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Running is a great way to break a sweat and get you outside. However, it can get boring if you’re running alone.
That’s where headphones (and earbuds) come in. Headphones can help you listen to some tunes while you’re running. Listening to music or a podcast — while on your feet — can help you stay in the zone and be productive.
Many audiophiles who are also into fitness — informally termed as “audiofitnessphiles.” — would prefer to use the latter option i.e., over-ear headphones. A good pair of cans, despite their bulkiness, can provide high-quality audio, active noise cancellation, and longer battery life.
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So, can you wear over-ear headphones while running?
Fortunately, you can use headphones for running, provided they won’t have a good enough clamp to not fall off your head every time you pick up the pace.
However, there are some other factors you need to consider regarding the health of both you and your over-ear headphones. In the following sections: I’ll discuss this in more detail. Here’s what I’ll be covering:
Is it possible to wear over-ear headphones for running and working out?
What to look for when picking out a good set of wireless headphones for running?
How to take care of over-ear headphones when running/working out?
What about using earbuds for running?
So let’s get into it.
Is it possible to wear normal headphones for running and working out?
As mentioned previously, over-ear headphones do have better audio quality and better noise cancellation features. These help you listen to your music/podcast clearly without having to pump up the audio because of background noise.
But is it viable to wear headphones to listen to music while you’re running? Yes, it is possible to use headphones to listen to music while you are running, and although it might seem counterproductive to have a big set of cans weighing you down but many people prefer headphones and they’ve figured out how to spot a good set of over ear headphones that are perfect for running, the following section will show you how.
What to look for when picking out a good set of running headphones?
Even though it’s impossible to try on headphones while shopping online (or even shopping in some stores,) having a good fit is paramount if you want to wear your headphones for running and other workout sessions.
Hopefully, most original high-quality brands such as Sony, JBL, and Bose will guarantee a perfect fit on most of their high-end products.
If it’s possible to try them — out before you buy them: check if the wireless headphones can stay on firmly without falling. (Do not practice running in the store with headphones on, as security might mistake you for stealing them.)
We discuss it more in the FAQ but it’s worth being wary of on-ear headphones, they’re generally not as comfortable and move around more while running.
Sure, it would be nice to “sing in the rain” with your headphones up, but IP rating is something you need to be “Super Cereal” about considering. Most headphones and earbuds proudly flaunt their IPX4 ratings, and you’ll know for sure if they are fit for the outdoors. (Some even have IPX7 and IP57 ratings, such as the Galaxy Buds Pro and BackBeat Fit 3150).
However, IPX4 isn’t waterproof. It’s only resistant against light rain and sweat, so don’t go swimming with IPX4 headphones and earbuds (see a list of waterproof headphones for swimming here). Also, be careful of headphones that do not have an official IP rating, implying they are not recommended for working out.
Noise-canceling features can be a godsend when you are having trouble focusing when there’s outside noise, but it can also be an issue when you’re out and about.
You might miss some important sounds such as traffic; in the city, or beasts; in the wild. So make sure to lower the volume and always be wary of your surroundings when you’re running with your noise canceling on. (Take care when you’re crossing the road and running in deserted areas)
Also, if you are worried about drowning out the outside environment, we recommend you consider bone-conducting headphones. They don’t have the best audio quality, but they keep your ears free.
If your headphones (or the ones you hope to buy) are comfortable to wear during running and include the minimum IPX4 rating, you can use them for running outdoors, provided you follow.
Maybe this is obvious but there’s nothing wrong with stating it. Wireless headphones are far better than wired ones for running.
With that being said, wireless headphones often come with trade-offs, the most noticeable of which is that they require charging. These days, the battery life is excellent, but if you forget to charge your headphones a few times in a row you might be in trouble.
A cable can be an annoyance when it gets snagged during running, especially when you are under the influence of music. So wireless headphones are highly preferred over their wired brethren, just make sure the battery life is up to snuff.
Most over-ear headphones will sound fine when you are jogging or running but, for the more discerning listener, budget quality wireless headphones can present some sound quality problems.
Sound quality is usually limited by the codec your wireless headphones use to compress music files while sending them wirelessly to your receiver. This makes it harder for wireless headphones to achieve sound fidelity comparable with wired headphones.
AAC and aptX are two common technologies used to boost sound quality on wireless headphones, but even they do not match the sound quality that wired headphones provide.
However, if you are just an average Joe who wants to run with music then any pair of Bluetooth headphones should suffice and give a more immersive sound quality than in-ear headphones. But if your ears are trained for studio-level production, you might have to splurge for some nicer quality Bluetooth headphones.
As mentioned before, battery life has come a long way. The majority of wireless headphones these days are marked by their battery life, so you don’t have to worry too much about being stranded without music.
The standard for wireless headphones is 20 hours, but some models can last up to 30+ or 40+ hours between charges! Additionally, some wireless headsets support fast charging that can charge the headphones in a few minutes.
How to take care of headphones when running/working out?
Picking out a comfortable, secure, and water-resistant pair of over-ear headphones is just the first step, you also need to take care of it when you are wearing them during running and workout sessions.
Here are several tips on how to take care of your headphones when you’re running.
Additional padding for headphones
Most affordable headphones do not have high-quality materials on the cushioning.
They are very prone to flaking no matter how careful you are with your headphones. It’s just a matter of time until the covers start to flake and corrosion sets in, with sweat and moisture, it can get even worse when you are exercising daily: moving around, chafing the headphone pads, and getting sweat and rain all over them.
Fortunately, you can easily replace the cushions and covers on your over-ear headphones. Also, if you want an extra layer of protection, you can supplement the cushions with additional padding/earpad covers that will help absorb sweat and moisture.
They are easy to install and great for preserving the quality of your headphones.
Clean out your headphones regularly
Your headphones can get dirty with time. Excessive sweat and moisture can accumulate and start to smell. Therefore, I recommend you clean out your headphones whenever possible, especially after a long day of running/working out.
There are various ways to go about this, but the simplest is: to use rubbing alcohol to wipe the cushions and headband. A simple cleaning practice such as this (when carried out regularly) will help keep the headphones free from germs and odors.
Also, it’s best to clean them out if you happen to share your headphones with someone else, especially with Covid and other diseases around. (I don’t recommend you share headphones that you’ve been sweating in, use speakers if possible.)
For some, wearing headphones for exercise is not the most ideal. However, they provide better sound quality, battery life, and noise cancellation to help you listen to your tunes and stay in the zone.
However, before you consider headphones to be your choice for running, it’s best to figure out if a pair is comfortable and secure enough for running while also providing water-resistant features.
Also, depending on where you’re located, it might not be too hot to wear headphones, and you might need to consider bone conduction headphones or TWS earbuds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are over-ear headphones better than on-ear headphones for running?
It really depends on your preference and the type of workout you do. The advantage of having over-ear headphones like the TREBLAB Z2 is that they isolate noise and lower the outside world so you can listen to music at a higher volume without bothering other people around you. This also means fewer distractions and more focus during runs.
On the other hand, on-ear headphones are lighter and more portable. They also don’t weigh down your head as much, so you can run with them for longer periods of time without feeling too uncomfortable, unlike over-ear headphones which can sometimes hurt.
Speaking of comfort, on-ear headphones can compact your ear and hurt your ear after some time, especially lower-quality.
Are over-ear headphones better than in-ear headphones for running?
Over-ear headphones are better for sound quality and battery life. In-ear headphones are better for portability (and sometimes sweat resistance). In ear headphones will also hurt some people’s ear canal or cause inner ear issues.
For the sound quality over-ears are better because they are able to cancel out any background noise with the use of tight seal around your ear. This will also help you listen to music at lower volumes which is healthier for your ears in the long run (and saves battery life).
How should I choose the best over-ear headphone for running?
Will over-ear headphones fall off my head while running?
It’s not very likely to happen if you got the right pair of headphones with a good fit. You need to be more worried about moisture and sweat instead, which could corrode the headphone pads.
What is the best material for over-ear cushions for runners?
High-quality synthetic memory foam is the best material for running. It absorbs sweat and moisture well while remaining comfortable.
Can I use the same pair of over-ear headphones for both working and running?
Yes, but you’ll want to make sure you keep them very clean. If you can swing it, getting a medium-quality pair for running and a high quality pair for working is the best course of action.
What is considered a good battery life for wireless over-ear headphones?
The battery life shouldn’t drop below 6 hours on average even with active noise cancelling. It will vary depending on the volume level of your music, but 6 is a good benchmark to start with. Some models even offer over 20 hours of continuous playtime/listening time.