Five things to look for when buying headphones for running and jogging

Battery life and sound quality aren't the only things you should consider in headphones used while you're on the move.

By Chris C., July 29 2021
Five things to look for when buying headphones for running and jogging

Choosing the best headphones for your exercise routine is a very different ballgame to picking a pair of noise-cancelling cans for your next flight.

When on the move, compact size and durability usually trump the bulkier choices, which may offer better sound, but aren’t as practical.

Beyond the basics like battery life, here are five things to consider when choosing your next pair of headphones for jogging or running.

1. Built for purpose: leave the over-ear cans at home

Large over-ear headphones may be great for travel when you’re kicking back with a glass of wine and a good inflight movie, but aren’t so practical when you’re out for a run – they’re bulky, easily shift out of place, and aren’t normally designed for the rigours of physical activity, like sweat.

That means investing in a separate pair for your workout: ones that can keep up with your routine.

In fact, if you normally travel a lot – and make a habit of using the gym or exploring your surroundings while blending in a little exercise – you’ll want a compact set that don’t take up much space in your bag, but which are equally useful whether you’re at home or on the road.

With two pairs of headphones, you may even find yourself leaving your larger cans at home when the journey is short, such as a domestic day trip, but bringing them along when you’re jetting further afield: so consider spending a little more on a better-quality pair if you’d use them for more than your home workout.

2. Wireless, of course, but don’t rule out a cable

Although completely wireless headphones look great in the store and might seem freeing, you shouldn’t overlook headphones with a cable attached.

There’s a big difference between headphones that must be plugged into your device to carry music, and those merely with a wire running behind your neck, between the headphones: helping to keep them secure if they slip out of your ear, but also out of your way when removed.

Say you bump into a friend when you’re out and about, or stop for a quick coffee. When you have two separate headphones, removing them from your ears means hold them or stowing them away. When you have a pair with a cable, they can just hang over your collarbone, keeping your hands free.

The same is true if the headphone comes out of your ear. Rather than falling to the ground – and potentially getting stomped on, or lost – it’s right there, ready to be put back into place, with no disruption to your workout.

3. The ability to make and receive calls

Many wireless sports headphones don’t just play music: they can also help you make and take calls, quite literally on the run.

With a built-in microphone, you simply press a button on the headphones when your phone rings, which pauses your soundtrack and swaps to the call. Press that button again, and you’re back listening to music.

Often, that button can also be used to activate your device’s voice assistant, like Google Assistant or Siri – whether that’s to initiate a call, name the next album on your playlist, or check the weather forecast.

4. Adjustable or changeable ear buds, for a snug fit

When you’re spending good money on headphones – and especially those used when you’ll be on the move – it pays to find a pair that can be adjusted to suit you.

Rather than being ‘one size fits all’, some sports headphones come with ear buds in several sizes, so you can find the best fit.

Products like Fitbit Flyer and Bose SoundSport also come with interchangeable fins and wings, to suit all parts of your ear.

5. Noise-cancelling? Don’t sweat it.

Noise cancellation might be a must-have for your travel-bound over-ear cans, but when you’re out and about, being aware of your surroundings is arguably more important.

It’s true that noise cancellation largely works to remove background hums rather than individual sounds, but if there’s a bike dinging its bell and about to overtake you – or a car honking its horn because you’re in danger – it’ll be much harder to hear when noise-cancellation is on, and the volume is cranked up.

If your sporty headphones are still noise-cancelling, you can often disable that feature on a temporary basis through the manufacturer’s mobile app: then, if you later plan to use those headphones in flight, dial the noise-cancellation back up to the maximum.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2015

Total posts 2

No mention of bone-conduction devices like Aftershokz? Probably the best solution IMHO - can still hear traffic and others with a stable band going behind your head and over your ears with nothing inside the external ear canal. Can talk and hear calls with an easy button for actions. Excellent for cycling too.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 24

Jabra 65 were great but beware. Losing one equals losing all, as they do not offer single buds.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2020

Total posts 19

I have tried a few, including Jabra - but find the AirPods the most comfortable to wear. The Jabra was great first time, but after a while they seem to cause pressure point in the ears (due to the in-ear design), whereas the AirPods do not go into the ear. Also the quick connection, able to use siri etc are good features. Another issue with the Jabra is a very fidgety case and for some reason,only one earphone would often connect, and the only way to remedy was to put the pair back in the case to re set.This is fine if you are next to the case when it happens, but that is not always the situation. I emailed Jabra to try and resolve and got the world's longest and most unhelpful list of suggestions to fix back...

12 Dec 2018

Total posts 20

I struggle to get any sort of in ear type to stay IN MY EARS when i'm working out.  Even with the over ear loops (B&O) they tend to wobble and distort what I'm listening to, and my other (JBL) ones with multiple size tips just always seem to fall out.  Lucky they have a neck loop.  Then I see people running with Apple buds in and wonder how they get away with it.  Very frustrating.  

07 May 2021

Total posts 8

I would highly recommend Sony NWWS623B, great fit, great battery has different sizes ear buds, has MP3 plus bluetooth capabilities and is 100% waterproof so you can swim with it

29 Nov 2019

Total posts 3

Aftershocks are great , u can hear around you and make calls. Use them for running and riding, but for obvious reasons lousy on planes as they don’t block out noise. Also very good after sales service in Australia and in USA 

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