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The best workout headphones for every sport

best workout headphones: a man running wearing wireless headphones
(Image credit: Apple / Beats)

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. 

What else do I need for my workout?

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're 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 2021:

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 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 2021.

The best workout headphones of 2021:

The Adidas RPT-01 wireless headphones in black

(Image credit: Adidas)

1. Best gym headphones: Adidas RPT-01 Wireless On-Ear Sport Headphones

On-ear headphones with a marathon battery

Reasons to buy
+Rugged design+Great battery life+Simple controls
Reasons to avoid
-Design is an acquired taste

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.

Read more: Adidas RPT-01 Wireless Bluetooth Sport Headphones review

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The Beats PowerBeats Pro wireless headphones

(Image credit: Beats)

2. The best running earbuds: Beats PowerBeats Pro

Impressive-fitting workout ‘buds from Beats

Reasons to buy
+Good sound+Immaculate fit
Reasons to avoid
-Case is fairly bulky-Limited noise isolation

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 Sony WF-1000XM3 – the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds you can buy.

Read more: Beats PowerBeats Pro review

Note: If you regularly run in races, don't forget that many require that you can to hear the commands of marshals and traffic on open-road courses. If you want to run with music in smaller races, look for a pair of bone-conducting headphones like the Aftershokz Aeropex.

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The bose frames in black

(Image credit: Bose)

3. The best cycling headphones: Bose Frames

Keep your ears free with these nifty sunglasses

Reasons to buy
+Allow you to hear traffic+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best audio quality-Battery life could be better

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

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The Sony NW-WS413 wireless headphones in green

(Image credit: Sony)

4. The best swimming headphones: Sony Walkman NW-WS413

The buds are built for the pool

Reasons to buy
+Multisport use+Excellent sound+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-In-ear fitting won’t suit everyone

A set of Sony headphones with a built-in MP3 player, the Walkman NW-WS413 are marketed for general active use and work much like any others. The fact they’re waterproof and ideal for swimming is a massive bonus.

Available with 4GB or 8GB of storage, this and the buttons on either side leaves them a tad larger than normal, but not irritatingly so. They arrive with four sets of earbuds – two standard ones and two matching swim-specific versions – although mixing the two up won’t result in damage.

Once popped on, a sprung connective clasp around the back of your neck ensures both sides remain secure in your ears. This is perfectly acceptable in the pool, and if you’re very fast off the wall, a cap will further lock these swimming headphones in place.

Depending on how the water sloshes around your ears, sound quality can either be excellent or a bit muffled. However, people who care about such things are likely to find it an improvement over that provided by bone conduction waterproof headphones. There’s even an ambient sound mode that improves your ability to hear what’s going on around you.

They also sound great on dry land. If you’re a swimmer and only want to own one set of headphones, these should be well up your list. Although you can’t connect them to your phone, they’re otherwise great for both sporting and general use. With top sound quality, normal looks, and a comparatively low price, there’s a lot to recommend them.

Read more: The best waterproof headphones of 2021

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The Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless headphones

(Image credit: Sony)

5. The best yoga headphones: Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless Earbuds

Noise-cancelling true wireless headphones to keep you feeling zen

Reasons to buy
+Efficient noise-cancellation+Inconspicuous looks+Great fun to listen too
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for high intensity sports

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-1000XM3 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-1000XM3. 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. Constantly improving, a recent update has brought volume control to the buds themselves, as well as support for Amazon Alexa. 

Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review

[Update: There could be a new pair of Sony earbuds on the horizon. The rumored Sony WF-1000XM4 may launch this year, and they could be the next best wireless earbuds of 2021.]

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The Adidas RPT-01 headphones in black

(Image credit: Adidas)

6. Best gym headphones: Adidas RPT-01 Wireless On-Ear Sport Headphones

On-ear headphones with a marathon battery

Reasons to buy
+Rugged design+Great battery life+Simple controls
Reasons to avoid
-Design is an acquired taste

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.

Read more: Adidas RPT-01 Wireless Bluetooth Sport Headphones review

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Olivia Tambini

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to music streaming services. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, Top Ten Reviews Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine.  In her spare time Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.