There are many ways that headphones can fail you during a workout. They can fall out of your ears, your sweat can short-circuit the volume controls, or they can be just plain uncomfortable. Then there’s the question of how much you have to spend on something you’ll realistically be throwing around, running through the laundry by mistake, digging up from the bottom of a gym bag, and repeatedly sweating all over. Most daily use workout headphones are going to get beat up, but you still want get decent sound quality and a pair that won’t fall apart after a month of uses. We looked at the best in show options for wireless headphones, which basically all run in triple digits, but luckily if you’re willing to deal with the traditional cords you don’t have to spend nearly that much.
As always, the prices here are MSRP. This post was intended to highlight less expensive options and Amazon almost always has much lower prices listed:
- Yurbuds Ironman Inspire In-Ear Headphones ($40)
- SOL REPUBLIC Relays ($80)
- Decibullz Contour Custom In Ear Headphones ($60)
- Sennheiser CX 300 II Precision Earbuds ($80)
- Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones ($130)
- Skullcandy Ink’d 2.0 ($25)
- Koss Fitclips Headphones ($30)
The contender: Yurbuds Ironman Inspire In-Ear Headphones ($40)
The bottom line: There’s a reason these are beloved by many members of the Spright staff — the price is right, they stay in, and they are durable.
Yurbuds Ironman Inspire In-Ear Headphones ($40) are perhaps the most popular headphones I see people using out and about on runs in San Francisco. For me, these have performed perfectly through countless races, including three marathons and every training run. The only reason I’ve had to replace them is when I lose the silicone ear pieces, which can fall off if you’re throwing them in the bottom of a gym bag. I’d suggest actually using the little pouch that comes with the headphones. These Yurbuds come in tons of colors, and you can pay more for some extra features such as over-ear pieces (though they seem unnecessary since these shouldn’t be falling out) and a volume toggle. The tester from Men’s Fitness agrees, writing, “As someone who can never seem to find a pair of in-ear buds that fit my ears,I was thrilled when this pair did not fall out even once during my outdoor run.”
The contender: SOL REPUBLIC Relays ($80)
The bottom line: With great reviews across the board, the SOL REPUBLIC headphones are a popular, reliable choice.
The SOL REPUBLIC Relays ($80) are another pair with pretty consistently glowing reviews across the board. Tom’s Guide writes, “The Sol Republic Relays (3-Button) are tough, washable, surprisingly comfy and good for a broad spectrum of music.”
PCMag rates them as “excellent,” saying, “at $80, the Relays are an affordable, gym-friendly option for bass lovers, and you won’t find too many reliable, exercise-oriented pairs for less than this.” The SOL REPUBLIC Relays also topped the Wirecutter’s list of best exercise headphones. The fit on these gets high points, though they’re not quite as snug as the Yurbuds for most reviewers. Added bonus — they come with a lifetime supply of replacement earbud tips.
The contender: Decibullz Contour Custom In Ear Headphones ($60)
The bottom line: The moldable pieces make for a perfect fit, but that’s about where the positives end.
The Decibullz Contour Custom In Ear Headphones ($60) might just have the most comfortable fit of all, thanks in no small part to their moldable, contourable ear pieces. The thermoplastic molds get warmed up in your microwave before being molded to your exact ear and then let them harden.
Gizmodo glowed about the comfort, but had nothing but negative things to say about the sound quality. They also noted that these will melt if left out in the direct sunlight on a hot day. The reviews on Amazon are slightly more positive, citing their comfort for long marathon training runs and noise-canceling qualities for plane flights.
THE CONTENDER: Sennheiser CX 300 II Precision Earbuds ($80)
The Bottom Line: A decent option with no glaring downsides, but no glowing reviews either.
The Sennheiser CX 300 II Precision Earbuds ($80) seem to earn a solid “OK” across the board with reviewers. CNet says they’re fine if you’re looking for as “affordable, decent-sounding pair of earbuds,” but they don’t come with any perks and the three earbud tip sizes they come with might not fit everyone. Engadget says they’re a step up from whatever earbuds came with your smartphone or media player, which is a lukewarm review if we’ve ever heard one. The Wirecutter also checked out this Sennheiser model and another one, saying both were fine options but not quite worth the price considering what else is out there.
The contender: Monster iSport Intensity In-Ear Headphones ($130)
The bottom line: You can usually find a deal on these most-expensive headphones, which fit well and have good noise canceling quality.
While the suggested price on these breaks the $100 mark, the Amazon price is almost always significantly lower and they get excellent reviews. CNet writes, “The Monster iSport Victory fits very securely and comfortably and is sweat-resistant and literally washable. It also delivers good sound, with strong bass and detail.”
Some negative reviews on Amazon cite poor bass quality, which is pretty common across the board with in-ear buds. Outdoor Gear Lab says that the noise-canceling doesn’t veer into dangerous territory: “The iSport Intensity have average sound quality that still allow for moderate ambient noise to filter in, which is a safety feature we value in sport headphones.”
The contender: Skullcandy Ink’d 2.0 ($25)
The Bottom Line: Inexpensive enough that you don’t have to worry too much about them, which compensates for some lack of quality.
This is another set where you can work around the $25 pricetag (at time of publication, they’re only $8 on Amazon), so it’s easier to swallow most of the complaints about quality and sound leaking out. These would be a good backup pair to have in all potential gym or work bags in case you forget your favorite pair. The negative reviews also focus on durability, which is understandable for the price. Many reviewers were surprised by how happy they are with their headphones, so if you’re looking for a quick replacement or don’t care too much about sound quality, there’s no need to pay the big bucks.
The contender: Koss Fitclips Headphones ($30)
The bottom line: Good, cheap option, especially if you have trouble finding exercise headphones that work with smaller ears.
According to Engadget, “If you want to spend the least amount of money possible for sweat-resistant sport headphones and still be happy with your purchase, the Koss Fitclips are the way to go.” These are marketed more towards women on the packaging, but some Amazon reviewers say they’re also great for men with smaller ears who have trouble finding earbuds that fit. The over-ear fit can take some getting used to, but these lightweight headphones apparently stay in place through any rigorous workout, which is a solid review for the low price tag.