Most fitness types prefer wireless earbuds for working out, but work out in any gym in America, and you’ll find folks who prefer the more traditional over-ear headphones. Why? Myriad reasons, but it mostly comes down to one (or all) of the following: comfort, audio quality, and noise cancellation ability. But what are the best over-ear headphones for working out? That’s tougher to answer, because almost all headphones are explicitly designed for scenarios in which the wearer isn’t moving much and moisture isn’t present—aka an office or desk setting, not a gym. Here’s everything you should know before shopping for a pair.
Why You Should Trust Us
Hone Health is a team of health-obsessed journalists, editors, fitness junkies, medical reviewers, and product testers. I’ve been testing, reviewing, and writing about fitness and fitness tech for nearly a decade now. When it comes to the best gym headphones, I will always recommend a waterproof wireless earbud setup instead of an over-ear headphone, but having worn a dozen different full headphone sets through all sorts of workouts, there are some I don’t mind recommending.
A Warning on Workout Headphones
Before buying any over-ear headphones for working out, but especially more premium headphones, know this: working out in your new headphones almost certainly voids their warranty, as there are very few over-ear headphone options designed specifically for—or would be reasonable to wear during—working out. This doesn’t mean you’re going to break your over-ear headphones after a couple of sessions, but it does mean you should consider what kinds of workouts you’re wearing them through.
In testing, we found that they’re simply not worth the trouble to wear during extended cardio sessions—running, elliptical, rowing, etc.—as the constant movement unseats them from your ears, and the accumulation of sweat (which is enhanced because of the headphone itself) is simply much greater than, say, a weightlifting session.
Why Do People Wear Over-Ear Headphones While Working Out?
Maybe you have weird ears, maybe you don’t like the feeling of an earbud lodged in your acoustic meatus, or maybe you enjoy the cozy head hug an over-ear headphone provides. It doesn’t really matter, because most people who opt to wear over-ear headphones working out instead of earbuds cite comfort as the primary concern.
Do you work out in an obnoxiously loud gym? Are you easily distracted by the conversations of other gymgoers? Does your gym blast the absolute worst Top 40 music imaginable morning and night? These reasons, and more, provide ample justification for going over-ear headphones rather than earbuds. Some more premium earbuds offer solid active noise cancellation (ANC), but, generally speaking, over-ear headphones have more capacity for this kind of thing purely due to the hardware onboard.
If audio quality is a concern, over-ear headphones are a solid bet for the same reason noise cancellation is generally better with headphones rather than earbuds. It’s not that AirPods Pros or the latest Bose earbud don’t pump quality sound—it’s just that headphones don’t have to sacrifice nearly as much hardware in the name of physical product real estate.