Best Earbuds and Headphones for Working Out for 2023
We've tested the best headphones and earbuds for working out to find you the perfect pair, whether you prefer in-ear or headphones for working out.
Updated Oct. 30, 2023 3:48 p.m. PT
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David CarnoyExecutive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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What are the best earbuds and headphones for working out right now?
Over the last 20 years, I've tested hundreds of earbuds and headphones while working out at the gym or running outdoors. Needless to say, some earbuds and headphones are better suited for working out than others and many wireless earbuds are designed for sports use. While sound quality is always an important factor, so too is durability (higher level water- and dust-resistance ratings) and design features like wing tips or ear hooks that keep the buds from falling out of -- or falling off -- your ears. Because the Beats Fit Pro earbuds have integrated wing tips, that's one of the reasons they're at the top of the list. But even lightweight buds like the AirPods Pro 2 (iPhone users), Beats Studio Buds Plus (iPhone and Android users) or the JBL Live Pro 2 (iPhone and Android users) work very well as workout earbuds if you can get a secure fit.
If you're looking for a lightweight over-ear headphone for working out, Sony's CH-720N headphones are a good option because they're more affordable than Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, Sony's WH-1000XM5 or Apple's AirPods Max headphones (yes, I see plenty of people wearing those headphones in the gym).
It's important to note that if you're opting for noise-canceling headphones, you'll want some sort of transparency or awareness mode that gives you the options to hear the outside world as you're exercising. Most recent ANC headphones and earbuds offer that feature.
I've included all kinds of workout earbuds and headphones on this list, including sport buds with both noise-isolating and open designs as well as bone-conduction headphones that leave your ears uncovered. I'll update this list as new models are released.
Hot on the heels of the third-generation AirPods, Apple has another new set of earbuds, this time from its subsidiary audio company, Beats. Technically, the new Beats Fit Pro ($200) aren't AirPods, but they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro. Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple's H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted. And for some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro.
Not everybody can get a totally secure fit with the new AirPods Pro (2nd generation), but if you can, they make for great workout headphones for iPhone users thanks to their lightweight design and strong performance. They're powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved -- Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.
Earfun has put out a series of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years with one important commonality: They're very good values, made more so by frequent discounts. The company's new-for-2023 Earfun Air Pro 3 earbuds feature the latest Qualcomm QCC3071 system-on-a-chip with aptX Adaptive for Android and other devices that support the new LE Audio standard and LC3 audio codec, which is superior to the SBC codec (they also support AAC for Apple devices).
Lightweight and comfortable to wear -- I got a good seal with the largest ear tip size -- these aren't a huge upgrade over the Earfun Air S, but they are better. They have slightly larger wool-composite drivers (11mm versus 10mm), slightly improved noise canceling and better battery life (up to seven hours with noise canceling on, according to Earfun).
In short, the Earfun Air 3 deliver strong performance for their modest price, with robust bass, good clarity and a relatively wide soundstage. They also pack in a lot of features, including a wireless charging case and "multidevice" connectivity. (I could pair them to two devices simultaneously but had to pause the music on one device and hit play on the other for the audio to switch.) They're IPX5 splash-proof and also work well (though not exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls.
Note that after you activate the instant 10%-off coupon at Amazon, adding the code EAP3CNET at checkout gives you an additional 20% off, bringing the buds' price down to $56.
1More makes a couple of open sports earbuds with ear hooks. The Fit S50 buds are the flagship ($120) and feature a little better sound than the Fit SE S30, have a more premium design and are fully waterproof (IPX7 rating). But I like the fit a little better on the step down S30, which is IPX5 splash-proof (can sustain a spray of water) and costs half the price, making it a better value.
The case is bulky and feels a little cheap (the lid is flimsy) but the buds themselves seem sturdily built and the ear hooks are nice and flexible. They have 14.2mm drivers that output decent but not great sound (there's a bit of distortion at higher volumes), which is par for the course for these types of open buds that sit on top of your ears and fire sound into them. They're also good but not great for voice calling. A companion app for iOS and Android allows your tweak the sound with an equalizer and you can update the buds' firmware. The buds are available in black or white and offer up to 10 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels.
Carrying a list price of $100, Samsung's new-for-2023 Galaxy Buds FE feature a single driver (Samsung isn't saying what size it is), three mics on each earbud and active noise canceling. They charge in a case that's the same size and shape as what you currently get with all of Samsung's latest Galaxy Buds, including the Galaxy Buds 2 and Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. And they look a lot like an updated version of Samsung's discontinued Galaxy Buds Plus earbuds, which also came with a set of swappable fins that helped create a secure, comfortable fit. Like those buds, the Galaxy Buds FE are sweat-resistant with an IPX2 water-resistance rating that protects against splashes.
They don't sound quite as rich as the Galaxy Buds Pro, and their voice-calling performance isn't up to the Buds Pro's level (it's decent, not great). But they do offer respectable sound quality (it's certainly as good as the Galaxy Buds 2's) and decent noise cancelling. I also found them to be lightweight and comfortable to wear. While they may not measure up to more premium earbuds, including the Buds Pro, they deliver good bang for the buck. The Galaxy Buds FE are rated for up to 6 hours of battery life with noise canceling on and 8.5 hours with it off.
Shokz, the company formerly known as AfterShokz, has long been the leader in bone-conduction headphones. Models like the OpenRun Pro, which deliver sound to your ear through your cheekbones, are popular with runners and bikers who like to leave their ears open for safety reasons. However, Shokz's new OpenFit model, the company's first true-wireless earbuds, don't use bone-conduction technology. They have an open design that fire sound into your ears using custom speaker drivers, which Shokz dubs "air conduction" technology.
I was impressed by how lightweight (8.3 grams) and comfortable they are -- they have one of the best ear-hook designs I've tried (Shokz calls it a Dolphin Arc ear hook). It's soft and offers just the right amount of flexibility to conform to the shape of your ear, with "dual-layered liquid silicone that provides a pliable fit," according to Shokz. The earbuds also sound quite good for open earbuds, though not quite as good as Cleer's Arc 2 Open Ear Sport earbuds ($190) that also have an ear-hook design.
The new Soundcore Sport X10 have an interesting design with rotating swiveling ear hooks that flip up when you're using them and flip down when you want to set them in their charging case, which has a smaller footprint than a lot of buds with ear hooks.
As long as you get a tight seal, they sound good, with powerful, punchy bass and good detail. They also have active noise canceling, which is effective though not as good as Sony's or Bose's noise canceling. They're also fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating, which means they can be fully submerged in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. Battery life is rated at up to 8 hours with an additional three charges in the charging case.
Alas, for those of you who bought the original Beats Studio Buds, which remain on the market for now, I'm sorry to report that these new Plus buds are significantly improved, with better sound, noise canceling and battery life. Additionally, they now deliver top-notch voice-calling performance.
The transparent version is getting a lot of attention (who doesn't like transparent electronics?), but the big changes are on the inside. Beats says 95% of the components are new and improved, and the buds' "acoustic architecture" has been revised. The speaker drivers remain the same, but the Studio Buds Plus are powered by a new, more powerful custom chipset and have three new microphones in each bud, which are three times larger and more sensitive than the ones found in the Beats Studio Buds.
JBL has upgraded its ear-hook style sport earbuds for 2023. Available in black or white, the Endurance Peak 3 buds offer better battery life (up to 10 hours with four extra charges in their case) improved voice-calling performance and an IP68 rating that makes them fully water- and dust-proof. They also have an Ambient Aware transparency mode and Talk Thru mode that can automatically lower your music's volume level and open up the buds to the outside world. That means you can have conversation with someone without removing the buds from your ears.
They stayed on my ears very securely during runs and I thought they sounded quite good, though they do have a bit of bass push (i.e. they have powerful bass). Just be aware that if you don't get a tight seal, sound quality will be significantly worse. Also, like other earbuds with ear-hook designs, the case is on the beefy side. That said, the buds do seem durable and if you get a good fit, they're an excellent and less pricey alternative to the Beats Powerbeats Pro. I also thought the touch controls worked well; I was easily able to toggle through the sound modes.
The Sport True Wireless earbuds are essentially Sennheiser's CX True Wireless earbuds with sport fins -- for a more secure fit -- and better durability. They have an IP54 rating that makes them splash-proof and dust-resistant. The CX True Wireless, rated IPX4, don't offer dust resistance.
These aren't noise-canceling earbuds but they do have an awareness mode that allows ambient sound to leak into the buds so you can hear what's going on around you for safety reasons. They use Bluetooth 5.2 and have support for the AAC and aptX audio codecs. Battery life is rated at up to 9 hours at moderate volume levels with an additional two charges in the charging case (there's no wireless charging).
Featuring clean and well-balanced sound with punchy bass, they sound very similar to the CX True Wireless and CX Plus True Wireless.
What makes these Soundpeats Air3 Deluxe HS buds special is that they sound surprisingly good for open earbuds -- they're pretty close to what you get from Apple's AirPods 3 for sound. On top of that, they support Sony's LDAC audio codec for devices that offer it. Not too many cheap open earbuds have good sound but these Soundpeats have good bass response and clarity. They're also good for making calls and have a low-latency gaming mode.
So long as they fit your ears securely, they make for very good workout buds with an IPX4 splash-proof rating.
Sony released its new entry-level CH-720N noise-canceling headphones in 2023. They're quite good, but if you can't afford them (they list for $150), the company's new budget on-ear CH-520 headphones are an intriguing option for only around $50.
They lack noise canceling and are pretty no-frills, but they feature good sound for their price, are lightweight and pretty comfortable for on-ear headphones, and also have excellent battery life (they're rated for up to 50 hours at moderate volume levels). Additionally, they have multipoint Bluetooth pairing, so you can pair them with two devices simultaneously, such as a smartphone and computer, and switch audio. Voice-calling performance is decent, though not up to the level of what you get with the CH-720N.
Note that there's no wired option -- this is a wireless Bluetooth-only headphone. The CH-520 offers overall balanced sound with decent clarity. The bass has some punch to it but doesn't pack a wallop, and you're not going to get quite as wide a soundstage as you get from Sony's more expensive over-ear headphones. But these definitely sound better than Sony's previous entry-level on-ear headphones and sound better than I thought they would. I tried the white color but they also come in blue and black.
While the QC Ultra Earbuds aren't a major upgrade over Bose's excellent QC Earbuds 2 that were released in 2022, they're definitely a little better. They should fit most ears very well, and they feature superb noise canceling, arguably the best out there. And a natural-sounding transparency mode with a new ActiveSense feature kicks in some ANC should the sound get too loud around you (it's sort of similar to the AirPods Pro's Adaptive Audio feature). They also sound slightly better overall, with a touch more clarity, and their new Immersive Audio feature opens up the sound a bit.
AfterShokz changed its name to Shokz and released new ninth-generation bone-conduction headphones that offer slightly improved bass performance compared to the company's earlier flagship model, the Aeropex (now called the Shokz OpenRun). That makes the OpenRun Pro the best bone-conduction headphones you can get right now, although they still can't match the sound quality of traditional headphones.
Bone conduction wireless headphones don't go on your ears -- they actually deliver sound to your ear through your cheekbones. The big benefit of this technology as a safety feature for running is that, thanks to its open design, you can hear what's going on around you -- traffic noise in particular -- while listening to music or having a phone conversation (yes, they perform well for voice calls). Plus, some race coordinators don't allow runners to wear anything in their ears, which is where headphones like this come in handy.
Like the Aeropex, the OpenRun Pro have a lightweight, wraparound titanium frame and are rated for up to 10 hours of music playback and you can get 1.5 hours of battery life from a 5-minute charge (they have a proprietary charging cable instead of USB-C, which is unfortunate). I found them comfortable to wear but you may occasionally have to adjust them on your head to relieve potential pressure points. While they do offer a bit fuller sound with more bass -- it's an incremental improvement, not a huge leap forward -- like other bone-conduction headphones these are strongest in the midrange where voices live so they're very good for podcasts, talk radio, newscasts and audiobooks. A hard carrying case is included.
Note that Shokz makes other, more affordable bone-conduction headphones, including the OpenRun, if you don't want to drop $180 on its current flagship model.
With so many new wireless earbuds and headphones being released on what seems likely a weekly basis, it's not easy for companies to differentiate their products in the marketplace. Skullcandy hopes its new voice-driven platform, Skull-iQ Smart Feature Technology, will do just that. Similar to the Apple AirPods' "Hey Siri" feature, Skullcandy's version allows you to say "Hey, Skullcandy" to issue hands-free voice commands without touching a button. Skull-iQ debuts on the sports-oriented Push Active (and $100 Grind Fuel), which will be firmware updatable via the Skullcandy App.
With their ear-hook design, they're essentially a more affordable version of the Beats Powerbeats Pro and they actually fit my ears slightly better than the Powerbeats Pro (I'm not usually a fan of ear-hook style buds, but this is one of the better ones).
The Push Active True earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, are IP55 splash-proof, have built-in Tile Finding Technology and are rated for up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels.
Yes, the Beats Powerbeats Pro's jumbo charging case is a notable drawback. But the combination of incorporating all the features that make Apple's AirPods great while delivering richer sound quality and better battery life in a wireless workout-earbuds design that won't fall out of your ear (seriously, ear hooks for the win!) ultimately is a winning proposition for earbuds for running. Just make sure you buy these running earbuds somewhere that has a good return policy in case you're in the small minority that has ears that aren't quite a match for the buds. Note that these earbuds are frequently reduced from $250 to $170 (and sometimes less for certain colors) -- don't pay more than that if you're buying them.
Sony's improved entry-level noise canceling headphones, the CH-720Ns, have a bit of a plasticky budget vibe, but they're lightweight and very comfortable. Part of me was expecting them to sound pretty mediocre, but I was pleasantly surprised. No, they don't sound as good as the WH-1000XM5s. But they sound more premium than they look (and feel), and their overall performance is a step up from their predecessor, the CH-710Ns. Are they worth $150? Maybe -- or maybe not. But the good news is that, like the CH-710N and WH-XB910 before them, these have already seen significant discounts, with prices dropping to as low as $100 during flash sales.
Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing that really got me too excited. That's finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand's new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 buds. Both sets of buds -- the Live Pro 2 have stems while the Live Free 2 have a pill-shaped design -- offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.
The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.
Cleer's original Arc earbuds were solid sport earbuds that featured decent sound for open-style buds that sit on top of your ears and fire sound into them. This new-for-2023 model steps up the sound quality and offers additional refinements and feature upgrades, including a new "enhanced" charging case with UV sterilization and multipoint Bluetooth connectivity (Bluetooth 5.3), all of which makes for a significantly improved product.
Cleer says the Arc 2 Sport buds feature "greater flexibility for improved comfort," and I did find them more comfortable to wear than the original Arcs. That said, not everyone loves this style of open earbuds, which lets sound in so you can hear ambient sound around you for safety purposes.
With a new six-axis motion sensor, you can actually control the buds with head gestures -- you answer calls by nodding and skip tracks forward by turning your head to the right and skip a track back by turning your head left. Thankfully, those motion controls can be turned off if you don't want to use them.
These are among the first buds to support Qualcomm's aptX Lossless format, if you're one of the few to have an Android device that supports that audio codec (plenty of Android phones support aptX Adaptive). Since these aren't high-end noise-isolating earbuds, you probably won't be able to tell the difference in sound quality -- I couldn't -- but all that aside, these do sound very good for open-style earbuds. They lack a bit of oomph to their bass but they're punchy enough, offer good clarity and didn't distort at higher volumes. They also played sufficiently loud.
They have an IPX5 water- and sweat-resistance rating, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water, and battery life is very good at up to eight hours on a single charge, plus there's a little more than three additional charges in the slim but still somewhat bulky charging case. It's big compared to an AirPods charging case, but svelte compared to other cases that house this style of earbuds.
These offer respectable performance for voice calls, but callers did say they heard a certain amount of white noise when I spoke to them from the noisy streets of New York -- that whooshing sound is the by-product of the earbuds' noise-reduction efforts.
Love 'em or hate 'em, Beats Studio headphones are among the most popular headphones of all time, launching as wired headphones back in 2008. This is the fourth generation of them, and they carry the same list price as their predecessor and look very similar on the outside but have some big changes on the inside that make them significantly better headphones. I'm tempted to describe them as more affordable plastic versions of the AirPods Max. However, that's not quite accurate due to a choice in chipsets and one notable missing feature. But read our full review to find out what makes these very good headphones, albeit with some caveats.
AfterShokz' entry-level OpenMove bone-conduction headphone lists for $80, though we've occasionally seen it drop below $70. It replaces the older Titanium model, which is still on sale (it also costs $80), and features some small design upgrades. I found it comfortable to wear and while it doesn't sound great, it sounds relatively good for a bone-conduction headphone -- again, keep your sound quality expectations in check or you'll be disappointed. It's very good for listening to podcasts, audiobooks and news broadcasts while you run.
This model charges via USB-C and includes a simple carrying pouch. Battery life is rated at up to 6 hours.
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Factors to consider when buying workout headphones and earbuds
Before anything else, you'll want to figure out how much you're willing to spend on new wireless sports buds or headphones. The quality of value-priced earbuds and headphones continues to improve, so you can find good options for less than $75. But the premium models, which offer better build quality and performance, tend to cost more than $100 and sometimes more than $150.
Noise-isolating or open design
Sports buds are available in a couple of styles. Some come with silicone tips that are designed to create a tight seal in your ear and keep sound out (they have a noise-isolating design). Others have an open design with the buds resting on top of your ears, firing sound into them. The noise-isolating style typically gives you better sound with stronger bass while the open design has the advantage of allowing sound in for safety reasons.
Fit, aka comfort
It's key that sports earbuds and headphones fit you not only comfortably but securely. They should offer a comfortable fit that allows you to wear the earbuds (or headphones) for long periods of time without any irritation.
You want sport buds or headphones that hold up well over time, so look for models that we note have sturdy build quality and a good water-resistance rating.
It's critical to buy your sports buds and headphones at a retailer that has a good return policy, in case you have buyer's remorse. Some people who are having trouble deciding between two models sometimes buy both, try them out for a few days and then return one.
How we test workout earbuds and headphones
We test workout headphones and earbuds based on six key criteria and evaluate the models we test in both a gym environment and for outdoor workouts that include a three-mile run. These criteria include design, sound quality, noise-canceling performance, voice-calling performance, features and value.
Design: Evaluating design, we assess not only how comfortable the headphones and earbuds fit (their ergonomics) but their build quality and how well the controls are implemented. When it comes to earbuds, we also look at water- and dust-resistance ratings.
Sound quality: We evaluate sound quality by listening to a set playlist of music tracks and comparing the earbuds to top competing products in their price range. Sonic traits such as bass definition, clarity, dynamic range and how natural the headphones sound are key factors in our assessment.
Noise-canceling performance: We evaluate noise-canceling performance by wearing the headphones in the same spot indoors near a noisy HVAC unit to see how well they do at muffling lower frequencies. Then we head out to the streets of New York to test the headphones in a real-world environment where we see how they do muffling not only street noise but people's voices.
Extra features: Some great-sounding workout headphones and earbuds aren't loaded with features, but we do take into account what extra features are on board. These include everything from quick-access awareness to transparency modes (your music pauses and the headphones open up to the outside world so you can have a conversation) to special sound modes to ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off your ears. We also take a look at the companion app for the headphones if there is one and how user friendly it is.
Voice-calling: When we test voice-calling performance, we make calls in the noisy streets of New York and evaluate how well the headphones or earbuds reduce background noise and how clearly callers can hear our voice.
Value: We determine value after evaluating the strength of the headphones and earbuds against all these criteria and what they're able to deliver compared to other models in their price class.
Workout earbuds and headphones FAQs
Does sweat resistance matter?
While most full-size headphones don't have a water-resistance rating, they tend to be somewhat sweat-resistant -- though not officially so -- due to how they sit off your ears with only the ear pads touching your head. You should wipe them down after sweating with a slightly damp cloth or baby wipe. Most earbuds are sweat resistant. However, if you're a heavy sweater you may to get earbuds with a higher IP water-resistance rating. An IPX4 splash-proof rating is pretty common (that's what the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2 have), but you can find sports buds that are dust-proof and fully waterproof with an IP68 rating, meaning it can be submerged under water up at up to a meter or two for 30 minutes. You can view a full list of IP codes on Wikipedia.
Are in-ear or over-ear headphones better for working out?
True-wireless in-ear headphones, aka earbuds, have become very popular for working out because they're lightweight, unobtrusive and allow your ears to breathe. Some weightlifters like to work out in full-size headphones because you can slip them on and off and wear them around your neck when not in use. But your ears will steam up if you're working out hard or running with them, particularly in warmer environments. That said, if you're working out in a colder environment, over-ear headphones will keep your ears warm, like ear muffs. Over-ear headphones do offer better battery life than in-ear models.
Does sweat ruin headphones?
Yes, sweat can slowly degrade earbuds and headphones over time or cause them to die. That's why you'll want to wipe them down after you sweat on them. What's nice about fully waterproof earbuds is that you can wash them off in the sink after sweating on them heavily.
How do you make earbuds stay in your ears when exercising?
You can get earbuds that have ear hooks or wing tips that help keep the buds in your ears. Another alternative is to buy third-party foam ear tips that have more grip to them than silicone ear tips. For example, foam ear tips help keep the AirPods Pro 2 in your ears more securely.