I tried AirPods Pro for running — and it was a big fail

I never thought the day would come where I would want a pair of running headphones. Not because it’s a bit frivolous to buy a headset solely for running, but because I swore off running as a regular form of exercise several years ago.

When I test the best fitness trackers or best smartwatches, I prefer to hop on an exercise bike, show up to a pilates studio or go on a long walk to analyze activity-tracking metics. Running reminds me of my bygone sports career and the souvenir aches of sprinting the outfield as punishment or logging miles on the treadmill to stay in shape during softball offseason.

But I recently found myself interested in running again. I’m not trying to learn how to train for a half marathon or anything — I just want to diversify my cardio workout regimen. Plus, I live in a city where running is a popular social activity, often rewarded with iced lattes or green juices afterward. 

Realizing I need to bank some solo training before I indulge in overpriced beverages with my buddies, I headed to a track last weekend. I prepared properly, wearing supportive sneakers, loading up on electrolytes and stretching beforehand.

So it’s too bad the experience was ruined by something as trivial as headphones (and a pretty pricey pair at that).

AirPods Pro don’t cut it at the track

When I go on leisurely walks, I usually opt for the AirPods Max with active noise-cancelling and killer sound quality. But since those aren’t sweat-proof, I rely on the classic Apple EarPods (from back when they still came with new iPhones) for bustling commutes or power walks.

The wired, tangle-prone buds are a pain to run with, though. And while I broke up with wireless earbuds last year, I’ve held onto my AirPods Pro for work meetings, train rides and pretty much any occasion when I want to listen to music and I’m not moving around. 

So I’m not sure what I was thinking when I brought AirPods Pro along for my first run. I guess I had read about an AirPods Pro workout test where Apple’s premium earbuds stayed secure during high-impact exercise. But even knowing my proper fit thanks to the ear tip setup process, I still spent half my time at the track retrieving fallen buds (which bounced off rather chaotically, depending on how fast I ran).

Testing AirPods Pro alternatives for running

Despite my rocky, soundtrack-less start, I’m now determined to find the best running headphones that won’t eject from my ears every other step I take. Over the next few weeks I’ll try alternatives, both to find the right pair and to motivate me to keep up with my running workouts. 

Here are the running headphones I’ll test, and why they made this list.

AfterShokz Aeropex: $159.99 at Best Buy
Maybe my ears are the problem. AfterShokz Aeropex are a pair of affordable bone conduction headphones that strap securely around your ears, but don’t go inside them. It isn’t the most attractive headset I’ve seen, but they get 8 hours of active battery life and can withstand runs in the rain with IP67 waterproof rating. View Deal

Powerbeats Pro: $179 Amazon
I used Powerbeats Pro before and wasn’t impressed by comfort, but I’m willing to try again. Not to mention, I think they look cool. They also have a nine-hour battery life and water-resistance, and feature the Apple H1 headphone chip for easy pairing.View Deal

Will I find my perfect running headphones? Stay tuned for hands-on testing with all the above models. I know I can’t be the only one who needs the right gear to make the most of my workouts.