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. They fit just tightly enough to keep them securely on your head during your workouts without being uncomfortable. They also have decent breathability for closed-back over-ears with faux leather padding. You'll still sweat more than usual, but less than you might with other options.
These headphones have a versatile design that performs well in most respects. They have a balanced sound profile that works whether you like training to hip-hop or heavy metal. Their battery lasts over 27 hours on a charge and they have an auto-off timer to help them last even longer. They can also be paired with two different devices at the same time, which is useful if you use a smartwatch in the gym but keep your phone nearby as well.
While their touch-sensitive controls should be alright for most, they're not the most ergonomic option. These headphones also aren't great at blocking out the hustle and bustle of a busy gym. The newer Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless have better active noise cancelling, but are significantly more expensive. Considering over-ears usually aren't the most durable option for working out, to begin with, the original PXC 550 will be less painful to replace if ever they do break during an intense workout.
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. Their physical 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 punchy, bass-heavy sound that can help get you pumped while working out. It's a bit boomy, though, and you can't customize the way they sound. The pop-up notification on iOS only serves to display the current battery level and toggle the active noise cancelling. Speaking of ANC, however, they do a good job of blocking out disruptive gym chatter, which can help you focus on your workout.
While their battery life is very good, providing 23 hours of continuous playback, they can't be used wired at all. If you like watching videos while working out, you might find they make the audio a bit out of sync. That said, if your primary concern is comfort and ease of use, they're still among the best over-ear headphones for running and working out we've tested so far.
If you're looking for ergonomic over-ear headphones for the gym but don't want to break the bank, then get the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. They aren't as comfortable as the Beats Studio 3 Wireless, but they're a lot more affordable and their physical buttons are even easier to use. They have a remarkably well-balanced sound signature that can even be customized through the Backbeat mobile companion app as well. However, their build quality is rather middling - they feel sturdy enough overall, but their overwhelmingly plastic build creaks a lot, which can be annoying while training.
If you can stretch your budget a bit, you'll want to go for the more comfortable, better-built Beats, but for something 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 deep and powerful bass which should please fans of EDM and hip-hop and their 19-hour battery life should be more than enough to get you through your workout. Unfortunately, they have a plasticky feel that feels less durable than other budget headsets we've tested. The Mpow H5 Wireless feel better-made, but don't fit quite as securely as the Skullcandy.
Get the Plantronics if you want a more balanced sound's better suited to 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.
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.
03/03/2020: Verification for accuracy, minor changes to the text.