The temptation of entirely cable-free headphones for runners is easy to see—one it’s fewer items in the way, and the lack of a neckband can be a blessing, especially on hot runs. However, not all true wireless earbuds are designed to be worn while running, and of those that are, some are better than others.
In such a young product sector, it’s crucial to note that the designs are rapidly improving, but you’re still getting in early enough that some issues haven’t been smoothed out completely. However, there is already a slew of good choices that we feel confident endorsing.
We’ll go over the different features and variables to think about when choosing a truly wireless in-ear pair for running, as well as some of our favorites.
Withstanding Water and Sweat:
Water-resistance is essential if you’re planning to use real wireless in-ears for running or other sports. IP ratings are becoming more frequent on product spec pages and on the exterior of headphones’ boxes, so it’s critical to grasp what they signify.
A product is given an IPX7 rating, for example. That X is only a placeholder, not a symbol for “extreme” or any other tough adjective. The construction of IP ratings is straightforward: On a scale of 0-6, the first number indicates dust intrusion, and the second number indicates water protection on a scale of 0-8. (Liquids have higher levels of IP protection, although they are rarely seen on consumer-level products.)
The Best True Wireless Earbuds Deals This Week for Running*
$169.98 (List Price $179) for Apple AirPods with MagSafe Charging Case (3rd Gen).
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 Earbuds – $189.95 (Regularly $299.95).
$179.99 (list price $249.95) for Beats Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earbuds
$119.99 (List Price $149.95) for Beats Studio True Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds
$21.99 (List Price $25.99) Skullcandy Dime True Wireless in-Ear Earbud (Golden Orange)
When a product is rated IP56, it indicates the dust ingress protection is rated 5 and the water ingress protection is rated 6. The X is a placeholder since many companies will not properly test for dust intrusion because they know their product is strong enough to give some level of protection. Rather than putting a zero there, which would be unappealing, the X indicates that the product most likely has some dust protection, but it was not measured.
Furthermore, the numbers do not always adhere to a clear system—a higher number does imply a higher level of protection, but each number represents a unique, very specific level of protection. For example, IPX5 indicates that the device is protected from water projected from a specific nozzle size. IPX7 indicates that the product may be submerged for up to a meter; this is often the highest IP rating available.
Most runners, with the exception of ultramarathoners running in the desert, don’t need to worry about dust protection ratings, but water and sweat resistance are important, so make sure you know the IP rating ahead of time. Many manufacturers advertise their products as “waterproof” when they actually have a poor IP rating and can’t handle any real water pressure.
Battery Life and Charging Cases:
So far, the true wireless category’s biggest flaw has been its battery life. On a full charge, the best pairs can last up to five hours, while the worst can only last three or two hours. This is why charging cases, which include docking places and an internal battery capable of carrying several more full charges, are such an important component of truly wireless design.
On the other hand, I don’t see many runners carrying a charging case and docking earpieces on a long run for extended battery life. But this is partly because, with the exception of ultra-marathoners, most of these battery life ratings will suffice for runs. If you run a full marathon, your true wireless in-ears may endure for the most, if not all, of the race. If you run a half marathon, you’re almost probably not going to run out of energy. Of course, battery life is largely influenced by volume levels, so listening to lower volumes can help you have longer battery life.
Now let’s talk about something that nearly all truly wireless headphones excel at: staying put. The earpieces must be both lightweight and noticeably larger than those for wired earphones. For further stability, this bigger contour will often rest against various parts of the ear. Sealing off the canal with ear tips is also important for keeping the earpieces in position and providing good ear-to-ear audio balance and bass depth. That’s why AirPods from Apple didn’t make the cut for this list: They don’t have a good in-ear fit.
Earfins or even bands that wrap over the earpiece to extend its breadth significantly are included in many sports-oriented versions. Almost all of the materials used are rubber or silicone, which helps to ensure a solid fit.
Apps and Extra Features:
This is the category’s true wild card. Some companion applications are just for pairing your earphones with your phone, while others come with a slew of extra capabilities. The best app for the money is Jabra’s, which has superb EQ and a slew of features like an ambient Hear-Through mode, a pink noise concentration option (which is less likely to be utilized while jogging but still beneficial), and a motion sensor. The Jaybird app also offers a user-adjustable EQ, allowing you to change the sound signature from bass-heavy to practically flat. It also includes athlete playlists, though the EQ is likely the most compelling feature.
In the app world, there are also third-party tie-ins—the JBL UA True Wireless Flash headphones, for example, come with a year’s premium membership to MapMyRun.It’s also worth noting that this model has an ambient aware listening mode that can be triggered without the need of an app by tapping one of the on-ear buttons.. Meanwhile, the Jabra Elite Sport has a built-in heart rate sensor and accelerometer for tracking fitness numbers, which we found to be fairly trustworthy in our tests.