Please Don’t Run Me Over, I’m Wearing Headphones for Running

Running with Music by Chris Hunkeler, on Flickr

Running with Music by Chris Hunkeler, on Flickr

When you first get into the market for some headphones for running, you’ll probably be surprised. There are a LOT of different models to choose from.

Some are “normal” headphones that just have the small plastic round pieces you put in your ears.

Others have a plastic hook that goes around your ear, securing it in place.

Some running headphones have a small rubbery piece that sticks into your ear, holding it in place.

Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. To help you choose the best type of headphone for running, we made up three factors to consider. It’s the Internet, of course we make these up.

(Psst: scroll to the bottom for some shameless product recommendations)


Factor #1: Headphones Price

Would you be surprised to hear that headphones for running can be anywhere from $1 to over $200? I’m not, because I just did the research.

The first time I got a pair of $35 headphones, I felt like I’d spent a fortune. Apparently I was on the lower end of the spectrum, with “serious” runners willing to pay a lot more for their gear.

Generally, we’ve found that higher prices have almost zero effect on quality. Sure, they may look a little cooler or have slightly better audio- but as for utility? There’s very little difference.

A set of $8 headphones with hooks that go around your ears tend to work just as well, if not better, than that $150 set that has nothing to keep them secure in your ears.

All of that said- some runners swear by the more expensive gear, saying that it stays in place better and provides much better quality sound.

What it really boils down to is your budget. How much can you afford to pay to get the tiny incremental improvements that you may or may not notice with a more expensive pair?

Factor #2: Usage during Running

Some runners log 3-5 miles a week. Others log more than 2-3 more than that every day.

If you’re in the first group, chances are you don’t need extremely high quality headphones for running. You really aren’t using them too much, so they should be able to last a long time before they need replacing.

Meanwhile, folks in the second group may need to get a higher quality pair of headphones. If you’re logging 5 miles a day, you’re probably running at least 10 hours a week, right? That’s a lot of time spent in those headphones, so you need to make sure they’re sturdy and comfortable.

Yellow and green sprint by KaiChanVong, on Flickr

Yellow and green sprint by KaiChanVong, on Flickr

Along with usage comes the idea of sound isolation. Do you need to cancel all of the noise around you to really concentrate? Or are you in a situation where you need good situational awareness?

For example- many runners who spend their miles on treadmills tend to like sound isolation. They don’t want to hear weights dropping, random gym chatter, and the slowpoke next to you huffing and puffing. You also probably want to isolate the sound of your own breath and feet hitting the ground.

Meanwhile, street runners can’t be so picky. Safety should always be a top priority, and on the street you need to hear cars, bikers, muggers, other runners, etc.

Bottom line- how much time are you logging, and where is it?

Factor #3: Comfort in Your Ears

Everyone’s different.

My head is shaped differently than yours. My ears are probably either bigger or smaller, higher or lower, rounder or less round… you get the point.

Because our bodies are all shaped differently, a headset that feels great to your buddy may feel extremely uncomfortable to you.

Running should be a fun, enjoyable experience. Everyone loves that runner’s high, especially while jamming out to your favorite music. But nobody wants to do that with uncomfortable headphones in their ears.

Think about what you think you’d like best regarding comfort. Would you be okay with having a piece loop behind your ears? Or would you rather have a small piece of the headphones stick deeper into your ears for stability?

Either way- just pick one and try out a set. If you like it, great. If not, you can (hopefully) return them and get a different set to try out.

Also, is the cord too short, too long, or just right? Too much cord adds a lot of bounce, while having too small of a cord could cause you to knock the headphones out.

The bottom line? Don’t try to force yourself to like your earphones. Get some that you feel comfortable with and roll with it.

Conclusion and Shameless Promotion

Generally, these are the 3 main things to consider when shopping for headphones for running. Typically the more expensive headphones are higher quality and last longer, but they may not provide better stability or sound.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you buy from my links below. It tells me that I should make up more articles like this one in the future.

Cheapo Headphones:
Philips Flexible Earhook Headphones SHS3201/28 (White) (replaces SHS3201/37)

Sennhesier MX685 Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones – Black

You Want the Best Headphones for Running:
Bose SIE2i Sport Headphones – Blue

I have money to burn:
Shure SE315-K, Sound Isolating Earphone, Hi-Definition Micro Speaker with Tuned Bass Port (Black)

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