I’ve been hunting for ages for a pair of really good running headphones. I like listening to music, audiobooks and podcasts while I’m running, but it’s essential to find a really comfortable, reliable pair of headphones that won’t get in the way or fall out.
I’ve not had much luck with that, and have gone through a couple of cheap pairs of headphones that have been unsatisfactory in one way or another, so last year I decided to finally splash out on a pair of what are supposed to be some of the best sports headphones available, and are certainly amongst the most expensive, the Bose SoundSport bluetooth in-ear headphones.
When it comes to running headphones, or any headphones really, there are various decisions to be made – and it’s worth running through these to clarify exactly what these provide, and whether they may or may not be right for you depending on your preference.
- Bluetooth or wired – this is much less of a decision than it used to be, since bluetooth headphones are no longer unusual or expensive, and in fact wired headphones are more the exception to the rule these days. I would always go for bluetooth for running, though, as having a wire to your device simply gets in the way, is uncomfortable, and has a tendency to pull the headphones out of your ears.
- Individual or linked – this is the new decision that people will have to make, with really good individual/independent bluetooth earphones starting to appear, and the popularity or Apple’s airpods leading to more manufacturers creating similar things. Bose SoundSports are available in a wireless/individual format as well, as it happens, though these are a little more expensive. To my mind, the pros of the linked headphones are price, that they are harder to lose, and that if one falls out they will tend to just dangle round your neck rather than possibly bounce away into the grass or (given where I run) over a cliff. The big pro of the fully wireless headphones is that they should be even more comfortable and ‘weightless’ without even the wire round the back of your neck. As the price of the fully wireless headphones come down, I suspect that, like bluetooth headphones in general, these will start to become the norm anyway.
- In-ear or on-ear – this is mainly down to personal choice, and what you find comfortable. On-ear headphones are larger and, to be secured, require a reasonably stiff loop to go around the ear. In-ear headphones can be much smaller, either being held in by friction alone (largely unsuccessfully while running, in my experience) or by a smaller piece of rubber that wedges them into the shape of the ear, as with the SoundSports.
- On that note – secured by wrapping around the whole ear, or wedging into the concha (I think that’s what it’s called…). In theory ’round-ear’ ones are probably more secure, but I’ve had no issues with the SoundSport, and in fact the last pair of headphones I owned had round-ear clips that were so soft and flexible that they did absolutely fuck-all to hold the headphones in place. One other point is that ’round-ear’ ones often do not sit comfortably when also wearing sunglasses, in my experience.
Anyway, these SoundSports are bluetooth, linked headphones, in-ear, secured with a concha whatsit (technical term). So that’s that.
They pair very easily to any device and a nice detail that I hadn’t really appreciated before is that they will remain paired to two devices simultaneously. The effect of this is that if, for example, I am watching something on my iPad and then a call comes in on my phone, I can simply pick up the call on my phone using the headphones without having to connect or disconnect them (assuming they were previously paired to both devices, of course). Or, as is more frequently the case, if I’m watching Netflix on my iPad and then on my phone I start watching a video on twitter, my iPad will simply pause playing and the Twitter video will play through the headphones, then I can re-start Netflix on my iPad and the sound comes through that. That compares favourable to other headphones I own that can only connect to one device at a time, which has the infuriating effect that if I was last using them on my iPad and that is buried in my bag, I will have to dig it out and disconnect the headphones before I can use them with my iPhone.
During runs, the headphones are so comfortable that I barely notice they are there, and being able to clip the wire to my shirt helps to keep it out of the way and everything in place. They come with three different sizes of rubber ear-piece, meaning it’s easy enough to find a size that fits securely and is comfortable, and I’ve never had any issues with them feeling loose or falling out.
The sound is, as you’d expect from Bose, excellent for in-ear headphones, and both clean and loud enough to sound good even when running next to noisy traffic or a stormy sea, or into a stiff headwind.
Controls-wise, the headphones have a little power button on the right earphone, but everything else including volume and a generic action button is on a remote on the wire, which also contains the microphone pick-up when using them for phone calls. Because I use my Garmin Vivoactive to control tracks and pause/play, I only really use the remote for volume, and I like the fact that it’s big enough and intuitive enough to easily use hands-free without even looking at it.
Overall, these are the first headphones I’ve owned that are really, really optimal for running in, and it’s been a revelation, making long runs considerably more fun, and completely removing a constant frustration I had with previous headphones of having to re-adjust them every few minutes, or even wear a hat over them simply to keep them in my ears.