Running Headphones Review: Apple AirPods and Aftershokz Trekz

Running alone for hours on end can be…let’s face it…boring. Without someone to talk to or something to listen to, it might even be considered by some to be outright torture. I almost always have something in my ears as I run, because it was how I trained myself in the early days to stay out until the end of a playlist, podcast, or chapter. Now, it’s not as necessary, just comforting…and it breaks the tedium a little.

The other side of this coin though is the safety issue. Running outdoors requires that at least part of your brain needs to know what is happening around you — whether it’s traffic, people, wildlife, or your toddler in the stroller. Completely zoning out and jamming to your favorite Shakira song may compromise your safety. So if you do choose to run with headphones, please be sure to put safety first.

What are the parameters for this review, then? Well, let me tell you a bit more about the reviewer.  As a runner, I rarely listen to music. Rather I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks (for the purposes of this review I listened to a variety of music styles as well as my go-to podcasts). I’m also out for a variety of runs, and when it comes to the long runs of more than a couple of hours, I need to know the headphones I wear will remain comfortable. I also run in all types of weather, and lately cold weather has forced a stocking cap on my head. When it is sunny, I prefer a cap to sunglasses, but I will occasionally do both. Lastly, we will experience high wind days, making headphones quite a challenge.


The first product are the Apple AirPods (affiliate link). The hubbub surrounding the iPhone losing the headphone jack is a direct result of these little guys. I got these for Christmas this year, and was thrilled when I opened the box! When fully charged, the “pod” charges the earbuds. When you are finished using the headphones, just drop them back into the pod to recharge. The pod will continue to recharge the headphones after about 7-10 uses at an average of an hour listening time per use. The headphones connect via bluetooth to your phone, and with a tap on one ear or the other, you can control start/pause, Siri, or other volume controls. The Bluetooth connection is mostly seamless, and I find the AirPods extremely comfortable…Almost too comfortable, because I’ve accidentally and unknowingly knocked them out of my ears.

While they are comfortable, they are an in-ear headphone, which somewhat obstructs external sound. This isn’t really ideal for outside runs, given that it’s important for us to hear what is going on. However, because they are in-ear, I find they are more comfortable to wear with sunglasses and cold-weather hats. The sound quality is fine, especially for podcasts, but like other small sized headphones, these aren’t great for full spectrum sound. Since I am concerned about safety during my runs and the small handful of times they’ve fallen out, I tend to use these mostly around the house. I love listening to my book while I’m cleaning but I’m reluctant to wear them outside for safety reasons.

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The second product I tried were the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones (affiliate link). I also got these for Christmas, and what the AirPods had in Cute-in-a-futuristic-way smallness to them (they look like EVE from the Pixar movie Wall-E) the Aftershokz came in a somewhat disappointing case with extras that I know I will lose.

What makes these headphones interesting is that they are around the ear, bone-conduction headphones. They sit NEXT to your ear, rather than in them, leaving your ears open to hear what is going on around you. The caveat to that, though is similar to distracted driving. Just because you CAN hear doesn’t mean you are paying attention enough to what IS actually going on. Which is why I keep coming back to the safety issue.

While I love the safety feature of being able to hear more of my environment, and I’m using these on my runs more frequently, they aren’t as comfortable as the AirPods. They aren’t bad, just not AS comfortable.  The sound output fits just in front of your ear, and the frame fits over your ear and around the back of your head. They feel a little clumsy, but more in that I feel them on. I’ve sometimes found that they will feel tight against my jaw, giving me a mild ache, but nothing unbearable.

Here’s how they work, though. Since they sit in front of your ear, the sound is conducted through the bone. It’s a weird sensation, and if I move my jaw forward or side to side it changes the sound slightly. The sound quality is great with these, I’d say slightly better than the AirPods, especially for music. What is interesting is that because you can still hear normally, quieter music gets lost to environmental noise. The biggest problem I have with the fit though is when it’s cold and/or sunny. A winter hat fitting over my ears makes these more uncomfortable, and sunglasses don’t fit as well either. I find these work best in mild temperature when I can just wear a cap.


Here are a few other reviews:

So what do you think? Have you tried either of these products?

Heather Jergensen

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