The right music can really help you push through a tough workout. But what if the tunes your gym pumps out for everyone to “enjoy” don’t quite hit the spot? The answer is simple: grab a pair of the best gym headphones and enjoy your own personal playlist, or your choice of radio station or podcast.
Not all headphones are ideal for a gym environment, though, or for extended exercise sessions. Here’s our guide to the best gym headphones, to suit whatever your favourite style of workout and budget is, along with all the key questions you need to asking when buying a pair.
How to buy the best gym headphones for you
The first question is what you’re going to be doing in the gym – whether you’re going to be moving around a lot, and how sweaty you expect to get. If you’ve fully embraced the HIIT hype, for example, you’ll want lightweight headphones that can shrug off sweat and won’t fall out when you jump around. If you’re more into slow weights workouts, your muscles might be screaming but you won’t necessarily be moving or sweating very much, so you can go for heavier on-ear headphones, should you so desire.
What type of headphones do I want?
Wireless headphones give you more freedom to move about without worrying about getting snagged or tangled, but they’re generally more expensive than wired models – and you have to remember to top up the battery from time to time.
As for design, over-ear or on-ear headphones usually have better sound quality than in-ear, but can quickly come to feel hot and heavy during an intense workout, not to mention an increased risk of slipping or falling off mid-workout. In-ear headphones also give you the choice of an ear-plug or a more open design. The former is great for getting in the zone and shutting out the outside world – but that won’t make you popular if someone’s shouting at you for hogging the squat rack and you don’t hear them.
How much do I need to spend?
Perfectly good wired headphones can be had for less than £30, and you can find decent-sounding wireless models for under £50. But it’s worth paying a bit more – perhaps up to £100 – for a well-made, durable pair that you can be confident will survive the exertions of exercise, and being tossed around in your gym bag. If you’re tempted by the latest true wireless earbud designs, you can expect to pay upwards of £150. Go below that mark and you’re liable to sacrifice battery life, sound quality or durability.
What else should I look out for?
Ideally, look for headphones that are waterproof, or at least water-resistant – you want to be sure they’ll survive your sweatiest gym sessions intact. Headphones’ water-resistance is reflected by their IP rating. An IP rating of IPX4 or above certifies them equipped to resist splashes from any direction – we’d recommend at least this level of protection.
If you opt for in-ear headphones, check that they come with a good selection of different-sized buds to make sure you get a good fit. Finally, and crucially, if you go wireless, check the battery life before you buy, and whether the headphones have a quick-charge function. The latter can be a godsend if you only discover that you’re out of juice as you’re about to leave for the gym: some headphones can eke out an hour of use from just 10-15 minutes of charging.
You may also want to consider headphones with active noise cancellation, which is often referred to as ANC. These use in-built microphones to analyse external sound and then play the exact inverse of that sound alongside your music to help drown out unwanted noise. A list of our favourite active noise-cancelling headphones can be found here, but you’ll want to avoid the over-ear options as they offer no water-resistance whatsoever.
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Best gym headphones: At a glance
The best gym headphones to buy in 2021
1. Tribit FlyBuds 3: Best gym headphones under £50
Price: £40 | Buy now from Tribit
Given the all-round quality you’re getting, the FlyBuds 3 would represent good value at twice their price, so to be able to pick them up for £40 is a real steal. The in-ear buds come with an array of tips and wings so it’s easy to get the size you need. Once set up, they have a very secure fit, so you can use them for bouncy HIIT workouts without fearing they’ll shake loose.
The sound quality is also exceptional given the price, matching the standard of most sets we’ve tried in the £100-£150 bracket, and the battery life is good, too, at five hours on the buds, plus another 95 hours in the case. The case holds so much charge you can even plug in your phone or other electrical essentials to get some juice in a pinch. As a final bonus, the FlyBuds 3 have an IPX7 rating, which means they’re waterproof and can handle any amount of sweat during a workout.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds; IP rating: IPX7; Battery life: 5 hours (100 total with case)
Buy now from Tribit
2. Groov-E SportBuds: Best budget gym headphones
Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon
In the past, paying less than £50 for true wireless earbuds was a gamble that rarely paid off, but now there are several quality budget sets available, with the Groov-E SportBuds and Tribit FlyBuds 3 being a couple of our favourites. The Groov-e headphones get the nod as the better option for the gym purely because of the ear hook design, which ensures a reliable fit during frenetic HIIT workouts in particular.
The battery life is not great at four hours, but that will be long enough for almost all gym sessions, and the carry case will charge them six times before it itself needs to be plugged in. The sound quality is also unexpectedly impressive for budget true wireless buds and the match of many sets nearer the £100 mark.
Key specs – Style: True wireless earbuds with earhooks; IP rating: IPX4; Battery life: 4 hours (28 total with case)
£34.99 Buy now
3. Adidas Sport RPT-01: Best on-ear gym headphones
Price: £119 | Buy now from Amazon