8 best running headphones for sound quality, battery life and comfort
Beat your personal best with the best tech on the market
Running with music is one of life’s pleasures. It can enhance a euphoric moment while running for the sheer joy of it, or perhaps you’re pushing for that personal best and a banging tune will help you achieve it.
The experience of running with headphones has come on leaps and bounds, and this is mostly due to Bluetooth technology that offers seamless pairing with your phone, reliable connectivity and great quality sound transmission. Gone are the days when headphones were physically plugged into your phone or device, which could then be so easily tangled or yanked out of your ear with an accidental tug.
Within the Bluetooth category of headphones, there exists two options. The first is the more traditional wired pair, where left and right headphone are joined by a wire. These have the benefit of a much greater battery life (up to 14 hours, in some cases), are a more affordable option and more sustainable choice for environmentally minded buyers, as they avoid the power banks.
However, truly wireless headphones – a relatively recent product category – are really taking off. The huge benefit of these is that there’s no annoying wire to rub against your neck – simply the left and right buds into your ears and they’ll sit there securely with no wire. Some of the in-ear ones can be more unsightly and stick out a lot, however, which may be a factor for the more style conscious runner.
To ensure this model is secure, they tend to be quite suctioned on. This is a more acquired experience and means you have less peripheral noise awareness, as much is cut out, which some might prefer. One final downside to these is that it’s easier to lose one of them, so safe storage is essential. They also come with a carry case, which doubles up as an extra power bank with a couple of extra charges in it – handy if you’re going to be away from electricity, but not the best from a sustainability point of view.
Most headphones will have a water and dust resilience rating that’s measured against standardised levels known as IP (Ingress Protection). If the products advertise themselves as "sweat" or "shower" proof, they’re likely to have a rating of five, sometimes six. Headphones which go up to a seven are good for total immersion, up to one minute, for 30 minutes, making them a hardier choice.
All options in our article are Bluetooth and sweat proof too. Sound quality in all products reviewed is of a good benchmark level, with more depth and range of sound in the more expensive premium options.
We ran with each headphone in real life scenarios (rain/sweat/thrown in a bag, etc) and based our ranking on battery life, fit, sturdiness, waterproofness, sound quality, price and ease of use.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Verdict: Wireless Headphones
Across all criteria, the Soundcore are our top pick. But if you’re really treating yourself and willing to max out your budget, the Powerbeats Pro is a phenomenal choice – it’s a standard setter and delivers on every front. If you budget doesn’t quite stretch that far and you don’t mind not having true wireless headphones, the Jaybird are a fantastic choice with their 14 hour battery life, good stability and sound quality.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.