If you’re like most runners, you know how much a great playlist can help you maximize your workouts. And to get the most out of your playlist on your run, you need a comfortable pair of headphones that sound great and don’t interfere with your exercise. Enter bone conduction headphones.
What are they? If you’ve spotted people using headphones that don’t seem to go into the ear itself, you’ve probably spotted bone conduction headphones.
Bone conduction headphones don’t pass sound through your outer and middle ear the same way air conduction earbuds do. Instead, they sit outside of your ear canal, typically just above the top of your ear. The sound gets to you by vibrating through your skull and straight to your cochlea—the spiral cavity in your inner ear that is crucial to hearing.
With bone conduction headphones, you don’t put anything inside or over your ear. People who find modern earbuds or full-sized, padded headphones uncomfortable tend to gravitate towards these just for that reason.
They even work for some people with certain types of hearing loss. They’re also great if you have an ear infection, or don’t simply want to put anything in your ear.
Perhaps most importantly for runners, bone conduction headphones don’t impede your hearing when you’re listening to music. Because your ears are still open, you can hear traffic and other environmental sounds that are critical to safety. And you don’t have to choose between chatting with a running buddy or listening to some tunes. These headphones allow for both.
Although this technology has been around for over a century in things like hearing aids, it has just recently become a more popular choice among consumers. As the market for bone conduction headphones increases, choosing between the options can be difficult.
To help you sift through the best options, we’ve found the best bone conduction headphones available on the market today.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
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Aftershokz Sportz Titanium with Mic
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1. Aftershokz Aeropex
The Aeropex headphones by Aftershokz offer state of the art design and functionality in current bone conduction headphones. Not only are the Aeropex one of the lightest headphones on the market, but they offer great sound quality. You’ll hear deep bass and feel less vibrations, even with the volume turned up.
If you’re worried about sound quality, these sound just as good as traditional headphones.
And unlike traditional headphones – which can be uncomfortable and often fall – the Aeropex sit nicely around your head where they stay in place. Like all bone conduction headphones, they allow you to hear ambient noise for improved safety while running.
The Aeropex headphones are fully water-resistant. While you can’t swim with these on, you can wear them in any kind of inclement weather.
They are also Bluetooth compatible. That means you don’t have to worry about messy cords that can get caught in your run, moving the headphones and making them less secure. They’re also a smaller overall design. That also works to improve stability during your workout.
A built-in microphone lets you make and receive calls. And a long 8-hour battery means you won’t be constantly recharging the headphones.
- Best sound quality of bone conduction headphones
- Lightweight and waterproof
- Long battery life
- Can listen at high volume with fewer vibrations
- Bass can sound muddled
2. Aftershokz Air
The Aftershokz Air is one of the most popular bone conduction headphones currently available.
With bone conduction headphones being a relatively new item on the market, sound quality from model to model can be an issue. Trekz ups the sound-quality game with Premium Pitch technology, which offers a good range of sound with the proper bass.
Using bone conduction headphones the first time can be a little strange: some people describe the sensation as a pleasant tickle. Trekz Airs come with EQ presets that will boost the bass or reduce vibrations, to help balance that feeling while you get used to it.
Given the price tag, these aren’t headphones you’ll want to replace often, so reliability and a good warranty found in Aftershokz headphones are big selling points. If you want the safest option for guaranteed quality, go with the Aftershokz Air.
- Much lighter than the other models
- Has material that will repel sweat and moisture
- 33 ft. of wireless range
- Comes in nice color options
- One of the more expensive of the Aftershokz headphones
- Battery life could be a bit longer for the price
3. Aftershokz Titanium
Compared to the Aftershokz Air, the Titaniums are heavier (but this is a matter of several grams) but less expensive. While they do come with nearly all the same features, you’ll get them at a better price.
The Titanium model comes with a headband that is flexible for great portability. And the materials are extremely durable. This model is the only Aftershokz headphones that comes in two sizes: small and standard.
Sound leakage, or sound escaping from the headphones, is a common problem with any headphone. The Titaniums use “LeakSlayer” technology that cancels sound from the housing of the headphones and releases sound from the transducers. This greatly reduces the amount of sound from your headphones the people around you will be able to hear.
If you want the sound quality of Air but need a more affordable option, go with the Aftershokz Titanium.
- More afforable than other wireless brands and models
- Same sound quality as the Air
- Very durable
- Heavier than the Air
- Not as much standby time
4. Aftershokz Sportz Titanium with mic
The Sportz Titanium is a much simpler and more economical option than the wireless Aftershokz headphones.
If battery life is a concern, these wired headphones might be the right choice for you. Because they do not rely on Bluetooth, Sportz Titaniums can handle nearly double the amount of playback time after a full charge—up to 12 hours (yes, they require charging, even though they are wired).
You won’t have the bass and vibration adjustments like their counterparts, so you’ll still be set with the sound quality that the Sportz Titanium comes with. This isn’t a negative, however. The Aftershokz Sportz Titanium still comes with Premium Pitch and LeakSlayer technologies that give that premium sound; they are just more limited.
The headphones also feature an outside noise-reducing microphone. And easily accessibly volume and playback controls.
- Double the amount of playback time
- Nearly triple the amount of standby time
- Heavier than other Aftershokz models, but we’re talking a handful of grams here
- No wireless Bluetooth
- Still require charging
5. Aftershokz Xtrainerz
The Xtrainerz offer a couple unique features not found in other Aftershokz headphones.
First, they have 4 GB of storage for mp3s. This means you take your music loaded on the headphones with you. You won’t need to carry your phone, watch, or other device for music – you simply listen to what’s stored on the Xtrainerz.
The other unique feature of the Xtrainerz is that they are full waterproof. You not only don’t need to worry about getting them wet in the rain, but you can fully submerse them in water – they’ll still work. They are ideal for triathletes and swimmers – or anyone who includes swimming in their training – and wants to listen to music underwater.
Like the other Aftershokz headhphones we’ve reviewed, the Xtrainerz are wireless and offer great sound quality while allowing you to hear ambient noise. Battery life is good too – you’ll get about 8 hours before you need to charge them up.
The only thing we don’t like about them is that they don’t have bluetooth. This means you can only listen to what you load up in the 4 GB of storage on the headphones. You can’t stream your own music from a phone like you can with the other wireless Aftershokz headphones.
- Lightweight with great sound
- Good battery life
- Waterproof – you can take them swimming
- Music storage
- Shuffle feature on mp3 doesn’t work well
- No bluetooth, can’t stream your own music from phone
5. Pyle Bone Conduction Headphones with Bluetooth
The Pyle Bone Conduction Headphones are the best value and performance choice we found for sports and exercise. These are lightest headphones of the group and come with a weather-resistant design.
Pyle’s wrap-around style will sit comfortably but firmly above your ears to stay in place during even the most rugged interval workouts. The Bluetooth technology on the headphones means you won’t have to worry about untangling wires.
These phones also have great standby time, coming in at 240 hours.
The sport-like design gives you sleek look made with a strong, durable plastic. A rubber coating also helps make them water- and sweat-proof—a necessity when exercising.
- Great for running and sports
- Great comfort with a firm fit
- Can’t be adjusted for your head size
- Not as good sound quality as Aftershokz
6. Aiko Model C
If convenience is your priority, go with the Aiko Model C.
The overall quality is not as good as other models and brands, but they are simple and user-friendly for the runner who wants music with little fuss.
The Aiko Model C’s come with Bluetooth v4.2, which will give you a quick, simple connection to any of your mobile devices. Say goodbye to fidgeting around with your devices trying to pair them.
And while the active battery life is not as long as the more expensive options, Model C’s make up for this with a simple design that is economical while maintaining functionality.
Model C’s also have a long, 10-day standby time after a full charge. Unless you’re using these for long sessions, you won’t need to constantly charge the pair.
These headphones aren’t groundbreaking, but for a scaled-back choice and a price starting at $42, the Aiko Model C is still a great option.
- Very cost-friendly
- Best design for a minimalist look
- 10-day standby time
- Sound quality is lacking
- Less battery life than other models
7. Vidonn F1 Titanium
The Vidonn F1 Titanium is an even more affordable option than the Pyles.
F1’s are specifically designed for running, biking, and hiking. They are waterproof, and totally resistant to rain and sweat.
They aren’t the lightest model we looked at, and they don’t have the longest battery life, but with six hours of life and a solid, titanium design, they offer a perfect balance of quality, durability, and price.
What Vidonn F1 Titaniums lack in sound quality in relation to the Pyle Bone Conduction Headphones, they make up for in overall value.
- 6 hr. battery life
- Fully waterproof
- Much cheaper exercise option
- Little uncomfortable after long uses
- Sound quality
8. Genso Bone Conduction Headphones
Last but not least, the Genso Bone Conduction Headphones are the best quality sound for the price.
These headphones come with Bluetooth v5.0 to easily pair with any device you have. A 33-ft range means you don’t always have to have your phone in your pocket if you’re at the gym or running on a treadmill.
As with all wireless models, the battery life is shorter. The Gensos will get you about 5 hours of playback time; most of the ones we’ve discussed can manage 6 hours. However, it should be noted these are much cheaper than headphones with a full 6 hours of battery life. And even if you are an ultra-runner, 6-hour runs are pretty rare for most of us.
If price is your main concern, these are fully waterproof, sweat resistant, and sleekly designed without a hefty price tag.
The sound quality won’t beat the Aftershokz models we’ve discussed, but with the Gensos being about one-third the price, you won’t be disappointed in this model.
- 10 full days of standby time, less charging
- Waterproof and sweatproof
- Much lighter than previous models for exercise we’ve discussed
- Volume isn’t very loud
- Some customers complain about the headphones slipping off