I just ran a marathon with these bone conduction headphones — and I’m seriously impressed

a photo of the Shokz OpenRun Pro earphones next to writer Jessica's Adidas Manchester Marathon finisher medal
(Image credit: Future)

One of the biggest pieces of advice marathon runners will hear over and over again is to avoid trying anything new on race day. But I am here to confess that I broke this rule at the weekend while running the Adidas Manchester Marathon. That's right, I wore my first pair of bone conduction headphones — the Shokz OpenRun Pro — for the first time on race day. 

A quick note for the sake of anyone reading this who doesn't know what bone conduction headphones are. They are a style of headphones that sit outside of your ear and they transmit sound vibrations through the bones of your skull to the ear. They are a popular option for outdoor activities like running and cycling as the wearer can listen to audio and maintain awareness of their surroundings while exercising.

Of course, there are much worse things I could have tried differently on the day that could have had more severe consequences such as wearing a pair of the best running shoes that I'd never worn before or fuelling with some gels I hadn't trained with. So, I don't think I deserve too severe a punishment for my cheeky headphone switch and if it's any consolation, I am so glad I ditched my usual pair of in ear headphones for the OpenRun Pro bone conduction headphones. Read on to find out why.

Shokz OpenRun Pro: $179 @ Amazon

Shokz OpenRun Pro: <a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=45724&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.com%2FShokz-OpenRun-Pro-Conduction-Built%2Fdp%2FB09BVXT8TJ%2Fref%3Dsr_1_1_sspa%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-20%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-20" data-link-merchant="Amazon US"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">$179 @ Amazon
The Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones offer easy peasy convenience and safety for runners with their bone conduction technology, ensuring open-ear listening and awareness of the surrounding environment. With a multi-function button for easy control of music and calls, runners can enjoy uninterrupted workouts without fumbling with their devices. 

I just ran a marathon with these bone conduction headphones — and I’m seriously impressed

Despite feeling a little apprehensive about using a pair of headphones that I hadn't done much research on, I did feel comforted by the fact the Tom's Guide team deem the Shokz OpenRun Pro as number one in our guide to the best bone conduction headphones.

I was surprised at the quality of sound

I assumed that a pair of headphones specially designed to sit outside your ear for better awareness would prioritize this and not much else. So it's safe to say I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of sound that came from the OpenRun Pro headphones. 

I was grateful to hear and feel the bass of 'Dancing Queen' through the headphones as I pounded through the streets of Manchester.

My go-to running music consists of a mix of various dance and electric artists so hearing the bass is kind of a must for me. Admittedly, I also sprinkled one or two ABBA numbers into my marathon playlist to keep my spirits high and was grateful to hear and feel the bass of "Dancing Queen" through the headphones as I pounded through the streets of Manchester.

The OpenRun Pro is the latest iteration of the original Shokz OpenRun headphones. Although I haven't personally tried the Open Run version, I've been told the biggest upgrade in the OpenRun Pro headphones is the addition of new bass transducers in the ear pads, which deliver enhanced vibrations directly to your ears for a better sound experience. 

As someone who steers clear of notably cheap headphones due to my preference for quality sound while exercising, I was pleasantly surprised by the audio performance of these headphones. At one point during the race, I even had to peel one of the earpieces away from my face to confirm that the music wasn't playing out from my phone. The sound quality was so impressive that it felt like I was carrying a good quality speaker with me along the marathon route when in reality it was just the Shokz delivering my tunes for my ears only.

The controls were easy to use

Writer Jessica crosses the Adidas Manchester Marathon wearing the Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones

(Image credit: Adidas Manchester Marathon)

No matter what distance you are running, whether it be a marathon or a 5K parkrun, you want to be able to control your music with as much convenience as possible. Thankfully, the OpenRun Pro headphones include a multi-function button which allows you to have straightforward control over the device. 

With a single click, you can pause or play your music, while a double click takes you to the next track, and a triple click returns you to the previous one. Additionally, handling incoming calls is seamless: one click answers, and another ends the call. While answering calls might not be a priority during a marathon, it's a handy feature in scenarios like coordinating with loved ones to supply you with hydration at certain points or to let them know when you are near the next check point.

You can also control the volume from the headphones too so I didn't need to worry about digging my phone out of my hydration vest to do this. As someone accustomed to wearing in-ear noise-canceling headphones, I anticipated either removing the Shokz or adjusting the volume frequently to soak in the sounds of the crowd for motivation. However, with the OpenRun Pro headphones, I found myself enjoying both my music and the cheers of spectators without needing to make constant adjustments.

They felt super light

When you have 26.2 miles to run and like me choose to carry your own hydration and gels, you don't want to make yourself any heavier. Otherwise, you'll slow yourself down and really feel the weight deep into the run. Thankfully, the OpenRun Pro headphones were so light and unobtrusive that I barely noticed they were on my head during the race. 

The Shokz OpenRun Pro headphones weigh 29g/1oz. This is heavier than the earphones I am used to running with, the Jabra Elite 7 Active, where each bud weighs 5.5g/0.2oz. Despite the Shokz being heavier, the distribution of weight between the buds and the chord that goes behind the head seems to even things out so that I barely felt I had any headwear on.

The only time I was reminded of the headphones on my head was when I went to move my pair of the best running sunglasses from my eyes onto the top of my head when the weather took a change.

Final verdict

I now see why bone conduction headphones are so popular amongst runners. I used to think they were a bit of a fashion faux pas as they don't have the same subtle look as other running headphones, but I am now a convert.

Wearing a pair of bone conduction headphones like the Shokz OpenRun Pro while running is an effective way to stay aware of your surroundings while running, including traffic and other potential hazards. 

Additionally, bone conduction headphones are often more comfortable for those who dislike traditional in-ear or over-ear headphones, making them an excellent choice for runners seeking a secure and comfortable audio solution.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.