I run almost every day and listen to music or podcasts on most of those runs. When doing training runs I don’t mind carrying my phone with me, but come race day I prefer to be as light as possible so don’t take my phone.
Therefore a set of headphones that offers Bluetooth playback when you do have your phone with you, and then MP3 storage for when you don’t, are ideal, and that’s exactly what the new Shokz OpenSwim Pro offers.
The new buds are essentially a combination of the OpenSwim MP3 and OpenRun Bluetooth buds, and I rate both of those as among the best sports headphones. As with most of Shokz’s range, the OpenSwim Pro are bone conduction headphones, so they leave your ears clear to hear your surroundings.
This awareness is not only good for training runs in busy areas where you need to keep your wits about you, but it’s the reason why bone conduction headphones are the only ones allowed at certain races. The open design means you can still hear the instructions of race marshals and helps you avoid any dangers on the route.
I have used the original OpenSwim headphones for races, transferring a few podcasts and my running playlist to the headphones. However, for day-to-day use I find it easier to use Bluetooth, especially for podcasts that are updated weekly, because remembering to transfer across audio before each run is a hassle.
Shokz are not the first brand to offer headphones with a combination of Bluetooth and MP3 playback, with the Naenka Runner Pro buds being one option from another brand I’ve tested. However, I have tested bone conduction headphones from many brands now and still rate Shokz’s buds as the best in this area, so I’m hoping the OpenSwim Pro will stand out as the best running headphones with a combination of Bluetooth and MP3.
One area I hope Shokz can improve on other brands is battery life when using the MP3 mode, since I found Naenka’s buds offered a lot less playback when playing files stored on the buds compared with Bluetooth mode. Shokz says the OpenSwim Pro will last nine hours on a charge, but that number might come down with real-world use, especially if you have the volume up high.
Of course the music storage is great for swimmers too, since Bluetooth transmission doesn’t work underwater, and are a sure bet for inclusion in Coach’s list of the best swimming headphones. In general they look a top option for sports, with the versatility of storage being handy for those times you don’t want a phone with you.
The OpenSwim Pro have 32GB of storage and an IP68 waterproof rating, so can be submerged for long periods safely when swimming. The buds were launched at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, with the price and release date yet to be confirmed, but with the existing Shokz OpenSwim headphones costing $149.95/£169.95, I’d expect the price for the Pros to be higher than that.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.