This post is going to cover my personal experience with a few different styles of headphones for trail running that I’ve tried. It will also go into a bit of detail on what I’ve settled on for now, the AfterShokz Aeropex. Update: The company has rebranded, and so these are now known as the Shokz Aeropex.
The journey to find a good pair of headphones for my runs has been quite an arduous one. I’ve tried in-ear, outer-ear, wired, and wireless options. Each of these had at least one pain point that inevitably led to me switching to the next pair.
Finally, I believe I’ve settled on a winner for the mid to long term. The Aeropex headphones, by AfterShokz. They are wireless headphones which use “bone conduction” technology. The major benefit being that you don’t need to actually wear them in your ear.
As I mentioned before, the journey to my current point has involved many pairs of headphones that ultimately did not work out for me. Here is what bothered me with previous pairs:
- In-ear headphones often tend to fall out after a while. Even if I managed to get the right bud fit, the foot-hitting-trail impacts would inevitably loosen them after a while. I also find that sweat sometimes works its way into my ears and in-ear buds trap it in there.
- Wired headphones are irritating and require too much effort to keep neatly out of the way. This one has to get on everyone’s nerves. You find yourself spending way too much time routing the cable around your body. You’re also limited to where your device goes.
- Semi-wireless headphones are still too bulky. I’ve tried a pair of bluetooth headphones that had a cable connecting the left and right in-ear pieces. The right cable side had the battery and integrated controls. Even though this pair had a clip I found that the ear pieces would constantly fall out. The weight of the battery and bulk of the cable would slowly tug the right in-ear piece out.
- In-ear headphones block out the surrounding ambience. When out trail running, I like to be able to hear my surroundings. You never know when a mountain biker or someone faster than you might be approaching from behind. I’ve been caught behind runners on narrow trails that are completely shut-off to their surrounds due to in-ear or noise cancelling headphones. It’s not only dangerous, but also inconsiderate for those that might want to pass you.
- Noise cancelling is a bad idea for the outdoors. For much the same reasons as the above point. Noise cancelling could prevent you from hearing important audio cues in your surroundings. A mountain biker belting down a trail or over a hill toward you, an animal, or someone else on the trail trying to get your attention.
- In-ear headphones with ear clips are uncomfortable. I had a pair that had flexible plastic clips that molded around the ear to help hold them in. The fit was never perfect and caused discomfort after a while.
AfterShokz Headphones For Trail Running
I’ve started using the AfterShokz Aeropex wireless headphones for trail running recently, and am happy with what they offer.
They’re not in-ear headphones. They have a sturdy flexible support that goes around the back of your head. The main audio ‘drivers’ sit alongside your cheek bones near to your ear.
The interesting tech here is that they use vibration to conduct audio through your cheek bones. Initially you feel a little bit of vibration, but it becomes less noticeable after a few sessions.
This all leaves your ears open to your surroundings and your situational awareness is much improved.
Audio quality-wise they’re OK. You won’t get stellar audio quality, but that is usually not expected for smaller wireless style headphones anyway.
The major benefits I’ve found with the AfterShokz Aeropex headphones are:
- Situational awareness.
- They are really simple to put on, and they stay on.
- IP67 water resistant. Sweat or even rain is not an issue.
- Decent battery life (rated at about 8 hours).
- Simple magnetic charger attachment that clicks into place.
- Bluetooth 5.0. A recent and up-to-date version of the Bluetooth specification.
- Good price point. They can be had for around £125.00 (roughly the same figure in USD).
I do enjoy music, audiobooks, or podcasts on a long run, but I also think it’s important to connect with nature. For me, that means not being plugged into any devices on at least half of my runs.
Most will agree that longer runs can be meditative experiences. The mind empties after a while. You can only think over and ponder the various questions and topics that bounce around in your head for so long.
Unplugging yourself from your audio should help you arrive at this meditative state faster.
With that said, longer trail runs can also get lonely. Audio experiences are an excellent companion on these outdoor journeys. Music will often inspire and push you faster too.
For these occasions, make sure you’ve got a set of headphones for trail running that tick as many boxes as possible. I personally found the Aeropex headphones to be the right ones for me.