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Consumer Reports: Best headphones for outdoor exercise

Posted at 7:38 AM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 08:38:01-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — If you listen to music while you exercise outdoors, you know how hard it can be to hear cars, bikes or other people around you. Here's how one editor at Consumer Reports solved that issue on the streets of New York City.

Laura Murphy, an editor at Consumer Reports, started running again during the pandemic as a way to escape her small studio apartment. But to feel safe, Murphy felt she needed to be more aware of her surroundings — especially when wearing headphones. That’s when she first tried her partner’s Shokz.

"They sit outside of your ears so your ear canal is fully open and that means I could hear really anything going on around me in addition to the music that I was listening to," Murphy said.

Shokz headphones feature a unique bone-conduction technology.

"Bone conduction headphones have these blocks, they’re pods, that send the vibrations into the sides of your head," said Elias Arias, Consumer Reports headphone expert.

Murphy recently upgraded to the Shokz OpenRun Pro. Despite their cult following, three different models of Shokz didn’t do very well in Consumer Reports' ratings.

"Generally, bone conduction headphones in our tests have been found to have sound quality that falls towards the bottom of our portable headphone ratings," Arias said.

They do, however, rate excellent for predicted reliability and consumer satisfaction based on Consumer Reports’ member survey.

If you do want to hear your surroundings — but also care about sound quality — Consumer Reports recommends the Sennheiser CX Plus and the more affordable 1More ColorBuds 2.

Both of these noise-canceling headphones have ambient sound monitoring — which allows you to adjust how much ambient sound you hear.

But for Murphy, there’s something more important than sound quality.

"It’s not really about the quality of the music I’m listening to, it’s about getting that motivation to not stop running," she said.

Some people own more than one pair of headphones — different types for different uses. For example, smaller headphones are better for portability. Larger headphones are better when it's important for sound to reign supreme.