Walking And Running With Ankle Weights: Is It Safe?

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

For certain individuals who wish to reap the maximum benefits from a walking or running session, he or she may seek supplemental equipment, such as ankle weights, to add some "oomph" to the workout. Indeed, ankle weights are commonly used for resistance and endurance training, or simply adding a heavier load to the targeted limbs for a higher energy output. However, are using ankle weights as a part of a training regimen safe?

Pros and Cons

There are experts with differing opinions on why ankle weights are or are not appropriate when running, walking, and exercising. The proponents of ankle weights believe that the weights can help with a more effective workout session, including:

  • Making hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus muscles work harder
  • Increasing cardiovascular benefits
  • Increasing aerobic output
  • Burning more calories
  • Adding resistance to a running, walking, or workout session
  • Substituting as "dumbbells" for the feet, as the feet cannot grip weights like the hands

Those opposed, on the other hand, believe that using ankle weights pose several health risks, including:

  • Put unnecessary stress on joints, ankle, nerves, and tendons
  • Put unnecessary stress on muscles with preexisting problems
  • Provide harmful stress for individuals who are physically weaker or heavier than normal
  • May lead to degradation of the hips, knees, and ankle joints
  • May result in future physical injuries
  • Increase the possibility of injury, such as a sprain, dislocation, or broken bones
  • Overexertion of the muscles and tendons

Are There Any Risks?

Perhaps the largest risks of ankle weights are for individuals who are more physically frail than normal people, the obese, or those who have preexisting, orthopedic hindrances and conditions. Also, individuals who suffer from joint pain and/or have any bone or muscle health conditions should stay away from ankle weights.

Before implementing any exercise training regimens involving ankle weights, you should consult a physical therapist or a doctor for the correct way of utilizing the weights. Be sure to also warm up thoroughly before running or exercising with ankle weights. Stop all exercises immediately if any pain takes place, and observe the level of pain in the next few days. If the pain worsens, be sure to bring it to the attention of a medical provider, and modify future regimens with ankle weights as necessary.

Safer alternatives, same results

Some suggestions that may give the same workout results as that of ankle weights have been recommended to prevent the possible damages of using ankle weights.

  • To increase aerobic intensity, use inclines (such as climbing hills) and varying the running speed.
  • To burn calories, interval training with varying speeds will help. For example, try running quickly for a few minutes, then reduce the speed to a jogging pace for another few. The usage of terrain, such as weaving between trees and mailboxes during a run, can also help increase calorie burn.
  • To develop muscles and strength, hit the gym and use the equipment for some weight training targeted at the major muscle groups of the legs.
  • Remember that your own weight can also be a great tool for resistance training. For example, leg squats can help build better-toned legs by using your own body weight.
  • Consider using other weighted clothing to help with your training, but be sure to seek the appropriate professionals for proper ways of using the clothing to prevent further injuries.

Other forms of weighted clothing

Similar to the idea of ankle weights, weighted clothing are aimed to increase energy output in an exercising session. Some of these weighted clothing may be used for therapeutic purposes in physical therapy sessions. Be sure to follow all directions carefully and consult a physical therapist or doctor on how to properly use the weighted clothing to prevent possible future injuries.

Some examples of other weighted clothing include:

  • Weighted vests
  • Weighted footwear
  • Neck weights
  • Backpacks
  • Hip drags
  • Weighted belts
  • Dip belts
  • Weighted gloves
  • Wrist weights
  • Thigh weights


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