When it comes to buying the perfect pair of Bluetooth headphones for running, things just got a lot smarter. The latest models can check heart rate from the ear and monitor a host of other fitness metrics, making them powerful training tools.
However, our testing of the latest biometric headphones has shown them to be incredibly accurate. The thin skin in the ear makes readings easier to take, and we've found headphones can be more responsive to changes in heart rate than wrist-based counterparts.
It's not all plain-sailing. You'll pretty much need to use a phone to track your workout if you opt for headphones, which is great for music listening, but less comfortable if you need to strap a phablet to your arm. And obviously watches are much more adept at displaying your heart rate in real time, making them more useful, if less accurate, for training.
Wareable's top pick
Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition
The Jabra Sport Pulse are great all-round sports headphones that track your activity as well as supplying your ears with block rocking beats. The solid sound and range of data that's collected is impressive, although they're likely to be used as well as a dedicated sports watch, rather than as an alternative.
Running tips and tricks
- How to use your running for interval trainingGetting the most from your GPS wearable for high intensity interval training
- A guide to working out in heart rate training zonesHow to use your heart rate monitor or running watch to supercharge your training
- Understanding your running watch statsWe demystify the jargon to help you get more from your running watch
We found the response of the optical heart rate tech to be spot on, even matching a chest strap for accuracy. The app is also brilliant, with guided workouts and a focus on VO2 Max, as well as standard running and fitness metrics. It's not perfect however, as you'll have to reconcile running with your smartphone.
Read our Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition review for the full lowdown.
Best for sound
Bose SoundSport Pulse
Bose's first optical heart rate headphones play nicely with RunKeeper and Endomondo, although the company is vague on other fitness apps. Designed for a tight fit to reduce that irritating feeling of wireless headphones falling out, Bose has also released its own Bose Connect app, which will show heart rate data in real time. While we can't vouch for accuracy, sound quality is assured and it's great to see a big player like Bose getting into the game.
Wareable verdict: Bose SoundSport Pulse in-depth review
Best for swimming
Bragi Dash headphones
Bragi Dash headphones are a pair of super-connected buds that can track your pace, heart rate and distance right from your ears. On the music front there's even 4GB of storage for tunes, which means you can leave your running watch and smartphone at home. Dash is waterproof up to a metre and will track running, cycling and swimming, making them a good fit for budding triathletes.
Wareable verdict: Bragi Dash review
Best for Samsung users
Samsung Gear Icon X
More day-to-day headphones than a pure sports offering, Samsung's Icon X boast 4GB for your running beats and a charging case to keep them powered up when you're about and about.
When it comes to sports the IconX has a built-in accelerometer plus optical HR to track movement, bpm and distance travelled, spitting out a calorie burn at the end of the workout. Obviously it works with Samsung's S Health app but also Endomondo, MapMyRun, Runkeeper and Strava, too. The big downside, however, is the complex set up process with the Android companion app – and the lack of iOS support.
Check out our full Samsung Icon X review.
Best for leaving your phone at home
Sony Smart B-Trainer
The Smart B-Trainer packs GPS, an accelerometer and heart rate monitoring in the right earpiece. There's also audio fitness coaching and it suggests what music tracks to play to match your heart rate. They're also fully waterproof but there's no specific pool based workouts. There's 16GB of storage for your music and the compatible runs on iPhone and Android.
Read this: We run with the Sony Smart B-Trainer
Best for budget
SMS Audio BioSport
Developed in an unlikely partnership between PC chip-making behemoth Intel and rapper 50cent, the SMS Audio Biosport headphones track your heart rate, sync with running app Runkeeper and are completely waterproof. The most incredible part, however, is that they can harvest energy from the sound jack itself, so you don't have to charge them to keep tabs on your ticker. Downside, slightly uncomfortable for some and limited compatible apps. They're going crazy cheap right now, however.
Essential reading: SMS Audio BioSport headphones review
Best for cutting edge tech
Vi fitness coach
Vi's headphones – made by LifeBEAM – feature bpm and heart rate variability sensors and capture data on motion, elevation for serious sports stats. The idea is to deliver actionable insights on weight loss optimisation, injury prevention, running technique and provide adaptive training plans live to your ears. It's fully backed on Kickstarter, but won't deliver until December (at best).