There are many qualities that make a good running headphone. The first is obviously that they fit snugly without hurting after, or especially during, a run. The next is isolation. While some like to block out all noise on their runs to minimize the need to blast the volume and to get lost in their run, we like a little less than perfect noise canceling in order to maintain sensory awareness nobody wants to get hit by a car. We also don't want to hear headache inducing noises every time the cable hits our shirt. The last quality we're looking for in a running headphone is sound quality. While we're not looking for the awe-inspiring sound like you'd find in at-home, over-the-ear sets, but we also don't want our music or podcasts to sound like they're coming from a tin can on a string. There are three types of headphones that seem to achieve these qualities.
1. Wrap Around These remind us of the headphones that used to come with the old JVC and Sony portable CD players. Man were you cool if you had one of those velcro-ed to your hand on a jog. Headphones of this variety wrap around the back of your head and fit snugly in your ears using the elasticity of the band. A good pair will have proper shape for the ears and padding to boot. Our one complaint with these is we can't seem to find a decent pair that we can wear our sunglasses with. Sound quality in general seems to be better than most earbuds and isolation is mostly passive, meaning no noises with the wind and the ability to hear around us at a reasonable volume. The one pictured above are the Sennheiser PMX70s ($44.95), a line of headphones that have gotten rave reviews from runners on the net, especially the Runner's World forums. We've also heard good things about the Philips SHS5200/28 ($13.23) and the lesser-known MEElectronics M6 ($20.84).
2. Specialized Earbuds Earbuds are the best minimal option for running, and we do like the less is more approach, but sometimes less is just less. Case in point being the low-end jelly stuff you find in the bargain bin at your local pharmacy or the painful noises you get when the cable on a cheap pair of the low-end Skullcandy's brushes your shirt. The best earbuds for running are often ones modified with rubber or foam to keep the speaker comfortably stable in your ear even after you sweat. We've heard good things about Yurbuds ($45), the ones shown above, as well as ComplyFoam ($9.95-19.95) as an add-on to your existing pair. We also have some other reviews of earbuds that stay in.
3. Bluetooth We gave these a separate category because they tend to be bulkier than the cable variety and that's certainly a consideration you don't have to worry about with most headphones. They do, however, provide the ability to run with less of a chance of yanking your headphones out of your head. Pictured above are Freedoms by Jaybird ($99). Plantronics 903+ ($48.45) and Motorola S10-HDs ($56.22) also look like good options. If we could find a small blue tooth receiver, we'd thinking of pairing these with an iPod nano watch and some Nike+ for truly lightweight running. Have any experience with these or other headphones for running? Help us find the best solution in the comments. (Images: Yurbuds, Jaybird and Flickr users KaiChanVong, lululemon athletica, Sochie and under creative commons.)