These open-ear running headphones are the perfect AirPods alternatives for athletes

Cleer Audio Arc worn by woman ready for a run
(Image credit: Cleer Audio)

Fed up with struggling to deploy the ambient-aware feature on your running headphones as you pound the pavement? Or are you finding the fit of your AirPods 3 a little less secure than you'd like when you run? Cleer Audio may have just the thing with its new Arc open ear true wireless earbuds – because they don't actually cover your ear canal at all. 

But before we all nod sagely, note that these actually aren't bone conduction headphones. Cleer explains that its Arc earbuds use an "earhook hinge design" which allows the open-ear units to sit above the ear canal, channeling audio directly into your ears thanks to custom-tuned 16.2 mm graphene neodymium drivers that "beam" toward your ears. The company claims that this unique no-pinch, comfortable design allows you to maintain spatial awareness and still enjoy your music. The promise? Full recognition of your surroundings while enjoying the playlist that'll spur you on to a new 5k personal best.

Bluetooth 5.0 with better-quality aptX streaming support is also on board (as well as plain old vanilla Bluetooth SBC) and the Cleer+ App allows you to adjust the EQ and customize music playback, as well as update the firmware. 

Cleer Audio Arc are available now in your choice of Light Gray and Midnight Blue. The earbuds come with a wireless-charging integrated carrying case and are priced pretty aggressively at $130 / £130 (around AU$190). 

Cleer Audio Arc don't go into your ear at all

(Image credit: Cleer Audio)

Opinion: Cleer's innovative approach is one to watch

There's certainly a gap in the market for headphones that neither need to be inserted into the ear canal (which some users can find disconcerting or even claustrophobic, especially when running in crowded environments) nor to sit at the top of your cheekbones so that vibrations can pass through your jawbone.

The lack of in-ear insertion is why a lot of people prefer classic AirPods to other options (including AirPods Pro) – especially since it makes it easier to hear your surroundings, which is obviously ideal for running and exercise. The latter idea is also at the heart of Sony's weird Linkbuds, which we liked a lot in our full Sony LinkBuds review.

Unlike even some of the best bone conduction headphone designs, though, Cleer is also giving you on-ear touch controls that allow you to adjust volume, skip tracks, play, pause, answer, and end calls while on the move.

The one fly in the ointment here is the claimed battery life. Cleer Audio Arc boast a standard (though not exceptional) seven-hour battery life – enough stamina for your long-distance run, but perhaps not quite enough for those long-haul flights. Then again, you're only getting six hours from the AirPods 3 (or five with spatial audio enabled)…

Patrick Huang, CEO and president of Cleer Audio, said, “Our engineering and design team has outdone themselves with Arc. Its solid build earhook design, exceptional sound performance and sleek aesthetic design makes it now one of my favorite models". 

Without putting Cleer's Arc on (above?) our ears to test those claims, it's impossible to vouch for the sound quality just yet. Any avid runner (ourselves included) will likely tell you they are looking for something exactly like this though, so we're definitely intrigued... 

Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.