I have been running on and off for quite some time. Since I can’t deal with the gross heat and sweat buildup that even the best over-ear headphones lead to during a run. So, I resort to earbuds. I’ve used a few open earbuds throughout my ongoing running era and have things I like and dislike about each.

For the uninitiated, open earbuds are, as the name suggests, buds that don’t completely block your ear canal so ambient sound can pass through easily. You’d go for these in situations where you want to stay aware of what’s going on around you. Hence, runners and bikers usually opt for open earbuds. Most open earbuds don’t feature ANC for the same reason. An ambient mode helps keep one aware of their surroundings.

If you don’t want to invest in dedicated running buds, you can go for any good wireless earbuds. If you’re shopping on a budget, these are our top picks for wireless buds under $150. And if you specifically want your surroundings completely blocked out, our top picks of the best noise-canceling headphones might be useful.

Best Running Earbuds for Battery and Water Resistance — Cleer Arc II

Since they were released, I have been using these as my everyday buds for everything from running to calls. On some days, I would even brush my teeth or wash my face without taking them off, and their IPX5 water and sweat resistance has been holding up just fine. For comparison, the other two buds in this list sport IPX4.

Using these as my daily buds is incredibly convenient because they require being replenished just once a week. With a huge 35-hour battery life (8 hours in the buds and 27 in the case), I have to connect them to a socket for around two hours on the weekend.

I will admit, though, that they aren’t as inconspicuous as the Bose Ultra Open. You will feel like you have earbuds on, and your ears might even want a break after a few hours. The good thing about these is that unlike the OWS 2, they’re well-designed and stay pretty glued to your ears throughout. They don’t even budge when I sprint across Pier 80.

There’s no ANC on the Arc II, but as long as you’re using these just for running, that shouldn’t bother you a lot.

Best Running Earbuds for Spacious, Airy Sound — Oladance OWS 2

Wearing the OWS 2 feels like you’re listening to music playing on stereo speakers in the background instead of from something directly plugged into your ears. No one does ambient mode as good as these buds. They sound incredibly airy and spacious and add just the right amount of the outside world to the mix. There is also plenty of detail and richness, especially in the midrange.

I enjoyed completing a dozen outside chores and commuting to work with the OWS 2 and didn’t feel the lack of anything except for ANC on the Subway station.

The only gripe I have with these buds is their design. Each bud weighs 12.7g. For some context, a single Bose Ultra Open bud weighs 6.3g.

Not only are these bulky but they’re inconveniently designed as well. The part of the bud that goes behind your earlobe is quite heavy, sometimes leading to a weight imbalance and the bud toppling over your ear. While that didn’t cause issues when running, it was problematic when doing my pre-run stretches. Any pose that required me to tilt my head all the way to one side would lead to the bud falling out of my ear.

I am also very confused by the weird, elongated case in which the OWS 2 buds come housed. It’s unwieldy and way too big to fit in your pants pocket.

The 19-hour battery life on these is another major drawback. Compared to the 30+ hours you get on both Cleer and Bose’s flagship buds, 19 hours is considerably low.

Best Running Earbuds for Aesthetic and Comfort — Bose Ultra Open

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said Bose’s newest open earbuds look like high-tech jewelry. You’d go for these buds if you care about aesthetics more than price. At $300, these are admittedly expensive, considering they don’t offer ANC for when you’re not running. But they’re stunning.

These are also the most comfortable and inconspicuous buds out of the three and the only buds that make me forget I have something attached to my ears. I barely felt the Ultra Open for the 40 hours I wore them; they’re just that light. And since they don’t sit inside your ear canal, I didn’t feel any pressure on my ear’s concha or just inside the ear canal — two places where I usually get earbud fatigue.

Their soft-touch beige housing (Bose calls it White Smoke), offset with gray brushed metal accents, makes me feel like I’m wearing the jewelry of the future. They’re also available in Black, but they’re more subtle.

While the Opens don’t look like most earbuds on the market, its case looks similar to others on the market with its oblong shape and hard plastic construction. It’s thankfully not awkwardly big or bulky and fits in your pocket just fine.

The Ultra Open definitely has appeal as I could walk down the street and be aware of what’s happening around me instead of my usual self-imposed obliviousness. I even listened in on a bad date recap while riding the Subway.

Bose estimates that the Open can last 7.5 hours with Immersion Audio disabled and 4.5 with it on. When it’s time to charge the earbuds, the charging case can deliver another 19.5 hours or 12 hours, depending on whether Immersive Audio is on or off. Read More — Sherri Smith


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