Broadly speaking, there are two types of people when it comes to exercise. Fanatics addicted to fitness who actually enjoy working out, and the rest of us who only really do it because we know it’s good for us.

If fitness is part of your daily routine, you can take a few steps to make it more enjoyable, and having a decent set of headphones or earbuds is right at the top of the list.

It doesn’t matter if you’re running 10km a day, pushing through a gruelling gym program, or walking the groodle around the local park – having some banging beats in your ears has been scientifically proven to lift the mood, increase stamina and improve performance. But choosing the right gear for the right job is as crucial as the playlist that soundtracks your workout. So, what’s the deal?

Wire free
For our money, it’s hard to argue past true wireless. If you’ve trained with wired earbuds, you’ll know all too well about the nightmare of inadvertently ripping them out of your ears after snagging them on gym equipment. Are you worried about losing a true-wireless earbud? A good pair of true-wireless earbuds will come with a charging box to store them in, so if they go straight back in after use, you’ll have no worries.

Headphones or earbuds?
This comes down to the type of activity the user is undertaking. If the workout is more cardio-focused, it’s hard to surpass a good, snug-fitting pair of earbuds. Headphones are, pardon the pun, a good fit for more static workouts or walking. Personal preference is important here: some users don’t like the feel of earbuds poked down the ears, while others find on-ear headphones too sweat-inducing during a workout.

Jabra

The right fit
Comfort and a good fit go hand-in-hand when considering sports ear gear. Generally speaking, good earbuds will come with different-sized interchangeable silicone tips to accommodate different ear shapes. Some sports earbuds feature additional ‘wings’ that lock the buds into the ear, improving the overall fit and preventing them from popping out. Sports on-ear headphones feature a tight headband that clamps them firmly to the head.

Simple controls
Easy-to-access controls on earbuds and headphones for volume, pause, or track skipping are essential where sweaty hands and excessive movement are the norm; you don’t want to keep reaching for your phone. Active noise cancelling is a bonus for blocking out those appalling gym playlists. Another neat feature in this space is ambient mode, where external mics let in a little environmental noise. Ambient mode is ideal for runners in built-up areas where traffic can be a potential hazard.

Sweat protection
One of the unfortunate by-products of a heavy workout is sweat and, as we all know, water and electronic devices don’t generally mix. If you’re prone to sweating or running in the rain, pick a pair with a good waterproof rating (refer to page 6). Every pair of headphones and earbuds will have either an IPX or an IP rating. IPX relates to the level of water protection and IP to dust; the higher the number, the better the protection. For earbuds or headphones designed for active use, the lowest rating you should accept is IPX4. Everything above that is a bonus.

Invest in a good pair of earbuds or headphones from a reputable brand, and they will keep up with whatever workout you throw at them. Here are our picks to get you moving.

 

MID RANGE

JLab Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless In-Ear Headphones
Another option for runners is the Epic Air Sports – these wrap around the back of the ear for a good fit. Active noise cancellation is included, and a vast EQ suite in the JLab app is perfect for tweaking controls and audio. Battery is boss here – there are 15 hours in the headphones sans ANC and a whopping 55 hours in the box!

At a glance:
Colours: Black
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: Yes
IP Rating: IP66
Battery life: 15 hours
Charge in box: 55 hours
Charging: USB-A

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Jabra Elite 4 Active ANC True Wireless
The Elite 4 Actives combine great, customisable sound with an IP57 rating to protect them against sweat. The real trump card here is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). Why is ANC a big deal? It’s rare to find the technology in a pair of earbuds at this price point. There are seven hours of battery life in the buds and then a further 28 hours in the charging case.

At a glance:
Colours: Black, Mint and Navy
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Noise Cancelling: Yes
IP Rating:
IP57
Battery life: 7 hours
Charge in box: 28 hours
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

TOP SHELF

Bose Sports True Wireless Earbuds
Comfortable to wear over long periods, all the controls here are on the touch panel, including smart assist, should you need to know the weather report before going on a run. Talking of which, these are rated IPX4, so they’re suitable for sweat and rain. Most sports earbuds lean heavily into the bass, but that’s not the case here – these deliver a well-balanced soundscape.

At a glance:
Colours: Triple Black, Glacier White and Baltic Blue
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: No
IP Rating: IPX4
Battery life: 5 hours
Charge in box: 10 hours
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sony WF-SP800N True Wireless Sports
Available in four different colours, the WF-SP800Ns offer a lot of value for the price. Rated to IP55, you’re good for dust, sweat, and some rain protection. The earbuds come with noise cancelling and the all-important ambient sound for road runs. If you don’t like the sound from out of the box (big on bass), there are decent customisable options through the EQ on the Sony app, and the earbuds support 360 Reality, Sony’s spatial audio technology.

At a glance:
Colours: Black, White, Blue, Orange
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Noise cancelling: Yes
IP Rating: IP55
Battery life:
13 hours
Charge in box: 26 hours
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Sennheiser Sport True Wireless
A trusted name in audio brings its reputation to a pair of earbuds explicitly designed for sport. While ANC is absent, there’s not much else in this class that can compete on the audio front. Simply put, the sound here is outstanding and adjustable through an EQ. The earbuds use a technology called Adaptable Acoustics, where swappable ear adaptors in conjunction with the app produce ‘focus’ and ‘aware’ modes for use indoors and out.

At a glance:
Colours: Black
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Noise cancelling: No
IP Rating:
IP54
Battery life: 9 hours
Charge in box: 27 hours
Charging: USB-C

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

OUTSIDE THE BOX

Shokz OpenRun Pro
The excellent OpenRun Pros use bone conduction technology where soundwaves are transmitted through your cheekbones. This means that ear canals are left open so environmental awareness, essential when running or cycling, is second to none. These headphones are lightweight, water resistant to IP67, and have good battery life and a super quick recharge option. While it’s hard for bone-conducting headphones to compete with earbuds where the sound is piped directly down the ear canal, the OpenRuns use a tech called Premium Pitch 2.0 to maximise bass and reduce sound leakage, and the results are impressive.

At a glance:
Colours: Black
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1
Noise Cancelling: No
IP Rating: IP67
Battery life: 8 hours
Charging: Proprietary magnetic charger

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Hear here! Your STACK 2022 audio guide – everything you need to know in sound!