The Best Weighted Running Vests—Plus Why You Should Buy One
The Benefits of Running with a Weighted Vest
This fitness tool (once relegated only to combat training) has recently gained popularity among runners. ICYDK, weighted vests are exactly what they sound like: "They add weight, plain and simple. They're a tool to add variation to your training," says Vinnie Miliano, a run coach with Mile High Run Club in New York City. "Both sprinters and endurance athletes can benefit from their use." (You can use weighted vests for other workouts too.)
The general purpose of wearing a weight vest while running is to add extra weight to the body. Since you're moving more weight with every stride, the body has to adapt to the added weight by getting stronger, says Miliano.
"The added resistance means your body has to work harder," says Miliano. "Your heart has to pump harder to get more oxygen to the muscles, which means your heart rate will increase faster." This, in turn, can help boost your cardiovascular fitness. (Related: What Is Your VO2 Max and How Do You Increase It?)
Miliano explains that he wore a weighted run vest while training for his first Half Ironman triathlon. "It helped me build the leg strength I needed for the run portion and aided in strengthening my cardio for the bike and swim." How's that for a win-win?
Is Running with Weights Right for You?
Running in a weighted vest is an advanced move, notes Miliano. If you've just started running (or exercising in general), he suggests waiting to run in a weight vest. "If your body isn't used to the strenuous activity, chances are you'll be doing more harm than good by wearing a weight vest." (Related: Common Weight Lifting Questions from Beginners, Answered).
Or, if you have any pre-existing knee, lower-back, or ankle injuries, weight vests probably aren't for you, according to Tony Carvajal, a certified CrossFit trainer with RSP Nutrition. "Adding the weight to your body puts more force onto your feet, ankles, and knees," says Carvajal. "That load creates a stronger impact when striding, so if you have previous injuries or feel like your ankles or knees are weak you should avoid using a vest."
That said, if you're looking for a fun way to boost core, lower-body, and cardiovascular strength, a weighted running vest can be a good tool. Carvajal suggests slowly incorporating the accessory into your routine to give your body a chance to adapt to and recognize the new stimulus. "Start by adding it to a simple run that's about a quarter of the distance you usually do."
A quick note on sizing: Whatever weighted vest you buy, you want it to be snug so it doesn't jostle around with each stride. (But not so tight that you feel like you can't breathe.) The good news: All of the vests below are adjustable, so the weighted run vest you pick can be secured to fit your body.
Fitness Gear 10lb. Adjustable Weighted Vest
Carvajal says you should start with a vest that's only 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. So, at only 10 pounds, this is a great starter option. If you've ever run with a vest-style hydration pack, this Dick's Sporting Goods exclusive will feel similar. Highly breathable in design and material, it's less cumbersome than vests you'll see CrossFitters sporting during the Hero WOD Murph. And because the vest is short, you don't have to worry about chafing on your lower back, belly button, or hips—even if you have a short torso.
RUNFast/Max Adjustable Weighted Vest
Thanks to its reasonable price, RUNFast/Max is the fave of runners looking for a durable product without paying an arm and (well-sculpted) leg. It's the go-to for Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer with Maple Holistics: "In my opinion, RunFast/Max is more comfortable and fits better than any other weight vests." It can be loaded with anything from 12 to 140 pounds of weights. (The price goes up as the amount of weight does.) There's also a phone pocket, water-bottle strap, and a hole to thread your wired headphones through. (Not feeling motivated to lace up? Check out these tips for building mental strength from runner Kara Goucher.)
Unbroken Designs Unisex 20lbs Stars and Stripes Cropped Weight Vest
What's a better way to celebrate the Fourth of July (or year-round patriotism) than taking the trail in this American Flag–patterned weighted vest? Made of neoprene—the same material as most wetsuits and weightlifting belts—this vest is very comfortable. It may be one of the pricier options on the list, but the wide shoulder straps and crop fit also mean it's the most comfortable.
Bionic Body 15lb Weighted Vest
Fashionistas to the front. Running in a weight vest may never feel pretty, but do it in this red number and you'll be a runner with ~personality~. This vest offers Velcro closure for a snug fit—super important since loose vests can lead to injury, says Miliano. "If a vest is too loose, it's dangerous because it can throw off your balance."
Empower Weighted Vest for Women
Full-chested women, this one's for you. The contoured X-shaped silhouette is designed specifically to fit a woman's body. Unlike some other vests, which have removable weights, the sand is sewn into this vest. That means the weight (10 pounds total) is perfectly distributed. Bonus: It has a compartment that's big enough to hold an iPhone.
Mir Adjustable Weighted Vest
In one word: Hardcore. This isn't for the runner who wants to make running just a little bit harder. Starting at 45 pounds, this vest turns your run into a full-body strength training workout. (This brand also offers vests that weight up to 140 pounds. Whoa.) It *is* important for runners to balance running with strength training and stability training, but because it's so heavy, start by wearing it on a track while getting acquainted with the load. (Related: Des Linden Gets Honest About Skipping Strength Training and Being a Female Athlete)
Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO Unisex 10-Pound Adjustable Weighted Vest
In design, this weight vest is unlike any other on the market. It secures to your body with a middle zipper and two drawstrings—which allow for side ventilation. And the vest itself is very thin, so you won't feel like a runner in a life vest. Worth noting: While the models in the marketing material of this product are shirtless, it's best to wear a shirt underneath to avoid chafing. (Don't worry about getting it sweaty; the material is odor resistant. Bless.)
Cross101 Adjustable Camouflage Weighted Vest
Let's face it, working out in camo can make you feel tough AF. This baby is ideal for running because it evenly distributes weight in the front and back, and lets you change the shoulder straps so you can center the weight higher or lower on your chest. It comes in weights as light as 12 pounds and as heavy as 140 pounds, but the weights come in 3-pound increments and are removable. (Finish off the look with these cool camo workout clothes.)
5.11 Tactical TacTec Plate Carrier Weight Vest
5.11 Tactical has earned its reputation as *the* brand for weight vests for CrossFit athletes. For one, they look super badass. But they're also constructed to ensure high performance. It has padded shoulder straps and is ridiculously secure. (Seriously, I once wore this during a workout with box jumps, a 5K run, and pull-ups, and it stayed in place!)
Just note: The weight plates are sold separately, so you also have to purchase those. No doubt, it's the most expensive on the list but it's worth the investment if you're actually going to use it.
Rogue Condor Sentry Plate Carrier Weight Vest
This Rogue vest is probably 5.11 Tactical's biggest rival because of the brand recognition. Jacqueline Kasen, body architect and certified personal trainer at Anatomy in Miami, says this vest is her favorite because the fit is so customizable. "There are a ton of adjustable straps so I can fit it to my body perfectly. There are also a lot of buckles, so slipping it on and off is easier." This is another vest where the weights are sold separately—but the benefit of that is, as you get stronger, you can purchase heavier weight plates to continue challenging your body.