Best overall: Jaybird X3

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Jaybird's wireless headphones have long been a favorite of the iMore staff and workout fiends alike, and the X3 is no exception. The $129.99 wireless neck-cord set offers 8 hours of play time, with a fifteen-minute quick charge to add an extra hour. It has both a slightly better fit and better audio quality than our budget pick, though that better fit comes at the expense of using a custom charging clip in lieu of a traditional micro-USB plug.

Bottom line: Jaybird's X3 headphones are the wireless workout headphones to beat.

Status: Released October 2016 (X3); no successor.

Why the Jaybird X3 headphones are the best

The best wireless workout headphones you can buy.

These days, there are headphones for just about every activity, and working out is no exception. Bluetooth-connected workout headphones have come a long way from the days of 3-hour play time and lengthy charging — today, you can find a number of good options with sweat-proofing, 6+ hours of battery life, a customizable fit, and slim profiles.

When considering workout headphones, we eliminated any headphones that weren't rated for sweat- and water-resistance — sorry, AirPods and Beats X. If you use any pair of headphones often enough, they will fail; add sweat or water to the equation, and that danger is amplified.

Even "sweat-proof" headphones aren't sweat-proof forever: The special nano-coating that keeps most sport and workout headphones from breaking after a hard gym session will wear down over time; it's why you'll often see reviews of sport headphones with complaints about non-functioning headphones after a certain period of time.

Of the headphones we've tested, Jaybird's X-series has repeatedly withstood heavy sweat sessions more reliably than its competition; I've worn them under a roller derby helmet for multi-hour practices, at the gym while lifting weights and running, and even on the beach (though not in the water itself).

The X3 took me longer than other headphones of its type to fit correctly, in part owing to the multiple wingtip and earbud types you can attach, but once I found the right fit, they've stayed securely in my ears without issue, whether I was skating, jumping, running, or lifting. The cord can be worn either around the back of the ears or below, depending on your fit and preference; I've tried both, and slightly prefer the latter, but your choices may vary.

I also appreciate the X3's 8-hour battery life, which I've received fairly consistently when using the product. Wireless headphone battery life can vary immensely from box specs to actual daily use, but Jaybird's measurements continue to be near-perfect in that regard. While I wish we'd see an X-series model that had closer to 10 or 12 hours of battery life for distance runners and hikers, I appreciate the size of the X3, as to achieve that size, Apple's PowerBeats line had to include larger-than-average earbuds (and the weight that goes along with that).

As part of the X3's slim profile, you do have to use a custom contact-based charger to USB cord, which means remembering the cord (or having to replace it if you leave it behind) when you're traveling. It's a minor pain in the grand scheme of technology charging, but if you're often on the road, you may want a set of headphones that takes a standard micro-USB charger.

The X3 will fail eventually, as its competition has — but that's a fact of life where workout headphones are concerned. If there's one hesitation I have when recommending the X3 over something like our budget pick, it would be Jaybird's warranty team: While X3 models would appear to fail less often than their competition, Jaybird support can be slow to deal with repairs or replacements; though Jaybird offers a one-year warranty covering devices that "fail because of perspiration," I've heard multiple stories from users who had lengthy wait times trying to get Jaybird to replace their headphones.

That said, Jaybird will replace headphones that fail from sweat within a year — competing products like Apple's PowerBeats 3 have no such guarantee. The process just might take longer than you'd like.

Best wire-free workout headphones: Jaybird RUN

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For those who hate workout headphones with cords, Jaybird's $179.99 Run earbuds offer a reduced four hours of playtime, but bring you a sweat-proof version of the AirPods lifestyle.

Worth noting: Unlike the AirPods, which can function independently of each other, the Bluetooth connection is solely in the Run's right earbud — so you can't use the left one alone if the right one dies. Original Run pairs suffered from connectivity issues due to this configuration, but Jaybird claims to have fixed the issue in subsequent pairs; for what it's worth, I haven't had any issues with my test pair while putting it through its paces shoveling snow, skating, and doing floor workouts.

Bottom line: If you want a cord-free alternative to our top pick, the Jaybird Run are the first reliable workout headphones we've seen on the market that fit the bill.

Status: Released September 2017; no successor.

Best on a budget: Aukey Latitude Wireless Headphones

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If you don't have a big budget for listening to music while you work out, Aukey's $25.99 Latitude Wireless buds offer a great entry point.

The headphones offer an 8-hour play time and sweat-resistance; they also use magnetic clasps (like the Beats X) to magnetically snap around your neck. While my pair has yet to fail me, they don't quite have the same reliability reputation as our top pick; that said, it's a pretty easy sell to pay $26 to pick up a spare pair instead of $100+.

Bottom line: Aukey's Latitude Wireless headphones provide quality far above their price point for everyday gym use.

Status: Released 2017; no successor.

Best workout coach headphones: Vi: Personal Trainer

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For a complete workout training within a set of headphones, you're going to want to look into Vi. It's a set of in-ear headphones that include a personal training system for runners, along with workout sensors to track heart rate, elevation, cadence, speed, time, and location.

Vi comes in at a hefty price tag of $250, so we don't recommend it for everyone. If you're a runner who wants both workout sensors and coaching tips in your headphones, however, Vi is the perfect companion for listening to tunes while tracking your stats.

Bottom line: If you want an all-in-one package for tracking stats and offering coaching help alongside your music, check out Vi.

Status: Released 2017; no successor.

Headphones on the horizon

CES 2018 is dropping a number of interesting workout headphone entrants, including Libratone's first wireless in-ear option, TRACK+, and we'll be testing those shortly.

Other headphones we considered

  • Apple PowerBeats 3, $199.99: Oh, PowerBeats. I've had a love/hate relationship with these over-ear-clip headphones for a year; sadly, their W1 connectivity and lengthy battery life isn't enough to save them from the cut list. (They're just not as comfortable, nor do they withstand sweat long-term as well as our primary pick.)
  • Bragi Dash, $299: The Dash is one of the only wireless workout headphone sets that supports swimming workouts, but its price — even when discounted almost 50% by Amazon, which it often is — is a little too high, and (like many cord-free headphones) it suffers from connection issues.
  • Bose SoundSport Free, $249: While Bose's sound quality remains unparalleled, connectivity and battery issues plague this product and we can't recommend it.
  • Bose Soundsport, $129: These aren't bad workout headphones for fans of Bose's sound, but several of our picks have battery life that far surpasses the 6-hour charge in a smaller package.
  • Bose SoundSport Pulse, $179: Giant earbuds and a so-so battery life make this product a no-go.
  • Fitbit Flyer, $129.95: Early reliability issues and problems with fit have us holding our recommendation for at least a generation.
  • Jabra Elite Sport, $149.99: I'm a huge fan of Jabra's budget headphones, but I had major trouble getting these to fit correctly — and I'm not alone, as Wirecutter testers had similar issues.
  • Jaybird Freedom 2: No neck-wired workout headphones should only get 4 hours of battery life (without an additional attachment) at this point in history.
  • Plantronics Backbeat Fit 300, $79.99: Though these sub-$100 workout headphones look great, they suffer from imbalances due to the mic/battery pack placement.
  • Samsung Level Active, $79.99: These feel cheaper than our budget pick at three times the price, and suffer from Bluetooth issues and poor sound quality.
  • Urbanears Stadion, $99: I wanted to like these wireless headphones, but they're not really comfortable for my head type, and details (like the micro-USB charging cover) feel a bit too flimsy.

We previously also had both the JLab Epic 2 and Plantronics BackBeat FIT on this list, but both headphones have been discontinued.

Work out with Jaybird X3

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Jaybird's wireless headphones have long been a favorite of the iMore staff and workout fiends alike, and the X3 is no exception. The $129.99 wireless neck-cord set offers 8 hours of play time, with a fifteen-minute quick charge to add an extra hour. It has both a slightly better fit and better audio quality than our budget pick, though that better fit comes at the expense of using a custom charging clip in lieu of a traditional micro-USB plug.

Bottom line: Jaybird's X3 headphones are the wireless workout headphones to beat.

Status: Released October 2016 (X3); no successor.