Running With Headphones vs Earbuds (Pros & Cons)


Man running with headphones with his friends

Ah! The long-awaited question that has been plaguing both audiophiles and fitness enthusiasts since the invention of these nifty gadgets. Although in the majority of cases it is down to personal preferences, there are some clear advantages and disadvantages of using both devices with the activity. Let’s begin.

Headphones vs Earbuds – Pros & Cons

Name →
Properties
EarbudsHeadphones
ProsPowerful noise cancellation. Smaller in size and more convenient to wear. 
Better sound coverage and offers an immersive experience.Don’t have to bother with carrying a dedicated case. You can keep them inside your ear throughout the run without any visible discomfort. 
Offers higher stability due to the size and clamping force.Less expensive and thereby easier to replace when they stop working due to water damage from your sweat.
Less likely to fall off. Easier to clean.
ConsPadding and cushions will cause you to sweat more, especially in the ear region.Degrade more quickly, especially the battery. 
The headphone cushion rubbing off against the skin is not a comfortable experience.Less persistent to water damage.
You will have to carry a big case in case you want to stop listening.Not the best when it comes to noise cancellation.
Wearing them around the neck while running is not feasible.More likely to fall off if you sweat a lot. 

Now that you have a brief overview of all the pros and cons, I will compare them individually based on a few tests focused on running and affordability. I have been conducting tests for the past month and have gathered enough evidence to share my findings with all of you. For better understanding, I divided the tests into two categories, personal and practical. 

Personal tests include sound quality, comfort, and stability. As you may have noticed, these are all subjective terms and vary from one individual to another. Therefore the pros and cons of this section can be considered as biased opinions. But know that I am speaking on behalf of the consensus since I also questioned all of my friends, relatives, and my followers on social media about their personal preferences. 

The practical tests are not biased as everyone stands to benefit from these criteria which include battery life, cost portability, durability, and noise cancellation. Now, on with the comparisons!

Which has the better sound quality?

Headphones:

  • They offer an impactful, smooth, and more fulfilling hearing experience.
  • Headphones have a wider soundstage.
  • The sound quality is quite comparable to room speakers, giving you a home theater experience while you’re on the run.

Earbuds:

  • The sound quality lacks bass but the overall clarity is off the charts, but you only get to experience it around quiet surroundings. 
  • The sound is not that impactful.

Winner: Headphones

Headphones offer better sound quality. So if music is an absolute priority you should go for headphones. But stay clear of traffic areas, because headphones make it a lot harder to hear your surroundings. I suggest using them only when you are jogging in a park or somewhere away from the streets.

I recommended the Beats Solo 3 because it fits in nicely over your ears, and is a lot lighter compared to other headphones. 

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

Which is more stable on the ears?

Headphones:

  • Headphone clamps offer great stability when running, but depending on the design, they can also cause pain in the ears, especially if you are wearing glasses. Nothing severe, but it could be enough discomfort to force you to take it off. 
  • There are headphones made for sports purposes, but they are a bit expensive.

Earbuds:

  • Perfect for workouts and running.
  • Foam ear tips make them quite stable and comfortable to wear. They will not come off unless you shake your head like a raging bull.
  • Earbuds come with special contraptions like fins, wings, behind the ear hooks for better stability.

Winner:  Earbuds

Earbuds have come a long way since their inception. They are now more stable than ever and will only become better from this point. Just make sure you are using the right-size foam on the buds and the earbuds will never come off, no matter how fast you run.

The Powerbeats Pro is one of my favorites. It fits in nicely, is comfortable to wear, and sports a generous set of speakers that are a delight to hear.

Powerbeats Pro
Powerbeats Pro

Which is more comfortable to wear?

Headphones:

  • No matter what model you get, headphones are only good for short listening sessions. Wearing them for more than an hour will cause pain in the ear auricle. 
  • Models with smaller earpads cannot fully enclose your ear, thereby causing pains on the edges, more so when you are running.

Earbuds

  • Although some people do not like how they fit into the ear, they are way more comfortable when it comes to running. 
  • Earbuds come in various foam sizes, usually small, medium, and large. Pick one that suits you the best. 

Winner: Tie

Comfort depends on the right model, one that fits in your war without causing too much discomfort. It will take a while for you to figure it out. I suggest trying out a bunch of them first. 

Which has more battery life?

Headphones:

  • Headphones undoubtedly have a larger battery and support continuous playback for prolonged hours.

Earbuds:

  • Earbuds combined with the casing can stay operational for an entire day, but you have to unplug it every 1-1½ hours to recharge.

Winner: Tie

Headphones simply do not win because of a larger battery. Joggers usually cover 2-3 miles in a 30-minute jog session. Most people jog for 20-40 minutes a day, which means both headphones and earbuds offer sufficient battery backup when it comes to jogging.

Which device is easier to transport?

Headphones:

  • You have to keep a case on you if you don’t want to listen to music anymore. The extra baggage is not ideal, especially when you’re out running.

Earbuds:

  • Earbuds are simpler. In the case of the neckband, you can leave them around your neck. If you are using earbuds, simply place them in the case and shove them in your pocket. 

Winner: Earbuds

Earbuds win hands down because of their portable nature. They weigh nothing, so no need to worry about pesky distractions while you’re experiencing the runner’s high. 

Which is more cost-effective?

Headphones:

  • Headphones can get quite expensive. The consumer models cost around $30-$1000 while the expensive ones can go beyond $10,000.

Earbuds:

  • Earbuds are significantly cheap. Although there are expensive ones that exceed the $5,000 price margin, the cheaper ones around $100 are more than enough for joggers.

Winner: Tie

Both earbuds and headphones offer headphones from a wide variety of choices, both expensive and cheap. It comes down to personal preference. While some prefer JBL, others choose Sony. There is no clear winner here, other than the manufacturers.

Which one will last longer?

Headphones:

  • The overall build quality of headphones is much better compared to earbuds. 
  • Leather or foam earpads start to crack after 2-3 years. The cheaper ones only last one year. 
  • Susceptible to breaking when dropped from a reasonable height.

Earbuds:

  • Depends on the earbuds you are using. Cabled earbuds are more susceptible to break because, with time, the rubber coating comes off and even breaks and tears at the joints. 
  • Although Bluetooth ones are somewhat better, they are susceptible to getting lost or being dropped because of their size. Also if anything happens to the charging case, the headphones are useless.

Winner: Earbuds

Headphones wear a lot more when used in severe conditions. The excess sweat can rust metallic hinges, and cause the earpads to deteriorate ahead of their schedule. Earbuds are the better option because they are cheaper, more durable, and easy to replace. 

Conclusion

Picking a headphone is a long-drawn-out process if you do it right. I’ve left a few recommendations up top because they are the best in the market. Feel free to do your research, and if possible, try them out but before clicking the buy button. The world’s most expensive headphones/earbud will become a nuisance if it does not fit into your ears or fail to stay there while you’re cruising along the sidewalk. Good luck!

Difference between Bluetooth versio... x
Difference between Bluetooth versions

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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