Whether you want a little boost of adrenaline or just need the motivation to keep going during your workout, a little audio assistance via the best workout headphones can go a long way. One meta-analysis from 2020 of 139 previously published studies published in Psychological Bulletin found that music can encourage positive emotions about your workout and make exercise feel less hard, even when you’re going at the same intensity. But every fine-tuned workout playlist requires a great pair of headphones to keep those tunes in steady supply, and your everyday earbuds might not be the best for a workout.
What should you look for in a pair of workout headphones?
There are a few key features to look for when shopping for the best headphones. Ideally, you want water-resistant earphones that don’t get swampy and filmy after an hour or so of sweating in them. It’s also nice to have a pair that come with different-sized ear tips or ear hooks so that they won’t get jostled out of your ears mid-burpee, but it’s not a necessity—especially if you stick to strength training or walking. If you’re looking for wireless or Bluetooth headphones, they should have a reliable and long battery life, especially if you’re looking for some that will carry you through, say, an entire marathon.
Even if you’re not a certifiable audiophile, you want your pair to have top-tier sound quality for your budget, and maybe noise isolation or noise-canceling features to help you get in the zone. Some newer sets boast automatic adaptive sound features, which means that the volume in your ears will automatically adjust based on your surroundings (so you can drown out loud noises easily or turn down the sound of your music during conversations). If you’re looking for running headphones, noise-cancellation features should have easy, intuitive on-off controls so you can hear ambient sound while running outside. Safety first!
To get some insight on where to shop, we asked a handful of fitness instructors, coaches, and trainers about which earbuds and over-the-ear options they recommend specifically for movement and exercise. They came up with this comprehensive list of the best workout headphones, including picks for all budgets from brands like Bose, Beats, Apple, Sony, Jaybird, and more. Your music and podcast-listening experience is about to get a major upgrade.
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.