Most listeners prefer the fit of over-ears to in-ears and earbuds for most uses, and even for working out. However, over-ears do have quite a few inconveniences that make them less than ideal for sports. They're bulky, typically not water or sweat resistant, and they're not as stable or as breathable as in-ears and earbuds. However, they are more comfortable on average, have better battery lives, and are easier to use with better control schemes.
We've tested nearly 200 over-ear headphones so far, and below are our recommendations for the best over-ear headphones for working out to buy. See also our recommendations for the best headphones for running, the best over-ear headphones under $100, and the best wireless earbuds for running.
The best over-ear headphones for working out that we’ve tested so far are the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. Although they’re not explicitly designed for sports or fitness, they have a surprisingly stable fit for over-ear headphones. They’re lightweight, comfortable wireless headphones that fit securely and don’t fall off easily. Even if they do slip off during a particularly intense workout, they have a good build quality that feels solid enough to survive a couple of accidental drops.
These headphones are versatile, feature-packed headphones that sound very good. They have a decent active noise cancelling (ANC) feature that'll mask some of the noise in a busy gym, a great companion app to fine-tune your entire listening experience, and an outstanding battery that lasts for nearly 28 hours of continuous playback. You can pair them with two devices simultaneously, and they can be used passively with the included audio cable if their battery dies.
They have a touch-sensitive control scheme that’s decent overall but can be a bit difficult to use, especially when working out. They also trap a considerable amount of heat under the ear cups, so they’ll make you sweat quite a bit more than usual. That said, they’re still a decent choice for fitness thanks to their stable and comfortable fit.
The most ergonomic over-ear headphones for working out that we’ve tested so far are the Beats Studio 3. These headphones have comfortable earpads and a stable fit, without being overly tight on the head. The controls are easy to use and work reliably, while Apple's W1 chip ensures a stable connection and makes pairing as seamless as possible. They have a good build quality that should be able to withstand a few accidental drops and can be easily folded for transport.
They have a rather bass-heavy sound that would suit genres like hip-hop or EDM. The bass is thumpy, though a bit boomy, and the mids can sound slightly muddy and cluttered. Unfortunately, there's no app support that allows for any type of customization, and the pop-up notification only serves to toggle the active noise cancelling and to display the current battery level. Speaking of ANC, these headphones perform very well. Although they don't block out as much noise in the bass range, their performance in the mid and treble range is impressive, which is good for isolating against ambient chatter and high-pitched noise stemming from AC units.
The battery life is very good, with an average of 23 hours of continuous playback and they charge up quickly within 2 hours; however, they can't be used wired. If you like watching videos while working out, regrettably, the latency is quite high and may cause the audio to be out of sync. That said, if your primary concern is comfort and ease of use, they're a good choice.
If you find the Beats Studio 3 Wireless a bit out of your budget, the Plantronics Backbeat Go 810 are a good alternative that won't break the bank. They aren't as comfortable as the Beats, but their physical buttons are easy to use and have great tactile feedback. Build quality is somewhat middling, though, while the headband feels strong and sturdy, the overwhelmingly plastic build creaks a lot. These headphones have a remarkably neutral sound at this price range, some may prefer a bit more bass and the treble can sound sharp at times, but the overall sound signature is pleasing and versatile. If you don't like the default sound profile of these headphones, they can be customized through the Backbeat mobile companion app, which also has controls for the active noise cancelling. As for the latter, these headphones can isolate a decent amount of noise, and even with ANC enabled, they still have a great battery life that lasts over 24 hours.
If you can stretch your budget a bit, the Beats have a better build quality that will last, but for a pair of headphones that can still get the job done at a lower price, the Plantronics are worth considering.
The best over-ear headphones for the gym in the budget category are the Plantronics BackBeat Go 600. They’re not as well-built as some of the more expensive wireless options out there, but they’re still lightweight and stable enough to wear during light exercise without feeling too tight on the head. It's worth noting that these headphones tend to fluctuate in price, so depending on when you purchase them, they may be slightly more expensive than other budget options.
They have an exciting sound profile that’s perfect for getting your heart pumping at the gym. They have an easy-to-use control scheme which makes it easy to change tracks or adjust volume mid-workout. They also have a very good battery, lasting over 17 hours, which should be more than enough to get you through a work day and a visit to the gym after. Unlike many wireless headphones, they can also be used passively, meaning you can plug them in with the included audio cable if the battery should die.
Unfortunately, they have poor frequency response consistency, especially in the bass range, meaning that some people may get less bass than others. They also have rather poor noise isolation, which means they won’t be useful for blocking out the noises of a busy gym. On the upside, this makes them an option for outdoor runners who need to be able to remain aware of their surroundings.
If thumping, bass-heavy tracks help keep you motivated while working out, go for the Skullcandy Hesh 3. They're a bit heavier than the Plantronics BackBeat Go 600 Wireless and they don't breathe quite as well, but they have a more stable fit which should keep them on your head at the gym. They have decent sound reproduction with very deep and powerful bass which, though not being neutral, should please fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. Their 19-hour battery life is great and you can get a couple of hours of playback from a quick 10-minute charge, which should be enough to get you through a gym session. Unfortunately, they don't have the greatest build quality, with a plasticky feel that doesn't feel as durable as other budget headsets we've tested. If you want something that feels a little more durable, consider the Mpow H5 Wireless, though they don't fit quite as secure as the Skullcandy.
Get the Plantronics if you want a more balanced sound that may be better suited for a wider range of genres, but if you like having an extra kick of bass in your music while working out, go for the Skullcandy, one of the best over-ear headphones for working out.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best over-ear headphones for the gym to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for sports/fitness headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and where you use the headphones will matter more in your selection.
01/02/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
10/23/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.