For anyone who has followed any running influencers – like our very own Drew Whitcomb (Editor’s Note: are we sure he counts?) – you’ve probably seen them wearing almost retro-looking wireless headphones that sit outside the ear and wondered “what are those?” The answer is the Shokz OpenRun, headphones that conduct sound through your bones instead of blasting it into your ears.
And since we at WearTesters aren’t immune to that curiosity, we purchased some pairs for our runs to let you know if this is all hype or maybe our new daily running headphones.
Rundown: Bone conduction headphones that allow runners, walkers, and hikers to stay alert to their surroundings while still enjoying music or podcasts. The OpenRun is the highest value headphone in the Shokz line and a great fit for the athletes in your life.
How do the Authors Train?
Arune Singh (age 41, 5’11”, 205lbs): Trains daily with functional fitness programming provided by Deadboys Fitness, founded by Colby “Seth Rollins” Lopez and Josh Gallegos. He also runs five times a week, averaging 15 miles per week, and will be participating in multiple 5K races this year. He also has a medical history of Sleep Apnea and Myasthenia Gravis, meaning Arune’s focus is on lean muscle mass.
Drew Whitcomb (age 41, 6’6″ 195lbs): Runs daily. He writes the majority of our running shoe reviews and runs a lot of miles both due to testing needs and his growing affinity for long-distance races. He recently completed the London Marathon. More marathons, half-marathons, 10k, and 5k races are in his future. He’s putting in 50+ miles a week which is close to 10 hours of running. To endure those hours he often turns to podcasts or music.
What is Shokz OpenRun?
Per the Shokz official website they say:
Our top-selling wireless sport headphones formerly known as Aeropex now come with new packaging, a quick-charge feature, and a new name. OpenRun is our lightest headphones to date and are engineered with outstanding sound, a long-lasting battery, and Quick Charge to keep you aware and motivated while you power through any workout.
So we put it to the test in some key categories and here’s what we found out.
Arune: I think this is the first thing most of us look for in a headphone, especially one that conducts sound through our bones instead of our ears.
I did my usual battery of tests for any headphones – hip hop, rock, and wrestling entrance music – because each of them emphasize very different musical aspects.
Drew: I’m gonna stop us right there – pro wrestling music? Did you also tear your shirt off while you ran?
Arune: Look, some of those songs are bangers…and I might’ve scared my neighbors with how loud I sang along to Cody Rhodes’ “Kingdom” song.
But, honestly, while the sound isn’t as nuanced as some of the other headphones I’ll mention later in the review, I was really impressed with how good it sounded.
Drew: I’m no audiophile but, like Arune, I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality. I didn’t have sky high expectations of how they would sound vibrating through my bones but I did expect solid quality due to various positive reviews. The Shokz OpenRun surpassed my expectations. I felt like all the sounds were clear and crisp. In a quiet room it’s hard to tell the difference between Shokz and regular earbuds.
The only time the Shokz OpenRun didn’t deliver great sound quality was near busy streets or in absolutely pouring rain. Both drowned out the sound of the podcasts and music forcing me to pause. Even though modern day noise canceling headphones allow me to hear the sound in those situations, it’s much safer using Shokz. The Shokz OpenRun can’t get as loud as my Apple AirPods Pro, but I view that as an improvement. Shokz force me to be better aware of my surroundings…something I should do to stay safe.
Arune: Yeah, I’m glad you brought up the audio transparency if I’m using the right word. Even cranked up high – which is something I did need to do with all the traffic noise here in Los Angeles – I still was aware of my surroundings in a way that is (correctly, albeit dangerously) not the case with noise canceling headphones.
However, be warned, they aren’t great for phone calls especially when you’re outside and there’s any measure of conflicting sounds – cars, wind, etc.
But overall, I’ll call the sound a win.
Arune: I have a really hard time keeping most earbuds in my ears, no matter how many times I change the tips – and even then, they inevitably seem to pop out pretty quickly.
It was a bit weird to wear headphones where I didn’t have something in or around my ears, but it actually feels really nice and makes me wonder what kind of damage we are doing with our other headphones.
But, these headphones don’t move once you put them on and you kinda forget they’re there most of the time. It’s the definition of “set it and forget it.”
Drew: I was worried about the fit. Would they line up properly with my ears and forehead bones? I didn’t need to be worried. In most use cases, I had zero issues. They fit well and stayed on, even on bumpy ass trail runs.
However, some sunglasses and hats did take some finagling to make sure the Shokz OpenRun ear band didn’t cause discomfort when layered over or under a hat or sunglasses. I usually found a way to wear sunglasses, hats, and Shokz without discomfort but it took a little work. So keep that in mind if you always wear sunglasses or hats.
Oh, and if you have a smaller head, Shokz makes a Mini version of the OpenRun that may fit you better. Most running specialty stores carry Shokz so if you think you’ve got a small head you may want to visit for a try on.
Arune: Serious runners, you can just skip to Drew’s answers because I tap out after a 5K and am not going to speak to the long run experience.
But for casual runners like me, these headphones won’t need to be charged for at least a week, and even then, a “low battery” audio warning from the headphones still buys you a couple of miles of audio even at my stupidly slow paces.
Drew: Shokz states 8 hour battery life and quick charge capability. I found both those things to be true. I could get about 5-6 days worth of running out of each charge. And I found the recharge process to be super quick…maybe an hour or so to get back to full charge. Make sure you charge them up the night before a 2-3 hour run to avoid any potential low battery warnings…but you’ll likely be ok. The OpenRun lasts longer than most wireless earbuds I’ve used so transitioning to them should be seamless.
Drew: I found the rubberized plastic finish of the Shokz OpenRun to be scratch resistant, water resistant, and bendable. They can get stuffed at the bottom of your backpack with an iPad, Kindle, and various snacks layered on top and not get twisted or broken. And yes, my weartesting in real world conditions did involve the aforementioned scenario.
Arune: I’ve taken these out in some of the severe weather we’ve had here in Los Angeles, accidentally sat on them, and found our pets playing with them but there’s been absolutely no sign of any effect on their performance.
The Shokz OpenRun is truly built to get beat up and absorb sweat in ways that have killed dozens of pairs of Beats, Jaybirds, JBLs and so many more headphones that last less than six months for me.
Meanwhile, the OpenRun is on month six for me and shows no signs of the beatings that it has taken from my borderline reckless care.
Waterproof headphones that your pets can also gnaw on? I call that a win too.
Arune: Full disclosure, I purchased these on-sale back in November 2022 using a Black Friday discount code and got them for under $100.
But even at the typical $130 retail price, you’re getting a wireless headphone that’s not as expensive as what you’d get from the aforementioned Jaybird, JBL, and Beats, though those are much more usable for activities outside of running.
I’ve taken business meetings with my AirPod Pros and I can use them on camera for virtual events, while the Shokz OpenRun is really a running-focused headphone.
Drew: Considering durability, battery life, and sound quality, $130 feels about right. There’s a Shokz OpenRun Pro with extra battery life, more bass (Editor’s Note: more cowbell!), and an even lighter but stronger frame that you can buy for $50 more. And a waterproof swim version you can buy for $20 more. You’ve got options. But the price and value proposition of the OpenRun at $130 is going to be the best option for most people.
Are Shokz OpenRun headphones for you?
Arune: I purchased the Shokz OpenRun because I wanted headphones specifically for outdoor running and for that purpose, these are absolutely the right headphone for me.
However, that’s the key – what do you want?
If you’re looking for a “do everything” headphone that takes you from your weightlifting to your cardio to your business meetings, I’d recommend the AirPods Pro 2 or Beats Fit Pro, both of which offer more versatility.
Are these daily headphones for you or do you find yourself checking out other headphones, Drew?
Drew: I alternate between AirPods Pro 2 and Shokz OpenRun depending on use case. My AirPods Pro 2 cover the majority of my business calls and listening to film scores while I write reviews like this one. My Shokz OpenRun can be used for a business or personal call in a pinch, but they hang out in the back of my SUV so I can quickly grab them before a run or hike. They’ve become my go to running headphones and I haven’t found anything that comes close to replacing them in the four months I’ve owned a pair.
Shokz OpenRun Summary
Arune: While I’ve tried out other wireless headphones and some have better sound, the combination of battery life, good enough sound and secure fit are why the Shokz OpenRun is my first choice for outdoor running headphones.
I now definitely want to check out the OpenRun Pro, but funny enough I can’t justify it because the standard OpenRun is so good and long-lasting that I can’t see any real need to switch things up.
Drew: The Shokz OpenRun is a high value headphone for runners, walkers, and hikers. You’ll stay aware of your surroundings while still enjoying the dulcet tones of your favorite band or podcast. The price is right, the durability is fantastic, and the overall value for $130 makes these an easy buy if you want to listen to music while exercising outdoors. They’re also a fantastic gift for any runners in your life.