As someone who didn't run w/ music for the first 29 years of my life, I was immediately convinced of its value when running my first 100 miler. In that race I picked up my ipod at mile 77 and cruised through the finish feeling re-energized by the tunes in my ears. While I still run headphone-free on my daily training runs, music is definitely an essential part of my drop-bag for races these days.
Like most runners, I don't like to have a lot of "stuff" on me when I run. While switching from a big ipod to the tiny 2GB Shuffle recently did help eliminate lots of bulky weight, I still had that annoying wire from the headphones to deal with - It seemed no matter where I put the darn thing it would either end up chaffing me or catching my hand (or a branch) at some point while I ran. Still, I figured the positives of running w/ music outweighed the negatives, so I just dealt with it.
...but now, there's great news for people like me who hate headphone wires. A few companies now have headphones that you can directly attach your ipod shuffle to without any wires. At least to this point, all of them are "over-the-ear" headphones (needed to support the weight), but for someone like me who always runs with that style of headphones as opposed to ear buds anyway, there's no compromise at all for me.
This past week I picked up a pair of these headphones from Dynex in hopes that they would allow me to run wire-free from now on. Here's what they look like:
The ipod shuffle goes right into that left earphone. It snaps in securely and doesn't budget a bit (read: you never lose connection, even if you have one of those semi-defective shuffles that occasionally decides to cut out for no reason). An added bonus to their construction is they fold up super-small and can fit in the back of your fuel belt w/out a problem if you want to take them off for some reason. Check it out:
On a less-positive note, as soon as I tried them on, I realized I would need to add a bit of padding on the plastic part that goes behind my ear. After 5 hours of running, I assumed this would hurt like heck, so I was pro-active in padding it before I even ran 1 step. I ended up cutting some pieces of mole-skin-type material and wrapping them around the parts that would come in contact with my head. After that, I was confident it would feel great no matter how long I ran. Here's the final product after successful surgery:
The next day I went out for a 35 miler to see how it all held up. The first thing I noticed is there's a bit more weight on your ears than with normal headphones, but after a mile I forgot all about it. This extra weight may mean that they could be prone to bouncing at faster paced running (or rocky descents), but since it was pretty cold out, I had a winter hat pulled down to the top of my ears and everything stayed firmly in place.
As far as sound quality goes, I was pleasantly surprised. The only real drawback to them was it took a few tries before I figured out how to adjust the volume on the side of the shuffle since you can't see it when it's on your ear. I recommend putting a little drop of super-glue on the headphones at the spot where the ipod's "+" volume button lines up. This way, it will act like a braille indicator for you to feel with your hand as you run and immediately know where the controls are.
Sure, you might be thinking "Why in the world would I buy headphones that I have to make so many adjustments to when the ones I have work just fine?" - Good point, I say, but to counter that, I can't possibly overstate how fantastic it is to run with NO WIRES hanging from my head...or down my shirt...or wherever. If you don't have a problem with over-the-ear headphones to begin with, I definitely recommend dropping $29.99 at BestBuy or wherever to try them out. The ear pads are pretty big on these things, so they may be too warm for some in the summer...but right now, they double as excellent ear-muffs for winter runs!