Why Shokz OpenRun Headphones Are an Outdoor Runner's Best Friend

These cult-favorite headphones help me feel safer and more aware

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black sport headphones
Shokz OpenRun Headphones
Photo: Shokz

The moment I most look forward to in a run is when my mind abandons its fixations—all the to-do lists, the what-ifs, and the scorekeeping—and merges with the breath and the rhythm of my favorite running-beats playlist. But as an outdoor, urban runner, dimming my awareness with noise-obstructing headphones is a dangerous move—especially if I’m hoping to achieve that la la land known as runner’s high. I need to be alert at intersections for cars, cyclists, and fast-paced pedestrians coming up behind me 

For a long time, I had run half-conscious, earbuds in, banking on the relative safety of my city and the fact that I chose to run at times when there are a lot of eyes on the street. But when COVID-19 hit in early 2020, I found myself more reliant than ever on my daily runs to escape the claustrophobia of my New York City studio apartment. I also discovered that my security system of others, those eyes on the street, had disappeared: Apart from the wail of ambulance sirens and the occasional car or motorcycle speeding down the emptied avenues, I was often alone in a way that made me feel vulnerable.

At around the same time, my partner discovered that he couldn’t wear in-ear or over-ear headphones all day without discomfort. Multiple Google searches and strands of Reddit threads led him to the Aeropex Headphones from Shokz, a cult-favorite headphone company beloved by people with sensitive ear canals and runners alike. When he traded up for the Shokz OpenComm, a version that comes with a noise-canceling boom mic ideal for long conference calls, I inherited the Aeropex Headphones, now called OpenRun.

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To say these headphones are a revelation is an understatement. First of all, the technology is just cool. Try saying “bone-conducting headphones” without feeling like a tech Goth with an inside scoop.

When summer 2020 came, we took the headphones to outdoor get-togethers and let our friends try them on—to much amazement. Rather than piping in music through your ear canal, Shokz headphones transmit sound vibrations through the skull to the inner ear bones, bypassing the eardrum altogether. While this does mean that ambient sounds can enter your ear, when it comes to the intended audience of Shokz headphones, that’s a feature, not a bug. These things are made for outdoor-fitness enthusiasts, bicycle commuters, and aurally sensitive executives like my main man. There’s even a waterproof version made for swimmers.

But the benefits don’t stop at the bone-conducting technology. These headsets are remarkably lightweight and, because they sit above your ears—kind of like a pair of sunglasses, but backward, with the “bud” part of the headphone resting just outside your ear at the top of your cheekbone—they don’t pop out when you work up a sweat like earbuds can.

I recently upgraded to the Shokz OpenRun Pro, $180, bringing our household Shokz headset count to three. The OpenRun Pros have superior sound quality over the OpenRun, 10 hours of charge, and a quick-charge feature that lets you reel in an hour and a half of battery after only 5 minutes of charging. That’s key for me because I sometimes don’t realize I need to charge until I’m ready for my run. Bone-conducting headphones are also a good option for races that might not allow in-ear devices. 

It’s worth noting that these probably aren’t the headphones you want to take on a flight or to jam out in while working in the library. “The drivers of the Shokz don’t block the ear canal, they don’t muffle external noise, but some sound from the drivers might be heard by others,” says Elias Arias, who oversees Consumer Reports’ tests of headphones. “As such, they are best suited for those who listen in quiet environments where disturbing others is not an issue, or for those who want to be able to hear what’s going on around them while they use the headphones.”

They also won’t win the praises of audiophiles. “In our testing, we prioritize tonal accuracy, clarity, detail, ambience, and dynamics of the audio reproduced by headphones,” Elias says. “We found the OpenRun Pro delivers sound quality that falls in the fair range—meaning that it has sonic shortcomings that leave a lot to be desired when listening to music.”

That assessment accounts for the relatively low score Shokz headphones achieve in CR’s headphone ratings, but they received the top Excellent score for owner satisfaction, meaning owners are extremely likely to recommend them. That’s because there are a lot of Shokz enthusiasts like me, who aren’t looking for perfect sound quality, but rather a safe, comfortable way to listen to music while we chase that runner’s high.

My recommendation? Go get ’em. 

Headshot of CRO Author Laura Murphy (v3)

Laura Murphy

Just like you, I'm a consumer. I love to shop, and I'm obsessed with finding the highest-quality item at the best price. I want my products sustainably made with fair labor practices, and built to last, so I don't have to replace them every two years. I'm at Consumer Reports because I believe in harnessing consumer power to build a better world. Let's do this.