I tested 7 pairs of headphones for gym use, and this is what I'd recommend

Earbuds and headphones on desk
(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong / Android Central)

I have Type 2 diabetes so fitness is literally medicine for me, which means I spend a lot of time in the gym. I like lifting heavy s%^&, so you can find me primarily where the free weights and squat racks are located. 

Recently I’ve also set out on a journey to embrace running and raising my V02 Max, so I’m spending more time on the treadmill than I have before (my shins hate concrete). With all of that, I’m in the gym or running and walking five days a week or more. That’s a lot and it is music which helps me to sustain my consistency and intensity, so I have a lot to say about wireless headphones and earbuds for gym use. Now, there are some great earbuds you can buy for under $50, and headphones around $100 which don’t have active noise canceling but I find I’m in the zone best when I can shut out the awful gym music and background chatter. 

To that end, I want to help you get in the zone better and focus on that mind/muscle connection with this list of gym friendly earbuds and headphones with active noise canceling. Let’s get into it! 

For this list of recommendations, I weighed how I view each device based on these parameters:

  • Comfort: This isn’t just about feeling heavy on my head or in my ears, this is about the overall build and how that affects an hour or two wearing, under the stress of exercise. 
  • Sound quality: This parameter includes sonic reproduction AND active noise canceling effectiveness because I want the gym noise to fade into the background and focus on that mind/muscle connection and my breathing. Bonus points for a “hear through” mode because if you frequent any gym long enough, you’re going to have regulars who will walk by and exchange brief pleasantries. Also, it’s a good feature to have when you need to ask for a spot, or get asked to be a spotter. 
  • Battery life: I don’t need another thing to worry about in addition to meal prep and charging my smartwatch, so fewer times in between fueling up that battery is ideal. 

With all of that out of the way, let’s get to it! I’ve reviewed A LOT of earbuds in the gym. Some had great sound but didn’t feel secure in my ears and for that reason don’t make it onto this list.  

Wireless earbuds

Wireless earbuds on surface

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong / Android Central)

I’ll just get right to it and tell you my favorites: Beats Fit Pro

These are my “go-to” gym-use earbuds because they actually tick every box mentioned above and then some! They also have great noise canceling microphones for when I need to take a call at the gym, or out on a run, or outdoor hike. The two most important gym features for me though are the solid noise canceling and the fit. I’ve hated wings on just about every other pair of earbuds, but Beats really did a great job with their wing design. The wings on the Beats Fit Pro are actually comfortable for me and don’t feel like they’re placing a ton of unnecessary pressure against the folds of my ears. And the Beats Signature sound profile is aces for my gym playlists and sonic motivation. 

But if you find the wings don’t work for you, a great alternative to the Beats Fit Pro is pretty much ANY of Jabra’s ANC earbuds. Solid sound quality, noise canceling, and for a person with tiny ear canals, the posts and the ear tips that attach to them are both small enough that they stay in my ears during dynamic exercises. Earbuds with no wing or ear hook always make me feel like they’re going to pop out, but Jabras never do. Occasionally, I may have to adjust/reseat them, but its infrequently done. If you don’t like the fit of the wing tips in the Beats Fit Pro, you can’t go wrong with Jabra. The last pair of Jabra’s I tested were the Elite 7 Pro, but they’re now up to the Elite 8 Active which should be amazing for the gym or any hardcore outdoor activities, and the more expensive Elite 10 (I guess we skipped the 9 series). If money is tight, you can still buy their Elite 4 Active for less than $100. 

One more inexpensive pair of ANC earbuds worth looking into as long as the fit is right for your ears, are Anker’s Soundcore brand Liberty 4 NC. They have an AirPods Pro style design and those don’t fit my ear canals without adding a pair of Comply foam eartips to the mix. Same with the Liberty 4 NC. I have to keep pushing them into my ears to get effective sound and ANC. But, when I do, the bustle of the gym does fade into the background and the sound quality is pretty darn good. Outside of that, I can tell you that they are very comfortable as well. When I use the smaller ear tips they stay in my ears, they just don’t effectively cancel noise because they aren’t the right fit for that. They support LDAC, multipoint connections, wireless charging, and will get you 10 hours of continuous playback. That’s a lot for a more wallet friendly $100 or less. 

A new pair of truly wireless earbuds that I just reviewed, are now one of my top picks for all around use and they work well in the gym. Technics EAH-AZ80 are phenomenal earbuds with an IPX4 rating and industry first 3 device multipoint connection support. The AZ80s have a design which fits really well in the concha of the ear, making them pretty stable when I’m lying down on the bench for my push/pull days. At $299.99, they’re one of the pricier options but you will get your money’s worth as these are great for the gym, for productivity, and for both casual and active listening as they also support LDAC. And, most importantly, the sound quality is worthy of the price tag, along with a massive feature set and well designed app with more options in it than you’ll likely need. Best of all, at 7 hours of continuous playback before that battery is drained, the AZ80s are among the longest lasting truly wireless earbuds in this roundup.

Pixel Buds Pro 2 are worth an honorable mention. Just announced at Google’s big October 2023 event, I haven’t had the opportunity to test them yet. Given the history of the first gen Pixel Buds Pro, they’re worth heavy consideration.

Protip: for any of the earbuds I suggested here, if their included silicon eartips slip out of your ears because of fit, or you being a very sweaty human, consider adding a set of Comply foam aftermarket eartips to the mix. I’ve used them to make my Airpods Pro and Beats Studio Buds fit properly in my ears without falling out. I fully recommend Comply foam eartips for anyone wanting a more secure fit, as long as they have a pair which fits your earbuds.

Wireless headphones

Tshaka wearing different headphones

(Image credit: Tshaka Armstrong / Android Central)

Now, I will say that circunaural, or over-ear headphones are not generally my everyday carry choice for sound BUT I do like using them from time to time. Their noise canceling is often more effective than earbuds, and because of that, I find they allow me to feel like I’m in my own world even more than any earbuds I’ve tried. I don’t like them for running and they are somewhat of a nuisance for flat bench work, or any work where you’re going to be laying flat on your back, but they definitely have their place. One of the aspects of any over-ears which make them best for gym use is what I will call “comfortable clamping force.” For example, Beats vs Sony. 

The latter has noise canceling which wins in head-to-head competition, but I find their headbands to have very little clamping force. That’s fine for active and passive listening at home but in the gym, the more aggressive yet comfortable clamping force of the Beats headphones makes them better for gym wear, for me. And I have a massive melon. When I want to completely zone out, I’m currently using Beats Studio Pro’s for the gym. And of the headphones I’ve tested that I’d wear at the gym, buying these right now is a no-brainer. 

But, what if your budget laughs at you for considering $350 hardware? You can check out Anker’s newly released Soundcore Space One, or Skullcandy’s Hesh ANC for around $200 cheaper than the previously mentioned headphones.

Coming in at only $99.99 retail, let me tell you that Anker’s Soundcore brand Space One over-ear headphones are worth every penny! The sound quality is solid for headphones at this price point and the app gives you some good options for tailoring the sound and ANC to your liking. On noise canceling, neither these or the next headphones I’m going to talk about are as robust as Beats Studio Pro, but with the tunes pumping, they’ll get the job done in the gym. 

What I liked most about the Space Ones is how light they are and how cloud-like the cushion is on the earcups. They are very comfortable for extended wear, and definitely will get you through even the longest workouts with no ear fatigue. The clamping force on these is quite minimal, but their light weight negates that and allows them to sit very securely on the head during workouts. My only concern would be the wearing detection sensor on the inside of the left earcup and whether or not that will eventually succumb to the moisture generated in the can by your sweat. Time will tell!

Want something a bit more understated for your workouts? Take a look at Skullcandy’s Hesh ANC. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with just how well these headphones stayed on my head during exercises where I had to lay down. It wasn’t the clamping force however which kept them in place. The little pad which pokes out from the top of the headband had just enough friction with my shaved head that the headphones stayed in place. That strip of padding, along with the earcups and clamp actually make these quite comfortable to wear for long periods of time. In terms of sonics, great for the gym and those who listen to bass heavy music like hip hop, EDM, and acid jazz. These have a “V curve” like the Studio Pro but with more sibilance at the top end. Nothing harsh, but it’s there. I will warn you that these did have trouble remaining distortion free at max volume with SOME music choices, and it wasn’t by genre. That said, for your hearing health, listening at max volume is less than ideal. These retail on Skullcandy’s site for $135 but I’ve seen them as cheap as $99 around the web, and they’re currently a Prime Day deal for $99.99 on Amazon.

To be honest, the best over-ear headphones I’ve ever used in the gym have been discontinued. Plantronics’ Backbeat Fit 6100, released in 2019 had a great feature which allowed you to customize the clamping force to be tighter, or looser, based on your use-case. No ANC, but I could use them on the flat bench without having to shift them to sit over my forehead like I have to do with just about every other pair of headphones. They stayed in place thanks to that innovative design. RIP Backbeat Fit 6100! I’ll pour some BCAAs out in your memory.

And, there you have it! My take on earbuds and headphones for the gym. Did I miss something? Is there a pair YOU think I should be trying out for getting my sweat on, and smashing new PRs? Let me know in the comments or reach me on Twitter or IG @tshakaarmstrong!

Tshaka Armstrong

Tshaka Armstrong is a nerd. Co-Founder of the non-profit digital literacy organization, Digital Shepherds, he’s also been a broadcast technology reporter, writer and producer. In addition to being an award-winning broadcast storyteller, he’s also covered tech online and in print for everything from paintball gear technology, to parenting gadgets, and film industry tech for Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to writing for Android Central, he’s a video contributor for Android Central and posts everything else to his own YouTube channel and socials. He blathers on about his many curiosities on social media everywhere as @tshakaarmstrong.

  • Joshua Luther1
    I'm a big fan of Soundcore headphones and earbuds. All affordable and have great sound. I have the Q30 and Space A40. I also have the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro on the way that I ordered for only $100. The Space A40's are on sale on Amazon for $50. I paid $100 for them and even at that price, they are more than worth it.