Bluetooth headphone recommendations for running?
August 25, 2014 5:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new set of headphones to wear while running and I'm interested in trying Bluetooth. I want to still be able to hear the world around me as I do most of my running on the road. Track/volume controls would be nice to have. Can any of you recommend something you've had a good experience with?

I'm listening to an iPhone 5S housed in a Spigen Tough Armor case that has an undersized cutout for the headphone jack. My old beater iPhone earbuds fit but after steady use on the road and in the gym they're starting to short out and I'd prefer wireless to trial and error with different headphone plugs (or attacking the case with a Dremel).

A similar question was asked three years ago but without resolution. Also related: this post from May, 2014 looking for wired headphones for running.
posted by Songdog to Shopping (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, I am SO happy with this LG set I just bought. They look weird and space-age, but are super light and comfortable, have a crazy long battery life, and with the controls right on the neck band you can control Siri, tracks, volume, and even hang up a phone call. The wireless nature means no getting tangled up in your cords, ever again.

They are inexpensive but a huge upgrade in my happiness compared with the Apple earbuds I always used before.
posted by HoteDoge at 5:33 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My Motorola SD-10 has been a game changer (the game is running).
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:14 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just bought the jaybirds which are the wire cutters runner ups. I really like them although it took a few days to be happy with the fit. They don't fall out while walking quickly but I haven't run in them.

It has volume and track controls that are quite touchy. My head occasionally turns the volume down.

I'm not completely happy with the standard ear buds so have ordered some comply ones to try.

Overall I love the freedom that comes from being Bluetooth. They sound great and they just work.
posted by poxandplague at 7:11 PM on August 25, 2014

I too have the Motorola SD-10. The controls don't work perfectly with my Android phone but it's really, really stable on my head and quite comfortable. I wear glasses and after about an hour I get a little sore behind my ears from the pressure of it pushing on the arms of my glasses, but otherwise it's really good. Plus really good sound quality without blocking out everything.
posted by GuyZero at 7:26 PM on August 25, 2014

Seconding the pair HoteDoge recommended. I've had them for over a year and they work flawlessly, never slip. (I'm on a 5s too, integrates almost perfectly. A thing can happen where it keeps track-advancing if you change apps while pressing buttons on the headphones, but turning em off and back on fixes it.)
posted by hjo3 at 7:26 PM on August 25, 2014

I wear headphones a *lot*, and I go through a lot of pairs. When I switched to bluetooth, I tried out the ones HoteDoge linked to, but I hated them with a passion. This is probably a personal quirk, but I found them super uncomfortable and they gave me a crick in the neck. I returned them after a few days, and switched to a Plantronics Backbeat Go set. I have now gone through a couple of pairs, by which I mean they aren't bulletproof, but they are good enough to replace when they wear out.
- super comfortable in the ear
- good sound, though I'm not an audiophile
- good for wearing around most of the day without your ears or neck starting to hurt
- it's really easy to wear both earbuds or to only wear one, say for safety reasons while running
- they are good for phone calls as well (no complaints about sound quality from people I talk to)

- they mostly stay in while running, but not as well as over-the-ear clips. I sometimes have to push them back in a bit when running, if I don't have them anchored quite right
- I wear them literally hours a day, and it's a bit of a PITA to have to stop and charge them partway through the day. For a while, I confiscated the spouse's pair, and having two pairs was perfect.
posted by instamatic at 10:58 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been pretty happy with my Jaybirds, though I use them more for biking then running and even then they kill my battery life so they've not made as much sense. (My phone only lasts about 2-3 hours when playing through these.

(slight tangent but I burn through earbuds a lot, my favorite and most comfortable pair of earbuds - bar none are my Sennheiser/Adidas sport ones which I still use for running.)
posted by bitdamaged at 10:44 AM on August 26, 2014

I don't have any current recommendation because my bluetooth headphone recently died when it got in contact with a bit of water. I was surprised that apparently not all headphones that are designed for running can handle rain/sweat. If you sometimes run in rain too, that may be something to consider when evaluating different models.

If you don't need a bluetooth headphone per se, but just want something wireless, also check out the Sony NWZ-W273S walkman. It's waterproof, and one feature I really like is that if the battery is empty you can charge it for three minutes to get one hour of playback time. Reviews are unclear on how well you can still hear the world around you though, some say you can, others say you can't.
posted by blub at 12:25 PM on August 26, 2014

I used kinivio headphones/headset (previous generation to the ones listed her) for working out and biking. They did the job; not excellent but a good bargain!
posted by lalochezia at 8:00 PM on August 26, 2014

Response by poster: A belated "thank you all"!

The Jaybirds look really nice but I have two concerns: first that they might block out too much sound—I've got a great pair of Shures for planes and trains when I want isolation but when I'm running I want to be able to hear things coming. And, second, they have this weird quirk that I worry I might find annoying: when worn behind the neck you have to wear the left bud in the right ear and vice versa so the stereo image is reversed. I'll probably take a chance on a pair sooner or later anyway, and I'll report back here if I do.
posted by Songdog at 3:24 PM on September 29, 2014

Response by poster: I bought the Jaybird Bluebuds X about a month ago and have used them quite a few times. They're light, comfortable enough, and sound pretty good. It's really nice not having a longer wire pulling on them. So far I haven't run for longer than about half an hour with them and I do have to periodically give them a little push back in, but it's easy enough to do. I may have to wait another six months before I find out how they do when I'm really sweating in the heat.

They block out a little more noise than I'd like; I'd rather have greater awareness of the world around me especially when I'm running on the road. I haven't done that yet since buying them so I'm not 100% sure but I think they'll be fine there. I nearly always run on the left side of the road (cars drive on the right where I live) so I'm not too worried about a car approaching from behind me.

Indoors I can set my phone down and walk around and keep listening on the buds, which is nice. When the phone's on my body, however, I occasionally get a momentary audio dropout if my phone is on the opposite side of my body from the earbud closest to the volume control. This is true whether the phone's in my armband or in my hand. I wonder whether the transmitter uses a lower power mode at short range and maybe it's not quite strong enough to pass through my skull to the receiver. I only have this problem at short range. It's not a big issue—kind of like a glitch in FM radio reception—but it's there.

Pairing is easy. My iPhone displays the battery status of the earbuds up near its own battery indicator. The earbuds verbally announce when they've connected to the phone (they also play a tone whenever you change the volume). When I'm not using them I try to remember to turn BlueTooth off on the phone, because I've had a few occasions where I've answered a phone call, holding the phone to my ear, only to realize that the call audio is currently going to the earbuds, curled up in their case in my bag somewhere nearby. There's probably another way to turn the earbuds off and leave the phone's BT on, but I haven't looked into it. I haven't suffered the touchy controls issue that poxandplague mentioned above.

With these earbuds in I find that at the beginning of a run I'm very aware of the boom-boom-boom of my steps. I notice this with my Shure isolation headphones too and always thought it was just microphonics from the cable, but it's apparently more than that. I don't know whether everybody gets this or whether it's just something I'm unusually attuned to. As my run progresses I cease to notice it, though I'm not sure whether I just tune it out or whether the problem diminishes as the earbuds work their way a little further out of my ears.

Apart from my initial fit I haven't experimented with the different size buds or ear cushions. I wear the cable over my ears and behind my neck, but haven't adjusted the length yet. I expect I'll be able to do a little better both with comfort and with keeping the buds in place when I take the time to do these things. Some Amazon reviewers recommend that owners replace the included bud tips with Comply's T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips ($15), which poxandplague also mentioned. They claim better sound quality and better fit, which sounds good, but also better isolation, which I don't want.

Thank you all again for your advice. I can only assess the earbuds I've tried, but I'm marking rensar and poxandplague's answers as best since I acted on them and so far I'm satisfied with my choice, apart from the price. Time will tell how they hold up.
posted by Songdog at 7:54 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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