When I first started running back in middle school, I ran for the cross country and track teams and continued to do so through high school and college.
At the time, the very notion of people running with headphones to listen to music (back then it was a “Discman” and then the very first iPod!) was incomprehensible to me.
Of course, even though I saw plenty of runners and “joggers“ listening to music, I had no appreciation, and a relatively judgmental opinion, about why someone would even want to run with music in the first place, let alone the potential dangers of doing so.
Some 20 years later, miles and miles logged on my running shoes, and throughout coaching and meeting other runners, I now understand that tons of runners listen to music when running, and can’t fathom doing otherwise.
Is it good to listen to music when running? If you love listening to music when running, do you need to “wean“ yourself off? Are there benefits of running with music?
In this guide, we will talk about the benefits of music for running workouts, the dangers or risks of listening to music when running, and tips for listening to music when running to improve safety, enjoyment, and possibly even performance.
We will look at:
- Can I Run With Music?
- Is It Bad to Listen to Music When Running?
- Tips for Listening to Music When Running
Let’s get started!
Can I Run With Music?
Many runners enjoy listening to music or some form of entertainment while running.potential performance benefits of running with music.
For one, if listening to music when running helps you run longer or faster, it serves as a tool to support your training.
Is It Bad to Listen to Music When Running?
There isn’t inherently anything wrong with listening to music while you run. However, safety is generally the concern.
If you have headphones in and you are running on roads where there is traffic or trails where there may be wildlife or other people trying to pass you, running with music can pose various safety hazards.
Running with headphones is especially dangerous for parents running with a jogging stroller, who instead need to be aware of the needs of their baby.
We will discuss safety tips for running with headphones later, but for all intents and purposes, the short answer to “Is it bad to run with music?“ is no, and running with music doesn’t inherently make you less of a runner, or a “jogger,” or not serious about the sport.
Tips for Listening to Music When Running
As discussed, there are pros and cons of listening to music when running.
You may decide that the benefits of running with music outweigh the potential risks, and there are certain safety tips that can make running with headphones or running to music much less risky.
Here are some various safety tips for running with headphones and tips for running with music to maximize the potential performance benefits of running with music:
#1: Safety First
Safety should always be your top priority when running, whether you are listening to music or not.
If you can’t run safely outdoors with the headphones that you have, you need to invest in some running headphones that rectify that issue.
The sound quality tends to be best with ANC-running headphones because active noise-canceling running headphones block out most external sounds.
However, you should not run on roads or anywhere with vehicular traffic or where someone may need to get your attention with noise-canceling running headphones.
ANC running headphones should only be used on the treadmill in a safe space where you are aware of your surroundings and no one should need you in an emergency.
Rather, the best headphones for running outdoors or on trails are open-ear headphones that allow you to be aware of your surroundings and hear the external environment while still enjoying your running playlist or whatever you want to listen to while you run.
I love the H2O Audio TRI PRO Multi-Sport Headphones.
These sports headphones use bone conduction so there’s actually nothing in your ear at all, yet it’s not like you’re broadcasting your running music to the entire world.
Plus, they are 100% waterproof so you can run in the rain or even swim with them!
Another great one is the OpenRock Pro Open Ear Headphones. These are also bone conduction running earbuds and they stay in place no matter how fast I run.
I also love the ADIDAS FWD-02 SPORT IN-EAR earbuds for running. These running earbuds have an awareness mode so that you can easily hear ambient noise around you.
If you’re running with a jogging stroller, a small Bluetooth speaker can work well.
#2: Don’t Always Run With Headphones
If you are training for a race, you may not even be able to wear headphones or listen to music while you are racing.
Even if headphones are permitted, tuning out the race environment and tuning into your own private headset can short-change your race experience in terms of being present in the race environment.
Although some people want to just “do their own thing“ in a race, if you want to take in the excitement of the crowds, hear the loudspeaker, be approachable to other runners, and maybe strike up a conversation, you will want to leave your headphones at home.
Practicing running without listening to music will prepare you for situations like this so that you don’t suddenly feel “lonely“ or without your usual music company come race day.
Even if you don’t like racing, if you want to maximize the performance benefits of running with music, running some of your easier runs or even occasional hard workouts without music can’t keep your brain more sensitive to having music.
I sort of liken this to a habitual coffee drinker versus someone who uses caffeine for performance more sparingly.
If you always have the same cup of coffee or pre-workout drink, your body adapts to the amount of caffeine that you are having and becomes less sensitive to it.
Similarly, if you always listen to music when you run, you will potentially become somewhat “immune” to the benefits of running with music.
#3: Use Music As a Motivator
I think one of the greatest benefits of running with music is increasing your motivation and excitement to run.
Particularly if you are training for a marathon alone and have to get through really long runs, you can make a special long-run playlist for each upcoming long run.
It can be exciting to put together a playlist and then when you are out there on the roads or trails trying to get in your miles, you will have some of your favorite tunes to listen to.
I personally used this strategy when I was training for the New York City Marathon (yes, I eventually became a convert and saw the potential benefits of listening to music while running!).
I had to do all of my training entirely on my own and I just listened to music on my Sunday long run days.
I was actually living in New York City at the time, and I have wonderful memories of listening to my favorite pop hits while running along Riverside Park and through Central Park as I prepared for the marathon.
Even if you are not marathon training, you can use the same strategy to curate special playlists for hard workouts or long treadmill workouts.
Make music your “treat“ or your dangling carrot that will help you feel motivated and excited to do your running workout.
#4: Use the Beat
To capitalize on the potential benefits of listening to music for running faster, you can also look for running playlists and running songs that have a certain tempo or beat.
This can help you have a faster cadence while running.
You can even look for songs by the tempo in beats per minute and then choose them based on your goal cadence such as 170 bpm or 180 bpm.
Then, you can use your music playlist for running instead of a metronome app for running if you are trying to work on increasing your running cadence.
Upbeat running music can also help you push yourself for hard workouts to run faster.
#5: It Doesn’t Have to Be Music
If music isn’t your thing, but you want to listen to something while running to help you stay motivated or keep you company when you are running alone, try podcasts, audiobooks, or even consider a Bluetooth headset that you might be able to make a phone call with another running buddy.
For more ideas about the best media for runners, check out our guide to the best movies about running here.