What headphones should I buy to run with?
July 16, 2012 2:09 PM   Subscribe

What headphones should I buy for running and the gym? Wish list: Sounds better, and doesn't fall out as easily as the Apple earbuds; lets more ambient sound through than those in-ear headphones with silicone tips; includes an inline microphone and controls that actually work with an Android phone.

After many years of hating/despising the Apple earphones, I've finally gotten used to them, and they don't seem to fall out of my ears all that easily when running. However, the fit isn't all that great, and I never seem to be able to get them to stay wedged in the position that gives the best sound. There's got to be something better out there, right?

My new phone (Samsung Galaxy S3) came with a set of in-ear earbuds with silicone tips. Although these fit great, were much more comfortable, and sounded much better than the iPhone earbuds, they created a bit too much suction in my ears, and every stride or bass note would be painful; I felt like I constantly needed to pop one of my ears. I was almost afraid of damaging my hearing with them. Also, they blocked about 95% of any ambient noise out of my ears; while this is great for listening to music, I also want to be able to hear what's going on around me while I'm running. Are there in-ear headphones that don't have these issues?

I don't think I've ever destroyed a set of headphones due to sweat, although that my headphones seem to endure a high probability of being lost, rained on, or stepped on.... So, nothing too expensive or fragile. I've already got a set of very nice over-ear headphones that I use for non-fitness stuff.

Oh, and bonus points if it includes an inline microphone and volume control buttons that work with Android. Not many do....
posted by schmod to Technology (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I think the Apple original buds are well known to be rather poor. There is some buzz about a cheap set sold by Monoprice. For $8.40 it could be worth a try. No mic though.
posted by caclwmr4 at 2:25 PM on July 16, 2012

I have the a pair of Sennheiser PMX 680s that I like quite a bit. I think they fulfil all of your requirements. I got them 'cause I sweat like a fountain and often run outside, and they seem to be totally waterproof. The sound's good. They've lasted a lot longer than any other earbuds I've ran with. I'm happy.

(Sennheiser has a bunch of other exercise headphones with different shapes if you don't like the around-the-ear style; I assume the others are similarly bulletproof.)
posted by jacobian at 2:31 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also think in-ear-canal headphones are completely inappropriate for working out (the pounding of my pulse practically drowns out the music in my case). I have a pair of Sennheiser MX680s. The fins do a good job of keeping them in my ears. They have a version with a mic and controls but I have no idea about Android compatibility.
posted by zsazsa at 2:37 PM on July 16, 2012

It sounds like you're asking specifically about in-ear headphones, but I want to take a moment to sing the praises of my Jaybird Sportsband, which operates over Bluetooth (no wires!) and comes with a lifetime warranty against sweat. I run in mine all the time and while the foam ear covers do get completely soaked, I've had absolutely no issues with the headphones as a result, and I find them much more comfortable than in-ear headphones when I'm moving. Jaybird does have in-ear Bluetooth headphones too (the Freedom), but I haven't tried those.

I use mine with an iPhone so I can't speak to how they work with Android phones, but the interface (buttons on the right ear) is easy to use - I can stab at it and adjust the volume while running without having to take the headphones off. It does include a microphone and has a button that lets you switch between calls and music, though I've never used those features to know how well they work.

The Jaybird products might be a little more expensive than you had in mind - everybody's "nothing too expensive" is different - but mine are very sturdy and I don't have a lot of concerns about breaking them. They live in an outer pocket on my backpack (so there's only a layer of fabric protecting them when I drop the backpack on the floor) and are still going strong more than a year after I purchased them.

The only caveat I can think of for Jaybird headphones is that I've read that the battery life can be a concern if you're going on really long runs. I remember reading an Amazon reviewer saying that they had no problems with their Jaybird headphones when running half-marathons but were disappointed to find that the battery didn't last them quite all the way through a full marathon. If you're going for runs that last many hours, Bluetooth may not be the way to go, but otherwise I think it's a huge improvement over running with wires bouncing around.
posted by jessypie at 3:02 PM on July 16, 2012

Response by poster: I'm not looking for any particular type of headphones, but the Jaybird Sportsband just seems way, way too bulky.
posted by schmod at 6:45 PM on July 16, 2012

It sounds as though Yurbuds might be what you're looking for. I recently got a pair and have been pretty happy with them so far. Going down your list:

Sounds better
I'm not sure; I find the stock Apple earbuds so uncomfortable I pretty much can't use them.

doesn't fall out as easily as the Apple earbuds
Oh, most definitely.

lets more ambient sound through than those in-ear headphones with silicone tips
Yep. I can easily hear things like traffic and the footfalls of the jogger who's coming up on me from behind.

includes an inline microphone and controls that actually work with an Android phone.
Inline mic and controls, yes. The mic seems okay; I'm on an iPhone and Siri doesn't seem any stupider about recognizing my words than when I speak straight into the phone. I just realized I haven't tried having a phone call with them, since I almost never use the phone. I don't know how well the controls work with an Android.

Overall I'm pretty satisfied with them. There are a few things I'd change if I could (the controls could do with a bit of tweaking — I find myself hitting Pause instead of Louder/Softer more often than is convenient — and I'd like a shorter cord), but they're definitely better than the other in-ear phones I've tried.

(Plus they're available at REI, home of the 100%-no-hassle return policy. Buying them there means the most you risk is postage, if you decide to return them and there isn't a store near you.)
posted by Lexica at 7:18 PM on July 16, 2012

I have an older version of the Sennheiser 680s mentioned above. Perfect for running.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:59 AM on July 17, 2012

I am an outdoors aficionado with a tremendous need to hear ambient noise (think bears) while not having headphones fall out at sharp turns. I am also a runner.

The Philips Sport Flow over ear have served me well. The best thing about them compared to all others: soft, flexible earpiece that doesn't "tire " out the ear and, headphones that sit on the ear vs. in them.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:21 AM on July 17, 2012

I have serious problems with earbuds falling out during exercise (and even when walking), so I've tried a few different styles, including hook (around the back of the ear) earbuds and earbuds that come with different sized tips. In the former case, I found it too fiddly, and the latter case, even though the fit improved, they would either still occasionally fall out or I would get a rather annoying intermittent sound associated with the constant tugging on the cables.

I ended up purchasing the Sennheiser PX680's mentioned above and they have turned out to be the best of those I've tried. After an initial "settling" period, they stay fixed in place, and I like that you can hear ambient sound. I'm not an audiophile, but to my ears, they provide clear highs and nice bass response. Also, if you buy them from the apple store, they offer a 14 day refund if you are dissatisfied (I didn't return them).
posted by piyushnz at 11:22 AM on July 17, 2012

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