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Best MP3 Players for Running in 2020

Listening to your favorite music is one of the best ways to maintain your motivation and make the miles fly by during a run. But carrying your smartphone can be awkwardly bulky – or a potential source of distraction.
 
While MP3 players may not be the hot technological item they were in years past, these small devices can still be the perfect choice for your workout music.
 
A compact design and simple controls are two hallmarks of an MP3 player, but today’s versions also boast a variety of updated features like wireless capability, water-resistance and great sound quality. An MP3 player’s limited function also lets you have a greater focus on your run without worrying about interruptions from calls or texts.
 
Additionally, MP3 players typically cost less and have a sturdier build than a smartphone. So you don’t have to stress about damaging your expensive phone during a run. There are watches that can store and playback music. But like your phone, these are expensive purchases.
 
No matter what feature tops your wish list, there are great options in any category. Here are the details of our picks of the best MP3 players for running.
 

women running with mp3 player in city

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Mighty Vibe

 

  • Tiny, lightweight design
  • Plays Spotify offline
  • Handy belt clip
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Sony Walkman Wearable WS620

 

  • Wireless design
  • Waterproof
  • Allows for ambient noise
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Pioneer XDP-02U

 

  • Awesome sound quality
  • Syncs wirelessly
  • Tons of music storage
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Top Portable MP3 Player with Screen

1. Sony Walkman NW-E390

At 1.77 inches and with full color, the Walkman E390’s screen is easy to see and navigate even in dim ambient lighting. Each function has an icon, and the circular navigation control lets you select your settings with just a few clicks.

The Walkman E390 offers a crisp, high-quality sound with the option to set a Bass Boost. Sony also included a pair of earbuds, so you can load your Walkman and get running with no additional purchases needed.

With 4GB, 8GB and 16GB storage capacity options, you should be able to find the one that suits your needs. You can expect the battery to provide up to 35 hours of audio playback with conservative settings, and up to four hours of video playback.

The software portion is where the Walkman E390 falters a bit. The shuffle function can struggle to play a truly shuffled mix, and there can be an annoying lag time between making your selection on the menu and the device performing the command.


PROS:

  • The screen display is bright and easy to see
  • Three storage capacity options
  • Great battery life
  • Excellent sound quality

CONS:

  • The software component has some frustrating issues

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Best Value Bluetooth MP3 Player

2. SanDisk Clip Sport Plus

The SanDisk Clip Sport Plus proves that a lower price doesn’t always mean that you have to go without convenient features.

Most players at this price point use hardwired connections to load songs and attach to headphones, so the fact that you get Bluetooth technology with the Sport Plus is impressive.

With 16GB of storage, you’ll probably be able to hold all the songs you want with plenty of room to spare. However, be aware that this device does not support the use of a micro SD card.

A handy attached clip lets you easily snap the Sport Plus onto your clothing or gear straps. The clip is surprisingly strong, so even the jarring motions of running shouldn’t shake your player loose. You also don’t have to worry if a rain shower springs up during your run thanks to the Sport Plus’s water-resistant outer layer.

One gripe is that the lack of advanced software can make organizing playlists on this device a bit of a challenge.


PROS:

  • Bluetooth technology
  • The clip securely attaches to clothing or straps
  • Large storage capacity
  • Water-resistant outer shell

CONS:

  • Organizing your music can be difficult

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Highest Sound Quality MP3 Player

3. Pioneer XDP-02U

Packed with impressive features and audio components, Pioneer pulled out all the stops to put pristine sound into a palm-sized package.

Dual digital-to-analog converters and high-output amplifiers combine to produce a true-to-life sound that lets you hear every note as the artist intended. Separate audio and central processing circuit boards also reduce the chance of interference.

Whether you prefer to use Pioneer’s high-resolution or balanced headphones, the XDP-02U’s separate jacks make it easy to plug in your favorite. If wireless headphones are more your style, Bluetooth technology allows you to easily pair the XDP-02U with supported devices.

The XDP-02U has 16GB of built-in storage, and you also have the option to expand memory up to 528GB. A 2.4-inch touch screen lets you quickly navigate your menu, and the full-color display is easy to see. However, the screen only displays the first few characters of an album or song title, so you may struggle to distinguish similar choices from one another.


PROS:

  • Advanced construction produces amazing sound
  • Bluetooth technology for seamless syncing
  • Large built-in storage capacity with expandable option

CONS:

  • The touch screen displays limited characters

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Lightest and Smallest MP3 Player

4. Mighty Vibe

Measuring just 1.4 x 1.4 inches and weighing in at less than an ounce, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a smaller or lighter MP3 player.

If you’re a Spotify lover, you can use this little device to listen to your favorite playlists even if your run takes you far away from available WiFi. Using the Mighty app, you can create Spotify playlists and transfer them to the Vibe to use at any time.

After using a wireless connection to power on the Vibe, you can leave your smartphone behind and enjoy up to five hours of offline music, podcasts or audiobooks. While the fact that you can run this player offline is a huge plus, you’ll probably need some patience before starting your run since the Bluetooth connection can be a little slow.

The Vibe has a rear clip that easily snaps onto your collar, waistband or gear straps and provides a secure grip that leaves you free to focus on your workout.


PROS:

  • This player won’t weigh you down or impede your motion
  • Plays your favorite Spotify music offline
  • The strong clip stays firmly in place

CONS:

  • Slow Bluetooth connections

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Top Headphone/MP3 Player Combo

5. Sony Walkman Wearable WS620

A unique departure from the typical MP3 player’s rectangular or square shape, the Walkman Wearable WS620’s one-piece headphone design is awesome for keeping extra pieces out of your way while you’re on the move. The two-in-one player and headphone combination also helps you streamline your running gear.

A completely waterproof silicone outer layer means that you’ll never have to worry about water exposure from sudden rain showers or running on the beach. Bluetooth technology with a one-touch control lets you easily stream from your smartphone or answer calls, and you have your choice of 4GB or 16GB of storage capacity.

If you like to run on the road, the Ambient Noise button provides a nice safety feature by enabling you to hear the other sounds in your environment along with your music.

One area where the Walkman Wearable comes up short compared to other models is in the sound quality, so you may be a little disappointed if you consider yourself a true audiophile.


PROS:

  • Convenient one-piece design
  • Truly waterproof construction
  • Ambient Noise feature is great for road running
  • Doubles as a Bluetooth headset

CONS:

  • Sound quality is a bit lacking

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Best Wearable MP3 Player

6. Apple Watch Series 5

If you prefer a stylish wearable device that does more than just play music, the Apple Watch Series 5 meets your requirements and does much more.

The slim design looks great without adding any extra bulk to your wrist area. A vibrant, full-color touch screen makes it easy to navigate to your desired features and apps, so you can quickly find the audio files you want and get your run started.

With a paid subscription to Apple Music, you can listen to any of the 50 million songs in the Apple library at any time, so you should be able to find plenty of variety. You can also access audiobooks or podcasts.

One feature that can be extra useful for runners is that the screen is always awake, so you can check your current song or other settings at a glance without slowing your pace. However, one downside to the always-on feature is that it drains the battery quickly, and you can probably expect to charge your Apple Watch every night.


PROS:

  • Full access to the Apple Music library
  • The bright screen is always on
  • Easy and fast to use features and apps

CONS:

  • Expensive compared to other options
  • Short battery life

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Top GPS Watch with MP3 Player

7. Garmin vivoactive 4

For a runner, having an accurate GPS tracker is often nearly as important as easily accessible music, and the vivoactive 4 watch does a great job of combining the two in one sleek device.

The touch screen responds without any irritating lag, and the large, high-contrast display lets you easily see your current song, GPS location, heart rate, pulse oximetry and a multitude of other health stats.

Loading audio files onto the vivoactive 4 is easy and fast thanks to wireless connections, and you can store up to 500 songs for offline listening. Download your favorite playlists from Spotify, Amazon Music or Deezer, but be aware that you may need to have a paid subscription to these providers.

With the combination of your stored music and Bluetooth technology for connecting to wireless headphones, you can go for a totally phone- and wire-free run. When you’re in GPS mode with music, you should be able to get up to six hours of battery life.


PROS:

  • Accurate GPS and other health trackers
  • Simple process for loading songs
  • Capability for online or offline use
  • The bright display is easy to use and see

CONS:

  • Using your music may require a paid subscription

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Best Discontinued MP3 Player

8. Apple iPod touch

Being one of the first MP3 players on the market, the iPod holds a special place in the hearts of many. Combining a smartphone’s size and ease of use with the focused functionality of an MP3 player, the touch is one of Apple’s best iPod iterations.

You can stream songs from the Apple Music library with a paid subscription, and you can easily drag and drop your favorites from iTunes. Since it is somewhat heavy and large, you’ll probably need an armband to house your iPod touch during a run.

With a bright, crisp 4-inch display, the details of your current song or podcast are visible at a glance. The touch screen is also large enough to use easily, so you won’t have to fumble around with a small, crowded display to select your settings.

While Apple has mostly ceased iPod production, they still offer new, albeit limited, options for the iPod touch. Alternatively, as long as it’s been properly refurbished or purchased from a trusted previous owner, you should get good results with a used model.


PROS:

  • Large, bright screen
  • Generous storage capacity
  • Accessing music is easy and fast

CONS:

  • Slightly heavy and bulky

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Woman running in wooded forest area, training and exercising for trail run marathon endurance. Fitness healthy lifestyle concept.

MP3 Player Buyer’s Guide

If you are shopping for an MP3 Player for running, here are some things you should look out for:

Size and Weight

While it’s true that most MP3 players tend to be compact and lightweight in the first place, models that have a minimum of bulk and weight are less likely to restrict your range of motion.If two options each have your desired storage space or other features, a smaller, lighter model is usually easier to tuck into your pocket or attach to your clothing. If the player you’re looking at is a bit on the larger size, you can always purchase an armband to keep it safely tucked away.

Water-Resistant

You probably aren’t going to run into many situations where your MP3 player will get completely submerged or drenched, but a model with some basic water-resistance can be a good idea if you’re not one to let a little rain stand in the way of your regular run.

Durable

Accidents happen, and you’ll likely drop or sit on your player at one point or another. A model with a reinforced outer case and smaller screen can usually do a better job of standing up to the accidents in life.

Battery Life

The battery life of each model varies greatly, and how long a full charge will last depends primarily on the device’s functions and how you use them.

Players with even a very short battery life will usually work at least a few hours, so you should be able to complete a full workout in between charges. If daily charging doesn’t sound like a good option for you, you’ll probably be happier with a model that sticks to core audio functions and can go days between charges.

Storage Capacity

Since MP3 players only hold audio files, even very basic models can usually hold at least a few hours of music. For reference, the typical 4GB MP3 player can usually hold up to 1,000 songs.

If you tend to use the same couple of playlists for your runs, a model with lower memory should be perfectly sufficient. However, if you enjoy a great deal of musical variety or podcasts, look for a device with greater storage capacity.

Sound Quality

Even inexpensive MP3 players typically offer good sound quality, but some models have advanced components that bring out specific sounds or give you the ability to customize your settings.

While a device’s sound quality is always a good feature to research, keep in mind that your headphones will greatly affect the overall sound that you hear.

Bluetooth

Many devices come with Bluetooth capability that lets you connect to wireless headphones or easily sync your MP3 player with other devices for streamlined song management.

However, be aware that using a Bluetooth connection can reduce your battery life, and you may have to delay starting your run by a few minutes if you run into any trouble connecting to your wireless headphones.

The Wired Runner