Whether I am inside spending some time on the treadmill or out doing a bit of cycling, I like to take my iPod with me so that I can listen to a little music while getting in my exercise. Countless studies have shown that listening to music while working out boosts your endurance and pacing, especially when listening to something uptempo. So, if you want to crank your music of choice to make your fitness routine more effective, you need a really good pair of headphones or earbuds.
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Headphones or Earbuds – Which Is Better For Exercise Use?
I have tried both and honestly prefer earbuds, but only when it is something that is a comfortable fit. The real challenges that I’ve found when shopping for the perfect exercise headphones or earbuds include:
- needs to be comfortable while I’m in motion (no sore ears)
- needs to be somewhat water resistant because of sweating and possibility of getting caught out in the rain
- needs to be lightweight enough that I don’t notice them
- no long cords that will get tangled while I’m working out
- offers good sound quality without me needing to blast the volume (and possibly damaging my hearing)
- has some noise cancellation capability so that I can keep that volume at a reasonable level
- offers a snug, but not painful, fit so they stay in place while I’m working out
With that in mind, I really think that earbuds make the best choice for any type of physical activity where you want to listen to music or podcasts while in motion. With ear buds, you get something that is not only more lightweight but also more compact so that you can easily slip them in a pocket if you want to stop using them. I also like that I can just put one of the sides in my ear and leave the other out while I am on a road, which leaves me free to hear any cars or other situations going on around me. I know that a lot of people wonder if earbuds are safe for cycling and running, and this ability makes them safer than headphones. And if you’re in a gym, then you’ll notice that the suction that you get from having the earbuds in your ears has a better noise dampening effect as it is better able to block out all the gym noises (hello guys dropping heavy weights repeatedly) than headphones.
After trying out a few different models of exercise earbuds myself, I want to share some of my favorites in case you’re also shopping for some cycling headphones or running earbuds. I think that you’ll find that my top exercise earbuds list is a great place to start your shopping as my reviews can help you narrow down your options to something that is a good fit for your active needs.
My Favorite Picks for Best Earphones for Running and Biking
1. Bose SIE2 Sport Headphones
It took me a while to find my very favorite option, but the first time that I used the Bose SIE2 Sport Headphones, I knew that I’d found the perfect pair of cycling headphones and running headphones. I know what you’re thinking – I prefer earbuds – and while these are technically called headphones, they are more earbud style. So, that’s important for you to know before buying.
The price of these is just a bit more than the others listed below, it the features and quality make it a good value for the money.
With the Bose brand, you know that you’re getting high quality sound. The audio comes through balanced and crisp so that you don’t have to blast the volume.
Even in my most rigorous workouts, these earbuds stayed in place, which is amazing to me. No amount of sweat or movement made them pop up – and, they were comfortable to wear the entire time! In fact, you get three different ear tip sizes so that you can choose the one that is the best fit for your ears.
A big plus for me is that they are weather and sweat resistant. So, if you do a lot of sweating or spend a lot of time outside where you might get rained on, then this is your best choice for budget water resistant sports headphones for biking and running.
And though there are cords, this pair of cycling earbuds comes with a Reebok armband to hold your audio device and the loose cords. You can also pop your keys in it too. There is also a clothing clip if you prefer to dock the cords out of the way using it.
The cords and earbuds are very durable and have stood up to a lot of abuse and movement without any problems.
2. Sennheiser CX 685 Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones
These earbud style exercise headphones from Sennheiser are probably my second favorite pair. The Sennheiser CX 685 Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones are designed with activity in mind and are close to as good as the Bose listed above.
The big benefit of this pair over the Bose is the price, at least to me. I love how cheap these cycling headphones are compared to the Bose above.
They give you a similar fit to the Bose and the sound is almost comparable, which isn’t surprising as Sennheiser is known for making quality audio gear.
Like the Bose, the cords are reinforced to be durable for the abuse you’ll put them through when exercising. They are also water resistant and sweat proof. And, they come with an ear adapter set for a comfortable fit. You don’t get a sports band with them, but you do get a carrying pouch.
My only complaint with these was that during some of my yoga and pilates workouts, they would not stay in my ears.
Overall, good comfort and sound, but not quite as good as the Bose in terms of sound and staying in my ears. If your budget permits it, then go with the Bose, otherwise this is an excellent exercise headphones choice for anyone.
3. Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones
After I had some trouble with the Sennheiser CX 685 staying in my ears during some of my workout routine, I decided to give this over-the-ear headphone style design a try to see if it performed any better.
The fit on these is a little different as they are kind of like earbuds but that over-the-ear headphone piece is there to offer the security of them staying in your ears. And since I wear glasses, I got a little pain on the backs of my ears where the glasses rested against the headphones. This wasn’t the case when I was wearing my contacts though.
The price of this is great, but it just a tiny bit more than the Sennheiser CX 685 listed above when I compared them at several online stores like Fry’s and Hayneedle. But, I give them a great review.
So, how do they stack up? For me, the sound was the same as the Sennheiser CX 685, but the comfort was worse. As mentioned above, I got some pain on the backs of my ears and I also had a problem with them staying in place! Though several size earbud pieces come with the headphones, that outer ear part was just too big for my ears, thus is slipped off frequently when I was doing a lot of movement. However, when I was riding a stationary bike at the gym, they stayed in place just fine. Same for using the weight machines. But, they bounced off when I was running.
So, depending on what you plan on using them for, these might be a good fit for you.
4. Sound2 XJ5 Sport Earphones
If you are looking for the best cheap exercise earbuds, then these Sound2 XJ5 sport earphones are just what you need.
Honestly, I tested them out almost as a joke because I thought that there was no way that something this cheap could actually perform well when used by someone doing a lot of physical activity. Turns out, I was wrong. I’d even say that these are the best cheap exercise earbuds for the money.
These are just your basic, no frills sports headphones. They don’t look like much, but that shouldn’t fool you as they are surprisingly good quality for the money – both in sound and build. Granted, I did not use them for a long period, but they seemed very solid.
You get three sizes of earbuds for comfort, and they stay in your ears while working out and are pain-free when in use. The little loop actually holds them in place, but doesn’t hurt.
The bottom line is that these perform surprisingly well for the money, however it is obvious that you get what you pay for and all of the models above offer a LOT more in terms of quality and comfort. Plus, this pair is not water resistant or sweat-proof. That being said, it’s not a bad purchase for the low price. And, they would probably be a good choice to take with you when you travel and don’t want to bring along your more expensive pair of exercise earbuds.