Best running headphones 2021

Best running headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best running headphones 2021.

© Provided by What Hi-Fi? Best running headphones 2021

Whether you’re going for a run once a day, once a week or once a year, a good pair of running headphones will make it all the more enjoyable. 

The best running headphones will deliver great sound while offering sweat-resistant designs that stay in place, and with wireless options aplenty, you won’t be short of choice. Most of them pack a decent battery life, too.

From cheap true wireless buds that completely remove the wire, to in-ear wireless earphones, neckband headphones, and even Bluetooth over-ears, these are the best running headphones we’ve reviewed.

How we choose the best running headphones

Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year – and that includes plenty of headphones. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency. 

All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same price category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoid any personal preference.

The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.

From all of our reviews, we choose the best products to feature in our Best Buys. That’s why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you’re getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.

Theses are some of the best-sounding, most reliable running headphones you’ll find for this money. There is a soft cable between the two buds, each of which uses an in-ear hook to keep them in place. We like the design here, complete with lightweight remote, and these running headphones are also sweat-resistant and IPX4 splashproof, too. The battery life is a modest six hours but we’d imagine that’ll do most people for a few runs or circuits. If you outlast them, you deserve a medal.

Read the full Bose SoundSport Wireless review

JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to running earphones and the JBL Reflect Flow is a hotly anticipated entrant to the flourishing, albeit rather niche, true-wireless-for-sports market.

In their niche category, though, the JBL Reflect Flow headphones are impressive performers for the money, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the treadmill without resorting to a pair of over-ear cans. Plus the 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) will outlast a seriously long running session. 

There are better wireless buds for pure sonic performance. But if you want a pair for running, these might just be the best bet.

Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review

If you’re looking for premium running headphones to slip into your ears, these sweat-resistant Sonys need to be at the top of your list. They have dynamics and detail in spades and offer a balanced performance, with taut and weighty bass and sophisticated mids and highs. You can’t help but be carried away by their sense of musicality. 

Those who prioritise battery life in their running headphones should find the eight hours promised by the Sonys more than sufficient. The wireless charging case extends this by a further 16 hours.

The Sonys are comfortable enough for a marathon, with touch-sensitive controls and ear tips that provide excellent noise isolation. Combine this with brilliant noise cancelling courtesy of Sony’s Integrated Processor V1 and the WF-1000XM4 are difficult to fault.

Clever features like Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds – great for a mid-run chat. If you’ve got the budget for a premium pair of running headphones the WF-1000XM4 need serious consideration.

Read the full Sony WF-1000XM4 review

Bowers & Wilkins has moved effortlessly into the headphone market, building on its almost unrivalled reputation when it comes to making speakers. In-ears with a sporty design may not have been a priority for the brand, but these wireless running headphones still knock it out of the park.

The PI3 are a dual driver design, complete with a flexible neckband. We would prefer a few more ear tips to get the optimum fit, so it might be one to try before you buy. They deliver a decent battery life and though they aren’t technically waterproof, B&W claims they are “resistant to light rain, splash and sweat”. Which should do most runners.

Happily, they deliver a clear, controlled, punchy and well-balanced sound. From rock to pop to hip-hop, the B&W PI3 earphones deliver a confident, entertaining sound. Another fine option from B&W.

Read the full B&W PI3 review

Historically, the vast majority of Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones have been on- and over-ear designs, but the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are up there with the very best wireless earbuds for running.

They’re lightweight and we have no issues listening for a hours at a time. For the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComforts are both sweat and weather-resistant) they are great to live with and they feel like a quality product too. Battery life is six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – decent, but by no means class-leading. Being able to customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation in the companion app, enhances ease of use. Touch controls for volume are the icing on the cake.

Sonically, their enthusiasm and excitement is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComforts squeeze out lots of detail.

All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are great all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with excellent noise cancelling. They’re more than a match for any running headphones they go toe-to-toe with.

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review

The Earfun Pro buds take the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and add active noise cancelling (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if your running route goes near noisy roads.

The headphones pair easily, and they’re comfortable enough for even the longest of workouts. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback, while three skips to the next track. 

They’re built to survive a downpour, so are happy to deal with however much sweat you throw their way. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for not a lot of money. Now you’ve no excuse not to get out and pound the pavement.

Read the full Earfun Air Pro review

These headphones boast app support, customisable EQ settings and both white and black colour options. But the real selling point is battery life. The 1 Plus will keep you entertained for an impressive nine hours off a single charge. Throw in an additional four charges from the carry case, and that makes 45 hours of total run time. There’s no noise-cancelling onboard, but that’s a small price to pay at this level.

The Melomanias deliver an open and powerful musical performance. They sound clear and more dynamic than the original Melomanias and there’s a smidgen more detail too. If you want an affordable and accomplished pair of running headphones the 1 Plus should earn a place on your list.

Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

This little-known Hong Kong audio company doesn’t have many products to its name but it has managed to do something that many bigger brands have not, and that’s come up with a super-affordable set of running headphones that are actually worth buying.

Not only do the Earfun Air give a very worthy listen but they’re feature-packed too. While you won’t get active noise cancelling at this price, the noise isolation of these comfortable, well-fitting earphones does an excellent portion of that same job. They’re waterproof to IPX7 standards (1m submersible for up to 30 mins), they have voice assistance built-in and they support Qi wireless charging.

Call handling is responsive and clear, and the battery life is a pretty stonking 35 hours when using the charge case. Amazingly it all feels fairly premium too. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection never lets us down and, while the audio is no match for headphones at double the price, they still offer some grippy, energetic listening and an excellent sense of space.

If you’re after something inexpensive that’ll sound good on your run, the Earfun Air buds could just be the ideal proposition.

Read the full Earfun Air review

Built with sporty types in mind, the SoundSport Free in-ears are both sweat- and water-resistant, and feel suitably rugged. They stick out a bit more than some rivals, and you could argue that some of the competition look both more stylish and more discreet. But the performance more than makes up for any lack of style. 

After some initial connection issues, Bose seems to have sorted this with an update – and we never had a problem with the sound quality. There’s no noise cancelling but there is a bold but balanced sound with plenty of bass. Good battery life, buoyed by a charging case, are the icing on the cake.

Read the full Bose SoundSport Free review

Panasonic isn’t a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of running headphones. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company’s first foray into a wireless noise-cancelling model and they’re sensational performers at a low price.

Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and a battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). They’re built to withstand rain, and a 15-minute USB-C quick charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss. 

You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we would definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.

Both noise cancelling and sound quality are excellent. Music sounds clear and there’s a great deal of refinement on show, while bass is deep and detailed. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money. A great buy for runners on a budget.

Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review

The Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless earphones are, predictably, wireless, offering Bluetooth connectivity, but they have a flexible cable between the buds. They also have a hook over the ear. The cable and the hooks mean they’re highly unlikely to fall out of your ears – which is useful while running.

They’re sweat- and water-resistant, comfortable, have a decent battery life of 12 hours, and offer a mic and volume controls on the cable. The sound is bassy and exciting, not offering the last word in clarity but perhaps ideal for getting a sweat on to some pumping tunes. A solid bet if the feature set ticks your boxes.

Read the full Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless review

The Jaybird Vista are aimed at athletes. They’re the company’s second shot at a truly wireless model and the latest in its fairly long line of running headphones. And it shows, with a comfortable, secure fit and an accompanying set-up app that’s a joy to use. 

They sound good, too, with only the best rivals offering a slither more detail and composure. They’re sweat-proof, comfortable, secure and come with a range of features, ensuring they’re a good bet for any budding runner.

Read the full Jaybird Vista review

If you can tolerate their slightly bulky, slightly dated look and design, then you’ll be rewarded with a great-sounding pair of running earbuds that will work on your run as well as they do on your commute.

There’s an impressive nine hours of battery from the earbuds, plus a less impressive nine hours from the charging case. They’re built up to IP55 standard, meaning they’re resistant to dust, sweat and water – up to a point, at least – and control is available via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, with the mic array ensuring your instructions are heard reliably.

The Sony WF-SP800N aren’t perfect – they can be coarse at the top end and their default bass response is perhaps too rich for its own good – but they can be finessed to deliver a really energetic, well-balanced and enjoyable sound.

Read the full Sony WF-SP800N review

Anyone looking for an affordable pair of running earbuds should look this way. Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours – nine hours from the buds, nine hours from the case – while their IPX4 water resistance rating provides protection against ‘water splashing’. They’re light and secure in your ears, too.

The WF-XB700 are part of the company’s Extra Bass range of audio products and are tuned to emphasise low-frequency response, rather than deliver a neutral sonic balance. And although there’s meat behind their low-end, it doesn’t overshadow mid and high frequencies. It’s actually complemented by decent punch and pleasing tautness and agility. Some rivals boast greater detail and subtlety, but at this price, you could do a lot worse.

Read the full Sony WF-XB700 review

A cheaper version of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds? Sounds good, right? These more affordable Bose earbuds certainly get close to delivering on that promise but don’t quite match the performance value of the flagship buds.

They feel a little cheaper, which is to be expected, but you still get a choice of three finishes and a selection of eartips. They’re sweat- and water-resistant, while battery life is a pretty average five hours, with a total of 15 hours thanks to the case. Connectivity doesn’t seem quite as slick as the more expensive models but if you’re only connecting to one device – rather than, say, a phone and a laptop – that will make it easier.

In terms of audio quality, they deliver a balanced, full sound. The very best pairs at the top of this list deliver a little more detail and a little more subtlety, but these remain easy to listen to. Their musical, powerful balance is easy to get along with and they will work well for sporty types who don’t really want a bass-heavy sound.

Read the full Bose Sport Earbuds review

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