Running Earbuds: The Good and Not-so-Good

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Gone are the days when you had to wear clunky earphones to hit the trails. Earbuds all but revolutionized the way that people listen to their audio devices. And they completely freed athletes to listen without earphones flapping in the wind and becoming saturated in sweat. But not all earbuds are created equal, nor do they equally match every runner’s preferences. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a pair of earbuds to listen to your pick-me-up music, but you can. It all depends on what you want to invest and how much torture you intend to put them through. Throughout the years I have gone through numerous expensive and cheap earbud brands, these are the good, and the not-so-good about them, that I have found.

JBL Endurance Sprint

The Good

For the runner who is looking for a little more substance to grip onto the ear, the JBL Endurance Sprint is excellent. They are completely water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about sweat or rain ruining them. And at $50, they are on the lower end price-wise. The hooks on the earbuds are magnetized, so they literally cup your ear. Their design ensures that they don’t jostle around no matter how hard you hit the trail. Because I usually have a hard time with earbuds falling out frequently, I really appreciated the design. 

The Not-So-Good

If you don’t like the hug-the-ear fit, these probably won’t work for you. The touch controls can also be a bit “touchy,” which I found annoying. It is not easy to play with the volume control or to skip songs using the controls on the earbuds. I am a runner who likes to pass songs up depending what mood I am in. So not being able to do that with ease was irritating and threw me off track. But overall, they are an excellent fit for someone like me who has a hard time with regular earbuds popping out. 

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BeatsX 

The Good

BeatsX is an excellent choice for someone who likes the neckband style headphone combined with the ease of earbud functionality and Bluetooth connectivity. Less costly than other Beats earbuds, they are only about $100. I am an Apple consumer, so I really enjoyed the automatic pairing with my iPhone. They are water resistant and lightweight, which makes for a much less cumbersome run. They also have a secure in-ear fit that fits more ear shapes than other earbud styles. If you want to take them off before you complete your run, the ends clamp together so you won’t lose them.

The Not-So-Good

The cords on the BeatsX can be too long and get caught when you are running if you are an arm swinger, which I am. But the concept of not having a band around my neck makes it bearable. If you are not a fan of having the neckband function, these are not for you. The clanking on your neck with a regular neckband can be problematic for me. As far as the sound goes, it provides an average seal, but the treble push can be a bit much. 

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UA Sport Wireless Flex

The Good

UA Sport Wireless Flex earbuds come with a thicker neck-band that is better for someone who isn’t into the cords dangling on their neck. The major advantage that these earbuds have is for night runners. It houses an LED light that flashes three different light modes, so it makes runners safer on the roads. Like the BeatsX, they also have magnetic strips that adhere, which is a nice option if you decide you want to take them off mid-run and have a more “silent” ride. I find them useful when I head out after the kids go to bed. They make me easy to spot!

The Not-So-Good

They are slightly overpriced at around $75, and the ear tips don’t fit as universally as other brands. If they don’t fit right, it can be somewhat of a nightmare to have them pop out mid-run. They popped out a little more frequently than other brands, but overall, they are the best choice for my night and early morning runs.

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AfterShokz Trekz Air

The Good

AfterShokz Trekz Air Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones with Brilliant Reflective StripsJust like the JBL,  the AfterShokz Trekz Air has a great design for someone who wants their earbuds to stay on. They are a wireless earbud-like headphone that is slightly more expensive at $150, but the design is super comfortable. They are considered a “bone construction,” which means that they don’t go in your ear or cover them, they rest on your face. I like to wear the AfterShokz when I am away on vacation or unfamiliar with an area because you can hear what is going on around you instead of being completely unaware of your surroundings. Also, when I am participating in a racing event where the organizers ban anything that will block your hearing, they are usually allowed. Knowing that some consumers are going to want to use them in-ear when possible, they do come with a piece to convert them, which makes the sound a lot louder. 

The Not-So-Good

The biggest con to these is that they aren’t as comfortable as an earbud, and they don’t fit everyone across the board. I have a smaller face, so they were a little bit big and tended to move around a little more than I like. Also, since they aren’t in-ear earbuds, the sound quality can suffer, but that is the price you have to pay for safety. 

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You don’t have to spend a fortune to get earbuds for running. There are some great ones that you can buy for under $150. The first step is to determine whether you want a neckband, an in-ear earbud, an earbud with an over-the-ear feature, or if you want them to rest outside of your ear, so you are more aware of your surroundings. Of all the earbuds that I have used over the years, these were the best finds.

Julie Keating, Runner, Writer, Mother, Wife | Racertrips LLC

Julie is a lifelong runner, as well as a writer, a wife and the mother of six. Throughout the many challenges she has faced, the one thing she could always turn to was running, which is where she finds solace and healing. Ironically, it is when she runs until she can’t run anymore and feels empty, that she finds peace. Julie became a writer more than a decade ago when she wrote an ongoing blog for her first husband, who was dying of pancreatic cancer. She realized that she loved writing as much as she does running, and it became her life.

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