How Do I Choose the Best Running Weights?

Kelly Ferguson

Finding the best running weights is often a matter of knowing before purchasing exactly what you will be using the weights for, because different features may be more appealing for some uses than others. Most people need to try on and test out various kinds of weights before they find a set that feels comfortable and provides the right amount of resistance. The main differences to choose from are the material the weights are made from, including the outer covering and the weight itself, the location on the body the weights are meant to be used, and of course how heavy the weight is. In some cases, runners may decide not to use any weights after all, because sometimes joint pain and injury can be caused or made worse by the addition of running weights.

Some runners believe that carrying weights places stress on the joints.
Some runners believe that carrying weights places stress on the joints.

Often, people who choose to use running weights find that this addition is effective at increasing the intensity of a running workout. The most popular kinds of running weights are wrist and ankle weights, although other alternatives are available, such as weighted vests, glove weights, and small hand-held dumbbells. The location you plan to wear the weights is the first thing you should decide, because it will affect what other options are best. Depending on how you plan to wear the weights, for example, on your ankles under your pant legs or on your wrists over your sleeves, it might be more or less important to you to find weights with a smooth outer covering that does not cause redness or pain with the friction from running and perspiring. Soft, foam-like covers are generally more comfortable than plastic or canvas options, although they may be less durable.

Running uphill can help increase speed and strength.
Running uphill can help increase speed and strength.

The amount of weight you need will be different if you plan to use the weights on your arms, legs, or torso, as these areas have very different weight-bearing capabilities. Many runners choose adjustable weights because it allows them to easily increase or decrease the amount of weight they use during each workout without having to buy a separate set of weights. Others, however, find that the adjustable weights are too hard, since they are frequently weighted with metal bars, and either press into the joints uncomfortably or do not provide the amount of joint flexibility that softer weights filled with sand, beads, or smaller metal plates afford.

Many runners and fitness professionals actually caution against using any kind of running weights at all. They warn that using running weights, whether they are ankle, wrist, or handheld weights, throws off the mechanics of the body and overly stresses the joints, making injury much more likely. Less is said about torso weights such as weighted vests, but some still warn against using those as well. They claim that the weight can not only put extra stress on the spine and possibly cause back pain or injury, but, since it makes the body heavier, it increases the impact with each footstep, which can cause injury to the legs and feet. It is a much better idea, according to most experienced runners, to simply increase your running speed or run uphill if you wish to increase the intensity and calorie burn from running, and save the weights for stationary exercises that do not cause repetitive stress and impact on the joints.

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