Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Workout Headphones of 2021

We put workout headphones to the test from brands like Jaybird, Apple, Beats, and more to find the best models for your exercise regimen
Credit: Jenna Ammerman
By Max Mutter and Michelle Powell  ⋅  Aug 19, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
To find the best workout headphones and earbuds available today, we bought 8 pairs and spent more than 100 hours using them in the gym, on trials, and in the saddle. After sweating literal buckets in discovering which activities each pair of buds could handle, we conducted controlled, head-to-head listening comparisons to find the best sounding of the bunch. Finally, we tested battery life and judged the user-friendliness of each model. No matter what type of workout you prefer, or the type of playlists you enjoy while working up a sweat, our testing results will help you find a great pair of earbuds.

Top 8 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 8
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award    
Price $180 List
$142.06 at Amazon
$250 List
$199.95 at Amazon
$200 List$150 List
$79.99 at Amazon
$100 List
$42.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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77
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Pros Great sound Quality, exceptional athletic performance, comfortableGood sound quality, very secure athletic fit, long battery lifeSecure fit, great sound qualityFantastic sound quality, great battery lifeGood for working out, low profile design, relatively inexpensive
Cons ExpensiveCan be uncomfortable when worn for 2+ hours, relatively large charging caseExpensive, can get in the way of sunglassesComfort is quite hit or miss, athletic performance also hit or missMay not fit large ears well, average sound quality and comfort, not true wireless, no charging case
Bottom Line The best balance of sound quality, athletic performance, and comfort that we've foundOur favorite model for hard charging activities, but not great for all-day useGreat sounding earbuds that can stand up to the most rigorous workoutsFantastic if they fit well, but very uncomfortable if they don'tDecent performance at a mid range price, this model is likely to have most appeal among athletes who don't mind the wire
Rating Categories Jaybird Vista Beats by Dre Powerb... Beats by Dr. Dre Po... Jabra Elite 75t JBL Reflect Mini 2
Athletic Performance (40%)
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Sound Quality (35%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Battery Life (15%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Ease Of Use (10%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Jaybird Vista Beats by Dre Powerb... Beats by Dr. Dre Po... Jabra Elite 75t JBL Reflect Mini 2
Weight (oz) 0.4 0.8 0.9 0.4 0.54
Microphone Yes/No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Claimed Battery Life (hours) 6 9 12 7.5 10
Measured Battery Life (hours) 5.75 11.25 10 7 11.5
Carrying Case Yes/No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Best Overall Workout Headphones


Jaybird Vista


82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Sound Quality 8
  • Comfort 8
  • Athletic Performance 10
  • Battery Life 6
  • Portability 9
  • Ease of Use 8
Battery Life: 5.75 hrs | Weight: 0.4 oz
Very stable, athletic fit
Great sound quality
Waterproof
Comfortable
Expensive

Our favorite workout headphones are the Jaybird Vista, hands down. These buds are super comfortable and stayed put, withstanding everything from squat jumps to rugged mountain bike trails. From the motivating thump of the bass to get you through hard reps to cooling down to your favorite podcast, the Vista buds sound fantastic. They feature some of the top bass power and overall clarity across the board, and the icing on the cake is their IPX7 waterproof rating — you don't have to worry about rain or sweat compromising your investment.

We have no complaints about these earbuds. Some may find their price tag outside of their budgets; however, the expense translates to premium performance, and if you want amazing sound and a pleasant fit in earbuds that will stand up to your most vigorous workouts, we think the Jaybird Vista is worth the cost.

Read review: Jaybird Vista

Best Bang for the Buck


JBL Reflect Mini 2


Battery Life: 11.5 hrs | Weight: 0.54 oz
Good sound quality
Comfortable, stable fit
Relatively inexpensive
Don't work well with larger ears
Cable can bounce while running

If you are trying to stick to a tight budget but still want to jam out to a good quality playlist during your workout, the JBL Reflect Mini 2 is for you. They feature enough thumping bass to motivate you while still sounding clear in the mid and treble ranges, amplifying the bass to a full and engrossing sound. The majority of our testers found these buds' fit to be more than stable enough for jumping, running, and even mountain biking. These aren't totally waterproof, but the IPX5 rating means that a sweat session or surprise rainstorm won't hinder their performance. You get all of this for just a portion of the cost of the top-of-the-line models' price tags.

The main drawback with this lower-cost model is the connecting wire that rests against the back of your neck. It can bounce some while running or jumping. It's not extremely noticeable because the wire doesn't weigh much, but if you are used to a true wireless earbud, this might be more apparent to you. Additionally, while most of our testers found the Reflect Mini 2 to fit comfortably, those with larger ears struggled to find a fit that felt secure enough for running (it's always a good idea to buy earbuds from a retailer with a good return policy). If you can find a stable fit with these buds, they provide a great overall experience for much less than the competition.

Read review: JBL Reflect Mini 2

Best for High-intensity Activities


Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro


85
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Athletic Performance 9
  • Sound Quality 8
  • Battery Life 9
  • Ease of Use 7
Battery Life: 11 hrs | Weight: 0.8 oz
Rock solid stability
Great sound quality
Long battery life
Expensive
Can interfere with sunglasses

If you like to be able to huck yourself off big drops on a mountain bike, charge downhill with reckless abandon, or launch off ramps with a skateboard, all while being absolutely certain your earbuds are not going to fall out, the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro is where you should start. These buds' unique over-ear hooks make them one of the most stable we have tested, easily shrugging off even the biggest bumps without a hint of discomfort. They also offer an excellent, bass-forward sound that flatters most workout playlists.

The biggest con to these buds is the price — they are some of the most expensive buds on the market. Additionally, depending on what type of sunglasses you wear, the over-ear hooks can sometimes get in the way. Still, if you're looking for unflinchingly stable earbuds for all of your extreme adventures, the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro will serve you well.

Read review: Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro

Best for Apple Users


Apple AirPods Pro


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Athletic Performance 8
  • Sound Quality 8
  • Battery Life 6
  • Ease of Use 8
Battery Life: 5 hrs | Weight: 0.4 oz
Great sound quality
Active noise cancellation
Intuitive controls
Expensive
Non-Apple users lose some features

Ever since the original AirPods were released, many have been clamoring for a more sports-oriented iteration of the revolutionary buds. Those cries have largely been answered with the Apple AirPods Pro. Despite a lack of the ear fins seen in most workout headphones, most of our testers had zero issues doing jumping jacks, running, and pushing through hard and sweaty workouts with these buds. The addition of an IPX4 water resistance rating adds confidence on those sweaty summer runs — we had no sweat-induced issues throughout our testing. The active noise cancellation is a nice touch, as it lets you drown out whatever music is playing at the gym and listen to your own playlist without cranking the volume uncomfortably high.

The price is likely the most significant thing that will dissuade some potential buyers from these buds. However, if you have been searching for a pair of workout headphones and are a big fan of products that seamlessly integrate into the Apple ecosystem, the Apple AirPods Pro will not disappoint.

Read review: Apple AirPods Pro

Best for Unencumbered Hearing


AfterShokz Air


59
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Athletic Performance 8
  • Sound Quality 3
  • Battery Life 7
  • Ease of Use 6
Battery Life: 7.55 hrs | Weight: 1.1 oz
Allows ears to stay uncovered
Secure and comfortable fit
Mediocre sound quality
Can interfere with sunglasses

There are some activities — like trying to sneak in a workout while still paying attention to the baby monitor, or running or biking on crowded streets — where leaving your hearing unimpeded is critical. Most workout headphones fit either in or over your ears, limiting your hearing quite a bit. Enter the AfterShokz Air. The "speakers" of these headphones sit on your cheekbones and vibrate sound through the bones into your eardrums — a technology known as bone conduction. This technology allows you to listen to music privately without disturbing anyone else and leave your ears uncovered to hear ambient noises.

Though this pair allows you to listen to music and maintain awareness of your surroundings, the music is lower quality than what is produced by most other models. It depends on your facial anatomy, but we've failed to find a cheekbone that is as good of an instrument as a traditional set of headphones. That said, we still love the AfterShokz Air for its ability to provide a soundtrack to workouts where it otherwise would not have been convenient.

Read review: AfterShokz Air

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
85
$180
Editors' Choice Award
True wireless buds that sound great, are comfortable enough for extended wear, and can stand up to athletic endeavors
85
$250
Top Pick Award
Excellent for athletic endeavors, but can be uncomfortable when worn for long periods
80
$200
High quality sound and a secure fit makes these earbuds sound good and stay put in any situation
78
$150
Sounds great but comfort varies quite a bit from person to person, order from somewhere that offers returns in case they don't fit
77
$100
Fair quality all around earbuds at a moderate price
77
$249
Top Pick Award
Offers great all-around quality and, for Apple users, a seamless experience, but all that comes at a price premium
71
$180
Fit can be tricky, but if you find them comfortable these are decent but expensive buds
59
$120
A fine solution for those wanting to keep their ears uncovered to pick up ambient noise

The Powerbeats3 offer top-notch stability for a bit less.
The Powerbeats3 offer top-notch stability for a bit less.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Why You Should Trust Us


Authors Max Mutter and Michelle Powell have spent the past 4 years immersed in the consumer audio market and have tested more than 150 headphones, earbuds, speakers, and soundbars. They live in a mountain town and spend countless hours biking or running on trails and generally recreating outside, most often with earbuds in their ears. That mountain town locale provides dozens of natural workout headphones testers, making it easy to aggregate dozens of opinions on all of the models present in this review.

In completing this review, we employed more than a dozen testers to get a wide range of opinions on the overall fit, stability, and general athletic prowess of each pair of headphones and earbuds. Those testers logged hundreds of miles on the road, on trails, and spent dozens of hours in the gym in that pursuit. We then conducted more controlled testing in the lab, including battery life tests and side-by-side sound quality trials.


Analysis and Test Results


We divided our testing and ranking of workout headphones into four weighted metrics. We assigned the most weight to athletic performance, closely followed by the sound quality. We also consider ease of use and battery life.

Related: Picking the Right Bluetooth Earbuds

Value


High-quality workout headphones often require paying top dollar, but luckily there are some exceptions. Though certainly not cheap, the Jaybird Vista provides exceptional performance for significantly less than many of the high-priced models currently prominent in the marketplace. The JBL Reflect Mini 2 also offers excellent sound quality and a very stable fit for much less than many of the more expensive true wireless models.

The Jaybird Vista is our favorite pair of headphones for running and...
The Jaybird Vista is our favorite pair of headphones for running and working out.
Credit: Laura Casner

Athletic Performance


Spending your entire run worrying about an expensive earbud falling out and down a storm drain or having to constantly adjust your earbuds in between sets can ruin even the best workout-induced endorphin release. In testing athletic performance, we enlisted more than a dozen runners, mountain bikers, and self-proclaimed gym rats to compare each model's ability to enhance various physical activities head-to-head. While working out, these testers paid close attention to each model's stability and comfort and whether sweat negatively impacted stability. We also considered the water-resistant or waterproof levels of each model.


The clear leader in our athletic performance testing was the Jaybird Vista. All of our testers found these buds comfortable and stable, even when they were dripping with sweat. Perhaps most notably, the mountain bikers didn't notice any discomfort in their ears even when hitting large bumps on fast downhill runs. These buds boast IPX7 total waterproofness.

The over-ear hooks of the Powerbeats Pro makes the buds very stable...
The over-ear hooks of the Powerbeats Pro makes the buds very stable, but can get in the way of sunglasses.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Closely following the Jaybird Vista in our athletic performance ranking is the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro. Though this pair is a bit heavier, the over-ear hooks of these buds make them incredibly stable. Though we had no issues with the Jaybird Vista's stability, those who participate in particularly high-impact activities may appreciate the extra peace of mind offered by the over-ear hooks. The only downside is the hooks can get in the way of sunglasses, depending on the temples' design.

The Powerbeats3 are just as stable as their wireless siblings, but...
The Powerbeats3 are just as stable as their wireless siblings, but with a cable draped behind the neck.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Powerbeats3 are essentially the same as the Powerbeats Pro, but without the true wireless form factor, which means there is a small wire draped behind your neck. We quickly noticed that this piece bounces a bit as you run, but that feels like a minor sacrifice if you're interested in getting a super-stable athletic fit for much less.

The JBL Reflect Mini 2 provides a secure and stable fit.
The JBL Reflect Mini 2 provides a secure and stable fit.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The JBL Reflect Mini 2 provided all of our testers with a stable and secure fit, even while sweating buckets. The IPX5 water resistance offers great protection from sweat. The only minor complaint is the same as the Powerbeats3 — the cable that connects the two buds can bounce as you run. However, this isn't a huge annoyance, and most of our testers forgot about it after a couple of miles.

The silicon tips of the Apple AirPods Pro makes for a much more...
The silicon tips of the Apple AirPods Pro makes for a much more secure fit than their predecessors.
Credit: Ian Pearman

The Apple AirPods Pro is a massive improvement over its predecessors in terms of athletic performance. The silicon earpieces fit tightly into the ears, and the IPX4 water resistance alleviates worries about rain and sweat. The lack of ear fins can make them seem less stable than some of their competitors, but most of our testers found them plenty stable in practice.

The AfterShokz Trekz Air is very stable and leaves your ears...
The AfterShokz Trekz Air is very stable and leaves your ears uncovered.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The AfterShokz Air and its unique bone-conduction design leave your ears completely uncovered, which is fantastic for running or cycling on crowded streets. The wrap-around fit is very stable, and it is light enough that we didn't experience uncomfortable bouncing while running. However, it is almost impossible to find a pair of sunglasses that won't be impeded by the AfterShokz Air.

For those that can find a comfortable fit, the Jabra Elite 75t works...
For those that can find a comfortable fit, the Jabra Elite 75t works great for running and working out. Some people find the buds very uncomfortable in general, however.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Jabra Elite 75t and its slightly more waterproof sibling, the Jabra Elite Active 75t, can be hit or miss when it comes to athletic performance. Some of our testers felt discomfort almost immediately upon putting the buds in their ears, and things only got worse once they were moving around in their workouts. However, others found these buds extremely comfortable and likewise found them to provide exceptional athletic performance. You should always buy items like earbuds from a retailer that allows returns. That recommendation goes double for the Jabra models we tested.

The Jabra Elite 75t is the best sounding pair of earbuds that we&#039;ve...
The Jabra Elite 75t is the best sounding pair of earbuds that we've tested.
Credit: Laura Casner

Sound Quality


While we feel all the models we've tested sound good enough to motivate you effectively with your favorite workout playlists, there are certainly some that are better than others. We tested sound quality by listening to varying music genres with each pair of workout headphones, one right after the other, which allowed us to directly compare the expression and clarity of each in the bass, mid, and treble ranges, as well as the acoustic separation and overall fullness.


Though polarizing in terms of comfort, the Jabra Elite 75t gained unanimous praise for their impressive clarity, deep and rotund bass, and overall engrossing soundscape. You can rest assured the Jabra Elite 75t will do justice to whatever workout track you choose.

A close second in our sound quality testing was the Jaybird Vista. Though these buds lack some of the Jabra Elite 75t's bass power, they still manage to provide a well-rounded and clearly defined overall sound.

We were impressed by the full sound produced by the Jaybird Vista.
We were impressed by the full sound produced by the Jaybird Vista.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Powerbeats Pro and the PowerBeats3 both had a similar performance in our sound quality testing. Though not field-leading, both pairs produce a fair amount of bass power and back it up with good clarity through the mid and treble ranges.

Both Powerbeats models offer good bass and clarity.
Both Powerbeats models offer good bass and clarity.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The bass of the Apple AirPods Pro is a bit on the weaker side, but its relatively good nuance and separation through the mid and treble ranges make for a good overall listening experience. We discovered if you engage the active noise cancellation, the bass tends to round out a bit.

The JBL Reflect Mini 2 lacks some bass power compared to the more expensive true wireless models. However, we found its low-end still has enough oomph to make workout tracks sound acceptably thumpy. It manages to create quite a full overall soundscape.

Though the bass ins on the weaker side, the JBL Reflect Mini 2 kept...
Though the bass ins on the weaker side, the JBL Reflect Mini 2 kept us well entertained during our workouts.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The extra waterproofing of the Jabra Elite Active 75t makes it sound a bit muffled compared to its melodious sibling. The overall balance and composition are still good, but everything sounds a bit thinned out.

The selling point of the AfterShokz Air is that you can listen to music without covering your ears, but the music will not sound particularly good. Sound quality largely depends on your cheekbones' anatomy (as the headphones vibrate the sound to your ears via your cheekbones). Still, all of our testers reported a relatively thin and tinny sound. If you need to leave your ears unencumbered, it is undoubtedly better than nothing, but don't expect a nuanced listening experience.

The Powerbeats Pro lasted over 11 hours in our battery life testing...
The Powerbeats Pro lasted over 11 hours in our battery life testing, and the charging case holds even more juice.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Battery Life


The good news is that unless you're an ultramarathoner, all of the buds we tested have batteries that can easily last through your workout. However, some models are better for people that often forget to charge their headphones between workouts or also want to use the buds while working or traveling. To test battery life, we fully charged each model and then played the same playlist on a loop at 75% volume until the battery died. For the true wireless earbud models, we focused on the amount of battery the individual buds held instead of how much additional extra battery the charging cases had.


The Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro and the JBL Reflect Mini 2 led our battery life testing, both lasting over 11 hours. The Powerbeats3 were close behind, managing to play music for 10 hours before dying.

The Jabra Elite 75t, the Jabra Elite Active 75t, and the AfterShokz Air all lasted about 7 hours, making their battery life performance just about average.

The Jaybird Vista and the Apple AirPods Pro both lasted about 5 hours in our battery life tests. Though this is shorter than most competitors, it is plenty of juice for getting through most workouts. Also, both models are true wireless and come with charging cases to be recharged on the go.

It is easy to press the buttons of the Jaybird Vista without...
It is easy to press the buttons of the Jaybird Vista without dislodging the buds.
Credit: Laura Casner

Ease of Use


Every pair of workout headphones has some sort of controls that let you perform basic functions, like play/pause or skip tracks, without taking your phone out of your pocket. Some also have associated apps that allow you to access more advanced features and adjust bass, mid, and treble levels. We compared all of these features to assess which are the easiest to use.


The Apple AirPods Pro offers some of the most intuitive controls of all the models that we tested. The pinch gesture of the Apple AirPods Pro is both easy and produces a clear 'click' letting you know your command has been registered. This is in stark opposition to most buds that require you to push the buds sometimes uncomfortably far into your ears to activate a control.

We still prefer the pinch gesture of the Apple AirPods Pro overall, but the Jaybird Vista is a close second. This pair features large buttons on each bud that are easy to press.

Also providing fairly easy to press buttons are the Jabra Elite 75t and the Jabra Elite Active 75t. The buttons require just enough pressure to push that the buds get pushed into your ears a bit, but not to an uncomfortable degree.

The controls of the JBL Reflect Mini 2 are quite intuitive.
The controls of the JBL Reflect Mini 2 are quite intuitive.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

The Powerbeats3 and the JBL Reflect Mini 2 place large, easy-to-press buttons on the cables that connect the two earbuds. These buttons are quite intuitive but can sometimes be hard to find when the cables are flopping around while running.

The controls of the AfterShokz Air are fairly intuitive, but it can occasionally be hard to get the right contact between the headphones and your cheekbones to get the sound to vibrate into your ears. Once you find that contact, however, it is easy to find again.

Conclusion


We spent hundreds of hours working out, running, and biking to find the very best model for every activity. The right pair of workout headphones can be a gamechanger, making getting to the gym or out on a run infinitely more enjoyable. We hope our testing results have helped you find the best way to stay entertained and motivated during your next workout.

Max Mutter and Michelle Powell