There’s nothing more motivating than music when working out, but runners and cyclists are in a unique position. Situational awareness is crucial for both, especially when exercising on roads shared with cars or paths with other cyclists and runners. If you have a runner or cyclist on your holiday list, give them a gift that will both motivate them and help them stay safe with a set of headphones that are perfect for either activity.
What to Look for in Running/Cycling Headphones
There are a few key features that any runner or cyclist is going to want to have in their headphones.
- Awareness: Most headphones have a focus on blocking out external noise, and while that makes sense for normal use, it’s dangerous for runners and cyclists. Not being aware of other cyclists, runners, vehicles, or people can cause accidents, so they need to be aware of their surroundings. Because of this, you want to focus on headphones that either have open designs or transparency modes that can be toggled to better hear the outside world. By far the best option for runners and cyclists are bone conduction headphones, which offer a completely open-ear design for maximum awareness.
- Durability: These headphones need to be able to survive a drop or two or twenty—this isn’t a peaceful activity. Not only should the headphones be structurally sound and built well, but being waterproof is also a must for avoiding damage from rain and sweat.
- Comfort: If you’re going to wear something while exercising, comfort is a must. We made sure all the headphones on this list are comfortable for hours of use.
- Security: Having an earbud drop out of your ear is frustrating enough in everyday use, but even more so when you’re traveling quickly on a bike. Whether they rely on ear hooks or secure fits inside the ear, these headphones must stay on the head or in the ears firmly.
- Wireless and Battery Life: Wired headphones would be far too annoying for exercise, so wireless is definitely the way to go. And in that case, you want to make sure the headphones will survive a full exercise session regardless of how long it is.
Best Overall: AfterShokz Aeropex
These bone conduction headphones from AfterShokz are a great all-around pick. They’re rated with an Ingress Protection rating of IP67 (waterproof against one meter of water), have 8 hours of battery life, and of course, sound great for bone conduction headphones. The multifunction button can perform a variety of actions from activating the voice assistant to pausing music, and the included silicone carrying case is great for throwing these in a bag when not in use.
Overall, it’s a great pair of headphones and it comes in four colors: Blue Eclipse, Cosmic Black, Lunar Grey, and Solar Red.
AfterShokz Aeropex Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones, IP67 Rated, Blue Eclipse
A great pair of bone conduction headphones that check all the boxes.
Bone Conduction for Less: AfterShokz OpenMove
As we’ve already pointed out, bone conduction headphones are the best and safest option, so it’s great to see a less expensive option from AfterShokz in the OpenMove. These feature all the benefits of bone conduction headphones just for a lower price. They’re rated with an Ingress Protection rating of IP55 to protect against sweat and rain and will last for 6 hours on a full charge. The OpenMove also has a multifunction button for performing various actions like pausing music or activating your voice assistant.
These come in two colors: Alpine White and Slate Grey, and each set comes with stickers for customizing the bar on the side.
AfterShokz OpenMove Wireless Bone Conduction Open-Ear Bluetooth Headphones Includes Sticker Pack
All the benefits of bone conduction headphones at a lower price.
A Mid-Range Option: Skullcandy Push Ultra
While the Push Ultra may seem like standard earbuds they have one important feature that got them on this list: the open-ear design. Instead of going all the way into the ear canal like many other earbuds, they sit just inside the ear. They don’t create a seal, so they increase situational awareness and allow the wearer to better hear what’s going on around them. You can think of the Push Ultra as a middle ground between regular earbuds and bone conduction.
So they’ve got situational awareness down, but besides that, they’re just a great pair of wireless earbuds. The moldable hooks ensure they stay in place, they’re rated with an Ingress Protection rating of IP67 (so waterproof for one meter of water), and they last for 6 hours on a full charge. The carrying case doubles as a charger and can provide the earbuds with up to 40 hours of battery life.
The Push Ultra is available in two colors: Electric Yellow and True Black.
Skullcandy Push Ultra True Wireless In-Ear Earbud - True Black
A mid-range pair of headphones with the features runners and cyclists need.
Dual-Purpose: AirPods Pro
The AirPods Pro are an impressive pair of wireless earbuds, and with the included transparency mode that allows the wearer to better hear their surroundings, they’re a good option for this list. It’s worth keeping in mind that these are better for use on a dedicated bike or running path, however—we wouldn’t suggest these for use on the road, where awareness of vehicles should be the top priority.
The earbuds themselves last for about 4.5 hours on a full charge but that can be boosted to 24 with the use of the charging case. The Pro’s are also waterproof for sweat-resistance and small amounts of water (so rain won’t be an issue).
Apple AirPods Pro
Apple's premium earbuds that work for your purposes with their excellent transparency mode.
Dual-Purpose … for Everyone Else: Jabra Elite Active 75t
Our final pick is a good premium alternative to the AirPods for people who aren’t into Apple products (though AirPods also work fine on Android). These earbuds have all the features you’d expect at this point: a transparency mode (called “HearThrough” here), 7.5 hours of battery life with a charging case that can boost it up to 28, and great sound quality. You can even customize how your audio is tuned with the Jabra Sound+ app (iOS/Android).
Like with the AirPods Pro, we only recommend these for use on dedicated cycling or running paths where cars won’t be an issue.
They’re rated with an Ingress Protection rating of IP57 which protects them from one meter of water. They’ll also get an update in late October that brings active noise canceling (great for use when not exercising), and any bought after the end of October will ship with this update pre-installed.
They come in six colors: Mint, Copper Black, Navy, Sienna, Gold Beige, and Titanium Black.
Jabra Elite Active 75t True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, Navy – Wireless Earbuds for Running and Sport, Charging Case Included, 24 Hour Battery, Active Noise Cancelling Sport Earbuds
A great blend of running earbuds and everyday use headphones.