Review of How Shokz earbuds compare to Apple Airpods for working out.
For the past few years, I’ve been pretty loyal to AirPods for running and working out. I love a good running playlist, so having headphones I like is important! However, there is nothing more important to me than safety when I’m running. For years, I’d heard about headphones called Shokz (formerly known as AfterShokz!) that were supposed to be a safer alternative to in-earbuds or noise cancelling headphones for runners. After looking into Shokz a little more, I finally bought them. And the verdict is: I WISH I BOUGHT THEM SOONER.
Today’s post is my honest review of the Shokz earbuds after using them for a few months, for all types of workouts, including running, riding the Peloton, strength training and HIIT. I love them, but there are a few cons. Let’s jump in.
They’re headphones designed for runners. They use bone conduction technology instead of just blasting sound through speakers into your ears, so they’re open ear headphones. That’s what makes them safer for runners logging miles outside since they allow for better situational awareness. Since there isn’t a piece actually going into or covering your ear canal, you can hear your surroundings, like cars, other people, etc., all while still listening to music or podcasts. Shokz’ first pair was the Shokz Trekz, and the company has been around since 2011. Now they have 5 different pair to choose from.
Instead of two in-ear earbuds, Shokz use a wraparound design with the buds attached so you don’t have to keep up with them individually. They’re a little bit like a headband, except you wear them around the back of your head near the top of your neck. And the buds sit outside your ear, near the front.
There are multiple models but I got the Shokz Aeropex Mini Bone Conduction Wireless Bluetooth Headphones. They have a size guide so you can decide between the Mini or Standard. Either can be purchased at a variety of places online, or directly from Shokz, although a few stores have sold out of the Mini option. They are waterproof but not designed for swimming. If you want an option for the pool, go for the Xtrainers.
Best Buy: standard
Shokz are powered with either 6 hours or 8 hours of battery life, which is plenty for most athletes! I charge them just a few times a week. They’re wireless earbuds, so they do require a speciality charging cable (that’s included with your purchase) and charging port to plug it in.
While the sound is good, it isn’t the best ever. Since the earbuds aren’t actually in your ear, they don’t deliver sound the same way as AirPods or something of the like.
Shokz are a similar price point to other running headphones such as AirPods. The kind I got at $150 but you can get the entry level pair, the Trekz Titanium, for $79 and the Trekz Air for $119. You can find them at many of the retailers you’d expect like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. I’ve also seen them priced at $129 recently on certain retailers.
I talk about this below, but the design is the most unusual thing about them. They almost look like a headband that you wear behind your head and above your neck. I wear them under my pony tail so you don’t notice them much, but they are significantly different than normal looking headphones.
My struggle with Airpods is that they slip out sometimes while I’m trying to change songs, especially when I’m mid-run. Shokzs don’t do this at all, since the wraparound band and their placement prevents slippage. And since they don’t actually plug your ears, they don’t have to fit your ear shape perfectly like AirPods do.
I’ve had this problem so much with AirPods. Maybe my ears just aren’t the right shape for them to work seamlessly, but whenever I wipe sweat from my face while working out at the gym or on the Peloton, my Airpods fall out if they are even slightly brushed by the towel. But my Shokz have stayed put exactly where I want them and I don’t notice them at all, even during the sweatiest bike ride that leaves me constantly wiping my face. And that’s high praise.
These are not noise canceling headphones, but that’s the point. Since they don’t require you to put anything in your actual ear, there’s nothing blocking other sounds from being heard. They use bone conduction technology, so the speakers sit on the spot in front/above your actual ear on your temples. You’re still able to get pretty great sound quality with them but it isn’t perfect. More on that below.
Since they are not as sleek as AirPods, I expected then to feel bulky or heavy. They don’t! They are really light and extremely comfortable. I hardly notice them.
With other wraparound earbuds I’ve had in the past, the band that goes behind my neck bounced. These don’t. I think having the option for the mini and the shorter band helps with that. Even with burpees, jumping squats and other plyometric moves, they stay put.
They are not as great in the office as AirPods are. But since they’re made for runners, that makes sense. I wasn’t planning to use them in the office when I got them, so this hasn’t been a big deal for me. I love how easy it is to connect my AirPods to my phone and computer for work.
While they were lighter and less bulky than I expected, with a hat or ear band, they do sometimes get in the way. My guess is that for those with short hair, they are amazing. Since I like a visor or hat, I’ve found that I have to adjust them a bit to get everything to feel comfortable. And if I need to adjust my ponytail once they’re on, I need to take them off first.
The bass in the Shokz isn’t great. Sometimes the songs sound a bit tinny. Since the speaker isn’t in your ear, you aren’t going to get the same experience, but I guess it’s better for your hearing in the long run. (Heh.) But, if you love music as much as I do, that’s a con.
This isn’t really a con, but more a reminder. I expected the noises from traffic, other pedestrians, dogs, etc. to be pretty noticeable, but I do still have to pay pretty close attention to my surroundings and I can’t blast the music with the high volume since it’s still easy to zone out noises with the distraction. That may be habit so I think overtime I’ll get used to picking up on noises. But, if you run in the dark, I’d probably still leave these at home.
I highly recommend them, all things considered! I’ve had them for a few months now and love how much more aware I feel while I use them versus my AirPods. I’ll continue to wear my AirPods for work and phone calls, but Shokz bone conduction headphones are my new favorites for running, riding the Peloton, bootcamp style classes and lifting weights.