Shokz (the company formerly known as AfterShokz) has launched a new set of Bluetooth bone conduction headphones designed with runners in mind. The OpenRun Pro, revealed at CES 2022, is a new flagship headset, and has improved sound quality thanks to new bass enhancers in the transducers.
At the same time, Shokz is rebranding some of its existing headsets so their names are more consistent. The water resistant Xtrainerz are now called OpenSwim, and the Aeropex are now OpenRun.The entry-level OpenMove and office-oriented OpenComm remain the same.
The Shokz OpenRun Pro offer some thoughtful design tweaks, such as larger buttons that make it easier to control the volume and switch tracks while on the move.
As with the company's previous sports headsets, there's also a built-in noise-cancelling microphone and, you can accept a call mid-run or open your phone's voice assistant by pressing a button on the left earpiece.
Like the OpenRun, the new headset attaches to a magnetic charging cable, and Shokz promises battery life of up to 10 hours. If you accidentally forget to connect them, charging them for five minutes while you prepare for your run will give you 1.5 hours of listening time.
We're currently testing the OpenRun Pro, and so far we're very impressed by the sound quality, which surpasses what we've come to expect from bone conduction headphones. We'll continue to put them through their paces in a variety of sports over the coming days, and will bring you a full review very soon.
The headset is available to pre-order today in black for $179.95 (about £130 / AU$250), and Shokz will be announcing other colors plus the exact shipping date later in the year.
Opinion: bone conduction is the smart choice
As a runner, being aware of your surroundings is essential. It might be tempting to opt for noise-cancelling headphones, and immerse yourself in your favorite music or an audiobook while you pound the pavement, but doing so means you're at risk of missing dangers like traffic (including emergency vehicles that might run red lights), cyclists approaching from behind, dogs, and children. It could also make you a tempting target for a mugger, who could approach you unnoticed.
Many noise-cancelling earbuds (particularly running headphones) have a 'transparency' mode that uses a microphone to pick up external noise, but in our experience it's no substitute for the spatial awareness you get directly from your ears.
Bone conduction headsets like the Shokz OpenRun Pro leave your ear canals open, so you can hear your surroundings while also hearing audio that's transmitted to your auditory nerves via vibrations in your cheekbones. If there's a noise like a siren, you'll immediately know whether it's approaching from in front or behind, and be able to take action to avoid it.
Many race organizers discourage the user of any headphones, but if you really want to run with music then bone conduction is the safest choice. In fact, Shokz headsets are the only ones approved by England Athletics for all road running races.
Not everyone enjoys them, but if you're in the market for a new pair of running headphones then we advise you to at least try a bone conduction headset when making your choice. The tech has come a long way in recent years, and you may be surprised by just how good they can sound.