I once had a trainer who swore that if your wireless headphones stayed in your ears during a workout, you just weren’t working hard enough. For years, I took this mantra with me to lift weights at the gym, learn a choreographed dance in a fitness studio and, of course, on runs in the great outdoors. But it turns out that even the toughest workouts are no match for modern technology, especially when you slip on a pair of AfterShokz’s newest headphones, the Aeropex.
Unlike the AirPods or Beats wireless headphones that you may be used to wearing for your outdoor runs, the wraparound Aeropex model—and the rest of the AfterShokz lineup—is neither in-ear nor over-ear. Rather, they use bone conduction technology. OK, what!? In essence, these headphones send sound waves (which, BTW, are the vibrations that actually create the sound you hear) straight through your jaw and cheek bones. Even though you’re not putting anything directly in your ear, the vibrations from the Aeropex stimulate your inner ear, which is where hearing happens, allowing you to listen to your music, your trainer or your mom on the phone—entirely uninterrupted.
Bone conduction headphones are, per doctor of audiology Deborah Price, “very safe.” While they’re not necessarily better for your ears than traditional headphones (because the sound from over-ear headphones is also transduced by the cochlea, just as the sound from other headphones are), they do give you significantly more awareness of your surroundings. As a result, they’re particularly well suited to outdoor activities.
I’ve been a fan of AfterShokz headphones for a while, and this latest pair certainly outperforms previous models in terms of sound quality. This is especially important for me when I’m working out outside and want to hear either my workout regimen or a Beethoven symphony (don’t judge) while still remaining aware of my surroundings. Moreover, the Aeropex is slightly lighter than previous models. The biggest game changer, however, is that the Aeropex headphones are waterproof, which means even if you’re jogging in the rain or doing your outdoor HIIT routine and pouring sweat, you don’t have to worry about short-circuiting your headphones.
It’s also worth noting that the Aeropex has a battery life that would make your iPhone jealous. A full charge will give you a full eight hours, perfect for an entire day of solo outdoor adventures, whether that’s a race or a long hike. Aftershokz also boasts that a 15-minute charge can give you enough juice to get through a “long workout.” That has proved to be the case for my pair, giving me up to 40 minutes after just a few minutes of being plugged in.
I’ve had two major gripes about my previous pairs of Aftershokz headphones. For one, I found that while I could hear my music well, so could the gym-goers or hikers around me. And while the bone conduction technology certainly protected my ears, I found that vibrating sensation along my jawline to be somewhat jarring. The Aeropex has dramatically improved both issues, as a number of Amazon reviewers have noted.
This isn’t to say there’s absolutely nothing about the newest AfterShokz headphones that couldn’t be improved. If you’re looking for a lot of bass, which can be helpful for keeping pace when you’re outside, these may not be the best headphones for you. And yes, at the end of the day, bone conduction does result in some sound leakage, so you won’t get the same sound experience as you would with a pair of over-ear or in-ear headphones.
That said, when it comes to outdoor activities and workouts, there isn’t another pair of headphones I’d rather put on. And in a time when I’m looking to get outside (responsibly) as much as I can, my new Aeropex headset—rather than my usual human gym buddy—has become my trusted companion.