Live Science Verdict
Dedicated runners wanting to soundtrack their strides while soaking in the race day atmosphere will love the Shokz OpenRun headphones. They use bone conduction technology, allowing you to listen without filling your ear canal with silicone. Gym-goers might require more isolated audio, but if you want to rack up the miles while staying aware of your surroundings these are ideal.
Neck band can catch on hooded jackets
Sound quality can’t match in-ear buds
Some sound leakage
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The Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones aren’t made from the same mold as other running headphones, and that will suit regular racers down to the ground.
Rather than sitting a silicone bud in the entrance to your ear canal, they have an open-ear design that places speakers in front of your ears, at the top of your jaw. Using bone conduction technology, they transmit sound via vibrations through your cheek bones, leaving your ears clear to take in your surroundings.
So, if you’re out for a 10K, you can still take in potential dangers like traffic noise while listening to music — making these one of the best headphones for running. This is great for race days too, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere of the crowd and chat to fellow runners without foregoing your favorite tunes.
Smart enabled/compatibility: Yes
Battery life: Up to 8 hours
OS support: Yes
On top of this, the headset has a premium rubberized finish and sits securely over your ears and around the back of your neck to keep it in place during workouts. They’re waterproof (IP67-rated) and feel comfortable to wear too.
We found this open-ear approach did have its downsides. There’s a bit of sound leakage, and the lack of sound isolation means they struggle to match the immersive listening experience of in-ear headphones. For this reason, we’d look elsewhere if you’re looking for a pair to wear to the gym.
But if you want to stay aware of your surroundings while you run, you’ll struggle to find a better pair of bone conduction headphones on the market.
Price and release date
Shokz was founded as AfterShokz in 2011, switching to its modern moniker after its ten-year anniversary. With an MSRP of $129.99 or £129.99 in the UK, the Shokz OpenRun headphones (formerly called the AfterShokz Aeropex) are the brand’s mid-range offering, sitting higher in price than the entry level OpenMove and lower than the premium OpenRun Pros.
Shokz has worked to improve its products over the years, advertising the Shokz OpenRun headphones as having “eighth generation bone conduction technology".
Set-up and design
Shokz knows how to build a sleek headset. The OpenRun Pros have a slim neck band with ear hooks and two vibrating buds on either end — these last parts sit on the cheek bones and are responsible for sending sound to your ears.
We really liked the rubber-feeling finish, which inspired confidence that sweaty sessions and rain-sodden runs wouldn’t be a problem. The pliable nature of the headband also allows it to withstand plenty of bending without breaking.
Set-up is incredibly simple on the OpenRuns too; just link them to your phone via Bluetooth by holding down the on button and waiting for them to connect.
The headphones come with a drawstring carry bag, a brief user guide and a specialist charging cable. If we’re being fussy, we would’ve liked a USB-C cord so we didn’t have another type of charger in our home, but this is a minor gripe.
Their shape means that, unlike most other running headphones like the JBL Reflect Flow Pros and Bose Sports, they don’t have a portable charging case to boost their overall playback time, but a full tank will still give you a solid eight hours of music. They benefit from a Quick Charge feature too, which will grant you 1.5 hours of listening from just ten minutes of juice.
The Shokz OpenRuns have three buttons — that’s all. There is a volume rocker with plus and minus controls and a multifunction button on the left bud. You can click this once to pause or play your music, twice to skip a track or three times to play the previous song. It can also be pressed to accept or decline a call.
We liked the volume rocker, which was fairly easy to use when on the move. The multifunction button is handy too, proving accessible and shirking the common problem of pushing the bud further into the ear when pressing a button on the frame (as found with the Jabra Elite 4 Actives).
We were initially concerned the open-ear fit of the Shokz OpenRuns wouldn’t be able to contend with the secure silicone tips and fins of their competitors. However, we needn’t have worried; the ear hooks stop the buds from slipping out of place and the tension in the neck band keeps them flush against your head.
This bodes well for endurance events like cycling and hiking, though there are some activities we found the fit didn’t lend itself to. For example, we wouldn’t recommend wearing them for yoga as the neckband can catch against your back during some poses, moving the buds slightly. We also found we had a similar problem if we were wearing a hooded sweatshirt or waterproof jacket.
But, for running and other endurance pursuits, the fit is commendable, staying put and remaining comfortable through sessions of all lengths and intensities.
For a pair of bone conduction earbuds, we think the Shokz OpenRun headphones offer decent sound quality. However, we enjoyed them more as a provider of background music rather than a powerful, all-encompassing sound. If you want to use your music as a major motivator, chances are you’ll do better with a pair of in-ear headphones with active noise cancellation (like the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pros) which can deliver an immersive sound while blocking out distractions.
The Shokz OpenRuns are for people who don’t want to shut out the outside world, but instead enjoy absorbing their environment alongside their music. We found the sound a bit murky compared to the crisp, isolated notes of other earbuds.
There’s some sound leakage, and the buds vibrate noticeably at higher volumes (a feeling we found some people weren’t keen on). So, if you have the chance to try these before you buy them, we would suggest taking advantage of it.
The Shokz OpenRun headphones are up there with the best options on the market for runners and endurance athletes who don’t want to shut the world out. They offer a robust build and a secure, comfortable fit without filling your ears with silicone.
We found this design didn’t offer the same immersive listening experience or sound quality as in-ear headphones, so we wouldn’t wear them to the gym. But, if you’re a recreational jogger wanting to stay aware of your surroundings for safety these are an elegant solution.
Jabra Elite 4 Active
If you don't like the feel of ear hooks or silicone fins filling your ears, but still want the immersive, isolated sound of in-ear headphones, the Jabra Elite 4 Actives are the earbuds for you. They offer a secure fit for sport thanks to their snug silicone tips and ergonomic frame, which sits gently against your inner ear and moves with you as you exercise. We think they sound great too, with enjoyable, natural audio.
Or, if you want impressive sound and active noise cancelation (ANC), we recommend the Soundcore Liberty Pro 3 earbuds. They didn't offer the same secure fit as other running headphones we tried, so might be best kept for lower impact activities like yoga or easy miles. However, we were blown away by the impressive sound quality, and our fitness writer described the ANC as "alarmingly effective".
Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.
When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.
Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.