Table of Contents
The products featured in this article have been independently reviewed. When you buy something through the retail links on this page, we may earn commission at no cost to you, the reader. The Sports Illustrated editorial team is not involved in the creation of this content.
Are you on the lookout for your first pair of fitness earbuds? Looking to upgrade to a pair designed to pipe in the music you need to push yourself that little extra distance? You’re in the right place.
All kinds of headphones and earbuds have flooded retailers in recent years. But just like any other product out there, they vary in quality. In the case of headphones and earbuds, quality refers to sound output, physical design of the headphone or earbud and features that either come in handy or feel gimmicky. Plus, not all headphones are designed for exercise. Some are a better fit for sitting at the desk, playing video games or running errands.
There are earbuds advertised to make it clear they’re designed to help you find your rhythm and reach your fitness goals—while the marketing around other headphones is a bit vague. So it can be a little confusing trying to parse out which ones are the right fit for your exercise routine. Well, listen closely because we’ve rounded up which models on the market today pull their weight, as well as which less-heard-of earbuds we think deserve more attention.
The best workout ear buds:
Out of every pair of earbuds we reviewed for this article, the Beats Fit Pro is the one that pulled out all the stops. It emerged not just as the best wireless earbuds, but the absolute best across the board. If you’ve ever struggled with earbuds that fall out of your ear in the middle of your run or exercise routine, the Beats Fit Pro addresses this frustration head on with what it calls its secure-fit wingtips. These wingtips give the earbuds the flexibility to conform to any ear shape so that the Beats Fit Pro stay put. This means the Beats Fit Pro will stay snug in your ear to keep the music – and your workout – going.
Aside from a design that matches your ear shape, the Beats Fit Pro comes with three soft silicone eartip sizes (small, medium, large). And the Beats Fit Pro don’t skip out on audio quality either. Its spatial audio technology immerses you in your music, movie or show – while its active noise canceling (ANC) blocks unwanted external sound.
When we first read the specs on the Apple AirPods Pro, we noticed something: There’s a lot of technology packed into these earbuds. Our reviewers say that it was remarkably easy to forget they were even wearing the earbuds at all, a result of the Pro’s lightness, customizable fit design and anti-noise canceling capabilities. Basically, the review team literally lost themselves to the music during their workouts.
The AirPods Pro stay put with the help of internally tapered, flexible tips that click into place (versus other tips that cling to their buds with a straightforward silicone grip that can loosen and shift over time, especially when you sweat). There are even vents within the earbuds that equalize pressure to literally make it feel like there’s nothing in your ears. These little details add up in a big way and they honestly helped the AirPods Pro give the Beats Fit Pro a run for its money in the best pick overall category. But where the AirPods Pro really shine is their immersive sound technology. They achieve a level of active noise cancelation (ANC) that no other headphones or earbuds on this list could touch, let alone surpass. Their outward-facing microphone detects external sound, then filters it away before you ever hear it. If you really want to block out all distractions and put everything you’ve got into your fitness routine, we highly recommend the Apple AirPods Pro.
The Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds pack quite the surprising punch, especially considering that they are the sleekest and slimmest set of earbuds to make this list. Unlike other headphones and earbuds that are multipurpose, the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds are designed first and foremost for fitness and an active lifestyle. This means that aside from an ideal fit and great sound quality, the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds are incredibly durable. They’re fully sweatproof and waterproof, with an IP57-rating that certifies they can withstand freshwater exposure of up to a 1-meter depth for 30 minutes. And while we’ve heard similar claims about durability from fitness equipment in the past only to be disappointed when we actually put that equipment to the test, the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds withstood everything we could throw at it.
It’s no wonder that the earbuds come with a two-year warranty against dust and sweat. The makers are fully confident the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds will hold up to even the most intense workout sessions.
The price point of the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro is comparable to some of the other options on this list—so why did we dub them “best for the money”? Well, the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro earbuds have many of the same features and capabilities of the more expensive options on our list, but they don’t come with all the unwanted baggage of more “affordable” earbuds—such as short lifespan, cheap quality, and prone to breakage. When wireless earbuds are touted as “good value”, we do get a bit skeptical, but the Amazefit PowerBuds come with a one-year warranty and 30-day return policy that set our minds at ease before we even tried them. The PowerBuds Pro also delivered more than we were expecting in terms of functionality.
For starters, they offer heart rate monitoring and even cervical spine posture reminders. Yes, the PowerBuds come with a heart rate sensor built into them and an accurate one at that. They are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance and their battery life lasted a respectable six hours and 40 minutes on average. That’s something we just don’t typically see at this price range. The fit was surprisingly comfortable and the PowerBuds remained snug throughout every workout. And not only do they track your exercise activity metrics; they also detect the second you start exercise and collects your exercise information automatically.
Dedicated runners aren’t afraid of a little rain. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds were the best in the bunch when it came to the combination of water-resistant durability and immersive audio. They have an IPX7 rating that guarantees them for 30 minutes of freshwater submersion at up to a one-meter depth. So, you can train for your next marathon in rainy weather or squeeze in a little post-workout relaxation in the hot tub without fear that your headphones will call it quits on you. And much like the Amazfit PowerBuds Pro, these earbuds are another budget-friendly option that didn’t disappoint our review team when it came to high-quality sound. The Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds have an 11mm woofer for impressive bass performance and a two-way speaker system that makes it easy to lose yourself to the beat and get into a workout mood. Considering the price point, they also did a great job canceling out ambient sound. Samsung even put in the extra effort to include a single-tap function for letting that external sound in when you’re talking to someone or need to be more aware of your surroundings.
If you’re a runner in need of a pair of earbuds that won’t tumble out whether you’re on a smooth treadmill or bumpy trail, check out the Bose Sport earbuds. They’re uniquely designed to sit close to your ear and not fall out no matter how far you run, even when you take those less-traveled paths. Our review team praised the Bose Sport earbuds for the umbrella-shaped tip and extended flexible wing, which work in tandem to keep it firmly in your ear while evenly applying pressure to protect your ears’ most sensitive areas. They also have an IPX4 rating for sweat and water resistance, so you won’t have to worry about exposure to the elements or a particular sweaty run either.
What put these earbuds over the top in the “best running headphones or earbuds” category is the hands-free control feature that makes these true wireless earbuds. With a simple double-tap, you can play or music and answer or hang up phone calls. And with a five-hour battery life, they should likely outlast you on your longest runs.
The Sony WF-SP800N earbuds fared well across all our categories for sound quality, durability and fit. But the one area they really broke from the pack and took the lead was battery life. Sony touted that the WF-SP800N earbuds can last right around 9 hours on a single charge from the USB-C charging case. On average, several of our tests put the earbuds coming in at roughly 9 and a half hours. That’s pretty darn impressive, beating the buds in second place by several hours. But the other essentials of a solid pair of workout earbuds are there too. The earbuds have touch controls for playback and making calls, providing the functionality runners and weightlifters need to remain hands-free while working out. And while they aren’t the best reviewed pair at staying in place when running, they come with an IP55 rating for sweat and dirt resistance. So you can work out knowing your earbuds are safe and that they won’t leave you hanging in the middle of your fitness routine.
Are Headphones and Earbuds Good for Working Out?
When it comes to working out, music can help you go the extra mile. It’s no big secret that listening to your favorite tunes and podcasts keeps boredom at bay and helps you stay, well, tuned into your exercise. And studies have shown that the right tempo and evocative sounds increase workout performance and strength while delaying exhaustion. So it’s no wonder that 40% of gym goers would rather skip their workout entirely if they accidentally left their favorite exercising earbuds at home. Or that 66% of them would cut their workout short if they pressed ahead without them.
Headphones and earbuds let you literally tune out the world around you. You can concentrate on your favorite music, shows, podcasts and movies and less on the intensity of your workout. They provide the perfect distraction from how much you’re lifting, how far you’re running and how tired you feel, and they certainly beat watching the televisions in the gym with closed captioning or staring at your treadmill console.
What to Look for in Workout Earbuds
There are several factors to keep in mind when shopping for your pair of workout headphones or earbuds. While quality should be at the top of everyone’s list, others depend on your personal preferences. All that matters is that you do your homework and settle on the right pair for you workout needs.
Types of Headphones and Earbuds
- Over-ear headphones: These are headphones that fit around your entire ear. While this is generally better for sound performance, not all over-ear headphones are ideal for working out; they’re bulkier than other types of headphones and certain ones are more likely to fall back on your head or press down on your ears if not adjusted correctly. Still, many over-ear headphones are designed especially for exercise, so don’t count this style out if you really care about bass, treble and immersive audio quality.
- On-ear headphones: These headphones have the ear hooks that loop behind your lobes to stay firmly in place. While earbuds have come a long way in recent years, on-ear headphones still tend to provide the perfect fit for someone who has trouble getting earbuds to not fall out while exercising.
- Earbuds: There was a time when earbuds were just a no-go for exercise. They were a one-size-fits-all design and weren’t very good at fitting anyone. Well, earbud designs have made great progress in a short span of time, with many top brands like Apple proving that solid research and development goes a long way toward designing earbuds fit firmly into the ear canal and never seem to budge.
The “power” of a headphone or earbud isn’t about hours of battery life. It’s about the best sound quality, a culmination of its sensitivity and bass, treble and even background noise isolating capabilities. If you’re a music aficionado or want the closest thing to a cinematic movie experience while you’re working out, then you’ll want to pay close attention to technical specifications like speaker size and speaker bandwidth. For starters, a pair of headphones or earbuds should be able to produce sounds between 20 Hz to kHz.
Your headphones or earbuds should, at the very least, last as long as one of your workouts. And they’d ideally be able to work over the span of two or more workouts before needing to be recharged. The headphones and earbuds we reviewed fall around the five-hour battery life range or higher, with the Sony WF-SP800N earbuds being the notable exception. For earbuds that come in a charging case, there are a couple of considerations to keep in mind: How many charges can your case provide before it needs to be charged, and how fast can it charge your earbuds? Some earbud models come with a case that can deliver a 60-minute battery life in 15 minutes of charging.
You’ll want headphones or earbuds that are at the very least sweat resistant. There are plenty of models out there that are rated for both sweat and water resistance, so do your homework. If you do a lot of running, biking or working out anywhere remotely close to a pool, we advise going with a fully water-resistant pair that can tolerate at least 30 minutes of freshwater exposure for up to a one-meter depth.
At the end of the day, headphones or earbuds are electronic gear that need to be durable since you’ll ostensibly be putting them through the ringer. Don’t glance over a manufacturer’s warranty on its headphones or earbuds. Several on our list offer a one-year warranty or a two-year limited warranty. Some of them also offer a 30-day return policy. You’ll want to know that a manufacturer stands behind their product.
Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.