A while ago I realised that I would have to give up my headphones when I was running in a race as new laws in running in the UK and Northern Ireland stated that they would be banned and participants using them would be disqualified. So I wondered if that was it for me and my trusty headphones during race time. I consulted other runners who gave me their opinion on how it is great to run without them anyway during a race and while I agree to an extent, there are some races (like the old route of the Belfast marathon) that are just lonely courses and I didn’t want to get stuck in my own head as I was pretty inexperienced with running without headphones. But, in my chats with others, someone mentioned the Aftershokz bone conductor headphones and how they were legal for racing. So I got one for me and one for Victoria, here is what I thought!
What is a bone conductor earphone?
I was a bit confused by this as well, so it is better I say what the technology actually does before we get fully into it. The earpiece sits like most sports ones (on the ears and staying attached around the back of the head) but unlike those where the earpiece would usually go into the ear, this wraps around your ear and the output is placed in front of your ear like below.
This means the music or podcast or whatever you are listening to never goes through the ear and vibrates through the bone conductor and lets you listen to it with no issues what so ever (in theory). This is useful for running in races or training in general as then you can still hear everything that is going on around you as well. If a cyclist behind you rings their bell to warn you, you will hear it. If a marshal is trying to give instructions you don’t have to slow down, take out an earpiece and ask what was said. You will be able to do so with the bone conductor earpiece. Handy right!?
What was my experience?
I got a pair for myself and Victoria as well, we wanted to run and at the minute for us being able to distract ourselves with music is great. I won’t speak for her, but I have noticed that I was becoming a little more reliant on ‘noise’ than I had before. When I was running at my best 2 years or so ago I would sometimes just have my big overhead headphones on to just keep my ears warm. There were times I really didn’t need the noise to run. But as I gained weight I felt I have regressed a little, so I know I would not be able to go an entire race without them.
My first experience with them was a little surreal, for a little bit it sounded like I was hearing music from a passing car or something as it was slightly distant to me. After I had got comfortable with them (I decided to get used to them I would use them to walk into work with) I really began to enjoy knowing I was running as safely as possible while getting to listen to what I wanted to. But yeah, the sound is not the same just yet because it is just vibrations going into your upper jaw.
When running I would have some music played a little loudly to help keep me in the zone, that option isn’t really afforded to me with the Aftershockz as the volume is a little low. But I think in the long run this will actually be for the better. They aren’t made to replace headphones per se, they are really there to make running or cycling safer and if that means I can’t have my music very loud, then I will take that sacrifice for the long haul. Aftershockz have actually made this part of their pitch to potential customers which are quite pleasing to me. Enjoy your music and be aware of your surroundings, it makes all the sense.
I had a few gripes but they are quite minor. I am unsure if they come in different sizes as I found the back piece to disrupt me a little bit when running if I was turning my head backwards, but that might just be me. I also to my slight embarrassment, found that because the sound is not going directly into the ear, that if I had the volume turned up a little too loudly that other people could hear what I was listening to. This was a little awkward when I was walking through town on my way to work. If someone was close enough to me, they could hear everything and when Victoria and I would run together I think I was catching her music.
I bought my Sportz headphones for around £55, but I did get the wired versions as the wireless Trekz Air version I believe are around £145. Which sadly was just a little out of my budget range for some headphones… But seeing as they are one of the very few selling the product it is probably hard to get it any cheaper. I think when the wireless version drops in price I will be tempted to get that one as I found I was always catching the wire down to my phone (which I either carry in my hand or in my running bag). I should also note that there is a wireless Trekz version sells for a better priced £95. Still a little too costly for me currently, but I can see myself eventually saving up for it as the wire does bug me a little!
I really liked them! If you are wanting to feel a little safer when trekking, running or cycling then I would recommend them highly. They are not going to replace my headphones for when I am at the gym (as they simply are not made for that), but they are my go-to headphones as soon as I know I am going for a run and as I said before I know I will upgrade at some point to the wireless ones as other than for financial reasons I wanted to make sure I liked using them before properly investing. If you are required headphones for running then I would give a serious look in their direction as it will not just be the UK banning typical headphones in the future.