A pair of headphones can make or break a run. If they’re fiddly, uncomfortable, don’t fit or run out of juice before you’ve broken sweat, they can send your stress hormones skyrocketing and bring your outing to an abrupt, angry halt. But get them right, equipped to provide the feedback and beats you need to power your runs and they can be a core instrument in keeping you motivated. Here are Coach’s top earphones for running and, below, what to look, listen and “feel” out for when buying yours.
The Best Sports And Running Headphones For 2017
Plantronics Backbeat FIT
If a secure fit is your main concern for sporty headphones, you can’t do better than the Backbeat FIT. Once you’ve wriggled your ears through the hooks, the headset simply isn’t going anywhere for the duration of your run. The sound quality is good – not as impressive as fully isolating earbuds but loud enough for the gym – and the battery life is up to eight hours. The Backbeat FIT will also tell you how many hours of juice you have left when you turn them on, to reduce the risk of them dying as you sprint for the finish line. £109.99, buy on amazon.co.uk
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These tiny headphones allow a huge amount of customisation to ensure they satisfy all comers, with different in-ear buds and stay-put wings to guarantee the right fit, and the ability to change their sound profile via the MySound app to better suit your favourite kind of music. Another innovative feature is the listen-while-you-charge clip, which attaches to the remote and adds four hours of battery life to the four that the headphones can hold by themselves. £169.99, buy on jaybirdsport.com
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If you’re keen on sticking with wires, if only so you never have to worry about battery life, the BOSE SoundSport is one of the most comfortable and best-sounding options available. The silicone tips provide a secure fit and yet are soft enough to wear for hours without making your ears sore. £89.95, buy on bose.co.uk
Aftershokz Trekz Titanium
Traditionally headphones opt for one of three styles – in-ear, on-ear or over-ear – but the Trekz Titanium laugh at your traditions. “The ears?” they scoff. “How quaint. How passé. We’ll deliver your music via the cheekbones, thanks very much.” Bone-conducting tech allows this magic to happen, so you keep your ears clear for ambient noise, which is crucial for awareness when running outside. The sound quality from this unorthodox method is impressive, though naturally quieter than in-ear options, while battery life is a solid six hours. £109.99, buy on aftershokz.co.uk
Monster iSport Intensity
Monster’s varied iSport range is designed to cater to all preferences regarding fit and style, but we’ve picked out the Intensity due to the slightly open design, which allows a little ambient noise in. When working out or running, it’s handy to have some awareness of the world around you. The Intensity also offers an excellent, secure fit, six hours of battery life and fine sound quality. If you really prefer isolating earbuds, the Monster iSport Victory is the better bet. £79.95, buy on monsterproducts.eu or amazon.co.uk
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Jabra Elite Sport
If you’re someone that’s infuriated by headphones that have a wire connecting the earbuds being described as “wireless”, we have good news. These truly wireless earbuds are comfortable, sound great and have some impressive capabilities: they’ll track your heart rate, give an estimated VO2 max score, coach you through different workouts and even give an personalised estimated pace for races like 10Ks and marathons. The downside to all this is that you get just three hours of battery life – always a problem with truly wireless headphones. £229.99, buy on jabra.co.uk
JVC HA-ETR40 Sports
If the options above stretch your budget to breaking point, rest assured you can get a decent set of wired sports headphones for under £30. These in-ear headphones from JVC are durable and have a handy hook to ensure a secure fit. The cord is deliberately short so it doesn’t flap around if you plug into a phone worn in an armband, but there’s also an extension available if you prefer keeping your phone in your pocket. £26.09, buy on amazon.co.uk
Running Headphones Buyer’s Guide
One thing that doesn’t change from regular headphones is that you want them to sound as good as possible – it’s just that you might be more limited in your options. While over-ear cans might sound amazing, they’re likely to be too hot to run in, whereas buds that sit deep in your earholes can block out ambient noise entirely, which means a bus might sneak up on you while running. Don’t fret, though: there are plenty of options that sound amazing while being suitable for running, even if they might not match up to the quality of your top-end non-sports headphones.
A secure fit is crucial to stop your headphones becoming a huge annoyance when running. If they’re dropping out of your ears or require frequent adjusting, they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Ear hooks usually provide a fit that won’t slip, and if you’re opting for in-ear buds then ensure they come with a variety of wings and buds so you can pick the combo that keeps them in your ear when running.
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The headline figure is the total battery life, and obviously that’s a key consideration, but it’s also worth checking out if the headphones you’re looking at have a quick-charge option. This will usually net you an hour of power for just ten to 15 minutes of charging, which is perfect if you only realise you’ve run out of juice just as you’re getting ready to run. Generally you’ll get at least six to eight hours of battery life from most Bluetooth headphones, but expect more like three to five from truly wireless earbuds.
Naturally you want to be able to control your music without having to get your phone or MP3 player out while running, so check out the remote on any running headphones – it’ll either be on the strap between the earbuds, or built into the buds themselves. The main factor here is how fiddly it is. They can be very fiddly, and fiddly is annoying.
Many cheaper sets of Bluetooth headphones match the stats of far more expensive pairs – on paper. When you try them and discover their connection drops the moment they are more than 10cm from your phone, you’ll realise where the money was saved. If you keep your phone in your pocket or in a bumbag when running, you need a strong Bluetooth connection or your tunes will never make it to your ears.
There are several pairs of headphones on the market that will monitor your heart rate while you run, and some even use that info to coach you through a session. They use light to detect your pulse from within the ear, a place used by doctors because of its accuracy, so you can expect good results.
There are some fully waterproof headphones available, but for running you just need to ensure they can withstand a sudden storm or an especially sweaty session without packing up. Look for a minimum rating of IPX4 for running headphones that won’t let you down when wet.