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What are Sport Earbuds?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

The popularity of mp3 players has led to a number of advances in headphone technology, and earbuds have became the headphones of choice for most people. These tiny speakers are easy to fit into the ear, meaning far less bulk and clearer sound. Sport earbuds were then developed specifically for athletes who needed earbuds that would stay securely inside the ear during the rough movements associated with most sports. Sport earbuds mimic the style and function of normal earbuds, but they are specially designed to stay in the ear and to resist sweat and water damage.

Most sport earbuds feature a rubber earpiece that fits snugly into the ear canal so the earpiece will not work loose during exercise. The rubber earpiece serves a second function as well in most cases: it eliminates ambient noise around the listener to ensure clear and bright sound. Such earpieces are often known as noise-reduction earbuds, and just about all sport earbuds feature them. Many versions of sport earbuds feature replaceable rubber fittings in case one gets torn, and they come in different sizes to accommodate different sizes of ear canals. The durability of the rubber pieces often has a great impact on sound quality and stability within the ear.

Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.
Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.

The cables that connect the earbuds to the mp3 players are also made from higher quality and thicker wiring both for durability and for better sound quality. While just about all earbuds on the market feature plastic sheaths that protect the inner wire from damage, the sheath on sport earbuds is often a bit thicker to prevent damage during use. Volume controls are sometimes built in-line on the cable to allow the athlete to adjust volume without having to take the mp3 player out of his or her pocket, and some in-line units even feature buttons that can control other features on the mp3 player, such as skipping a track forward or backward.

A close up of earbud headphones and headphone jack.
A close up of earbud headphones and headphone jack.

Some sport earbuds do not rely only on the rubber fitting on the earpieces to hold the units in place. Certain designs use a plastic harness that wraps around the back of the head to enhance stability and prevent the earbuds from jostling out of place during use. These units tend to be bulkier, and some people complain that they are not as comfortable since the rubber harness can press against the back of the head, but they do offer additional security for people who struggle with earbuds falling out of place during activity.

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Discussion Comments


I just got a pair of sport earbuds for Christmas and I am really excited to try them out. I joined a gym a few months back and have been able to stick with a normal training program, but unfortunately I cannot stand the music they play in the gym.

I think that if I had my own songs I would be able to work out a lot more effectively. The sport earbuds allow me to do that. I'm taking a little workout break around the holidays, I think I deserve it, but once the new year comes I will be back in the gym sweating to my own mix.


I love sport earbuds! I have been a long distance runner since I was in my 20s (I am in my 50s now) and I can remember trying to run with some very clunky and cumbersome headphones.

I have always run better with music. I can go further and faster. But some of the headphones they used to make for runners were just a joke. They were heavy, uncomfortable and they made you sweat around your ears like crazy. Usually they were more trouble than they were worth.

But sport earbuds are lightweight, unobtrusive and they provide maximum breatheability. Its changed the way that I run. Now I can create a dedicated playlist of all the songs that really get me pumped up, store it on my I-pod and listen to it without any problems as I blaze across the miles. Its great.

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    • Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.
      Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.
    • A close up of earbud headphones and headphone jack.
      A close up of earbud headphones and headphone jack.