Running With Headphones vs Earbuds

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Updated October 31, 2022

Those searching for the best headphones for running understand that they’ll have to make some comparisons along the way to find their perfect pair. After all, the differences between the best over-ear headphones and earbuds for working out are vast. That’s why it’s crucial to compare running with earbuds vs. headphones before you invest.


  • First, we looked at the differences in audio quality. In this category, you’ll find that wired or wireless running headphones always come first.
  • Next, touch controls became the focal point for comparison. You’ll often find that wired or wireless earbuds are easier to use than an over-ear design.
  • Finally, the presence of water-resistant features came under the microscope. In this category, earbuds and over-ear designs are tied for first place.

What’s Best for Running: Earbuds vs Over-Ear Headphones?

When you’re looking for the top headphones for running, there are a few features you should keep an eye out for. As part of your research, however, you may also want to compare headphones vs. earbuds for working out to ensure you’re getting precisely the right style for you. You could also compare over-ear vs. in-ear headphones for the gym.

Insider Tip

Some wireless earbuds can give you hours of battery life from a single charge.

Sound Quality

A few different things determine sound quality. One of them is active noise cancelation, alongside the overall construction of the headphones. In this round, an over-ear design wins by a landslide. Their larger construction makes more room for better technology and larger drivers, whereas earbud technology can’t quite measure up. You can compare in-ear vs. over-ear noise-canceling headphones for more information. Comparing open-back vs. closed-back headphones can help you understand more about differences in structure.

Touch Controls

Workout earbuds or headphones are better when you can change the music with just a button press. Touch controls are a great way to make this happen. This is a category where earbud technology shines. Touch controls on an over-ear design can be clunky and hard to use. On the other hand, workout earbuds have streamlined controls that are easy to navigate. This means that workout earbuds win in this round.


Sometimes ambient noise is important, so make sure your headphones have a transparency mode that lets you hear background noise in potentially dangerous situations, such as running in the street.

Water-Resistant Features

Lastly, we have to take into account water resistance ratings. This is especially important for running headphones and earbuds, especially in cases of long distances. Both running headphones and earbuds come with a water resistance rating, so it’s a draw in this category. You have to make sure your specific model can hold up against sprays of water or sweat. If you want more comparisons, try looking into neckband vs. over-ear headphones.

STAT: The digital music industry in the United States consists of two segments that are estimated to have a user count ranging between 51.7 million users (music downloads) and 116.5 million users (music streaming) in 2021. (source)

Running With Headphones vs. Earbuds FAQs

What should I look for in wireless headphones?

Look for how many hours of battery life you can get on a single charge, an active noise cancelation feature, and a transparency mode.

Do traditional headphones make good workout headphones?

Generally speaking, no. There are several features that traditional headphones lack. For example, water resistance is essential because of sweat. Traditional headphones don’t usually have water resistance.

Can blocking ambient sound be dangerous?

Yes, and you should only block ambient noise in a trusted environment. It’s best practice to use transparency mode instead of active noise cancellation mode when at the gym or in the streets.

What are the perks of using Apple AirPods?

When you invest in Apple AirPods, you can enjoy a few perks. The first is hours of battery life and the ability to block out ambient sound. Apple AirPods even offer a fantastic transparency mode.
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