A great deal of attention has been given to truly wireless or TWS earbuds, but, as they say, no one size fits all. There are some people and use cases where even these minuscule audio accessories are not a proper fit, especially when it comes to users with more athletic needs. A special breed of headphones has been designed exactly for this purpose, and Naenka’s new Runner Pro bone conduction open ear headphones try to bring together the best features for people with active lifestyles that need to go about their days in confidence and freedom.
Design and Comfort
The basic design of open ear headphones that utilize bone conduction technology hasn’t recently changed that much over the years. You still have two “pads” that are placed just outside your ear, a curved loop that goes over your ear, large rectangular sections that house the battery and electrical components, and a flexible frame that goes around your head. In the case of the Naenka Runner Pro, that frame is made from sturdy titanium alloy coated with soft-touch silicone, promising a comfortable wear.
That comfort, however, may depend on the size of your head. Like almost all earphones of its kind, the Runner Pro’s length can’t be adjusted to accommodate different head sizes, so those with smaller heads might find that the headphones hang more than they would with medium-sized or larger heads. While comfortable to wear for a few hours, the plastic material of the over-the-ear loops can sometimes start biting into your skin. It’s not exactly painful, but the discomfort might be a sign to take a brief break.
That said, the Naenka Runner Pro does offer a tight fit, regardless of your head size. That comes in handy when using the earphones for swimming exercises, a supported use case considering its IPX8 rating. The usual precautions still do apply, though, especially when you take into account the magnetic charging pins exposed on the outside.
Audio and Controls
Bone conduction headphones provide a safer listening experience at the expense of some audio quality. That is the inescapable nature of open ear designs, but in no way does it mean that audio quality will be terrible. One just has to adjust expectations that they won’t sound as great as an audiophile’s favorite pair.
The Naenka Runner Pro, fortunately, sounds great, especially with mid-range tones and vocals. Bass, while present, is noticeable a bit muted, perhaps to avoid the uncomfortable vibration of lower tones that would have been magnified by bone conduction technology. Maxing out the volume also produces stronger vibrations, though not to the point of being uncomfortable. Just a bit of a tickle, so to speak.
Voice call quality, however, leaves some things to be desired, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the Runner Pro only has one mic. Although still clear, voices on both ends tend to sound a bit distant. While it does OK for occasional calls, the headphones are clearly designed more for listening to music and podcasts while exercising rather than for making business calls on the go.
The Naenka Runner Pro has a special trick for people on the go. While it functions as Bluetooth headphones, it also has 8GB of internal storage that turns the Runner Pro into a standalone music player that can handle your typical audio formats like MP3s, WAVs, and even FLACs. You transfer music from a PC using the charging cable, which we’ll get to later. In this mode, you can go wherever you want without having to worry about your smartphone, which again comes in handy when taking a brief dive.
The Runner Pro has very basic controls that are clearly geared for controlling playback and volume more than anything else. A single press of the power button controls music and calls, while a double-press switches between Bluetooth and internal storage as music sources. A long press, on the other hand, calls up your phone’s default voice assistant.
Battery and Charging
Naenka advertises 6 hours of battery life for the Runner Pro, which isn’t that much considering it has a 230 mAh battery. Actual figures naturally dip below that generous estimate, averaging at 5 hours. Battery life, however, becomes even more inconsistent when in standalone player mode, though the overall longevity is nearly halved on average.
Charging the Runner Pro is actually one of our biggest pain points. While the magnetic charging system saves you from having a cable jutting out of the headphones, a direct connection offers more reliability and stability. As with any magnet-based connection, you’ll have to be careful how you position the headphones, as movements could disconnect them from the charger or, worse, from a computer that’s actively transferring music.
At $165.90, which is currently discounted to $129.90, the Naenka Runner Pro open ear bone conduction headphones look a bit pricey. You are, however, getting two headphones for the price of one, one with Bluetooth connectivity and another with offline storage. It isn’t the best in class when it comes to audio output, but it does well enough for listening to music and podcasts while running. The IPX8 rating and built-in storage make it one of the few headphones that can keep you company even underwater, at least for a while.
There are, of course, some things that we prefer were done differently. The need to carry another cable for charging and data transfer is one of those, and more reliable battery life is another. Voice call quality isn’t going to blow you away, but the headphones weren’t designed around that use case anyway. At the end of the day, the Naenka Runner Pro is a great workout companion, especially if you want to keep your phone safe and dry at home or in a locker.