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Why AirPods Pro are the best (and worst) earbuds for runners like me

The pros and cons of Apple AirPods Pro earbuds for some runners, like those who aren't training for a marathon, and head outside for a quick jog a few times a week

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As a casual runner (meaning I run 14 miles, tops, a week), I've experimented and tested dozens of earphones, headsets and earbuds. While I've shied away from taking my Bose and SkullCandy headphones out for a run (although, gosh I love them both), anything small enough to fit in the palm of my hand has been on tour across California and New York when I travel.

That now includes the AirPods Pro, the sleekest set I've owned yet — and honestly the most expensive. Running with them terrified me, but I've found there are excellent reasons to use them for a short jog — and some excellent reasons not.

Apple AirPods ProApple Airpod Pro Apple AirPods ProGearBrain

Why AirPods Pro are a dream

Here's why AirPods Pro are likely going out for a run with me every time in the near future.

Running is hardly my favorite exercise — but let's be honest: it's free and it's crazily efficient. You run out your door, and 30 (or 45 or 90) minutes later you're back, you've jacked up your heart rate, and you're done. I personally hate treadmills — don't ping me and tell me how much you love them — and while I will use them when I need to, running outside is really, for me, the best way to check off my exercise for the day.

I could not believe how easy the AirPods Pro were to wear, even outside in wind gusts. I forgot they were in my ear, they only twice felt like they might slip out, and they just made my runs a bit more tolerable.

Apple AirPods Pro


Anytime I'm using wireless earbuds I'm always conscious of them potentially falling out. That's because, frankly, they always do. I'm a fast (read: intolerant of anyone blocking my way) walker, and I can send earbuds flying just by heading to the UPS store. Not the AirPods Pro. They stuck in, and that may be because I attached the optional ear tips for smaller ears. (Not saying I have small ears — just saying I'm paranoid of them falling out.) Most earbuds come with these options — but not all — and that's a big plus. Most notably, the less expensive AirPods don't have these optional tips.)

I liked how light weight these were as well. Most earbuds are pretty slim in size, and weight, so these didn't stand out as different. But they also have a slim profile, and that means they slipped into the ear easily. Again, points.

AirPods Pro When paired with an Apple iPhone, you can see the charge remaining on both the AirPods Pro and the charging caseGearBrain


Clearly, the wireless aspect is going to be a win here as well. Yes, I'm one of those people you've seen running with wired earphones, clutching the excess in her hand as you pass her on your jog. But here's the thing about wired headphones: You. Do. Not. Lose. One. (We're going to get that in a minute.) Still, having nothing tying me to my iPhone was lovely. That's not to say that everything was great.

Apple AirPods Pro only $199.99 at Best Buy

Why AirPods Pro are a problem

Let's start with the obvious: AirPods Pro are $250 devices that are very small, and fall out enough — and are lost enough — that people even make cables that connect them together. Which then, effectively, become EarPods. Which you can buy for $29. Yes, we know, AirPods Pro can do many things EarPods can't, most crucially noise-cancelling. And that's another concern.

As a woman who sometimes runs very early in the morning, there are times I've been outside when the sun is still just rolling up as well. I'm not typically someone who is nervous walking around in the dark. Running in the dark? With a device that blocks all ambient sound? That's not optimum. Sure, I want to (read: require) hear music to get through my miles. But I also want to hear cars honking, and very (very) crucially: footsteps coming up behind me.

AirPods Pro AirPods Pro have a force sensor on their side, which controls the earbudsGearBrain

I do not like the noise cancelling feature on the AirPods Pro. At all. Luckily, this is a feature you can turn off — but it did take a few learning cycles for me to get comfortable figuring out how to do that without also turning off the AirPods or music as well.

AirPods Pro have three settings on this front: active noise cancellation, transparency and off. Transparency actually lets you hear what's happening around you while pushing out music, podcasts and such. You can hold the sensor, and press on it, which will switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency.

If you're using the Apple Watch, you just push on the icon that looks like a triangle with arcs above it on the left. That brings up Noise Control settings and you can toggle there.

That's a problem easily solved — but as a runner, it's a small detail you're going to want to know how to handle.

So there you go. Apple is rumored to be releasing new AirPods of some design this year — although the company, and analysts, has made it clear there could be some affect by the coronavirus on its normal releases. Still, some have suggested a less expensive version could appear, or even an over-the-ear version of wireless AirPods, which would be less elegant, but less likely to ever fall out while active.

Buy Apple AirPods Pro Here for $199.99

Pros:

  • Light-weight
  • Wireless (no wires to flop around as you run)
  • Comes with different ear tips for a better fit

Cons:

  • Price
  • Active noise cancelling can make it difficult to hear surroundings
  • Learning how to use the force sensor can take a bit of patience
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