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Health is wealth, and staying active and working out is key to a healthy lifestyle. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get any motivation to work out without listening to music or a podcast. Yet, not all wireless earbuds, even the best wireless earbuds, are suited for getting sweaty at the gym or outside. For that, you’ll want a pair of sports earbuds.
What’s the Difference Between Wireless Sports Earbuds and Wireless Earbuds?
Sports earbuds differ from many wireless earbuds in design, features and price. But one of the main differences is that sports earbuds have a higher waterproof rating than standard earbuds. For example, my AirPods Pros are rated IPX4, while I tested many of the sports earbuds for this review are IPX55 or higher. The higher waterproof rating means your headphones will remain safe and operational even if you sweat a lot during a workout or shower afterward with the earbuds still in — some could even handle you taking a swim in them. Still, we recommend the best waterproof earbuds for that. For further explanation, this Phiaton blog offers a great breakdown of IPX waterproof ratings for headphones.
How We Test the Best Sports Earbuds
Your sports earbuds are going to be your dedicated workout partner. You want to be able to rely on them, be comfortable even when you’re out running, biking, or at the gym and, of course, you want them to sound good. Here are a few of the qualities we looked for during our testing:
- Sound Quality: There’s a good chance you wouldn’t get off your butt or out of bed for your morning run or workout session if your headphones didn’t sound good. Below we break down how each earbud sounds to help you determine if it’s the right pick for you.
- Comfort/Fit: I’m one of those weirdos who likes to run. I don’t want to fumble with my earbuds on my morning run because they feel like falling out. Also, if I wear them for my entire run and to the gym or work afterward, I don’t want my ears hurting after prolonged use.
- Battery Life: There’s a good chance you will wear your sports earbuds more than just during your workout. We looked for earbuds with at least six hours or more of listening time. We also listened to each set of earbuds for two hours straight on high volume to see how much battery life remained.
- Water/Sweat Resistance: Because you’ll be doing plenty of sweating wearing these earbuds, we looked for earbuds that were all at least IPX55 water resistant.
In addition, you can also check out our guide to the best hook earbuds for running, as we used similar testing criteria for that product category.
The Best Sports Earbuds at a Glance
1. Best Overall: Treblab X3 Pro — $59.97 at Amazon
2. Runner Up: Back Bay Runner 60 — $59.99 at Amazon
3. Also Great: Jabra Elite 3 — $59.99 at Amazon
4. Best Value: Earfun Free — $49.99 at Amazon
5. Great Comfort: Earfun Air — $39.99 at Amazon
6. Honorable Mention: Skullcandy Push Active — $75.00 at Amazon
Comparing the Best Sports Earbuds of 2022
Many of the sports earbuds you’ll find below aren’t the major players in the wireless earbud world. And we’re here to tell you that is totally fine. You’re going to save big on many of the best sports earbuds below and get a product that is as durable and ready for as much activity as you can handle.
1. Treblab X3 Pro
Best For: Serious runners or bikers who like to get their sweat on yet be comfortable.
Why We Chose It: It’s a great mix of all-day battery life, comfort, sound quality and price.
I enjoyed Treblab X3 Pro not only during my workouts but also during the day. The fit is fantastic, with the ear hooks keeping the earbuds perfectly in place. I never felt the need to reach up and readjust or push either earbud back into my ear, even while I was trail running. The fit was comfortable, and the sound quality was equally as nice. It’s a well-rounded-sounding sports earbud with a good amount of volume and bass, especially while listening to bass-heavy songs like Ludaversal Intro by Ludacris or Money Trees by Kendrick Lamar. They sound clean and crisp when listening to Larimar from Lettuce, where I could differentiate the percussion in the top left corner of the mix, the backing keyboard chords in the bottom right and the horn lines sailing across the top. A real crisp overall sound quality.
These earbuds sport nine hours of run time, better than all but the Skullcandy Push Active. I listened to music for two hours, and when I checked the battery life, it was still at 80% — needless to say, the battery life is strong. I also liked the controls on the earbuds. Instead of all touch-sensitive controls, there are little volume buttons on each earbud that I thought were convenient. And by pressing the middle button twice, you can activate the voice controls and go hands-free. This comfort, battery life and features are nicely priced at about $60, which is why we think this set is the best sports earbuds.
2. Back Bay Runner 60
Best For: Runners and gym rats that enjoy extra bass in their music.
Why We Chose It: The exceptional battery life plus extra low end make it an ideal choice for active people.
Ear hook earbuds make me feel more comfortable that the earbuds aren’t fall out when I am doing activities like mountain biking or even doing sit-ups at the gym (aka my basement). That being said, the case and the earbuds themselves are pretty bulky, and even though I recommend them for working out, after wearing them for a few hours, my ears started to get a little sore. But all that extra size in the earbud itself is most likely for bigger drivers to produce more bass, which these earbuds certainly do. When listening to songs like Got It Boomin by Oren Major and The Grand Mess or Money Trees by Kendrick Lamar, the bass added a lot of depth to the songs. You can even triple tap the earbud to engage enhanced bass mode, which dials up the low tones, but you have to be careful with it because too much bass and too much volume can make the songs sound muddy.
The earbuds advertise eight hours of battery life, and after listening for two hours straight on high volume, there was still 90% battery life left, which indicates true strong battery life. In the loudness test, these earbuds were the second quietest at 87.7 dB. That, plus the extra bass, could be the culprit of some of the muddiness I experienced. Overall, I thought they sounded good and were great for physical activity, especially at about $80.
3. Jabra Elite 3
Best For: Those who listen to a variety of music whether working out or in the office.
Why We Chose It: The app and adjustable EQ settings can create a great listening experience for a wide variety of different music.
Generally, I find connecting earbuds with apps annoying. I want to pop my earbuds into my ears, the earbuds to connect to my phone in two seconds and not think about it again. But the Jabra Elite 3 paired with the Jabra Sound+ app makes all the difference in the world. I liked how it tells you the remaining battery life of each earbud – speaking of which, after two hours, I still had 80% battery (pretty great) – and you can change the sound profile between six different settings. Listening to Gone on a Purple Cloud by Daily Bread using the Bass Boost setting made all the difference in the world (the Earfun Air could greatly benefit from an extra bass setting but more on that shortly). And listening to podcasts in the Speech setting highlights the vocals and makes the listening experience even more enjoyable.
I like the feel of the earbuds in my ears, too. They aren’t as bulky as the Earfun Free, and I didn’t have any issues with them feeling like they would fall out during my morning run, more likely because they feel more tucked in my ear canal. The case is small and fits nicely in your pocket, unlike Back Bay or Treblab. For $79, you get premium sound at a discounted price, and, in my experience, they were great for working out too.
4. Earfun Free
Best For: Listening to music loud but maintaining clear and balanced sound quality.
Why We Chose It: Not only are they the most affordable in our sports earbuds lineup, but they also are some of the best sounding.
Don’t let these Earfun Free sports earbuds or the $49.99 price tag fool you – these buds get loud and sound great at high volumes. ELEMENT. by Kendrick Lamar sounded equal parts clear, sharp, and bumped. While listening to Let Down by Radiohead, which has a lot of guitar work and upper register (high frequency) sound happening in the track, I never felt the earbuds getting shrill or blaring. It remained balanced while producing clear highs. The sound quality is excellent, especially considering the price.
The fit, especially on my morning run and workout, isn’t as exceptional. I had difficulty keeping the left earbud in my ear during my run and working out. The earbuds do also feel a little bulky in my ears. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing an activity like mountain biking with these in — one would fall out. After two hours of straight music listening, I still had 88% battery life, which is great. Even though the fit wasn’t my favorite, I still highly recommend these for moderate activity, the price and sound quality.
5. Earfun Air
Best For: Light workouts, office work and taking phone calls.
Why We Chose It: These earbuds are a good mix of durability for getting sweaty during your workouts but a great microphone to take calls in the office afterward.
When I put these sports buds in, they feel incredibly light in my ears, which brings truth to the Earfun “Air” name. The comfortable fit exceeds sound quality that isn’t quite up to par with the sports earbuds mentioned to this point, but not bad by any stretch. You don’t get nearly as much bass as the others. Gone on a Purple Cloud by Daily Bread certainly could have benefited from some extra bottom end, as the track was weaker than other earbuds.
After listening for two hours straight, the battery was depleted down to 60%, which was the worst drop compared to all others in this review, even though the Earfun Free promotes less advertised battery life. The charging case is small and portable, which isn’t the case for many of these sports earbuds, and taking phone calls wearing the Air sounds clear for both parties. If you find yourself more in the office than working out, these are a solid choice, but if you’re looking strictly for more activity-bound earbuds, there are better options available.
6. Skullcandy Push Active
Best For: Those looking for ear hook sports earbuds that are comfortable to wear.
Why We Chose It: Strong 10-hour battery life and comfortable ear hook style.
We award these sports earbuds an “honorable mention” because I didn’t enjoy the listening experience. The Push Active sounds thin and lacks depth or bass. They were also one of the quietest earbuds in our testing. The saving grace is that these earbuds are incredibly comfortable to wear. I liked how the ear hook fits around the ear, and I think they looked stylish too.
These earbuds also sport the best-advertised battery life compared to all others and still had 84% battery life after two non-stop hours of listening to music on high volume. They are IPX7 water resistant as well, so you could get real sweaty running through a rainstorm, go home and take a shower with these earbuds and not even have to think twice about it. While there are things to like about the Skullcandy Push Active, like the battery life, comfort and style, it’s hard to recommend due to the lackluster sound quality.
About the Author: Jonathan Knoder
Jonathan Knoder is a contributing writer for SPY.com and covers a variety of topics from tech to lifestyle, but he has a particular affinity for audio gear and smart home tech. His writing has been featured in Top Ten Reviews, Security Sales and Integration and Salt City Hoops. Previously for SPY, he’s reviewed the Prosenic M8 Robot Vac and Lockly Vision Elite Smartlock. In his free time, he is usually playing guitar or drums, going for a run, or throwing the Frisbee to his dog.