The best workout headphones are a must-have for anyone who needs a pounding beat – or the thrill of a great podcast – to power them through the toughest parts of their exercise routine.
But not all workout headphones are made the same. The earbuds that work perfectly for your run probably won’t be suitable if you want to take a dip in the pool afterwards. And those you wear at the gym to drown out all the ambient sound won't serve you well if you enjoy cycling and need to hear what's going on around you.
There’s a lot of choice out there – and if you know exactly what you're after, be sure to check out our guides to the best running headphones and the best waterproof headphones. If not, this handy guide to the best fitness headphones for different kinds of workouts should be the perfect starting point.
How to choose the best workout headphones of 2022:
There are lots of factors to consider when choosing the best headphones for working out, including whether you need earbuds with an IPX water-resistance rating – essential if you’re taking your headphones swimming. You'll want to make sure your new buds have at least an IPX4 water-resistance rating or above; this means that they'll be able to withstand a little sweat as well as a spot of rain.
Form factor is incredibly important, too; are you looking for comfy over-ear headphones that stay put for light exercise or compact in-ear headphones that never budge? Do you prefer the security of wired earphones so there's no chance you'll lose one or the freedom of true wireless earbuds? Do you want to be aware of your surroundings when you work out on roads or in public spaces, or do you strive to escape from the outside world with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones?
Battery life is also something to consider. Think about how long you typically work out for – do you want to charge in between every session? Or do you want a pair of gym headphones that will last for your weekly workouts and your daily commute combined?
These are the basics – some of the best fitness headphones also go one step further with features like heart rate monitors and AI personal trainers, which means they double up as some of the best fitness gadgets on the market in 2022.
- Check out the best fitness trackers you can buy today
The best workout headphones of 2022
You could opt for a pair of earbuds to wear to the gym, but if you prefer something more substantial, the Adidas RPT-01 could be the best workout headphones for you, particularly if you're doing something relatively static like lifting weights.
Sure, not everyone wants to wear on-ear headphones while working out, but the breathable design of these Adidas cans means you won't overheat – and they offer a far longer battery life than any true wireless earbuds.
The knitted headband and ear cushions can even be removed and washed after particularly sweaty sessions.
While the sound quality isn't the finest we've ever heard, the RPT-01s are suitably loud and bassy, which is something you'll want to push you through those final reps.
If you want to boost your run without the annoyance of cables, the Powerbeats Pro could be the best workout headphones for you.
Beat's latest true wireless earbuds, are something special – they’re supremely comfortable, sound decent and seem to never, ever fall out.
They're ideal for running thanks to their close-fitting ear hooks and IPX4 sweatproof rating, as well as nifty additions like the pressure-reducing micro-laser barometric venting hole, their long battery life, and their superior sound quality.
As well as running, the Powerbeats Pro would make a great pair of earbuds to wear at the gym, and with the ability to summon Siri hands-free, they’re great for setting timers in between sets.
Depending on your tastes, you may be disappointed to learn that the Powerbeats Pro don't come with active noise cancellation – that means they won't block out environmental noise. On the plus side, it's great to be aware of your surroundings when you're running, but if you're dead set on listening to your tunes uninterrupted, check out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds – the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds you can buy.
Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review
Now, hear us out with this one. When you're cycling, it's really important to be aware of your surroundings, particularly pedestrians and oncoming traffic – which is why we're recommending that cyclists try out the nifty Bose Frames instead of a traditional pair of earbuds or headphones.
The Bose Frames combine your sunglasses with headphones by building in speakers that are pointed towards your ears.
This means you’re able to keep your ears and head free of anything but your pair of sunglasses (and your helmet, of course), while still being able to listen to music, podcasts or audiobooks.
The sound quality is surprisingly good, albeit not as full or bassy as you’ll get from a dedicated pair of cans. You may find that bone conduction headphones like the Aftershokz Aeropex deliver a fuller sound, so it's worth checking out this form factor too, if you want to keep your ears free.
Plus, the Bose Frames come with the added benefit of shielding your eyes from the sun or any debris your front wheel kicks up as your cycle – for us, thats a win-win.
Read more: Bose Frames review
The Zygo Solo are the only set of waterproof headphones we've tested that can actually stream music and podcasts from a phone that's sitting by the side of the pool. Bluetooth signals can only penetrate water for a very short distance. The Zygo Solo gets around this problem by using an FM radio transmitter – an unusual, but effective approach.
The transmitter is quite large, but the ability to enjoy music, podcasts and coaching tips (provided by the Zygo app) without messing around with MP3 files is a real bonus.
The headset itself isn't as compact as the others in this guide, but in our tests it proved comfortable, and remained secure even when making turns underwater. The sound quality is impressive, too. Like the Aftershokz Xtrainerz and Sony NW-WS413 below, the Zygo Solo uses bone conduction to transmit sound to your auditory nerve, and while it sounds a little tinny on land, once you're in the pool the sound has an impressive amount of bass.
We're also big fans of the Zygo mobile app, which offers instructor-led workouts an drills to give you training some variety. In the future, the company plans to add Peloton-style interactive sessions, which will make use of the headset's built-in accelerometer to track your progress in the pool. The best waterproof headphones you can buy today.
Read more: Zygo Solo review
If you need to block out the world for an effective yoga session, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones are essential; however, a pair of bulky over-ear headphones could slip off of your head when you transition into downward dog.
That's why we're recommending these true wireless earbuds from Sony; the Sony WF-1000XM4 manage to offer a level of noise cancellation that's exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds – they won't offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear headphones, but its a worthy trade off for that sleeker form.
Sony has really knocked the ball out of the park with the WF-1000XM4. Not only are these hands down the best-looking true wireless earbuds on the market, but they also combine serious noise-cancelling tech with fist-pumping musicality – so if you like your yoga session to come with music, you're in for a real treat with these buds.
Battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is pretty slick too. The audio quality is among the best you'll get from a pair of wireless in-ear headphones, and DSEE Extreme upscaling means you'll get an approximation of high-resolution sound from standard-definition digital audio files.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Bone conduction headphones allow you to listen to music and hear sounds around you. Shokz (formerly known as AfterShokz) is the biggest name in bone conduction headphones, and the OpenRun Pro are its best set to date. Released in early 2021, they feature new bass transducers, which deliver rich, rounded sound.
They have a light, springy titanium band that holds the headphones' earpieces securely yet gently in place. They remain firmly in position in all conditions, and never pinch or rub. The bass sometimes results in a slightly tickling sensation if you're enjoying some particularly heavy tunes, but in our tests it was never enough to become annoying.
These are a great pair of headphones if you're working out and need to hear sounds around you, like if you're running outside. This is particularly the case if you're concerned about safety or you regularly run races. Many races require that you cam hear the commands of marshals and traffic on open-road courses, which makes bone conduction headphones a great choice.
Read our full Shokz OpenRun Pro review
The Amazfit Powerbuds Pro are a versatile pair of buds that'll serve you well whether you're running or working. But we've added them to this list as they're an excellent choice if you'd like to track your fitness but don't want to bother with a wristband or sports watch – these buds use in-ear tracking instead.
Sound is bass-heavy, which we prefer while working out, and the active noise cancellation effectively masks sounds when you need to focus on your fitness.
The in-ear fitness tracking is thanks to a hear-rate monitor in the buds that keeps tabs on you while you exercise. They them sync this data with the Zepp Health app on your phone. Data from any other Amazfit fitness trackers and smart scales will be collected in the same place, so you can easily track trends.
If you do want to use them for other purposes, the Powerbuds Pro can also check the position of your head in relation to your spine while you're working to determine whether you're slouching and putting yourself at risk of back and neck problems further down the road.
They're not quite perfect (heart rate measurements were consistently higher than those measured by our chest strap monitor, and there are no ear hooks to hold them securely as there were with the original Powerbuds), but they're an excellent choice if you just want one pair of earphones for all purposes.
Read our full Amazfit Powerbuds Pro review
The Sony LinkBuds are the world’s first open-ring in-ear headphones, a design that leaves your ear canals totally free to hear your environment while you enjoy music. This makes them a great option for listening on-the-move while you stay aware of your surroundings, so we're including them here as a solid choice for those who like to walk outside.
They’re also Sony’s smallest earbuds to date, much daintier than the Sony WF-1000XM4. They boast ingenious controls that mean you don’t have to fumble with the miniature housings to adjust music playback. Instead, you can tap your face to skip tracks, change the volume, and take calls. Great news if you want to use them for fitness.
The audio quality is exceptional, with a remarkably wide soundstage that gives every instrument in your favorite songs the room they need to shine. Detail, clarity, and rhythmic accuracy are also excellent. If you're looking for a pair of buds that'll allow you to listen to music while you walk through the streets or on trails and keep you aware of what's going on around you, they're the best option.
Read more: Sony LinkBuds Review
How we test the best workout headphones
We've selected the headphones in this guide based on which we think are best suited to certain sports, whether that's running, yoga or swimming.
To make these choices, we put them to the test whilst working out. That's the only way to be sure the best running headphones offer a snug fit while you're pounding the pavement, the best swimming headphones are fully waterproofed and deliver good sound as you're gliding through the water or the best headphones for yoga stay put during a downward dog.
For this reason, the best headphones for sports in this list aren't necessarily the top headphones you can buy today, but are instead included for the unique features they offer sports lovers.
Having said that, many of the headphones included here would fare well in all kinds of environments, so they're still good value for money whether you're wearing them for running or focusing at work.
Is it better to work out with headphones or earbuds?
Whether you workout with over-ear or on-ear headphones or earbuds totally depends on you and your preferences. Some people always prefer the snug fit of earbuds regardless of what they're doing, whereas others like the immersive sound provided by the best over-ear headphones.
Having said that, some activities certainly lend themselves to different styles. For example, there are some over-ear and on-ear headphones that will stay put while you run, like the Adidas RPT-01 over-ear headphones, which you can find in our best running headphones guide.
However, you'll probably find earbuds or bone-conducting headphones are a much more secure and comfortable option – especially those with an ear hook design, like the Beats PowerBeats Pro in our list above.
How do you find the best workout headphones for you?
To find the best workout headphones for you, you'll need to consider what you'll be using them for.
For example, if you're running or doing any kind of high-energy workout, ensuring your headphones stay put is your number one priority. Whereas if you're looking for a pair to take swimming then top waterproofing is a must.
Most headphones that cater for sports do come with some water resistance, but you'll want to check the specs. Plenty say they can withstand water and sweat, which might be fine if you're using them for light workouts. However, if you want the best protection, choose those that come with an iPX4 rating and higher. IPX7 means full waterproofing, so that's what you'll want for swimming.
Although you'll need to consider the way you workout, for value for money you'll also want to think about whether they'll work in other environments, too. To be honest, most of the top headphones for working out will be perfect for the office and the commute, too – never be put off by the sporty design or "sport" labelling. But it is worth considering how you like to listen to music in other environments.
For example, if you're eyeing up a pair of running earbuds but prefer the immersive sound of over-ear headphones, you might need to make a compromise.
If you're choosing wireless headphones or earbuds, consider the controls. It's probably best if they have an inline remote or easy-to-use touch controls. That way you don't have to reach for your phone anytime you want to skip a track.
But more than anything, we'd recommend considering comfort. The best audio quality or fancy features don't matter if they don't feel right or keep sliding out of your ears. Look for designs recommended for your favorite sport, as well as things like customizable eartips and ear hooks to keep them secure.
- Sticking to a budget? Check out the best cheap fitness trackers