Best bone-conduction headphones in 2024

Best Bone-Conduction Headphones Quick Menu

The best bone conduction headphones are ideal if you enjoy exercising outside. These sets use pads to vibrate your cheekbones and deliver audio directly into your ear, helping keep you aware of your surroundings and ears open. 

But it's hard to know how they perform until you actually have them on, so we've put a variety to the test, and the Shokz OpenRun Pro proved themselves to be the best for most people, as they're easy to use, lightweight, and great battery life. 

Though they're not your only choice. If you're after a more budget-friendly pair, we recommend the Creative Outlier Free Pro. Plus, we've reviewed several other great options to help you find a set that suits your training. 

The quick list

The best bone-conduction headphones you can buy right now

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

Best bone conduction headphones overall

Woman wearing the Shokz OpenRun ProEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best bone conduction headphones for most people

Specifications

Weight: 1 oz
Battery life: 10 hours
Durability: IP55

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight design
+
Comfortable for extended periods
+
Good sound for bone conduction
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Can’t adjust fit
-
No auto-off function

The Shokz OpenRun Pro were the first new launch after the company rebrand from AfterShokz and introduced stronger bass performance, improved microphone quality, larger buttons, and longer battery life.

Despite their status as the champion of bone conduction technology, our original review mentioned that the headphones didn't automatically turn off when still wearing them but not listening to music, which causes the battery to run down unnecessarily.

Luckily, a five-minute quick charge gives around 1.5 hours of listening time should you find the battery depleted. Also, the case is protective, but it doesn’t have built-in charging. 

The Shokz OpenRun Pro come the closest of any bone conduction headphones we’ve tested to delivering all-encompassing sound. They excelled with electronic synth riffs, maintaining precision and sophistication throughout Van Halen’s “Jump.” Rihanna’s “We Found Love” sounded sexy, yet still punchy.

During our test we found that vocals weren’t as pronounced as we'd usually like, though the witty verses of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us” held their own against the soaring piano line. 

Best value bone conduction headphones

Shokz OpenRun in someone's handsbest value awards badge

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best value bone conduction headphones for workouts

Specifications

Weight: 0.9 oz
Battery life: 8 hours
Durability: IP67

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable, secure fit
+
Long battery life
+
Fully waterproof
+
Respectable sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Fit isn't adjustable

The Shokz OpenRun were originally called AfterShokz Aeropex, and make a great introduction to the Shokz range of bone conduction headphones. Unlike the Shokz OpenRun Pro, these come in four dual-color options, including blue eclipse, cosmic black, lunar grey, and solar red.

They're fraction lighter than the OpenRun Pro, and the barely-there weight lands perfectly between comfort and the kind of secure fit you want from a set of sports headphones. 

At the time of testing, our reviewer found they could wear these bone conduction headphones for hours without complaint. It’s worth noting, though, that you can’t adjust the OpenRun in any way but you can get a smaller “Mini” version for the same price if the distance between the backs of your ears is less than 9.3 inches.

In terms of sound quality, the OpenRun exceeded our expectations. Electronic music seems particularly compatible with this type of headphone; the main synth riff in The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” wasn’t diminished at all, and La Roux’s “Bulletproof” was pleasantly punchy.

Vocals are usually nice and clear too, and delivered with enough detail that it’s possible to pick out all the layers of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Certain effects can sound scratchy, though, and the bass never goes truly, powerfully deep.

Best premium bone conduction headphones

Shokz OpenSwim Pro on a poolside floor

(Image credit: Nick Harris-fry / Tom's Guide)
Best premium bone conduction headphones

Specifications

Weight: 0.96 oz
Battery life: 9 hours
Durability: IP68

Reasons to buy

+
Secure fit
+
Comfortable over extended periods
+
Bluetooth and local MP3 playback
+
Waterproof for swimming
+
Comfortable and secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
MP3 playback reduces battery life

The Shokz OpenSwim Pro are almost a mash-up between the OpenRun and OpenSwim bone conduction headphones, blending the best features of each set to create a premium model that can handle swims, outdoor runs, and sweaty workouts. 

There are two audio modes, including a dedicated swimming option which adjusts the output to make sure you still get good audio quality even while in the pool. We didn't find that it changed the quality much, so generally stuck with the standard mode even while swimming. 

The nine-hour battery life should easily see you through most sessions, even extended runs, although we were disappointed that the battery drops down to six hours if you listen to local MP3s downloaded to the device. 

And if you train in noisy environments, the open-ear design means there's no noise cancellation, so you'd need a set of the best workout headphones instead. But this isn't unique to the OpenSwim Pro, which are easily some of the best bone conduction headphones available right now. 

Best bone-conduction headphones for calls

Haylou PurFree BC01 on a wall

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best bone conduction headphones for clear calls

Specifications

Weight: 0.98 oz
Battery life: 8 hours
Durability: IP67

Reasons to buy

+
Bright, punchy sound quality
+
Comfortable to wear for long periods
+
Good clarity for calls

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly scratchy sounding on some music
-
Needs better battery prompts

These Qualcomm-powered Haylou PurFree BC01 bone-conduction headphones have an IP67 waterproof rating, meaning they're built to handle seriously sweaty workouts. They have two microphones to battle background noise so calls come out nice and clear, and a fast charge mode gets you 2 hours of playback from just a 10-minute charge.

They weigh just 0.98 ounces (around 28g), so they’re up there with some of the lightest bone conduction headphones. The dual microphone array with a cVc noise canceling algorithm detects background sounds and reduces them when you need to make a call indoors or outdoors, and it works to impressive effect.

If fact, they deliver enjoyable sound whether you choose to exercise with them or use them for taking calls, and are comfortable to wear for long periods.

Best budget bone conduction headphones

Creative Outlier Free Pro attached to a fence

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best budget-friendly bone conduction headphones

Specifications

Weight: 1.11 oz
Battery life: 10 hours
Durability: IPX8

Reasons to buy

+
Light, comfortable design make them great for long-term use
+
Offers Bluetooth and music player streaming
+
Quick charge battery mode
+
Versatile design

Reasons to avoid

-
Not super clear bone conduction sound
-
Microphone protector a bit flimsy

The Creative Outlier Free Pro launched at $129, but has since dropped to $99, putting it much closer in price to the Outlier Free ($79.99). That also makes them a cheaper alternative to waterproof options like the Shokz OpenSwim and Naenka Runner Diver.

This make the Creative Outlier Free Pro headphones an affordable route into bone-conduction designs. They are comfortable to wear for long periods, and versatile enough to work with Bluetooth streams on dry land as well as storage playback for pool swims.

Sacrifices have been made where sound quality is concerned though, and you'll need to spend a bit more if you want best in class sound with a similar level of versatility.

How to choose the best bone-conduction headphones for you

Before you decide on a pair of bone conduction headphones, there are a few factors to consider, aside from the way they transmit audio. Some sets have adjustable headbands to help you find a more comfortable fit, while others come in multiple (and often vibrant) colors to match your aesthetic. 

But probably the most important feature is the degree of water resistance on offer, and this will depend on how you want to use them. For swimming, you need waterproof sets, but for sweaty sessions and rainy outdoor walks and runs, you can opt for a pair with a high-degree of resistance around IPX7 or higher. 

Of course, as your ears are left untouched with bone conduction headphones, you won't get the same experience as with the best workout headphones, which have noise cancellation and can block out the environment around you until you switch to a transparency mode to keep tabs on your surroundings. 

Though that doesn't mean you have to compromise on the audio quality. Some pairs focus on bass-heavy performance and are ideal if you like to listen to (or train with) dance or tracks with an intense lower end. Others, meanwhile, are optimized for more general performance, so they'd be good for music and podcasts. 

How we test the best bone conduction headphones

Every pair of bone-conduction headphones has been used over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. This allows the tester to both gauge the performance across a mix of audio material such as podcasts and music at different volumes, and to see how comfortable they are when worn for extended periods. 

Although the design of bone-conduction headphones transmit sound vibrations along your cheekbones instead of directing soundwaves into your ear canal to your cochlea, the listening process is similar.

Our full reviews are backed by extensive listening tests covering hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, pop and more to see how each pair handles a different mix of genres and sounds.

We test any water resistant models in real-life situations just as they would be worn by the user, and we make sure manufacturer claims about battery life and Bluetooth range are accurate. Build quality, the ease of setup and any control schemes — including those involving an app — will also be judged.

FAQs

What do IP ratings mean?

IP-ratings refer to the level of Ingress Protection (IP) from liquids and dirt that a device is protected from. This is part of a device's durability. 

IP-ratings explained: The first digit refers to the level of protection from solid particles, such as dust and sand. The scale ranges from 0 (no protection) to 6 (dust-tight) for full protection. For example, an IP6X rating ensures that the device is completely dust-tight, making it ideal for harsh outdoor conditions or industrial settings where fine dust particles are common. 

The second digit refers to a devices resistance to moisture, and the scale ranges from 0 (no protection) to 8 for the highest level of protection. For example, with an IPX4 rating, earbuds are protected from water splashes from any direction, while an IPX7 rating ensures that the device can be submerged in water up to 1 meter (around 3 feet) for 30 minutes without any damage.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor, covering strength training workouts, cardio exercise, and accessible ways to improve your health and wellbeing. His interest in fitness started after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and he began focusing on strengthening his core, taking regular walks around the city, and practicing meditation to manage the symptoms. He also invested in fitness trackers, home workout equipment, and yoga mats to find accessible ways to train without the gym. Before joining the team at Tom’s Guide, James was the Fitness Editor at Fit&Well, where he covered beginner-friendly exercise routines, affordable ways to boost your wellbeing, and reviewed weights, rowing machines, and workout headphones. He believes that exercise should be something you enjoy doing, so appreciates the challenge of finding ways to incorporate it into everyday life through short muscle-building sessions, regular meditation, and early morning walks.

With contributions from
  • NairPrakash
    Naenka - REALLY? I purchased it and was not happy with the quality. When I asked to return it (within 10 days of purchase), they wanted me to ship the product to an address in China! After they receive, they would evaluate and offer refund only if there was a manufacturing defect. So much for a 'no questions asked' return policy they advertise! I literally threw the product in the trash where it belonged.
    So, when you rate their product as 'good', I have to take all your recommendations with a grain of salt.
    Reply