Review: My two favorite sport headphones for running

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I’ve been running a lot lately, mostly because I committed myself to running a half-marathon after a BBG story I wrote four months ago. On shorter runs, I listen to music or nothing at all. On longer solo runs, I listen to podcasts, usually This American Life or Studio360, because they’re long and very engaging. I’ve tried several kinds of headphones made specifically for sport use or otherwise designed to withstand sport conditions, and have found that the Philips-Nike Sport Flow headphones and the Sennheiser MX 85 are my favorites.

Let me start by saying that headphones, in general, can be really annoying while you’re running. The cord gets tangled with my arms or flaps around in front of your face, the earbuds fall out, and in strong wind conditions they tend to make a swoosh-swoosh noise in my ear canal that often results in me flinging the headphones away, only to pick them up and hold them in one hand the whole time to avoid tripping over them.

The Sport Flow headphones are a collaborative product that Philips and Nike made to be as unnoticeable as possible &mdash and it works. The rubberized earhooks are super lightweight and they allow the earbuds to sit in place by my ear holes without feeling overly invasive. They’re white, so it goes with any outfit. And perhaps most importantly, they come with a little white cable managing disc for winding unused lengths of cord around that clips onto a shirt sleeve or collar so the cord doesn’t get in the way. The Sport Flows are $25 on Amazon.

Sennheiser’s MX 85 sport earphones have a different design &mdash they have what the company calls a twist-to-fit system, which basically means that the earbuds wedge into a secure spot between the top and middle of the outside of the ear to prevent too much movement. The two things I like the most about the MX 85s are the color combination &mdash gray and orange! &mdash and the sound quality. Songs were much crisper but not as loud compared to the Sport Flows, and I was able to hear my music slightly better in windy conditions with these. The MX 85s have a longer right earbud cable than the left so that it’s easier to sling behind the neck while running. However, the clip that comes with it is shoddy and kept falling off while I ran along Krissy Field. These are listed as $70 on Sennheiser’s web site.

About Lisa Katayama

I'm a contributing editor here at Boing Boing. I also have a blog (TokyoMango), a book (Urawaza), and I freelance for Wired, Make, the NY Times Magazine, PRI's Studio360, etc. I'm @tokyomango on Twitter.
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12 Responses to Review: My two favorite sport headphones for running

  1. Propaddict says:

    I have had the MX75 Sports for about a year and a half. I have worn them for @2000 miles and they have fallen out of my ears exactly 4 times. Sound is great, too.

    Can’t recommend them enough.

  2. WalterBillington says:

    Oh! Saw this was by Lisa and deleted my Nike rant!

    But headphones – the key is sweat. Does sweat seep into either of these and prevent proper functioning? Must know, as have same running issues generally. Ipod phones, which I deem bottom of the pile, suffer awfully from sweat-ruination.

    And #1 has it – running the cord inside is key.

  3. philipb says:

    My Sennheiser running headphones were damaged when I shut the cable in a door! I sent them back to Sennheiser for repair & they mailed me back a new set with no charge for the headphones or shipping.

    In other words, if you want excellent customer service consider the Sennheisers.

  4. SUP - Listener says:

    I clip my shuffle onto the back of my hat and let the phones hand down when I stand up paddle. keeps them dry even if you fall in (unless you submerge your head – but I’m very very good)

  5. bbonyx says:

    I always run my cord inside my shirt to keep it from getting in my way. Usually in the back, and pop the buds out of the back of my collar, wrapping the connecting cord around the back of my neck to keep it from getting in my face.

  6. weatherman says:

    timely article – I was just looking for some new headphones that I could use while jogging. I lost the JVC earbuds that I was using – I really liked them because they had a cord that could be short or extended, but I can’t seem to find them. I think I’ll get the Nike ones on your recommendation though.

  7. JoshP says:

    I use a hard shell(clear pvc or some acrylic??) from bodyglove (nostalgia win sigh) for my nano itself, which has a clip that goes right on shirt front or whateva.
    I spend a *lot* of time doing odd out physical activity, like moving lumber, driving tractors, blacksmithing, getting jumped on by dogs, and where my cords take it is in the connection to the jack and the cord, they are universally cheap and poorly constructed.
    I’ve yet found a pair that I don’t destroy in about a month. I go with 6.00 Koss from Wlm/hell or targ. They can do about a month. Even pricier ones w/ pretty cosmetics sometimes only last about 4 or 5 days.
    The shell is armor, I can abuse the hell out of the nano, but I’ve yet to see a set of buds that can take constant, daily abuse and were economically viable. Which is weird, cause its not the speaker assembly that goes on mine, and the wires n such are too tiny and ridiculous for me to patiently remake a rig w/ solder.
    Eh, sorry about the novel, but maybe someone can run with this.
    j

  8. Slippymark says:

    I use Goldring GX200′s. The tips have comply foam that expands in your ear canal ensuring a snug, but comfortable fit. They never fall out, and block external noise really well too

  9. Jessi says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been trying to get back into running, and my old earbuds have a tendency to fall out constantly. I’ve been looking for new headphones and will definitely give these a try!

  10. heyref says:

    Yes, put them inside your shirt. Also, if you keep your mp3 player on your arm or your belt, run the cord under your bra strap. It strain relieves the cord, keeps it in place on your back so it doesn’t fly around in your face, and stays put if you take your shirt off.

    Doesn’t work so well for guys, though.

  11. Arturo says:

    I still use the headphones that came with my Ipod/samsung mp3 player. They have worked okay but have now started to fall apart on me. Before that I would use headphones (the bulky kind) because the ear buds kept falling off when running.

    I finally got used to them. Those two headphones look neato! I may have to start looking for some new ones soon before mine completely break down.

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