What makes perfect running headphones and earphones?

Whether you are The Flash running around the world at light-speed to fight crime, or just going out for an evening jog with the dogs, music can make the experience better. In fact, studies have shown that listening to music while exercising can boost endurance by up to 15%! The only snag (poor attempt at a pun) is the possibility of your music delivery method being cumbersome and interrupting your workout!

runner music headphones running

Chris Hunkeler Photo via Flickr

“I was just an average runner before I started listening to music!”

 With this in mind, I brainstormed about what makes a style of earphones good or bad for running! Here are the qualifications I came up with:

  • Music Quality
  • Cord Style
  • MP3 Player Compatibility
  • Stay-In-Your-Ear-Ability
  • Surviving the Workout

 First on my list was music quality. There is nothing more annoying when you are trying to zone out and get a good workout in than being distracted by tinny noises or static. On top of that, nothing is less satisfying waiting for the beat drop in one of your favorite songs- and then hearing it so distorted or weak that it doesn’t pump you up at all.

 To be good headphones for running, you need solid sound quality. For this, I decided in-ear earphones with rubber tips to have the music right next to your ear canal for prime sound delivery or over-the-ear headphones that are bigger and capable of delivering a bigger sound were the two best options, displayed in the pictures below.

Earphones headphones

Silicon ear tip: directly delivers music to ear canal

headphones music

Big Headphones Big Sound!

For my next qualification, Cord Style, the biggest question is whether to go cordless. Cordless headphones are a lot less hassle. The cord doesn’t get tangled in your pocket, you won’t accidentally pull the cord out of the player and lose your groove, you can put the player anywhere on your person, and other advantages are clear.

 On the other hand cordless headphones are much more expensive, and sometimes lose music quality because the music is transmitted and the signal may not always be strong. They also often require your player to be bluetooth capable! So if you are going with non-cordless headphones like most people, The important thing is that the cord doesn’t get in your way.

headphones cordless ipod shuffle

Oddio Headphones via Kickstarter

 This clever invention eliminates cord problems without broadcasting or transmitting the music!

The next qualification is MP3 player compatibility. The headphones in the picture above eliminate cord issues, but only work with Apple Ipod Shuffles. If you are using an iphone or any other music player, then you are out of luck!

The best case scenario is headphones that work with any MP3 player.

 Next up we have a serious eliminator in running headphone options- Stay-In-Ear-Ability. All of the jockeying from running or serious exercise can and usually does knock, pull, or jostle the earphone out of your ear or the headphones off your head.

 To fix this, I recommend headphones or earphones that either have ear-hooks or wrap around the back of the head. Overhead headphones usually have issues with sliding off.

Wrap-around style: won’t slide off your head!

 Ear-Hooks for added security!

The last and possibly most important qualification I look for in running headphones is durability. I have used headphones that end up giving you a small electric shock if they get wet- and running can be a very wet activity.

You don’t want your headphones breaking from sweat or a sudden cloud burst, so waterproof or water-resistant headphones are usually a great choice.

A rendition of the set-up I use!

 The earphones for running I have found to check off the most qualifications at the lowest price are the Hydroharmony sold by Underwater Audio. Hear is the breakdown:

hydroharmony underwater audio

Hydroharmony waterproof headphones with waterproof ipod shuffle

— The silicon ear tips deliver the sound directly to your ear canal for clear music quality.
— The short cord with optional extender does a lot to keep cord issues to a minimum, and allows different set ups depending on where you want to put your player.
— They are compatible with all MP3 players
— The wraparound style keeps them from coming out of your ears or falling off
— They are waterproof and durable, preventing rain, sweat, or heavy wind etc. from damaging them

Sound Off: It’s your turn! What kind of headphones do you use at the gym or on runs? What are their pros and cons?


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