This article is part of our series Battle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.

We all know that music can help us achieve our exercise goals. It can increase motivation, reduce perceived effort and improve our mood, especially when we’re crankily jumping on the treadmill or taking a cold, early morning run. That makes the choice of headphones important for your running regimen.

We took a different approach in this head-to-head comparison. Instead of pitting two noise-canceling earbuds against each other, we tackled two competing philosophies for portable music: total immersion with the noise-canceling Beats Fit Pro or improved situational awareness with the Shokz OpenRun Pro.

Both have their strengths and weaknesses; which one you should buy depends on your desired workout experience.

Beats Fit Pro vs. Shokz OpenRun Pro at a glance

Form factor


Over the ear, behind the head


Coral Pink, Volt Yellow, Tidal Blue, Beats Black, Beats White, Stone Purple, Sage Gray

Black, Blue, Pink, Beige

Battery life and charging

- Up to 6 hours of listening time, with a 5-minute charge providing up to an hour of playback

- Up to 10 hours of listening with a 1-hour charge time
- Magnetic induction cable





Single multifunction button per side

One multifunction button on the left side, volume buttons on the right side

Weight and dimensions

- Case: 2.44 x 2.44 x 1.12 in, 55.1 g
- Earbud: 1.18 x .94 x .75 in., 5.6g

5.12 x 3.82 x 1.85 in., 29g

Water Resistance

IPX4, sweat and water resistance

IP55, water- and dust-resistant, but not waterproof

Noise cancellation

Active noise cancellation with transparency mode

None, open-ear design, but has dual noise-canceling mics for phone calls

Price $200 $180

2 very different designs

These are two very differently designed headphones. The Beats are your standard-issue earbuds, which screw into your ear canal and secure themselves with silicon wing tips. The OpenRun Pro loop over the ears and around the back of your head. They nestle on your skull’s zygomatic arch (the ridge of bone stretching between your eye and ear) and pump vibrations into the bone to give you the bass response. It’s a neat trick, and it will even rattle a little if you rock out to some heavy house music.

So, a little bit more about how both headphones work. The Beats seal your ear canal and use microprocessors to eliminate outside noise. With the tap of a button, you can let the outside world come in, which is important for situational awareness on runs or walks outdoors. Apple says the active noise cancellation “dynamically adapts to your environment to block external noise.” Pros? Great sound quality and privacy. Cons? You may not hear things you might need to hear.

The OpenRun Pro, on the other hand, make no attempt to block sound. The whole point of these headphones is to deliver good sound while keeping your ears open to the world around you. They don’t fit in your ears at all; instead, small speakers send vibrations into the bones around your ears, bypassing the eardrum altogether. (Sound is just vibrations, after all, and the two holes on either side of our heads funnel those vibrations in the air to internal membranes that vibrate. Our brains then interpret these vibrations as speech, music, car horns, etc.) Pros? You’re aware of the world around you, and you can’t really damage your eardrums with high volume. Cons? Sound quality isn’t as great as with earbuds or over-the-ear headphones.

Both the Beats and the Shokz are comfortable to wear, but also come with frustrations. The Beats come with ear tips in three sizes, but none of the sizes worked for me, and I constantly fiddled with them because they wouldn’t stay in my ear canal. And as I adjusted the fit, because practically the entire outer surface acts as buttons on the Beats, I often accidentally paused the music or, worse, hung up on someone if I was on a call. That said, the Beats are delightfully lightweight. Had I not felt the need to adjust their position constantly, I would have forgotten they were there like I do with my AirPods Pro 2.

On the other hand, the OpenRun Pro headphones made me constantly aware of wearing them, even if there was no need to adjust. That’s partly because they’re bigger. They wrapped over my ears and around my head, so the back loop would often tap the back of my head as I ran. To help make sure they fit correctly, they do come in two sizes, a standard size and a “mini” size; there’s a handy guide on their website for determining the right size for you (I got the larger size). Secondly, the bone conduction can be a little startling with bass-heavy tunes, as it almost feels like a faint tickle on your cheek. However, they were resolute in staying in place, which I can’t say for the Beats. My Gen Z co-reviewer even tried her damnedest to knock the Shockz off and only succeeded by headbanging so hard she gave herself a headache. Teenagers, man.

Beats wins handily on sound quality

The Beats objectively sound better, thanks to the noise cancellation and eardrum-hugging design. The bass is full, and the mid tones are rich enough. However, the trebles are a bit shrill, which is common for the bass-heavy Beats brand. Listening to “Papertrails” by Darkside, I could easily hear the stereo separation, and the bass, well, shook me. (This is a great song to test bass response, for which the Beats brand is known.)

The Beats’ noise cancellation was good, effectively silencing the world around me. With the push of one of the overly sensitive buttons, however, I could turn on transparency mode and turn up the volume on the world around me. It’s not perfectly transparent audio, but it’s enough to keep me aware of my surroundings.

The Shokz were fine, sonically, but the sound quality was inferior to the Beats, even when literally vibrating my earbones. The richness and warmth of the song were absent, and it felt like the music was coming from outside my head — around the base of my skull, to be exact. Again, this is expected, given the different technologies used for reproducing sound, but it was a marked difference. And given the relatively high price of the Shokz headphones, I expected better sound quality.

Connectivity for Beats and Shokz is simple

Both headphones connect to your phones and other devices via Bluetooth, but Beats is miles ahead of Shokz. The Shokz headphones use a typical Bluetooth pairing routine: put the headphones into pairing mode by holding down a button until some lights blink. Go into your phone’s Bluetooth settings and select the Shokz. You’ll need to do this for all your devices. Shokz has an app for both iOS and Android, which allows you to set the equalizer (two choices: music or speech) and set up multipoint pairing, which allows you to connect the headphones to more than one device if you want to switch between them. It’s not difficult, but it’s more steps than the Beats.

With the Beats, given it’s an Apple product, pairing with an iPhone is simple. Just open the Beats’ case near your iPhone and connect. That’s it. Now you can also use your Beats Fit Pro with your other Apple products, provided you’re signed into them with the same Apple ID. And for a change, it’s also simple to pair these headphones with an Android phone. The procedure is similar: Download the Beats app from the Google Play Store, open the Beats case near your phone and it will walk you through connecting.

The Beats also have a special chip from Apple that allows you to take advantage of Apple’s virtual 3D music space, spatial audio, in Apple Music. The Shokz, being a more generic headphone, does not offer this.

Shokz has better battery life

Both Beats and Shokz headphones performed well. Apple says the Beats will last six hours, and with a fully charged case, you can get three more full charges for a total battery life of 24 hours. You also get a fast charge of one hour when you put them in the case for five minutes. The Shokz claims up to 10 hours of playback on a full charge, and the company says a fast charge of 10 minutes will get you another one and half hours. I wasn’t able to scientifically verify these times, but I can say I never worried about running out of juice.

Annoyingly, however, the Shokz use a proprietary magnetic cable to charge the OpenRun Pro. In contrast, the Beats use a bog-standard USB-C. It’s unclear why Shokz did this, as the company’s entry-level OpenMove headphones have a USB-C port, so it’s certainly possible. The carrying case for the Shokz is only for protection. It offers no charging capability.

Bottom line

It’s tough to say which one is better, depending on how you want to use them. At the gym, I want to block out all other noise — especially the incessant ESPN on every TV — and just drop into my own endorphin-fueled musical experience. But if I’m out running in the neighborhood, I would probably choose the Shokz to keep my awareness focused on my environment and because they stay on my head. The Beats’ tendency to shift in my ear and lose the noise cancellation was maddening.

True, the Shokz don’t measure up in sound quality, but bone-conducting transducers, no matter how good they are, never will. And if you’re going to spend $180, that’s something you’ll want to consider.

So, buy the Beats if you care more about sound quality, you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem and you want noise cancellation. Buy the Shokz if you’re looking for a more general-purpose set of headphones, you want to go longer than six hours on a single charge and you want to try a new and different technology.