we constructed is a high quality estimate of the best headphones for running.

Whether you choose to go with them or choose something completely different is of course up to you.​

Now I would like you to do one thing:

Comment below and tell me which headphones you use for running.

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