Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed by vehicles in 2016, the highest annual total in more than two decades. The reasons aren’t entirely clear, but experts say that distraction caused by electronic devices could be a cause. Recent data suggest that pedestrians wearing headphones are at an increased risk of being struck by automobiles and trains, particularly in urban environments. You can’t get out of the way of something in your blind spot that you also can’t hear.

Most of the sports earphones in our ratings are designed to be isolating, which means they fit in the ear like an earplug and block out ambient sound. That’s great at the gym, where you don’t want to hear the clang of barbells, and your chances of being run over by a car on the treadmill are pretty slim. But not being able to hear an approaching vehicle or the bark of an angry dog can be dangerous if you’re exercising outside. Some of the newest sports earphones on the market, including the recommended Jabra Elite Sport and the Samsung Gear IconX, address this safety issue with a special “monitor” mode. When the headphones are in this mode, built-in microphones pick up ambient noises and channel them into the ear so that you can hear traffic, bicycle bells, birds, and whatever else is going on around you. The microphones also pick up the whooshing sound of wind, which can make for a noisy run on a gusty day, but that’s a minor irritation compared with the major safety advantage these headphones can offer.

In general, isolating sports earphones with a monitor function or non-isolating sports earphones such as the top-rated Beats by Dre Powerbeats2 wireless model are among the best choices for people who exercise outdoors.

Whichever type you wear, remember to keep the volume low enough so that you can hear what’s going on around you when you’re outside.

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