Earbuds for a sweaty runner.
June 11, 2010 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Earbuds for a sweaty runner: am I the only person with this problem?

In the last year, I've gone through four pairs of earbuds. Every single time, one of the sides has shorted out when I'm running, presumably because I have sweaty ears. I was originally buying extremely cheap generic brands, but the last two pairs have been these Sonys and they've still failed in exactly the same way. I'm anxious about spending more money because I'm afraid the same thing will happen again - but am I just going too cheap here? Do I need to spend more money?

I searched all the earbud questions and didn't see this issue addressed - surely I'm not the only person with sweaty ears? I don't think I'm that sweaty. I need some kind of workable solution, though. What type of earbuds will be comfortable and also tough enough to withstand a little moisture?
posted by something something to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I had the same problem with earbuds, and gave up on them eventually. But I've been really really happy with these Sony around-the-ear headphones.

My first pair did short out after two years, but for the price and comfort, I was more than happy to buy another pair.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:54 AM on June 11, 2010

I have had numerous (expensive!) earbuds fail after running use. I'm not sure sweat is the reason -- I think the bouncing stress on on the wiring has caused some failures.

I think the answer is to go with cheapies, and possibly non-earbud makes.
posted by grobstein at 8:57 AM on June 11, 2010

I've found Sennheiser CX300's stay in place when sweaty, due to the adjustable size buds.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2010

I sweat a large amount from my head and face when I run and I swear by my Sennheiser CX-400 earbuds, which have lasted going on 3 years. The CX-300 or CX-500 should be similar, though I am talking about the older versions of all three (still available through some vendors), not the newer ones designed for use with the new ipod shuffle.
posted by jameslavelle3 at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2010

I don't think it's the sweat, but the wires like grobstein says. Just buy the cheap ones for running, and maybe have a second pair of nice ones for when you want to listen to music other times.
posted by too bad you're not me at 8:59 AM on June 11, 2010

Sorry - my husband is a heavy sweater and goes through headphones like crazy. Basically now he only uses headphones on his weekly long runs, which means they get replaced less.

Meanwhile, I ran with the same pair of the old iPod included phones for three years before they finally conked out do to wire issues.
posted by smalls at 9:08 AM on June 11, 2010

Earbuds make my ears hurt. For three years, I've run with a pair of Sony MDR-V6, bought used for $80. I see them cheaper now. Great sound, have withstood tons of abuse, and I replace the headphone pads when the sweat starts to make them gross. The pro/con is that they're toasty in winter and toastier in summer.
posted by bendybendy at 9:33 AM on June 11, 2010

Wow, I thought I was doing something wrong while running. I have a drawer in front of me right now full of headphones where only one earbud works. But I'm with grobstein, I think it's the wires jiggling back and forth for miles. I've tried to look for earbuds with thicker cords, but the more expensive earbuds only seem to concentrate on earbud design. My only solution has been to buy multiple $5 earbuds at Fry's to replace them as they fail.
posted by sharkfu at 9:41 AM on June 11, 2010

If you can deal with the bright green, these Sennheiser MX75s are the best in-ear headphones I've ever tried when it comes to running. The little green piece above the earbud sits in the little notch in your ear and holds them in place remarkably well. They're sweat-resistant and very comfy, I highly recommend them. They also come with a little alligator clip so you can minimize the wire jostling, you clip it to your collar so that only a small length is moving.

They also have these with the band going behind the neck.

Also, the green isn't nearly so vibrant in person.
posted by dnesan at 9:47 AM on June 11, 2010

Sennheiser + Adidas has an entire line of earbuds/earphones created for this purpose of combating too much sweat. However, I found the sound quality not so good. I use a light weight over-the-ears style, the Koss PortaPro, and have been very happy with them.
posted by cazoo at 9:49 AM on June 11, 2010

I have to periodically mop my ears dry so the earbuds don't fall out, so you're totally not the only one with sweaty ears.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:54 AM on June 11, 2010

Are you a sportsbra-wearing person? If so, do what I do and tuck a little bit of the cord into your bra strap. This minimizes the flopping around of wires near your ears and decreases the stress on the buds. It works best for me when I also have my ipod hooked to my waistband.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:02 AM on June 11, 2010

Or if you wear a hat/visor, you can thread the cord through the back of it for a similar effect.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:03 AM on June 11, 2010

I gave up on anything but cheap buds for running, so if they fail I can just replace them without any consternation. Koss Sparkplugs are my current choice. They come with three sizes of buds and are available everywhere. Blow it out/lose em/whatever, you're only out $10-15.
posted by dzot at 10:41 AM on June 11, 2010

I have a similar issue (and n-thing that it may also be a wires issue). I also LOSE headphones left and right. I eventually started snapping up lots of earbuds from going-out-of-business drugstores and from 1SaleADay.com - they will periodically have six-packs of SUPER-cheap ones for which you'll only pay shipping. In any event, if you prowl around a bit, earbugs can be had for roughly a dollar a set, which makes them nigh unto disposable.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:47 AM on June 11, 2010

If it turns out to be more of a wires-flopping issue than a sweat one, I've had great success with running the wire through the neck-hole of my shirt, then out the sleeve towards the arm where my mp3 player is velcroed. I pull the excess cord down into my shirt, and it keeps it from bouncing around while I run.
posted by vytae at 10:47 AM on June 11, 2010

The Sennheiser Sport Series should do the trick. Sweat-resistant. I have the older line, PMX70s (that dnesan linked to), with the behind the neck band, and they're still chugging 5 years and who knows how many litres of sweat later.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:01 AM on June 11, 2010

This is all great, thank you. I'm torn between trying something from Sennheiser and giving up and going ultra-cheap.

Really glad to know I'm not alone with this issue.
posted by something something at 11:19 AM on June 11, 2010

If you're open to going the cheap route, I'd strongly suggest Creative EP-630s. I have tried a lot of earbuds including the Sennheisers, Shure's SCL2 and Etymotic ER6i (both around $100) and those Creatives sound much better than the Sennheisers and nearly as good as the Shure/Etymotic earbuds. They've also outlasted 5 pairs of iPod earbuds, the Etymotics, and they've survived full immersion in water.
posted by mattholomew at 11:37 AM on June 11, 2010

I use ear-clip cheapies from Target -- I need something that actually attaches to me, earbuds alone do not stay put when I run.

I also do the run-the-wire-under-your-shirt thing which stops it bouncing around. I hadn't considered that it might reduce wear on the wire, for me it's more useful because it means I can't get a hand caught up on the wire and accidentally yank the earphones off my head and/or the iPod out of my pocket.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:43 AM on June 11, 2010

Here in Canada I've seen some of the older model (green vs. orange) Sennheiser Sport Series heavily discounted in a few places (local computer shop, Winners - which is similar to Burlington Coat Factory in the U.S, I believe, etc.) You might be able to find them discounted online as well.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:46 AM on June 11, 2010

I've used the Nike SHJ020 for years. They're incredibly light and the plug is straight instead of the 90 degree plug that comes on a lot of other models.
I run the cord under my shirt and wrap the excess around the clip on my mp3 player. That eliminates the flopping that killed a lot of previous earbuds.
I'm also an excessively sweaty runner and these have never shorted out.
An additional plus for these is the fact that the neck band keeps them in place really well so you don't have to jam them in to keep them in your ears.
Regular price is $20 and I'm happy to pay it. Amazon has them for $16 right now.
posted by JV at 11:56 AM on June 11, 2010

Second the Sennheisers.
posted by Pamelayne at 6:07 PM on June 11, 2010

I believe this has happened to every single pair of earbuds I've had in my two decades of Walkman/MiniDisc/iPod listening, just from using them whilst on the move. I've tried over-the-ears/headphones but only like earbuds. It happens eventually to all earbud brands I've tried, one of the wires breaks and there is no more stereo. (Usually it's quite a prolonged breakdown & I can get stereo when I hold the cable in a certain position to reconnect the wires.)

In recent years I do spend quite a lot of money on my earbuds, mostly because in terms of sound quality I find the ones included with the players are not very good (e.g. Apple's earbuds) & cheaper ones are not a whole lot better. Without getting into an audiophile debate, and sound quality is not a factor you mention anyhow - one advantage is that most more expensive earbuds have some kind of warranty for wear & tear. So whenever the cable breaks on my in-ear Etymotics or earbud Yuins, I just return them to the retailer & get a new pair. Eventually the warranty runs out & I still have to buy new ones again, but in the meantime I've had the pleasure of great sound.
posted by hgws at 12:24 AM on June 12, 2010

Long-distance runner here. If you want to stay with ear buds you could try yurbuds — they are designed to solve exactly this problem. I don't recommend buying the actual earphones from them (I did and they kind of suck) but putting their plastic cover thingys on top of stock apple earbuds works really well really well for me.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 7:27 AM on June 16, 2010

I know nothing at all about the quality of the product, but some Jaybird earbuds just went up on Gilt for a little less than half price. They're guaranteed against sweat, apparently.
posted by frankdrebin at 9:03 AM on June 18, 2010

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