Gear Review: AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

If you haven’t heard of AfterShokz wireless headphones, I hate to say it, but you may be living under a rock. These headphones seem to have exploded in popularity this year, and have been featured by multiple mainstream media outlets, including Runner’s World, which named them as one of their 2017 “Gear of the Year” picks.

I was fortunate enough to stumble across these headphones during the same shopping trip in which I discovered the FlipBelt, one week prior to the Wineglass Half. Previously, I had been wearing a pair of Photive Bluetooth earbuds that Matt had bought for me as a Christmas gift in 2014. These, however, quit working earlier this year and I was stuck using an old pair of Apple earbuds that I had to attach to my phone (which was still attached to my arm, pre-FlipBelt). Running with a headphone wire swinging around was driving me crazy, and I knew I didn’t want to go into the Wineglass Half having to deal with that – not to mention, it would be virtually impossible to put my phone in the FlipBelt and attach it to my headphones. So, after perusing the choices at our local running store, I grabbed a pair of AfterShokz and took them for their first test run, a 12-miler, the next day.

What Are AfterShokz Trekz?

Before I go too much further, I want to explain what the AfterShokz Trekz headphones are, and what differentiates them from other wireless headphones.

As you likely already know, headphones are available in two forms: “wired,” meaning they have a wire that connects them to the device you want to listen to, or “wireless,” meaning they connect to your device without a wire, usually via Bluetooth. When it comes to using headphones for active pursuits, like running, using wireless headphones has the obvious advantage of not forcing you to contend with a wire attached to your ear and your arm (or wherever you’ve attached your device) in the middle of physical activity. However, there are tons of wireless headphones and earbuds on the market, all of which look roughly the same, and trying to choose the “best” or “right” ones can become a daunting and overwhelming task if you’re not an audio geek (and maybe even if you are).

AfterShokz Trekz up close, with Fitbands on.

Enter AfterShokz Trekz. Unlike traditional headphones and earbuds, Trekz uses bone conduction to allow you to listen to music, which basically means that they use vibration in your jaw and cheek bones to enable you to hear music, rather than sending those same sound vibrations through the air (or, essentially, straight into your ear canal). While they are not the first or only company to offer bone conduction headphones (in fact, we’ve known about bone conduction for over one hundred years), they have successfully capitalized on marketing bone conduction headphones specifically to athletes and people with active lifestyles.

So, why are these headphones such a big deal for runners?

Because the headphones rest on your cheek, rather than being planted over or inside your ears, they allow you to hear other sounds around you – ambient noise – like cars and people talking to you while you listen to music. For runners, this is a game changer in terms of running safety – one of the greatest dangers of running with headphones is not being able to hear a car, person, or animal coming up behind you. And, for those who like to run with others while also enjoying some music, AfterShokz Trekz allow you to do both comfortably.

Review: 🥇🥇🥇🥇 1/2

I’ve now been using the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones for nearly all of my runs over the past two and a half months, and I absolutely love them. Although I am not an audio geek or audiophile, Matt is and he has assured me that the sound quality of the headphones is very good – I would agree, but my ears are average at best and most headphones sound pretty similar to me (much to Matt’s chagrin).

Most importantly, from a runner’s perspective, AfterShokz Trekz are:

  • Comfortable. I barely feel them when I’m running, and they don’t hinder me in any way. As the name states, the headphones are made out of titanium, which allows them to be both durable and flexible. Although they look bulkier than some earbuds, they rest comfortably on your cheek and ear, and are hardly noticeable once they’re on.
    • A note about comfort: The first time I wore these headphones, I did not use the “fitbands” that came with them (these are little black tabs that go on the headphones to make them fit “smaller heads” better) and this caused some discomfort from the band resting too heavily on my ears. Using the fitbands has completely resolved this issue for me!
  • Reliable. I have not had any issues with these headphones randomly dropping the Bluetooth connection mid-run. They also seem to have a long battery life (the website claims six hours per charge, which seems about right to me). One of the features I like best about them is that they give you a verbal warning when the battery is close to dying, rather than just suddenly turning off and leaving you wondering what happened.
  • Easy to Use. I’ve found it very easy to control the volume, pause a song, or skip to a new song in the middle of a run, which is mostly all that I need to do. I haven’t had to answer any phone calls while running, but I imagine it would be easy to do that, as well, with these headphones given that the controls are essentially the same as pausing or skipping a song.

While all of these features are nice, they can arguably be found in many, if not most, pairs of wireless headphones.

However, the ability to hear what is going on around you while you’re running is truly what sets the AfterShokz Trekz apart from your traditional earbuds and headphones.

When I’m running, I can now easily hear a car, another runner, or a cyclist as they come up behind me and move aside if necessary. And, during the Wineglass Half, I was able to hear other runners who spoke to me as we were running, as well as race volunteers.

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Wearing AfterShokz Trekz during the Annapolis Running Classic Half Marathon

My one issue with the AfterShokz Trekz is somewhat trivial, but also led to my half-medal deduction in my rating. As cold weather has finally arrived, I’ve found it impossible to wear these headphones with an ear warmer headband or with a beanie hat, and so I’ve had to choose between warmth and music on a few runs lately (and that’s a tough choice when you love running with music as much as I do!). When I try to wear them under my headband or beanie, they are too big to fit comfortably underneath, and if I try to wear them on top of either, the headphones can’t sit properly on my cheekbones. I’m sure there is probably some sort of head and/or ear warming apparatus out there that works with the AfterShokz Trekz, but it will definitely take some searching for me to find it.

Final Thoughts

Although not being able to wear the AfterShokz Trekz with my beanie or headband is annoying, the other benefits of these headphones truly outweigh this minor drawback. The ability to hear what is going on around you is a major advantage of these headphones. They make me feel safer wherever I am running, and also allow me to feel less isolated from my surroundings. This is particularly beneficial during races, when I enjoy being part of the action with the runners around me, but also want to focus and listen to my music at times, too. The AfterShokz Trekz certainly live up to the hype, in my opinion, and I would recommend them to anyone in the market for a new pair of headphones, or anyone who prefers being able to hear ambient noise anytime they are wearing headphones.

Have you used the AfterShokz Trekz headphones? What are your thoughts on their bone conduction technology?

Happy Running! ~Sara

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