In this article, I’ll review my two favorite wireless workout headphones for running and jogging: the Bose SoundSport Wireless Headphones and the Plantronics Backbeat Fit Wireless headphones.
My workout routine consists of Crossfit-type exercises or of running with the kids or alone. When I run alone, I like to listen to music. Before I got the iPhone 6S Plus and the Apple Watch my running gear included the iPhone 6, Nike Distance Armband, and Bose Mobile in-Ear headphones.
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The above setup worked, but it wasn’t ideal. There wasn’t a run where I didn’t yank the headphones out of my ears because I accidentally pulled on the cable. The Bose headphones have ear-tips (Bose calls it StayHear) that offer a more comfortable and secure fit. But even that didn’t prevent them from coming lose every so often.
Wireless workout headphones for running
When I upgraded to the iPhone 6S Plus, I realized that Nike didn’t make an armband for the larger phone. With the Apple Watch, I also have the option of not bringing my iPhone for running at all. Those two factors prompted me to look for wireless workout headphones for running that I could connect via Bluetooth to either the iPhone or the Apple Watch.
After extensive research, I decided to give the Plantronics BackBeat Fit Wireless Headphones a shot. I made a good experience with Plantronics at work, so I had high hopes for their wireless workout headphones.
Plantronics BackBeat Fit
I chose the Plantronics BackBeat Fit because they are waterproof, light-weight and they stay put. As a bonus, they have a microphone, so I could even answer calls while running if I had to.
Comfortable, stable, and built for action, BackBeat FIT features a flexible design that fits comfortably and stays put for all levels of exercise. Great for working out at the gym, BackBeat FIT also makes an excellent partner for outdoor training – day or night. The safety-oriented eartip design lets you hear some of your surroundings and the reflective finish helps you be seen at night.
What I like about them
- Comfortable to wear: Even in combination with sunglasses.
- Water-proof: I can sweat on them and then just rinse them off afterward.
- Sound: They offer good sound quality, and they don’t block out ambient noise, so I can still hear what’s going on around me. Needless to say, they are not noise-cancelling.
What I don’t like about them
- Controls: There is no tactile difference between the controls on either side of the headphones. So I always have to guess on what side the play/pause button and volume controls are while running. Maybe that’s just a sign that I don’t use them often enough, but I wish I could more easily “feel” what button to push.
- Audio Quality & Apple Watch: When paired and connected to the Apple Watch, I noticed that audio was cutting out sometimes. Plantronics must have seen this issue as well because they released a firmware update that is supposed to fix this issue. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet, but if the issue is fixed, I will take this bullet point off the list.
I’m a big fan of the Bose brand, and when they came out with fitness headphones, I could not resist but to give them a try. The black version was sold out, so I opted for a color that Bose calls “Citron.” Bose has two versions of the SoundSport headphones: one with heart rate monitor and one without. I got the ones without the heart rate monitor because I have one in my Apple Watch.
Bose vs. Plantronics
One thing I like about the Bose SoundSport is that they seem to be less bulky because the cable connecting the two earpieces is rounded and thin, just like on wired headphones. The Plantronics BackBeat Fit, however, have a flat cable that’s a bit stiffer. Also, the Bose headphones are securely held in place by their ear tips instead of relying on a loop that goes around your ear. I figured without the loop it would be a bit more comfortable to wear sunglasses. But it turned out that both headphones are equally comfortable while running. If that is because I always push myself to my physical limit and thus don’t pay attention to such minor issues as the comfort of headphones, I don’t know. Another thing I noticed is that the earpieces of the Bose look a bit bulky, but they don’t feel that way.
What I like about the Bose SoundSport are the volume control buttons that are built into the cable. I am much more familiar with the typical “volume up/down and pause/play in the middle” design than with the Plantronics controls, which are built into the earpieces. While running, I could never remember what side the pause/play button was. To turn the volume up or down you only had one button. Press it once, and the volume goes up, press it long, and the volume goes down. Once you lose fine motor skills while running, it’s not easy to use those buttons.
Both headphones produce decent sound, but in my opinion, the Bose SoundSport have a slight edge as they offer a fuller sound and more bass. Connectivity between the headphones and the Apple Watch Series 2 has been flawless with the Bose and the Plantronics. I did have some issues in the past with the Plantronics with my old Apple Watch, but that could have been a problem with watchOS. From a safety perspective, the Plantronics have an advantage because they let more noise in from your surroundings than the Bose, which fill out your entire ear canal. So when you listen to music, you won’t hear much about what’s going on around you. It is worth noting that neither headphones are noise-cancelling.
The Plantronics have a water-resistant rating of IP57. The first number (5) means protection from the amount of dust that would interfere with the operation of the equipment. The second number (7) means protection against immersion. So you can rinse off the headphones after a run, and it won’t harm them. Additionally, the Plantronics have a nano-coating to protect against sweat. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy 7 has a water/dust resistance rating of IP68, and the Apple iPhone 7 has a rating of IP67.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the exact water-resistance rating for the Bose, but I suspect they may be IP57 too. I’ll reach out to Bose and clarify.
Update: Bose confirmed, that their headphones do not have a water-resistance rating and when asked if they would withstand light rain, they responded:
Yes, you could run in light rain and they’ll stand up to heavy sweat. We wouldn’t recommend swimming with them though.
The Plantronics win this category with 8 hours listening and 6 hours talking time. The Bose, on the other hand, top out at only 6 hours listening time.
The Bose SoundSport can be paired with two devices at the same time, whereas the Plantronics have an eight-device memory. I’m only using the headphones for running with my Apple Watch, so I don’t have an issue with the two device limit. You can also use both headphones to make and receive calls.
Both Bose and Plantronics come with a storage pouch and a micro-USB charging cable. The Plantronics storage bag takes up more space than that of the Bose headphones because it doubles as an armband. Unfortunately, it only works for phones up the size of an iPhone 7. My iPhone 7 Plus doesn’t fit, making it useless for me. That’s why I prefer the smaller Bose pouch. Additionally, the Bose headphones come with extra ear tips of various sizes.
Wireless workout headphones for running and jogging
Both the Plantronics Backbeat Fit as well as the Bose SoundSport are excellent wireless workout headphones for running and jogging. It boils down to personal preference which pair of headphones you prefer. I can highly recommend both! The Plantronics Backbeat Fit are currently on sale at Amazon, so you may want to take that into consideration.
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