Our article on the best weighted vests for running was updated to keep it relevant for the modern runner. We removed the Empower Weighted Vest to make way for two new models.
These included the popular Hyperwear Hyper Vest Pro and the wallet-friendly Zelus Weighted Vest.
Fitness comes in many shapes, although running is undoubtedly one of the most popular methods of achieving physical fitness and testing your endurance. However, as you become a more experienced runner, you can easily plateau – whether that’s speed, time or distance.
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Just like treadmills and running shoes, not all weighted vests are created equally. Some are bulky, some are slimline. Some use metal weights, some use sand. Some are expensive, some cost next to nothing.
With so much choice, we have created this article to focus on the best weighted vests for running. After highlighting some of most suitable vests on the market, we will discuss what defines a good weighted vest for running and what to look for when shopping, as well as a few frequently asked questions.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, XL
Weights: 15lb, 20lbs, 25lbs
Storage Pocket: No
Features: Low-profile construction, patented weight pocket design, adjustable elastic side cords, reflective sections
Kicking off this list is a premium model that doesn’t look like your traditional weighted vest. Here, the emphasis is placed on comfort, with great freedom of movement – which is why it’s our top pick.
As mentioned in the full review of the Hyper Vest Elite, this popular but pricey vest is pretty simple in theory, with a body-hugging design featuring row upon row of loadbearing pockets, each filled with 2.25oz steel bars. It’s a comfortable vest, even if you wear it over bare skin.
What really sets this model apart from most is the build quality. Notably, it is made with durable Cordura fabric paired with reflective elements to enhance safety on outdoor runs. It’s expensive, but the Hyper Vest Elite certainly lives up to its name.
This weighted vest from Mir features a distinctive flak jacket style that sits quite high up on the torso. With the weight in a compact area around your chest, you’ll find it moves around less when running.
It’s built to be breathable and, with fully adjustable straps, it proves a comfortable fit regardless of your body size. Like our top picks, this one features solid metal weights as opposed to sand, with vests ranging from 20lbs to 60lbs.
Its biggest flaw is that it’s very tricky to put on, with the straps attaching around back. However, a plus is that Mir have developed this vest to be suitable for machine washing and drying – ideal for a garment that is likely to see some serious sweat in its lifetime!
Weights: 4lbs to 25lbs
Storage Pocket: Yes
Features: Unisex design, evenly-distributed weight, iron pellet-filled, adjustable double chest straps, rear mesh storage pocket, reflective strips
Slimline, minimalist running vests are certainly popular in the running community. Ultimately, you want something that offers a good range of movement and better ventilation – especially on those hot summer runs.
This Aduro Sport vest takes the minimalist approach to a whole new level. This ergonomic belt relies on a simple system of easily-adjustable straps to provide a low-profile design. Using neoprene filled with iron pellets, this vest remains soft against the body and odor-free.
With a maximum weight option of 25lbs, it’s not the heaviest out there, but it is one of the more comfortable. There’s also a handy mesh storage pocket for a phone or wallet as you run, while the price is very affordable.
Sizes: Small to XXL
Weights: 10lbs (Upgradable to 42lbs)
Material: Moisture-wicking cotton
Storage Pocket: No
Features: Unisex design, proprietary micro-loading system, side cord adjustments, front zipper, breathable material, body hugging fit
If you don’t want to spend the premium price of the Elite, the Hyper Vest Pro is Hyperwear’s original offering and another very worthwhile choice for runners.
This stylish unisex vest doesn’t sport the hardwearing Cordura material or the reflective sections for outdoor running, although the Pro still boasts plenty of features shown off by its more expensive brother. For example, there’s the low-profile, well-vented fit, along with the patented weight pocket system. Again, this results in a load that is evenly distributed.
It also offers breathable, moisture-wicking properties for a comfortable experience when the workout gets tough. This slim vest comes in multiple sizes with 10lbs of weight supplied – this is upgradable to up to 42lbs!
Weights: 12lbs to 60lbs
Storage Pocket: Yes
Features: Removable sandbags, midriff Velcro strap, water bottle holder, device storage, shoulder pads (sold separately)
The RUNFast/Max Pro vest is another solid choice, which comes in cheaper than our top picks. While considerably bulkier, this vest remains comfortable and fits snugly thanks to large Velcro straps, no matter what weight you go for (it is available from 12lbs to 60lbs).
There is the option to purchase these with additional shoulder padding, which can be a big benefit when a hefty weight is loaded.
The weight comes in the form of tightly packed sandbags, which isn’t as low-profile as steel bars, yet they do the job and feel quite comfortable in comparison. A useful feature for runners is the storage pocket at the top, meaning you can carry a phone with you, wherever you are working out.
Weights: 20lbs (Adjustable)
Material: Nylon, Mesh
Storage Pocket: Yes
Features: Removable sandbags, Velcro midriff strap, ample padding, device storage, reflective patch
If you’re on a tighter budget, you certainly aren’t limited with your options when shopping for a weighted vest. One of those that jumps out in the affordable market is this highly-rated offering from ZFOsports.
This is a well-padded option with an attractive design, featuring an array of evenly-distributed sand bags. While you can remove some of these to make the vest lighter, there is no way to add any more weight – 20lbs is your limit.
At this price we don’t usually expect to see such good padding, with chunky shoulder and midriff straps. It’s a one-size-fits-all design, which delivers a snug but nicely ventilated fit, so it’s great for running. The addition of a storage pocket on the front is a nice bonus.
Storage Pocket: Yes
Features: Iron sand-filled, chest strap, choice of colors, smartphone holder, rear mesh pocket, reflective strips, washable
This wallet-friendly and stylish weighted vest is great for runners, thanks to both the comfort and the convenience-enhancing extras. Similar to others on the market, this takes a slimline backpack-style design, with the majority of the weight on your back.
It is filled with iron sand with a total weight of 12lbs. This doesn’t compare to some of the heaviest vests on this list, nor is the weight adjustable. Yet, for adding a little extra resistance to your daily run, this is a worthy solution.
Made from a neoprene-style material and featuring adjustable straps, achieving a comfortable fit is easy. The addition of a rear mesh pocket and a built-in phone holder means the essentials are always close to hand, while various reflective strips increase safety.
A weighted vest may not be the first thing on your list if you are new to running. However, as you progress, you may feel in need of a new challenge to help burn more calories, boost your speed and improve your endurance. Wearing a weighted vest while running is ideal for training towards these goals.
While most vests will do the job, some seem to fare better at different applications – some weighted vests are great for calisthenics, while others are better for walking, jogging and running.
Here’s what you should look out for if you are shopping specifically for a weighted vest for running:
The most important thing in terms of design is the fit. You don’t want to be wearing a vest that is too loose, as it will bounce around, possibly throwing you off balance and causing chafing – something that no runner wants to endure.
Some vests will come in different sizes – small, medium, large and so on. If this is the case, read up on the best size for you. If it’s a one-size-fits-all design, ensure the vest has adjustable straps or cords, allowing you to secure it snugly.
Note that, due to body shape, women may find specific vests uncomfortable. We have a full guide on weighted vests for women, with both recommendations and considerations.
Elsewhere, a streamlined vest is usually better as you can wear it over or under clothing with less restriction of movement. Higher-end vests usually use compact metal bars as the weights – these tend to be lower profile when compared to sand or pellet-filled bags.
Finally, if you can find something which looks aesthetically-pleasing, then all the better. It’s not a deal breaker, but if you’ll be running in public – whether on the street or at the gym – looking good while doing it never hurts!
You’ll find a few variables when it comes to the weights each vest offers. Firstly, some brands make their vests available in a range of weights (for example, a 20lb vest, a 30lb vest, a 40lb vest, and so on), while others will just offer a vest with a fixed weight (say, 12lbs).
Regardless of the weight stated when purchasing, when the vest arrives, you may find you are able to adjust the weight – maybe removing metal bars or sand bags to make it lighter. However, some will offer no adjustability – the weight you buy is the weight you will have for the life of that vest.
The more expensive vests tend to be the most adjustable, allowing you to finetune both the weight and the placement of weight to best meet your needs. Those in the lower end of the market don’t tend to allow you to tweak the weight at all.
Each brand builds their vests with different materials. Some will be very advanced – such as the highly-durable Cordura found on Hyperwear vests – while some will be more familiar, like the neoprene used on cheaper vests.
The material you end up with will depend on which price range you buy in, although being aware of the pros and cons of each fabric is a good idea.
Different vests will be washable – either by hand, or by both washing machine and dryer. Considering the amount of sweat a weighted vest can conjure up, this is a big benefit! It’s also useful if you are running in dusty, muddy or sandy conditions.
Finally, some great vests for running will offer strips of reflective material. This is a big plus for outdoor runners in particular, as you won’t have to wear much additional reflective gear to be visible to traffic.
You shouldn’t choose your weighted vest based solely on the pockets it offers. However, having a storage pocket or two is a great benefit when out on a longer run.
You may have your smartphone for music or GPS, and you may need to carry keys, wallet and a water bottle. Having all this in a secure pocket on the vest within easy reach leaves your hands free.
For some people, just the thought of running is hard enough! Who in their right mind would actually try to increase the challenge? Quite a lot of runners as it turns out. Here are some of the reasons why wearing a weighted vest while running can be beneficial:
The simple fact is that carrying extra weight while jogging, running or sprinting increases resistance. When you put on the vest, you are heavier and thus need to exert more energy to move and maintain a speed.
Wearing a vest increases the endurance of your muscles, which is a big benefit to long-distance runners. Pop one on while training for your next race and, when the going gets tough on race day, you’ll find you may have more left in the tank than usual.
Burn More Calories
As you may be aware, the more you weigh, the more calories you burn while running. So, somebody who weighs 160lbs will burn significantly less calories per mile than someone who weighs 200lbs. For a lighter person, this can be a bit frustrating. Unless, of course, you are wearing a weighted vest.
By adding external weight, your system will be working as hard as a heavier person, thus burning more calories. The advantage is that you can then take off that 40lb vest when your run is over, while the heavier guy has no such option!
Stronger Cardiovascular System
It is believed that wearing a weighted vest while running can boost the efficiency of your heart and lungs, as your system is forced to work harder than usual. This can be a boost to any other sport or activity, while being better for your health in general.
While we usually consider the benefits to muscles, cardiovascular system and even willpower, wearing a weighted vest can also help increase bone density and strengthen your skeletal system. It’s understood that training with weight can stimulate new bone growth and is therefore a recognized preventative of conditions such as osteoporosis.
Of course, please seek professional advice before embarking on any new training program – especially if you have a pre-existing condition.
Do you opt for a lighter weight or go straight in for the heaviest vest you can find? The answer will naturally depend on your level of physical fitness. Runners with a high VO2max will have no issues regularly packing heavier weights.
However, if you are just beginning, you should definitely consider lighter loads. The general rule is to aim for a vest that offers a weight of 5 to 10% of your bodyweight.
So, you weigh 200lbs? A vest of 10lbs to 20lbs will be all you’ll need to start feeling the benefits. As always, if in doubt, consult a physician who will point you in the right direction.
We’ve talked a lot about weighted vests giving you an edge when it comes to endurance, but do they increase your speed?
Studies suggest that they can certainly help. Wearing a weighted vest of around 10% of your bodyweight while practicing speed drills can help build your leg muscles, while increasing your ability to produce running force. The result of this can translate to faster speeds when the vest is taken off.
In short – yes. Weighted vests are used by countless athletes to boost endurance as well as improve cardiovascular, muscle and bone strength.
However, you open yourself to injury unless you use the vest correctly. When using a weighted vest, you will want to ensure that it fits well. The vest should be snug but not tight, to avoid it moving too freely, which can – in some circumstances – cause damage to your muscles and pull your spine out of alignment.
When wearing the vest, try to maintain a good posture. This should be easy to do as the vest is close to the center of your body, but try to be aware of whether it is pulling you in a certain direction. If this is the case, and your vest allows it, experiment with adjusting the load.
Another pointer – don’t add too much weight in the initial stages. Adding any weight to your body while running is taxing enough on the system, regardless of your experience. Ideally, purchase a vest that allows you to adjust the weight. This means you’ll be able to start lighter, then add resistance as you progress.
Finally, if you have any condition that affects your bones, muscles or joints (such as arthritis, osteopenia or fibromyalgia), it’s essential to consult a medical professional before you train with a weighted vest. Better safe than sorry!
We’ve declared the high-end Hyper Vest Elite from Hyperwear to be our top pick in this category. It’s far from cheap, but the investment will prove worthwhile if running with a weighted vest is something you plan to do often.
However, providing you find a vest that offers an appropriate weight for you, as well as a comfortably snug fit, then you will be able to reap the benefits of training in this style.
Nobody said running with a weighted vest would be easy, but when you are clocking new PBs in your next race, you’ll be thankful you gave it a go!