Exercise Headphones Buyers Guide
Before you invest in a pair of exercise headphones, you need to consider what they will be expected to endure. If you’re running, you will need a pair that can withstand the constant movement without becoming dislodged.
If you like to push your limits, then you’ll need headphones with waterproofing and sweat protection to ensure they stick with you and your hardcore routine. Not to mention, you’ll also have to consider the price. Understanding these factors is essential to getting the most out of your headphones and workout.
IP: Ingress Protection.
Something that almost all sporting headphones advertise is their IP or Ingress Protection rating. This determines how waterproof or dust-proof they are. Many manufacturers will claim their product is waterproof when, in fact, they are only water resistant or protected for a limited amount of time. An IP rating is usually written like this: IPX5.
Take note of the number at the end. It ranges from IPX0 to IPX8. Each end number correlates to a scale of how much moisture an item can withstand, IPX0 is an item that is completely unprotected by water, while IPX8 is almost entirely waterproof.
I write “almost” because an IPX7 rating is defined as a product that can withstand no more than one meter of water submersion for 30 minutes. After that, the product will likely be damaged. IPX8 is a grade only given to items that surpass the resilience of IPX7 products, but even they are rarely 100% waterproof.
Make sure to check the IP rating of your headphones if you plan to use them for running in heavy rain or other moist conditions. You should also consider sweating as a possible source of moisture damage. Many manufacturers do offer nano-coating protection against the corrosive properties of sweat, but be sure that it meets the requirements for your workout routine.
An earphone driver is what converts the electrical signals from your device into an audible sound. It’s made up of a magnet, a diaphragm, and a coil. Drivers come in a wide range of sizes, with the in-ear average at around 10mm. They function like a small speaker that plays sound directly into your ear.
The size of your driver is not a direct measurement of how loud or clear your sound is. There are many varying factors that contribute to the overall quality of a good set of headphones. Larger drivers that reach up to 15mm may have the potential for a heavier bass range, but it ultimately depends on the quality of other internal components.
Our advice is not to get too caught up in the advertisement and specifications of the driver size (and the higher price that might come with it). It’s much better to focus on factors such as comfort and general sound quality, as these will better determine whether the headphones are right for you.
Perhaps the most important question when buying headphones is, “are they comfortable?” Exercising takes motivation and determination to push through the pain and come out stronger on the other side. It’s going to be harder to do so if you feel discomfort, or you keep having to push your earphones back in because they don’t fit properly.
There’s a certain amount of fitting leniency for most people who can swap out earbud sizes and ear hooks to get a comfortable fit, but you should be aware that some of the cheaper headphone models adhere to a “one size will fit all” mentality. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and different sized buds fit different sized ears.
Again, you should consider what kind of workout you’ll be using your headphones for. Runners should invest in adjustable ear hooks to ensure a tight and firm fit. Weight lifters should use a set of headphones that will not restrict their movement in any way, in order to avoid possible injury. A pair of true wireless headphones might be best there.
Furthermore, finding a comfortable and secure fitting pair of headphones will mean you get the best possible sound out of them. This means you can stay focused and go for that extra mile or rep.
Most battery life ratings are taken under certain conditions, so it’s usually a good idea to adjust your expectations if you’re the type of user who enjoys their music at full blast. Increased volume requires slightly more power, as the drivers are working harder to keep you pumped and moving.
It’s a good idea to read the full specs and fine print of your prospective workout headphones. Some manufacturers may promise a battery life of 16 hours, but only if your music is played at 70% volume or a similar condition. This may be fine if you’re practicing yoga or other indoor activities, but this may not be suitable for those who are running outdoors.
Another thing to consider with the battery life is how often you’re able to charge your workout headphones. For someone who leads a busy lifestyle, you may want to go for a pair of sports headphones that will not require regular recharging or that feature quick-charging.
Can I wear IPX7 Headphones in the shower?
Short answer; yes. Long answer; yes, but remember that IPX7 is defined as protection against water rather than being specifically designed for it. You may end up shaving off some of the lifespan of your wireless earphones with continual use, but this can vary from brand to brand.
Can I use over-ear or on-ear headphones for my wireless workout?
You can, but very few over-ear and on-ear headphones are built to accommodate it. The added pressure over your ears can cause additional heat and sweat build-up, which can lead to irritation and even mild sweat rashes in some cases.
They’re also more at risk of being caught during rigorous movement, which could be dangerous to you and your headphones. We highly recommend purchasing a pair of wireless in-ear buds that will pose no risk or impede your workout.
How do I secure my running headphones?
If your headphones are adjustable, the best way to position them is to place them into your ear and ensure that the size of earbud and hooks are a good fit and comfortable. It’s easy enough to switch the sizes out. So once you are happy with your fit, hold one bud steady while you use your other hand to slide the earpiece up or down until the over-ear hook rests comfortably on top.
Make sure not to overtighten the earbud, as this can lead to painful rubbing with prolonged use. Do the same for your other ear. If your wireless buds come with a cable clamp, secure that last and tie up the excess behind your head to eliminate any distracting bouncing.
What about the warranty?
Almost all of the sports headphones on our list come with some kind of coverage or warranty. Make sure to read the fine print as to what conditions are covered, and consider whether this is applicable to the risks posed by your workout. Many manufacturers offer coverage of water and sweat damage as standard.
While you may be tempted to look at true wireless headphones for your workout, nothing quite provides the security and reliability of a Bluetooth set connected by a cable. Particularly with running headphones, they provide a better hold and don’t risk being lost like coins in cushions.
Other examples of workout headphones you could think about include the Jaybird Vista, the Plantronics Backbeat Fit, the Bose Soundsport Wireless, and the Jabra Elite Active 65T. But we’re more than sure that this list has helped you choose your next pair of workout headphones. Now it’s up to you to get out there and start smashing that workout.