I love to rock out while working out, but have yet to find a pair of earphones that don't sport a too-long cord or uncomfortable ear buds (or both). So I was intrigued by chicBuds' retractable Earphones, which let you set the cord at five different lengths.

The new version, black decorated Swarovski Crystals, is a little girly for my taste ("nice bling," my husband teased when he saw them), but that's something I could get over. Eager to test them out, I tossed the instructions blithely aside (unread) and gave one end of the cord a pull. Bad decision. Turns out that if you don't pull both ends at the same time, the cord gets all tangled and won't retract properly. Luckily, the directions (which I finally read) told me how to fix the mess.

With that sorted out, I wedged the chicBuds into my ears, clipped the cord holder to my shirt, and gave them a test run during my morning Spin ride. And at first, wow. The retractable cord is a terrific invention. I was able to get the cord to just the right length, so it didn't flop all over the place and catch on the handlebars. The sound was fine, too-not overly tinny, as some earphones can be, although it could use a bit more bass. More importantly, I could still hear what was going on around me (aforementioned husband getting ready for work), so I knew they'd be safe to wear while running or skating outside on the road. Five minutes into my workout, I was sold.

But then another five minutes passed. My ears began to hurt from the buds I'd crammed in. (Why don't they come a little smaller, with those cushioning, sweat-absorbing foam covers?) I stood to do some fast pedaling, started to sweat in earnest...and one of the buds fell out. I put it back in. It fell out again a minute later. I put it back in. And so on, until finally I just gave up and tucked it into the neck of my shirt.

Needless to say, these won't become workout staples for me. The company does have a kids' version coming soon—chicBuds Jr., with smaller earbuds—that I might check out sometime down the road. But in the meantime, my search for earphone perfection continues. Stay tuned.

Product: chicBuds Earphones

Category: Gear

Pros: The retractable cord allows you to choose just the right length, the sound is decent, and the earphones don't block outside noise.

Cons: Buds are uncomfortable and hard to keep in.

Cost: $49 at chicBuds.com

Extra tip: Follow the directions! Pull the cord from both ends to avoid tangles.