The Fastest, Cheapest, Dirtiest Earbud Hack To Keep Your Headset In Place When Running and Doing Sports

After a few uses, they'll look like they're covered in goop, but these are the best sports earbuds I've ever owned.

A little bit of rubbery glue (let it dry first!) on the back of your earbuds will keep them seated solid during any sweaty exercise you can throw their way.

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If you’re anything like me, you know that music greatly enhances any type of exercise, especially running. But you’ve likely also discovered that earbuds never stay in place after a few minutes of sweating. Tired of dealing with this annoyance, I’ve been experimenting with a fast, cheap and dirty way to keep your earbuds where they belong, and the results so far are great.

I have a preference for Apple earbuds — the sound is adequate, they are pretty comfortably in my ears (better than most that I’ve tested), and they’re cheap (a huge advantage for someone like myself who has a propensity for losing, breaking, or washing my earbuds). But while the smooth, white plastic casing looks super stylish, it doesn’t create the friction necessary to keep the buds firmly set into the ear canal. I also noticed over time that the rubber ring around the circumference has a tendency to crack and peel off, revealing an uncomfortably sharp lip that hurts when you try to repeatedly force the earbuds deeper and deeper into your ear (which is how I spend most of my energy when I’m running).

The connection between the ear and the earbud’s lip isn’t where most of the earbud grip comes from, however — it’s actually the back of the ear fold that keeps enough pressure on the plastic to keep the tiny speaker from slipping away from you. That’s the exact area that has most of the smooth, slippery plastic, and the piece we’ll focus on modifying.

Used but unmodified earbuds, ready for updating

Gather your supplies:
-Earbuds
-Small piece of sandpaper or emery board
-Small tube of rubber cement-type glue
(both of the above are easily found in a bike tire patching kit like this one)
-“Third hand” clip/holder

Steps:
1. Sand the exterior of the earbuds to rough them up a bit. I found this was easiest with a small piece of sandpaper folded to give a rough edge that lets you get into any of the tight areas. Make sure to get around the metal screen and the back of the bud.

2. Wipe the buds clean of any dust with a dry cloth or napkin.

3. Lay a smooth bead of rubber cement glue around the outside of the metal screen, and continue it down the back of the plastic, to approximately where the circumference of the bud ends. This should adequately cover the area that your ear is in contact with.

Once the glue is in place, you’ll want to let it dry for a while. I used the vulcanizing glue from my tire patch kit (MSDS info leads me to believe this should be fine for skin contact, but no guarantees if you do the same!). I used my “third hand” to hold the earphones in place as the glue dried.

Remember that often times this type of rubberized glue remains very tacky to itself and other materials. Like I said, it’s a quick and DIRTY hack, and you’ll notice a lot of grime collecting in the glue over a very short time. You probably don’t want to stuff them into your lint-filed pockets or purse.

The results are amazing. I’m totally blown away. I’ve gone for long, sweaty runs using these, even in the rain, and have yet to adjust them or struggle to keep them in place. Not even once. In the past I tried everything from old-fashioned walkman headphones, to expensive in-ear headsets with rubber sleeve tips, to the type with the over-ear loop. And finally, with a simple tweak, I’ve got the best sports headphones I’ve ever used, for next to nothing.

After a while they'll start to look ragged, but they're still more effective than new ones

 

6 thoughts on “The Fastest, Cheapest, Dirtiest Earbud Hack To Keep Your Headset In Place When Running and Doing Sports”

  1. I tried this (before I read your article) and the rubber cement has a solvent in it that melted the earpieces. So I think it is a bit potluck, whether your earpieces can stand up to the rubber cement or not.

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