Do you love listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks while out on a run, but find traditional headphones uncomfortable and isolating?
If so, bone conduction headphones might be the perfect solution for you.
These innovative devices allow you to hear your favorite audio while still remaining fully aware of your surroundings, making them an ideal choice for runners and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
But how do bone conduction headphones actually work, and what makes them different from traditional headphones? In this article, we’ll dive deep into the science behind bone conduction technology, explore the unique benefits that these headphones offer for runners, and highlight some of the best bone conduction headphones currently available on the market in 2023. Including our current #1 pick – the Shokz OpenRun Pro.
Whether you’re a serious athlete or just someone who loves to stay active, you won’t want to miss out on the game-changing benefits of bone conduction headphones. Let’s get to it!
- Bone Conduction Earphones: What Are They?
- But How Do They Work?
- What Makes them Different?
- Why Bone Conduction Headphones are Great for Runners
- The Best Bone Conduction Headphones for Runners
Bone Conduction Earphones: What Are They?
Bone conduction earphones, also called “bone phones,” are headphones that transmit sound through the bones of the skull rather than through the ear canal and its relevant membranes. Bone phones are increasingly popular with the running community, boasting comfort and situational awareness as just two of their advantages.
They keep the ear free of noise to focus on the environment around you and are a great option for those with hearing loss or tinnitus.
But How Do They Work?
To understand what sets these headphones apart from the more traditional sets available, you need to understand how sound travels.
When using normal headphones, sound vibrations are emitted through speakers on or in the outer ear. The headphones or earphones would act as a transducer, converting the energy – in this case, the audio data – to vibrations that would be heard as music.
With bone conduction headphones, this process works a little differently. Bone conduction earphones use bone conduction audio technology and convert the audio data to vibrations that travel along the bone structure to the cochlea. The cochlea is the inner ear and transmits this vibration along the auditory nerve as a signal to the brain.
It sounds pretty complicated, but bone conduction headphones essentially use the skill as the device’s speaker rather than the buds you place in or over your ear when using regular headphones. Just remember that sound is, in essence, a vibration of particles, and with bone conduction headphones, the particles travel through a solid (the bones of the skull) to produce the sound emitted by these headphones.
The bone conduction headphones are designed to wrap around the head, securing the pads that cause vibrations against the skin. This allows the sound to travel from the pad to the skull with no air between the two, resulting in clear sound.
What Makes them Different?
What makes these headphones remarkable is how they produce sound, leaving your ear canals completely clear to hear ambient sounds, being aware of your surroundings, and reducing the risk of damage to your ears that comes with traditional headphones or earbuds.
These headphones produce sound using the skull rather than the eardrum, making for comfortable listening. Bone conduction audio technology has been used in producing hearing aids since the 15th century. It’s made a remarkable difference to those who suffer from hearing loss or other hearing issues.
Fast forward a few hundred years, and this same technology is now being used to give runners and other sportsmen and women new ways to listen to their music or podcasts without compromising their situational awareness and safety.
Why Bone Conduction Headphones are Great for Runners
There are several reasons why these headphones have become popular amongst runners and those in the fitness community.
Here are just a few of the advantages of these nifty headphones:
#1: Comfortable For Running
Why try to shove hard little earbuds in your ear when you can choose headphones that fit around the back of your head and curl over the top of the ear?
Bone conduction headphones are possibly the most comfortable headphones on the market and provide hours of comfortable wear for runners.
One of the main reasons bone conduction headphones are comfortable for runners is because they do not need to be inserted into the ear canal.
This eliminates the discomfort and potential ear fatigue that can be caused by traditional in-ear headphones, which can put pressure on the ear canal and cause irritation after prolonged use. In contrast, bone conduction headphones sit comfortably on the temporal bone just in front of the ear.
#2: Superior Hygiene
Say goodbye to waxy earbuds with bone conduction headphones that do not come into contact with the inner ear.
Traditional in-ear headphones can become a breeding ground for bacteria and sweat, which can lead to ear infections and other health issues. On the other hand, bone conduction headphones are a great option for runners who want to keep their ears clean and free from bacteria.
The headphones fit comfortably on the top of the outer ear, leaving your ears open and clear.
#3: Social and Situational Awareness
Let’s be honest; running while listening to music or that interesting podcast comes with its own risks as you all but shut out the outside world and immerse yourself in your run. This is especially the case if you are a road runner!
Traditional in-ear headphones can significantly reduce a runner’s ability to hear important sounds like traffic, car horns, and approaching pedestrians or cyclists. However, bone conduction headphones provide a solution to this problem.
According to a study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, over 70% of pedestrian accidents are caused by inattention or distraction, highlighting the importance of maintaining situational awareness while running outdoors.
Using bone conduction audio technology, these headphones leave your ears free of any obstruction, allowing you to be fully aware of your surroundings while running and reducing the risk of an accident.
#4: Less Likely to Lose Them!
Have you ever met someone who has not lost a set of headphones or earbuds? Try as you might, they somehow end up disappearing into a black hole, never to be seen again.
While not bulky, bone conduction headphones are easy to track in your gym bag as they have a distinct shape that keeps them from getting tangled or bent.
#5: Compatible with Hearing Aids
Those with hearing loss or tinnitus now have the ability to listen to music while wearing their hearing aids, as bone conduction headphones are not placed in the ear but rather on the outer ear.
#6: Waterproof For Wet Conditions
Let’s be honest; we all sweat while running. Thankfully the creators of bone conduction headphones kept this in mind when they designed their wares, making them as waterproof as possible to keep sweat and other liquids out while running.
Most bone conduction headphones have an IP rating indicating how well the device is protected from water and dust particles.
The Best Bone Conduction Headphones for Runners
Let’s look at some of the best bone conduction headphones recommended by runners.
The Shokz brand is one of the most popular and has many great bone conduction headphones to choose from. Their best-sellers are:
Shokz OpenMove headphones weigh as little as 29 grams and are considered entry-level bone conduction headphones that are sweat-proof. While the battery life of Shokz OpenMove is decent at 6 hours, some competitors offer longer battery life, which may be important if you are a ‘power runner’ who goes for long runs or other endurance workouts.
SHOKZ OpenMove - Open-Ear Bluetooth Sport Headphones - Bone Conduction Wireless Earphones - Sweatproof for Running and Workouts, with Sticker Pack
The Shokz OpenRun is an upgraded version of the Shokz OpenMove, offering several improvements
Considered to be a mid-level option, Shokz OpenRun weighs 26 grams and has an 8-hour battery life. These headphones, too, are sweat-proof. These headphones have roughly the same features as the OpenMove but boast a longer battery life and lower charging time.
The Shokz OpenRun features improved audio quality compared to the OpenMove, with better bass response and overall sound performance. The OpenRun boasts an IP67 rating, which means it is more resistant to water and dust than the OpenMove with its IP55 rating. This increased water resistance makes the OpenRun better suited for running in various weather conditions, such as heavy rain or even brief submersion in water(!).
SHOKZ OpenRun (AfterShokz Aeropex) - Open-Ear Bluetooth Bone Conduction Sport Headphones - Sweat Resistant Wireless Earphones for Workouts and Running - Built-in Mic, with Headband
The Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones are among the premium products offered by Shokz and boast an impressive 10-hour battery life. This is great for long-distance runners and those who run often and do not need the hassle of having to charge their headphones between runs. OpenRun Pro headphones weigh 29 grams and are sweat- and waterproof — perfect for if you are running in heavy rain.
The OpenRun Pro features an even better audio quality compared to the OpenRun, with improved bass response, richer sound, and more dynamic audio performance. If you prioritize audio quality in your bone conduction headphones, it’s well worth the upgrade.
The OpenRun Pro comes with additional features such as multipoint pairing, allowing users to connect the headphones to two devices simultaneously, and an ambient mode, which amplifies surrounding sounds for enhanced situational awareness when needed.
SHOKZ OpenRun Pro - Open-Ear Bluetooth Bone Conduction Sport Headphones - Sweat Resistant Wireless Earphones for Workouts and Running with Premium Deep Base - Built-in Mic, with Hair Band
H20 Audio Tri Multi-Sport
Another big name in bone conduction and other headphones, H20 Audio, makes our list with their Tri Multi-Sport range that weighs only 33 grams and boasts an impressive 8-9 hour battery life. Store music on the device with a built-in memory of 8GB, and enjoy high-quality sounds while running or swimming. The Tri Milt-Sport headphones are fully waterproof.
The H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport headphones are designed with a 100% waterproof and sweatproof IPX8 rating, allowing them to be submerged up to 3 meters (10 feet) underwater. This makes them ideal for swimming, surfing, and other water-based activities. While the OpenRun series has water resistance (IP67 for OpenRun and OpenRun Pro), they are not designed for submersion in water.
So, if you are a keen runner who also likes to swim… it’s worth considering the H20 series!
Multi-Sport Waterproof Headphones - Enjoy your music in and out of the water with our breakthrough Bluetooth bone conduction headphones with a built-in MP3 player. It securely fits around your head for a wireless experience as you run or swim.
Padmate is another big name in audio equipment and headphones and has recently released the S30 range of bone conduction headphones. Weighing 22 grams, these headphones are truly lightweight and sweat-proof. They cost as little as $59 and are available to those who want an entry-level product with a great battery life of roughly 8 hours.
The Padmate S30 features a lightweight and flexible design, similar to the Shokz OpenRun series, providing a secure fit for various activities, including running and cycling.
The Padmate S30 has an IPX5 rating, which makes it resistant to sweat and light rain, but not as water-resistant as the Shokz OpenRun (IP67) or the H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport (IPX8). Therefore, it may not be the best option for runners who engage in water-based sports or intense workouts in wet conditions.
Open-Ear Comfort - Bluetooth headset innovative design with a lightweight wraparound frame and wireless, open-back earphones for comfortable, earplug-free listening.
The Zygo Solo bone conduction headphones enter the market with a unique offering aimed primarily at swimmers, but one that is also popular with runners. While other models like the Shokz OpenRun series and the H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport headphones cater to both land-based and water-based activities, the Zygo Solo sets itself apart by focusing specifically on providing an underwater audio experience.
When it comes to water resistance, the Zygo Solo excels. Designed specifically for swimming, it boasts a waterproof rating that rivals the H2O Audio Tri Multi-Sport headphones. Both models are suitable for submersion in water, but the Zygo Solo has the edge due to its tailored design for aquatic activities.
The Zygo Solo bone conduction headphones stand out as an excellent choice for swimmers, but we’d generally recommend that runners stick with the specialist Shokz bone phones if they are staying out of the pool!