Stay aware of your surroundings when training.
The top-performing bone conduction headphones deliver the best of both worlds: relief from the boredom of the tarmac and pool, while still keeping you present and aware of everything that's going on around you. Plus, unlike regular wireless headphones, you don't have to worry about them falling out of your ears every few hundred meters.
Bone conducting headphones have come a long way in the last few years. What were once basic bits of tech – and, at times, hit and miss in terms of quality and usability – have evolved into reliable gadgets that can deliver a surprisingly decent audio experience when you're exercising, whether that's at the gym, on the road, or even in the pool.
But as with all fitness tech – from fitness trackers to massage guns – not all bone conduction headphones are made equal. To find out which are genuinely worth your money, we tested a handful of the best and wore them during our workouts to find out which ones were up to the job. These are the six that made the cut.
If you're short on time, here's a list of the bone conduction headphones we back. For a full breakdown of each, including the pros and cons of every pair, keep scrolling.
Unlike regular headphones, which either sit on top of or inside your ears, bone conduction headphones sit outside your ear canal and rest on your cheekbones. They usually have a hook which sits around your ear and each 'earbud' is typically connected by a neckband that rests around the back of your head.
Bone conduction headphones are an odd concept, but how they work is actually fairly simple. Instead of the sound being transmitted through the air, as with traditional headphones, bone conduction headphones send vibrations through the bones in your head. These vibrations then travel through your cheekbones and into your ears where they bypass your eardrums and arrive at the cochleas, where they are then interpreted in the same way that regular sound waves are.
Bone conduction headphones have one major drawback, which is that they don't block out the noises around you. Unfortunately, this means that whether you're running down a busy road, working out in a gym that plays loud music or you're using them literally anywhere that's remotely busy, they can at times be practically unusable.
And let's face it, no pair of bone conduction headphones are going to rival noise-cancelling headphones for sound quality any time soon. They're also prone to noise leakage, which can be a problem if you're using them in an office or other quiet places – or if you have a unique taste in music.
The upside of all this? Firstly, the absence of noise cancelling means they're excellent at doing what you're probably buying them for: improving situational awareness when you're exercising. They're also a great alternative for people who don't who don't like the intrusive feeling of in-ear headphones. Many can also be used in the pool, which can't be said for traditional headphones.
With a waterproof rating of IPX8, the H20 Audio Tri Pro Multi-Sport headphones are designed to be worn both in and out of the pool, and can be submerged to depths up to 3.6m.
Unlike other waterproof bone conduction headphones, the Tri Pro Multi-Sport have both bluetooth and audio storage, enabling you to stream music from your phone or use them without a device thanks to the 8GB of memory – a must if you plan on using them both in and out of the water. They're also able to store offline playlists from streaming services, which is a nice touch.
Our tester's verdict: 'The best thing about the Tri Pro Multi-Sport is that you can stream music from your phone, download tracks from your computer, and even upload offline playlists from streaming services. In terms of negatives, the buttons on the side of the headphones are a bit too flush and can be difficult to use when you're moving.'
|Water resistance rating
|IPX8 waterproof (up to depths of 3.6m)
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