SoundGearLab-Team | Last Updated On September 3rd, 2021 | This post may contain affiliate links.
If you enjoy a soundtrack while you work out, chances are you’ve had to make some choices about what kind of headphones to wear to the gym or on your run.
Should you bring your standard iPhone headphones, or will the cord get caught on an exercise machine? Should you bring your studio headphones, or will the fabric earpads absorb too much sweat? Will your on ear headphones give you the highest sound quality during your workout or will you be missing out?
If you don’t want to sacrifice sound quality for portability, over ear headphones may be the right choice for you.
This article offers some solid reasons why you should choose over ear headphones for working out, and dives into some reviews of over ear headphones on the market today.
Why Choose Over Ear Headphones For Working Out?
Over ear headphones are great for working out if you value a top notch listening experience while at the gym or on a run.
While you may think there aren’t many differences between headphones when you’re working out, there are actually distinct advantages and disadvantages when comparing types. The three types of headphones to examine are over ear headphones, on ear headphones and earbuds.
TREBLAB has designed a pair of over ear workout headphones that hit on basically every category and are reasonably priced. We feel that these are the best all around over ear workout headphones on the market.
The TREBLAB Z2 Premium Sports Wireless Headphones have a sturdy build quality of hard plastic with aluminum sliders. The earpads are made of padded foam covered in synthetic leather, which is ideal in workout headphones due to the low rate of absorption.
The headband is lightly padded as well, increasing comfort levels while providing a snug fit while exercising. However, the openings on the earcups are a bit on the small side, so if you have larger ears you may experience some discomfort during extended listening periods.
That being said, for those with average to small sized ears, the earpads are very soft with a cushioning feel.
The left earcup comes equipped with an active noise cancellation button that can be switched on and off, which is ideal for jogging along roadways or when operating weight lifting machinery.
The downside to the active noise cancellation feature is that it drains battery life quicker, dropping from 30 hours to around 18. While there have been customer reports of battery life draining rapidly with this feature turned on, this may be due to a few defective models. Either way, TREBLAB customer service appears accessible and proactive in providing returns for less than great pairs.
Good design and a list of other features are vital for choosing a particular headphone. However, in the end, it boils down to sound. The TREBLAB Z2’s sound quality is good but not the best in this price range for the list of headphones we have tested. However, being a wireless headphone, the highs are clear, and the bass is punchy without sounding boomy. Using the headphone with noise canceling turned on does degrade the audio quality, especially the bass but this is to be expected with any active noise canceling headphone. The quality of the built-in mic is at best OK, but we would not term it as great especially in a situation where ambient or distracting noise in the environment.
Whether you’re working out in a crowded gym or jogging around your neighborhood, the TREBLAB Z2’s are the best overall pair of over ear headphones when considering all the factors.
What We Like
Fit - The headphones fit quite well and manage to maintain comfort without sacrificing water resistance.
Battery Life - The headphones have a long-lasting battery life, and even if the battery life is shortened when using active noise cancellation, 18 hours is still more than enough time to accommodate a regular workout schedule.
Sound Quality - For this type of wireless headphones, the quality is solid and can definitely provide an enjoyable listening experience on a run or at the gym.
Know Before Buying
Size - If you have slightly larger ears, these headphones may be uncomfortable for extended listening.
In-ear headphones are mostly preferred for working out; however, with the entry of over-ear dedicated sports headphones like the JLab Audio Flex Sport, choosing between an over-ear or in-ear headphone gets even better. The JLab Audio Flex Sport is designed for sports. With a very lightweight design, the Flex Sport headphone features a customizable design which offers a user the freedom to tweak the design to their preferences. The headphone comes with two plastic tension bands that can be used to adjust the clamping force of the headphone.
A removable headband provides a comfortable resting surface for the headphone on a person’s head without causing hotspots. Soft and lightly padded earpads do just the right work by making the headphone comfortable. The earpads are cushioned with polyurethane foam and covered with a soft and water/ sweat absorbent polyester-cotton material. Though the earpads are not sweet proof, they can be removed and washed when they get dirty. JLab recommends washing them by hand as opposed to machine washing. To improve the comfort of the headphone, a removable soft headband is also provided. The headband is perforated for higher breathability and comfort.
For a workout headphone, the JLab Audio Flex Sport has outdone most of its competitors. The headphone comes with an IP44 rating, which gives it protection when water comes into contact with the headphone’s enclosure. The headphone’s fit is also great, and the different tension bars work fine. We opted to go with a tight fit while working out and the normal fit for walking. Though the JLab Audio Flex Sport lacks active noise cancellation, the Be Aware Audio by JLab makes the headphone very user-friendly to an outdoor runner or walker who wants to be aware of his/her surroundings while working out.
Among other things that make this headphone great is the 20 hours battery life which took around two hours to recharge to full battery. The buttons on the headphone are also easy to find and well positioned.
With three custom EQ sound settings getting your best sound is easy with just a click. Pressing down the logo button for about 2 seconds, you can switch between the three JLab custom EQ settings. The three options are Balanced, JLab’s signature sound and lastly Bass Boost. In our tests, we found the Bass Boost as the best EQ setting as it came closest to what we found ideal and also offered the best sense of depth. However, Bass Boost is useful if you are listening to songs that lack bass. If a song has a lot of bass, you can choose between the other two EQ settings.
The Skullcandy Crushers are heavy enough to count on them not breaking, but light enough to not get bogged down in the gym or on a run.
These over ear headphones have plush ear cup padding that is comfortable for up to a few hours, but may get uncomfortable for longer listening sessions, especially if you have larger ears.
If you are looking for a sleek design, these are not for you. They have significant bulk and the earcups are especially large. They are foldable for easy portability, but you may want to be careful with how you store them as the plastic material may be prone to scuffing. Fortunately, Skullcandy includes a convenient travel case that seems able to withstand normal wear and tear.
If you’re looking for noise cancellation and noise isolation features, these probably aren’t for you. However, they get surprisingly loud and can definitely block out any unwanted noise. The bass is especially massive, so if you are sensitive to robust frequencies, you may want over ears that are a bit tamer.
They are not water resistant, which should be considered if you tend to sweat a lot when exercising or don’t want to get caught in the rain on a jog.
Finally, the battery life is definitely something to note. These purportedly have a battery life of up to 41 hours, which is an impressive lifespan when compared to some of its peers on the market.
What We Like
Good Sound Quality - The sound quality is certainly not studio-level, but for an exhilarating workout session, these are epic. The bass frequencies are heavily boosted without muddying up traditionally less-bassy songs.
Good Build Quality - The Skullcandy Crushers’ build quality is studier than previous products they have come out with. The plastic seems tough enough and the travel case can guard against scratches or scuffs.
Long Battery Life - Battery life of up to 41 hours more than does the job as a pair of regular workout headphones.
Know Before Buying
Not Water Resistant - I know, I know - why are we recommending them then? Fact is, not everyone who is working out is building up a drenching sweat. These can handle a bit of sweat, just don't soak them.
Size - These are definitely on the bulkier side. The fit is quite comfortable given the materials, but if you are looking for something less conspicuous or enjoy a smaller size, you should avoid these.
The SENNHEISER PXC 550-II over ear headphones combine maximum comfort, sound quality and smart controls for a product that is comfortable and sturdy. SENNHEISER products typically prioritize sound quality above all else, making these over ear headphones a compelling choice for audiophiles looking to workout.
The SENNHEISER PXC 550-II over ear headphones do not disappoint when it comes to sound quality. Most Bluetooth headphones take a step back to some degree when it comes to sound quality, but these over ear headphones hold their ground and then some.
The active noise cancellation feature is superior to most competitors on the market and is adjustable for each individual’s preferences. You can also adjust the highs and lows to your taste, accommodating a variety of genres without the sound quality suffering.
A button on the right ear cup can access Siri, Hey Google and Alexa, followed by a touch pad for volume settings and answering incoming calls.
The battery life of 30 hours is solid for any Bluetooth headphones, and should work well for regular workout sessions.
The comfort level is through the roof with memory foam earpads and a simple synthetic leather covering on the headband. The ergonomic design and rotating ear cups increase portability and while the build may not seem super sturdy, the accompanying travel case should quell any damage concerns.
What the build gives you in comfort, it takes away in terms of breathability and water resistance. If you are working out or running for long distances in warmer climates, you may find these headphones heating up your ears after a while.
The memory foam earpads appear to have a higher level of absorption so these over ear headphones are probably best for weight lifters as opposed to runners and heavy sweaters.
What We Like
High-End Sound Quality - As with most SENNHEISER products, the sound quality is a heavy hitter. The volume and Smart controls give the listener flexibility and the freedom to adjust to their own preferences, while the active noise cancellation is one of the best in the market under $300.00.
Comfort - The memory foam earpads have a secure fit that are quite comfortable with a head clamp that is covered in a soft synthetic leather material that won’t bother you while long-listening.
Know Before Buying
Not Water Resistant - I know, we recommended another pair of headphones that aren't water resistant. However, there are plenty of people whose situation doesn't require them during their workouts (people lifting weights in a cold gym, for example).
Price - These are on the pricier side for wireless workout headphones, so keep that in mind when budgeting and determining your usage rate.
These over ear headphones are surprisingly sturdy and comfortable for the price. The memory protein earpads ensure a steady fit that adjusts to your head without hurting your ears.
The sound quality is crisp and loud, with the highs coming in clearly. The bass frequencies can be a bit overpowering, but if you’re looking for bass boosted headphones to groove to in the gym, these are great for the price.
The noise cancelling feature is fairly effective, but could definitely be improved. They also come with a switch that allows you to change modes from Bluetooth to FM for anyone wanting to enjoy live sports coverage while working out.
Unlike most over ear headphones, these are foldable and an additional travel case can be purchased separately for convenient travel and storage.
The iJoy’s are not water resistant, so be mindful of how long you’re working out for and monitor the earcups’ absorption to stay on the safe side.
What We Like
Comfort - These headphones are surprisingly comfortable and portable. They are just tight enough to stay on your head while exercising and if you purchase the case as well, they can be easily thrown into your gym bag.
FM Feature - While most people will probably use these for Bluetooth connection, the FM setting was a pleasant surprise that can allow you to listen to live events while exercising.
Low Price - The price is outstanding for what these headphones bring to the table. They are not the best headphones out there, but for the price and quality, they are a no-brainer if you’re working with a smaller budget.
Know Before Buying
Sound Quality - The sound quality is good for the price, but may be subpar for those seeking a top notch listening experience while working out. The bass frequencies can be a bit overpowering while the highs are decent enough to enjoy listening.
Headphones are essentially speakers (headphone drivers) that communicate sound to your ears. When exploring the differences between the types of headphones, it is important to hone in on these factors: size, sound quality, portability and comfort.
Since these headphones will be used when working out, these qualities become essential in understanding which type of headphones are going to benefit you in this more active listening context.
Over Ear Headphones
There are several reasons why over ear headphones are considered to be better than the other two types of headphones from a listening perspective, but their speaker size is definitely a big one.
Over ear headphones have bigger headphone speakers than earbuds and on ear headphones, increasing their power and ability to communicate frequencies with accuracy.
Some on ear headphones can still have good sound quality, but their smaller speaker size lessens the quality when compared to over ear headphones.
With the increased size of the over ear headphones comes an increased comfort level. Over ear headphones encase the ear and reduce friction. If you’re worrying about your ears getting too sweaty, there are models made with comfortable, sweat wicking earcups that can be removed for easy cleaning.
While over ear headphones tend to have the highest sound quality, their larger size makes them less portable and they tend to be pricier than the other headphone types.
On Ear Headphones
On ear headphones have smaller headphone drivers, which can knock their sound quality, but they are also more versatile and compact compared to over ear headphones.
Their smaller size makes them easier to travel with because they are designed to be folded into different, smaller shapes.
When working out or going for a jog, the last thing you want to worry about is your ears getting sore or your headphones sliding off of your ears. These are definitely comfort risks when going with on ear headphones.
On ear headphones, while portable, are at a disadvantage when compared to over ear headphones because of the pressure they exert on the ear. While some brands of on ear headphones are more comfortable than others, the constant weight being pressed against your ears while moving can be unappealing and even irritating for those with sensitive skin.
With on ear headphones, you may end up sacrificing sound quality and comfort for portability. If you’re working out in a loud, sweaty gym, you may not want to sacrifice those features.
Over Ear Headphones vs Earbuds For Working Out
Earbuds are definitely popular in the fitness market, and for good reasons. Their portability, noise isolation and fit make them seemingly the best choice for any workout. However, there are still some clear disadvantages that exist in earbuds that you won’t have to worry about with over ear headphones.
Earbuds are smaller than over ear and on ear headphones, and sit shallow in the ear pinna.
They can definitely range from average to even great sound quality, but this will largely depend on the price and build quality.
Ultimately, due to their size, their quality will not match that of over ear headphones.
As I mentioned above, over ear headphones are going to maximize comfort and sound quality, while potentially being a bit clunky due to their size.
With earbuds, you won’t have to worry about clunkiness, and if you go the wireless route, you will most likely have a smooth workout.
But comfort is not guaranteed!
Not all earbuds fit everyone’s ears the same way. You’re probably familiar with this if you have tried to share an earbud with someone and they say it keeps falling out.
Some earbuds can even hurt people’s ears after extended use, making this a risky choice for a long run or a session at the gym.
Over ear headphones, on the other hand, are designed to fit securely on your head and are typically designed with comfortable materials for extended listening, eliminating fatigue and discomfort.
How To Pick The Best Over Ear Headphones For Working Out
Jlab FLEX SPORT Headphone
If you’re feeling like over ear headphones are the right choice for you, it’s time to decide which over ear headphones are the best when working out.
There are many factors to consider and there is no right or wrong answer, but you definitely want to look out for these features to ensure your over ear headphones can maximize your workout-listening experience.
Resistant To Water
Wearing over ear headphones to the gym and then worrying about sweating on them defeats the whole purpose of using this unique audio device. That’s why identifying water resistance features is a must before purchasing gym-use over ear headphones.
Sweat or water resistant headphones are identified with their IP ratings. If you’re going to be breaking a sweat while wearing over ear headphones, always check to see if they are IP-certified.
The lowest IP rating is IPX0, which means there is no protection from outside objects and substances like water.
The IP rating list goes up to IPX8, but the over ear headphones in this article will hover around IPX4, which offers protection from splashing water on the device’s enclosure in any direction for 10 minutes.
The weight of your over ear headphones may be a factor when picking the best pair. Going for a lightweight pair of headphones when exercising is probably the smart move so you’re not feeling unnecessary pressure on your head.
Most sports headphones use plastics to substitute for heavier metals and usually end up reducing the overall weight.
That being said, some of the highest sound quality over ear headphones tend to be on the heavier side, so it’s really up to you if you’d like to prioritize quality over weight.
Below is a break down of the IP ratings.
Offers absolutely no protection against water which could destroy the device.
Offers protection for at least 10 minutes when water drips above the device.
Dripping water when tilted at 15°
Offers protection for 10 minutes when device is exposed to dripping water at an angle of 15°.
Spraying water 60°
Offer protection from spraying water for 5 minutes when device is rotated for 60°.
Splashing of water
Offers protection from splashing water on the device’s enclosure in any direction for 10 minutes.
Offers protection from a 6.3mm nozzle spray of water in any direction for 15 minutes
Powerful water jets
Offers protection for a 12.5mm nozzle spray of water in any direction for at least 3 minutes
Immersion, up to 1 m depth
Offers protection for 30 minutes when device is fully submerged in water for up to 1-meter depth
Immersion, 1 m or more depth
Offers protection against the conditions specified by the manufacturer and the device can also handle water entering without being destroyed.
Over ear headphones that are secure against your head are important for your workout but are especially important for runners. Having your headphones fall off mid-stride, or having to constantly readjust your headphones can get aggravating pretty quickly!
Make sure your over ear headphones have good clamping and can fit the contours of your head properly.
Before making a hasty decision, ask yourself: “Will this actually fit my head? Will these fall off with heavy motion?”
As with any headphones you purchase, you want them to be comfortable. Specifically for over the ear workout headphones, you want the earpads and head clamps to be made of materials that can resist moisture without sacrificing comfortability.
Getting a few minutes into your workout and realizing your clamps are too tight or your earpads are too small is going to make you regret not looking into more comfortable over ear headphones.
But, as with most things, “comfortable” can mean different things to different people.
One audiophile may prefer a heavier build because they find the weight comfortable and the sound quality excellent, while a jogger may want something a bit smaller and tighter for a quick jog. It’s up to you!
While this may go without saying, definitely go with wireless headphones. The last thing you want to worry about is your headphone wire getting caught on an exercise machine or pulling your phone out of your pocket on the treadmill.
Wired headphones typically have slightly better sound quality, but Bluetooth wireless audio has definitely improved its quality over the years and good luck trying to plug your 3.5mm jack into your mobile device without an adapter.
Bluetooth: 5.0 vs. 4.2 vs. 4.1
Any Bluetooth headphone comes with its specifications relating to its Bluetooth compatibility. These are the different types of Bluetooth versions. Bluetooth is the standard of wireless headphones and facilitates how audio plays from your device to your wireless headphones.
There are different types of Bluetooth versions, 4.1, 4.2, and 5.0 to name a few. Understanding which version is better is pretty forward, Bluetooth 5.0 is superior to 4.2 whereas 4.2 is superior to 4.1. The latest Bluetooth version in the market currently is the Bluetooth 5.0. However, not many headphones currently support this version, but as time goes more manufacturers are set to use the 5.0.
Apart from the Bluetooth version, other terms you should be looking out for when buying Bluetooth headphones are:
AAC/AAC+ Support – If you want to use your headphone with iPhones or iPads, the support for AAC or AAC+ is mandatory. This is because Apple has chosen AAC as its wireless codec of choice.
aptX and aptX HD – This codec uses a more efficient compression method to provide high fidelity audio. aptX and aptX HD aim for low latency or reducing audio delay when playing games or watching movies online. If you are getting a headphone specifically for watching videos look for a headphone with aptX LL (aptX Low Latency), which ensures there are no lip sync problems. Both device and headphone must support aptX or aptX HD.
LDAC – LDAC is a Sony technology that allows high compression efficiency and transmission which enables the user to enjoy high-quality wireless audio via Bluetooth. However, to enable this just like aptX and aptX HD, both the device and receiver must support LDAC
Excellent Sound Quality
If you’re just looking for a cheap pair of headphones or earphones to throw on at the gym and you’re not concerned about sound quality, then feel free to skip this step when making your decision.
BUT if you’re going to be spending your hard earned cash on an audio device to get you amped up for your workout, why would you not invest in excellent sound quality?
Wireless, over ear headphones made by solid brands will give you epic quality and give you another thing to look forward to while working out.
Durability is a crucial feature with any audio device you’re looking to purchase, but this is especially true with over ear headphones used during exercise.
Most sports or workout headphones are designed to withstand normal wear and tear and have adequate water resistance, but definitely prioritize these features when making a decision.
Blocks Outside Sounds
We’ve all been to a gym that blasts music that isn’t exactly our favorite. Since we can’t appoint ourselves the gym DJ, over ear headphones with active noise cancellation and decent noise isolation are going to come in handy.
Noise cancellation blocks out unwanted noise through a built-in microphone within the headphones. This microphone uses active circuitry in the headphone to cancel background noise that may interfere with your listening experience.
In a nutshell, a digital processor in the headphone detects the unwanted frequency and then generates the opposite frequency. When the two of them collide, the noise is cancelled out.
Noise isolating headphones physically block out noise based on the headphones’ design. Noise reduction depends on how well a seal the headphone will make with your ears. This depends on the earcup design (open-back or closed-back) and the size of the ear cup.
Earbuds tend to have the best isolation because of the seal they create, but this can also result in discomfort because, as I mentioned earlier, everyone’s ears are shaped differently and a particular pair of earbuds may not fit everyone the same way.
Important Note About Noise Cancellation/Noise Isolation
It is important to note that in some situations, like jogging near roadways or exercising around others who are operating machinery, cancelling or isolating sound can be dangerous.
Always remember to remain alert and aware of your surroundings in any exercise context, but especially when your hearing is obfuscated and your awareness is limited.
Easy To Clean Materials
Sweating during a workout is inevitable, so don’t buy over ear headphones that you’re not comfortable exposing to moisture.
The IP ratings info I listed earlier is a great resource for determining water resistance, but you should also be aware of the materials used for the earpads because they will be in direct contact with your skin and may need to be cleaned regularly.
If your headphones are not water resistant or sweat wicking, you’re going to want to avoid velour or fabric earpads because they will absorb sweat and may damage overall quality.
If they are made of fabric, stick to earpads that are removable and washable, with modern synthetic materials that do not absorb as much.
Since wireless over ear headphones are the clear choice for workouts, battery life is going to be a key factor in deciding which headphones to buy.
If you tend to forget to charge your devices regularly, wireless headphones may be a drawback, so you’re better off finding a pair that has a quick charge and decent battery yield to fit your usage.
Over Ear Headphone Considerations For Running
While there are many factors to consider when purchasing over ear headphones, runners may want to emphasize some of the above features over others.
Runners should consider purchasing over ear headphones that fit snugly against the head to avoid losing them while jogging. Also, water resistance is a must due to the aerobics and heavy sweating that running entails.
As I mentioned earlier, please be aware of the noise cancellation features and opt to buy headphones where the noise cancellation setting can be turned on and off depending on where you are running.
Over Ear Headphone Considerations For Lifting
When lifting weights at home or at the gym, all of the above factors are relevant, but things like sound quality, comfort and fit are going to be the most important.
If the gym is loud and crowded, the overall sound quality and noise features are going to take priority. There’s no point in investing in over ear headphones only to get to the gym and not be able to hear your own soundtrack.
Comfort is an obvious factor because you don’t want your headphones to add to the strain and discomfort your body may already be feeling from the workout.
As with running, fit is crucial while lifting so you don’t have your workout interrupted, or even worse, endangered by headphones sliding off of your face or obstructing your view.
Working out with a soundtrack is essential these days, especially if you’re not digging the tunes at your local gym. But if you’re going to invest in some headphones and you care about their sound, build and fit, over ear headphones make a strong case for the best workout companion.
Before buying any old pair of over ears, make sure to examine factors like water resistance, sound quality and build quality, and judge them based on your own preference. This review guide will give you a great sample of the best products on the market so you can make the choice that’s right for you. Enjoy your workout!