Monday, March 4, 2024

Gear Review: Shokz OpenFit

It's been awhile since I've written about running gadgets. In the past few years I've gotten new running watches and headphones and tested new shoes, but nothing really seems to merit a full blog post. However, when I was thinking about getting the new Shokz OpenFit headphones, I realized no one I knew had switched from the classic bone conducting Shokz headphones to these new true-wireless options. The responses I got were generally, "I love my Shokz, let me know what you think of the OpenFit if you get them!" So it seemed like a review was in order.
To back up some, the reason I treated myself to the OpenFit is almost silly. When the temperatures dip below 40 here in Seattle (which isn't that often, really), I like to trade my running cap for knitted headbands to keep my ears warm. (I love the ones from Nicole's Creations because they're warm but also breathable, so my ears never get too sweaty.) 

I can wear these headbands over my Shokz Aeropex (the newest version of which are called the OpenRun), but the wire around the back of my head is less than ideal. I can make a headband work – awkwardly – but I can't wear a beanie with the Aeropex. I also can't wear them on the couch without the wire hitting the cushion behind my head.

In short, the wire is pretty annoying.

When Shokz came out with their true wireless option, I really wanted to try them, but couldn't justify spending almost $200 when my Aeropex were in perfect working order. And I wanted to wait until they had been on the market awhile so I could read reviews. That's where I found myself in January 2024, debating splurging on a gently used pair just because I felt I'd waited long enough.
Then they went on sale on Amazon, and I couldn't resist. Two days later, I had my new headphones just in time for race day. Thanks, Prime.

Anyway, on to the review.
These true-wireless headphones don't use bone conduction the way the other Shokz products do. Instead, they are shaped so that the speakers hover over your ears, keeping your ear canal open to ambient noise while funneling sound directly into your head. The sound quality is much better than the Aeropex and I can actually hear my music in high-traffic areas.
It looks like the headphone goes into your ear canal, but it just tucks against the outer edge of your antihelix. (Yes I had to to look that up.)
I downloaded the Shokz app for the first time ever, which allowed me to customize some of the tap settings. The app is easy to use, but remembering how I programmed each headphone is a challenge. Also, the tap settings don't change if you choose to only wear one headphone, so when wearing only one, you may find yourself unable to pause or lower volume depending on how you set things up.
However, I do like the various customization options the app allows for.

The headphones unbox in pairing mode and connected to my phone seamlessly. You can apparently connect them to multiple devices, but I haven't tested that yet. They took about two minutes of playing with to figure out. They are, like most tech these days, pretty intuitive to learn.
"Up to" does a lot of work here.
For me, battery life is an important feature. As a slower runner, especially one thinking about running a full marathon this year, 6 hours is the minimum battery life I'm willing to risk in a wireless headphone. These claim up to 7 hours, but they turn on automatically when removed from the case, which means you're using battery the moment you put them on. For me, this is the biggest con.

  • Default settings don't allow for volume adjustment (can be changed via the app)
  • Tap settings are a little hard to remember/use (this may be a user-error thing)
  • Auto turn-on when you remove them from the case
  • Lightweight and super comfortable
  • Better sound quality and volume than Aeropex
  • Can still hear my surrounding environment
  • Customizable controls and sound settings via the app
  • USB-C charger (universal)
  • Up to 7 hours of playtime
I wore them for the first time at my birthday 10k and they performed perfectly. They were so comfortable and light, I kept reaching up to ensure both were still on!
To expand on a few of my bullet points, I was at first pretty annoyed that volume can't be adjusted on the headphones themselves; however, if you install the app, you can customize the tap and hold settings, which allows for volume control. Once I figured that out, I was perfectly happy.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest con to these headphones is the auto turn-on feature. When you remove them from the case, they turn on and cannot be turned off or put on standby. So if you're in a corral and waiting for your race to begin, and you've left the bulky case in your car and have been wandering around the staging area for awhile, you're losing battery life. 

And when they're low battery, they die pretty damn fast. When my Aeropex are low battery, I get the warning chime and can usually finish another mile before they die. With the OpenFit, I heard the signal and they died two minutes later, mid-run. The Aeropex also tells you your battery level when you turn them on; the OpenFit don't give you any sort of reminder.

This is enough of an issue for me that I'm considering not wearing them for my upcoming half marathon.

I also miss the physical buttons of the Aeropex; a physical power button would solve the wasteful battery issue.

Overall, I'm incredibly happy with these headphones. If they last as well as my Aeropex, they'll absolutely be worth what I paid ($150; they are usually priced at $179). That said, I won't be getting rid of my Aeropex. I think both sets of headphones have their time and place for use.


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