While most people prefer earbuds for sports, many find over-ear headphones more comfortable for light exercise. It can be difficult to find the best over the ear headphones for the gym, though. They usually don't fit securely enough to stay in place while training and make you sweat more than usual. However, there are still a few Bluetooth options that could be a decent option for working out or running.
Keep in mind that most over-ear headphones aren't designed to withstand heavy physical activity - regularly working out with them could result in issues not covered by the manufacturer's warranty. None of the over-ears in this article are designed for sport, so extra care must be taken if you decide to use them while working out or running. Keep an eye on their performance, and make sure to give them lots of time to air out between training sessions.
We've tested over 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 wireless earbuds for running and working out or the overall best headphones for running.
The best over-the-ear headphones for working out that we've tested so far are the Beats Studio 3. These Bluetooth headphones are very comfortable thanks to their lightweight and well-padded design that feels premium and well-built. They fit tight enough to feel secure enough for most workouts, without being so tight that they cause discomfort quickly.
These headphones have a good ANC (active noise cancelling) feature, which is helpful if you like to have some peace and quiet while you're at the gym. Their sound profile is versatile enough for most genres, but they have a good amount of extra bass to help keep you pumped up and motivated. They also leak very little audio, so you won't bother people nearby, even when you're blasting your favorite workout playlists.
Unfortunately, like with most over-ears, they don't breathe very well, and will likely cause you to sweat more than usual. While this may not be an issue for a quick run on the treadmill, it may be a concern during more intense workout routines. Also, despite feeling quite stable, they're a bit on the bulkier side and may slide around a bit while laying down or going upside down. That being said, their comfortable and premium design combined with good stability makes them a decent gym companion.
If you need something with a good stable fit and simple physical controls for working out at the gym, but don't want to spend a fortune, then get the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810. They don't feel quite as well-built or comfortable as the Beats Studio 3 Wireless, but they're a lot more affordable and still have a decent design for exercising at the gym. They also have a more versatile, neutral sound profile that's better suited to a wider range of music, though some people might find it a bit bass-light for working out. Their ear cups are also a bit small and shallow, which might not fit everyone equally well, especially if you have larger ears.
Get the Beats if you're concerned about fit and don't mind spending a bit more money; however, if you'd like something more affordable, then you'll want to consider the Plantronics.
The best over-ear headphones for running we've tested so far are the Sennheiser PXC 550. They have a lightweight, well-padded design that fits securely yet comfortably while running. A quick swipe on their touch-sensitive controls will change tracks or adjust the volume without ruining the momentum of your run, and they look and feel fairly premium. It's worth noting that these headphones are getting a bit tougher to find, as the newer Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless are available. While the newer model has a better ANC feature, they perform similarly overall, and the original model likely represents better value, especially if you can find them on clearance.
Out-of-the-box, they're a good choice if you like listening to podcasts or audiobooks while running since they put a bit of extra emphasis on vocals by default. However, they also have a few EQ preset options you can toggle through directly on the headphones to find a sound profile that better suits your needs. They have a talk-through feature that helps filter in ambient noise, which can help you remain aware of your surroundings when running outdoors, and their 28-hour battery life will last you multiple runs.
While they're a bit more breathable than most closed-back over-ears, they'll still make you sweat quite a bit more than usual. Their control gestures can also take a little while to get familiar with since they're not the most intuitive. That said, they're still a decent overall choice for runners who prefer over-ears thanks to their stable fit and solid overall performance.
The best over-ear headphones for working out we've tested so far in the budget range are the Plantronics BackBeat Go 600. They don't fit quite as securely as some of the other options in this article, but they're more breathable, which can make all the difference while working out. They have a very lightweight design that you can wear for a long time without fatigue, and their simple physical controls provide good feedback.
These wireless over-ears have a good 17-hour battery life, so you won't have to worry about charging them too often. They can connect to two devices at the same time, too, which can be useful if you like to bring your phone and another media player with you to the gym. Due to the way their ear cups fit, they can sound quite different depending on who's wearing them, especially in the bass range. However, most people should find that they sound generally fairly well-balanced.
Unfortunately, they don't isolate very much noise. This can be a good thing if you work out outside and need to be able to remain aware of your surroundings, but also means that all the chatter and ambient noise of a crowded gym will seep into your audio. They also don't feel the most durable, and might not stand up too well for daily use in the gym. Fortunately, they don't cost too much to replace if they do break.
If you like having a ton of bass to help keep you motived in the gym but still don't want to break the bank, go with the Skullcandy Hesh 3 Wireless. They don't breathe as well as the Plantronics BackBeat Go 600 Wireless, causing you to sweat more, but this is due to their tighter seal around your ears, which helps them produce a more consistent and deep bass every time. They look and feel pretty cheaply made, but fit tight enough that they shouldn't move around too much during most moderate workouts. It's worth pointing out that Skullcandy headphones tend to vary quite a bit in price between color options, so you might have to compromise on style to get them at their budget price point.
If you tend to sweat a lot during workouts and want budget over-ears that will help your ears breathe better while at the gym, get the Plantronics. However, if you want a more bass-heavy sound profile to help keep you pumped up and moving, go with the Skullcandy.
06/30/2020: Updated text for clarity and accuracy; no changes in product picks.
05/01/2020: Text refresh to keep things up-to-date and small structure changes better distinguish between the best over-ears for working out and for running.
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 of over-ear headphones, sorted by their sports performance. 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.