Best Sports Headphones: Ultimate List 2017
Looking for the best workout headphones of 2017? We put together this list of the best headphones for running, cycling and getting shredded at the gym so that your music can help fuel your workouts.
When people come searching for advice from a list like this they might just be looking for specific features. Some people want the best earbuds, some want earphones and others prefer working out with full-size headphones, none of you are wrong. We have taken all that into account and have listed multiple options for each category of product. You will also notice that we also offer a solution what the best workout headphones are in wired as well as Bluetooth and wireless options.
To arrive at a decision on what makes the best headphones for working out we had to set a bunch of parameters. Unlike almost every other list of this type online I have actually had every single set of these headphones in our hands and used them for at the gym and whilst hiking and running amongst other sports. Those of you looking for a set of waterproof headphones for swimming should check out this list.
That's right, other sites just simply make stuff up for views but we have put over 6 months into this list, in earnest it all started back in January and we have now tested well over 50 sports headphones. Obviously, we are unable to test everything, I have a social life outside the gym but if you think there is an awesome set of workout headphones that I have missed out then send us the info on our Audiophile On Facebook page. We will review it and add it to the list if its worthy of a spot.
Now lets get on with the list and start by talking a bit about what we think makes a great set of gym headphones.
Build Quality, Design & Materials
One of the fastest ways to break any set of headphones is to use them when working out. Taking your headphones to the gym will put them under a lot of stress and over time they will have to deal with wires being stretched, being dropped, being thrown in a gym bag and of course, being sweated on profusely.
These types of headphones need to be built well and need to be able to last through some rough treatment. The best set of headphones for the gym are the ones that work remember the primary function is that they help you perform better. The durability of the headphones played a big role in us featuring them on this list as did any sort of long-term warranty and after-sales support.
Yes, Styling. Why is this important? Well, a lot of people care about what they look like at the gym, I guess that's why you see people peacocking with a set of Beats (even when on the treadmill). We did give a few extra points for styling, it was taken into account but it certainly wasn't at the top of our list of criteria. The function should definitely top form here and while we do want them to look good it doesn't have as high a priority on this list.
Sound & Tuning
The sound is really important but not in the same way as when making our list of the best audiophile headphones. If you are out running I can guarantee you won't be doing any critical listening and the requirements in terms of sound performance is a little different. It was decided that highly energetic sounding headphones would be the ones to make this list and we were looking for strong bass and high speed to help fuel our sessions. Thankfully lots of sport-specific headphones already offer this sort of sound profile.
Cost - Budget vs Premium
Cost is important because, in the end, accidents do happen. It's unlikely that your gym earphones will live to a ripe old age and therefore when they do die on you it's better that they didn't cost a small fortune in the first place. Yes, you will find some expensive headphones on this list but we have included a lot of cheaper options in every category so whatever your budget there should be something for you.
Sports Specific Features
Some of these headphones on the list are just regular headphones, earbuds, and earphones that are designed for everyday use but just so happen to work great at the gym as well. Others are headphones specifically designed for working out and sports. Some of these features can be pretty useful and help to enhance longevity and performance. For example, some of those listed below have features like sweat resistance, touch controls, heart rate monitors and one even uses bone conduction technology.
Headphones: On-Ear vs Over-Ear vs Earphones
The answer to what headphones are best for your needs really comes down to how you workout. You could be doing running, bodybuilding, yoga or CrossFit and lots of different headphones will be suited best for each activity. There really is no one size fits all answer to this question so think about how you actually intend to use them before buying. If I am a long distance runner so I really want to be weighed down by a full-size over-ear model or if I am a weight lifter do I really need to spend more money for the freedom of wireless earbuds? Maybe your gym is full of booming music, people screaming and weights crashing, in that case, would you better for looking for noise cancelling headphones? or ones offer lots of isolation?
Wired Headphones (Fixed cable)
Over-ear headphones are the big full-size models that due to their bulk are not the best for running or dynamic movement. However, some people really like them especially people who primarily train with weights.
Amazon Basics Lightweight Headphones (Best Budget)
Amazon is doing a great job of sourcing a wide range of products that offer a lot of bang for your buck and these Basics headphones are perfect if you are on a budget.
Solid build quality, punchy bass and a price tag usually under $20 means these are great headphones for working out in.
Additionally with the price this low if you do manage to destroy them you are not too out of pocket and they are easily replaced.
Sony MDRXB450AP Extra Bass (Best Bass)
The terribly named MDR XB450 AP headphones from Sony are loaded with bass and cost well under $50.
Enhanced bass is great for fuelling your workouts and they just so happen to be one of the most comfortable one ear headphones we tested.
We also like the build quality and styling on these headphones as well as their availability in most high street electronics stores.
Perfect if you like listening to EDM and other rap or hip hop music when you work out.
Sennheiser HD-25 - Best Build Quality
These headphones have been on sale forever and they are one of the absolute best for durability.
The HD-25 are legendary DJ headphones designed to hold up to years of abuse on the road. That also happens to make them one of the best headphones for the gym as well.
Incredible build quality, iconic styling and one of the most energetic sound profiles on this list means they are perfect for use when working out.
We also like that Sennheiser has made replacement parts for these headphones readily available meaning that if something goes wrong you are probably going to be able to fix them.
Phillips SHS5200 - Best Running Headphones (On Ear)
A lot of people like this style of neckband headphone but until I tried the SHS200 I was never really a fan. Comfort wise these are great and the manage to give a lot of the advantage of a full-size headphone without being cumbersome and restrictive.
Also, I should note that the bass on these headphones is nuts considering it is coming out of such a small package. If you aren't a fan of having something inside your ears but don't want to use bulky headphones then these are a great solution.
I have never been a fan of using an on ear model while putting in miles but by far these are the best running headphones I have used so far.
V-Moda M80 Crossfade - Indestructible
Another DJ inspired headphone that we have praised plenty of times in the past. V-Moda makes some tough headphones and you should be able to bend and twist the M-80 without any ill effects.
Considered an audiophile favourite the M80 doesn't just perform well at the gym, they are a great headphone for everyday use as well.
Oh, and they look absolutely killer in person as well and are available in a number of different colour options plus have interchangeable faceplate you can customize.
Best Workout Headphones: Wireless Headphones
On-Ear headphones are different from over-ear headphones in that they sit directly on the ear and not around it. They are traditionally a more compact design and built with movement/portability in mind. This makes them perfect headphones for working out.
Skullcandy Hesh 2 Bluetooth Headphones
The budget offering for wireless sports headphones comes from Skullcandy. We have never really been fans of their other products other than the super fun Skullcrushers.
What really stand out with the Hesh 2 though is that it is a full size headphone with mic, controls and giant 50mm dynamic drivers.
Those giant speakers mean that the headphones can deliver some powerful bass that even rivals the Beats headphones for quantity and yet the cost just a fraction of the price.
Not outstanding but really hard to beat for their price.
Monster iSport Freedom Wireless
The Monster iSport have a lot of features that make them stand out. First of all, they are water-resistant, sweatproof and washable, all great features for a sports headphone.
They also feature the ability to link 2 headphones for shared sound as well as custom sound profiles and hi-res aptx support.
Build quality is far improved from previous generations of Monster headphones and the only thing we weren't 100% set on was the colour schemes. The definitely have a style you will either love them or hate.
Beats Solo 3 Wireless
Beats have come a long way since they were bought out by Apple and the Beats Solo Wireless are a solid option to use during a workout.
The strong bassy sound also has much more clarity and definition than previous generations and the 40-hour battery life we got during testing meant we could get about a week between charge cycles. Another worthy point of not was that the wireless range of these Bluetooth headphones was excellent meaning we didn't have to carry the phone in a pocket of armband whilst working out.
Fiil Diva Pro
Easily the most pack with technology headphone on this list the Fiil Diva Pro are an outstanding set of wireless headphones whether you are using them at the gym, at or on a commute.
Active Noise Cancelling, touch controls, internal storage or brilliant build quality make them perfect for a workout.
You definitely want to read our full Fiil Diva Pro review to see why we rate these so highly. They may not be a well known name in the west but they have a huge following in Asia and are considered a premium brand in China.
Bose QC35 QuietComfort 35
Most people think that the Bose headphones are just for flying but a lot of the qualities that make them great for travel also makes them worthy of consideration for use at the gym.
With the best noise cancellation on the market, you won't be getting distracted in between sets.
The other bonus is that they are one of the lightest and most comfortable headphones you can buy today and for a closed back headphone they still allow a good amount of breathability which prevents sweating.
Best Workout Earphones: In-Ear / Earphones / Earbuds (Wired)
This is the most common style of headphone you will see when people are working out. Earphones and earbuds are great for the gym and are perfect for running. They are extremely versatile in any situation, don't require charging like wireless earbuds do and some models are extremely affordable.
Alpha & Delta D2M - Budget Sweat Proof Headphones
You can read our Alpha & Delta D2M review to find out why these in-ear monitors are good for the working out.
In short, we like the comfortable over the ear design, punchy bass, low price and the IPX4 sweat resistance. They even have an inline remote and mic so you can converse with Siri mid rep.
That's right these are a great set of sweat proof headphones that cost around $20. Well made, comfortable and cheap a set of earphones that will last you a long time.
Klipsch S4i Rugged Edition
If you give your earphones a beating or perhaps use them when working out outdoors trail running and rock climbing then check out the Klipsch Image S4i Rugged.
They have all the great features everyone loves from the original S4 but in a more robust housing.
How rugged are these earphones? Well one of our testers ran the Marathon De Sables with them. In case you didn't know thats 251KM 6-day Ultramarathon through the Sahara desert and they still look good as new when he finished (his feet however did not).
Shure SE215 - Stage Monitors
These an old favourite here at Audiophile On and one of the most popular in-ear headphones Shure has ever produced. Again feel free to read our full review of the Shure SE215 to see why we love them.
Designed as a stage monitor for musician they are meant to be sweated on, ran in and generally abused everyday.
The SE-215 also look good (Available in 5 colours), they have replaceable cables, 2 year warranty and top notch sound for the price so you can even use them as your day to day headphones.
They might not have been specifically designed for sport but they ticked all the right boxes for what we wanted in a set of earbuds for the gym.
Sennheiser CX 685 Adidas
The Sennheiser CX685 got top marks from the runners in our group and are our prefered wired option for that purpose.
We wanted a set of earbuds that would not slip or fall out of our ears and one that was able to hold up through long sweaty runs. The CX 685 do that easily.
Sweat resistance, stability and excellent tight and punch response throughout the frequencies are all highlights of this Adidas branded earphone.
RHA MA750 Earphones
Outstanding build quality, clear and deep bass, 3-year warranty all for around $100? The RHA MA750 is one of the best-designed earphones of the past decade.
They look good, are built to last and have a great set of accessories that you just wont find on other earphones under $200.
These were my own personal earphones for use at the gym for the past few years and the only reason I stopped was because someone decided to pinch them from the locker room (I assure you this person was later found, hung, drawn and quartered but not before he managed to offload these awesome headphones).
Anyway... You can click here read our full RHA MA750 review and find out why I rate them so highly.
Best Workout Earphones: Wireless & Bluetooth In Ear Headphones
Wireless in ear headphones are becoming extremely popular for working out due to them giving the freedom to move without the constraints of wires. They are perfect for dynamic movements, such as calisthenics and CrossFit and are getting even more popular with runners.
Bose Soundsport Wireless In Ear Headphones
The second Bose headphone to make this list the Soundsport is designed specifically for working out. Bose have been making sports models for years and we are just starting to see them find the right balance of performance and functionality.
We love the lightweight cable and inline controls and the built quality is brilliant.
Range is very good, they worked meters away from our device and still transmit a strong signal. Finally the optional earhooks also keep them locked in place until you are ready to take them out.
Beats by Dre Powerbeats 3
The Powerbeats a scarily popular at my local gym and I have also seen a lot of distance runners using them as well.
I had originally dismissed them as being just another set of earphones designed to dupe the masses but actually, for use in the gym they are a solid option.
You get good battery life, a rich bassy sound signature and those earloops mean that no matter what exercise you do they never come loose or fall out.
Jaybird Freedom 2 - Best Wireless Headphones for Running
One of the most well-known brands of Bluetooth earphones is, of course, Jaybird. A big reason for their growth has been due to strategic targeting of the sport and fitness markets.
We want you to skip the third version of the Jaybird X Series Sport and go straight for the new Freedom 2 wireless earphones. These have been designed by runners for runners and they feel very much up to the task.
Extremely comfortable, good sound and a very secure fit. These were unanimously voted our favourite wireless earbuds for running.
JBL Under Armour - Built-in Heart Rate Monitor
Under Armour teamed up with the popular speaker manufacturer JBL to produce a sports specific set of earphones.
What this product does actually pretty cool, these JBL earphones actually have a built in heart rate monitor which lets you track your performance during workouts.
The fit balance and battery life are great and its on of the best bluetooth headphones for running if you do not already own a fitness watch or chest strap like the Wahoo Tickr.
Plantronics Backbeat Fit
Plantronics backbeat line is very popular with people looking for affordable sports headphones.
They offer a great mix of sound and build whilst still managing to be priced like a budget earphone. The are also not full earphones but rather a compromise between earbud and IEM, something a lot of people like.
The backbeat impressed us throughout this review and whilst they still might not be an uber cool brand name they sound and perform every bit as good as more expensive models
The Wildcard - Best Headphones for Working Out: Cycling and City Running
I just wanted to throw this out there in case you are someone who cycles or works out in a built-up environment (ie running in city streets). I know many people will want to block out all that external noise but sometimes it is best if you can hear what is going on around you. I am currently training for an Ironman event next year but I also live in the centre of Munich Germany. This inevitably means a lot of running and cycling near traffic. I want to hear what is going on around me and you should too, safety is more important than solitude.
That said I didn't want to give up on music entirely so I gave these bone conduction headphones a try and I must admit I'm hooked. I can still listen to music through my bones and I still get access to ambient noise through my ears. A great little trick that helps stop boredom during my training.