With over a decade of experience as a certified fitness coach, I've worked with hundreds of men and women on their fitness journey. I have learned that there are products that are suitable for strength training like push-ups and pull-ups, but they will likely be less than suitable for running.
So, together with a group of my clients, we tested out 51 different products over a period of several months to come up with this list of the best weighted vests for runners.
The Best Weighted Vests For Running
- Best Overall Weighted Vest for Running: Tone Fitness
- Cheapest Weighted Vests for Running: Zelus
- Best Breathable Weighted Vest for Running: miR Air Flow
- Best Running Vest With Weights for Women: Pure Fitness
- Most Durable Running Weighted Vest: RunfastMax Pro
- Best Open Front Running Weighted Vest: Tone Fitness
- Best Reflective Weighted Vest for Running: Pure Fitness
- Best Adjustable Weighted Vest for Athletes: GoFit Papped
- Most Comfortable Running Vest With Weights: Zelus
- Best Running Weighted Vest for Fitness: Tone Fitness
Our Top Weighted Vests For Running (December 2023)
1 - Tone Fitness Weighted Vest (Best Overall)
I've personally used the Tone Fitness vest during my long runs, and it's easily at the top of my list for two main reasons.
First of all, it’s very comfortable, and you hardly feel any shoulder pressure even on longer runs. Secondly, the completely open front means you won’t excessively sweat with it.
- Material: Neoprene
- Weight: 12 lbs
- Shoulder straps provide a comfortable fit
- Fast to put on and take off with just one clasp
- Completely open front design for better cooling
- One size fits all with an adjustable front strap
- It’s not an adjustable weight vest
Just keep in mind that you can’t add to the vest as you gain higher fitness levels.
2 - Zelus Weighted Vest (Cheapest & Most Comfortable)
During one of my hill training sessions, I wore the Zelus vest. Its weight options and broad shoulder straps stood out, making the uphill challenge more comfortable.
This helps to distribute the weight more evenly without causing pressure points that can cause stiffness on longer runs.
I was impressed with the enclosed pocket on the front that you can safely keep your phone. And the ventilated design should reduce the amount of sweating.
- Material: Neoprene
- Weight: 4 to 20 lbs
- Wider than average shoulder padding for more comfort
- Front zipper pocket to hold your smartphone
- Breathable material seems to reduce sweating
- Slimmer people might find they can’t tighten it enough
I just heard from a few female clients that they thought it didn’t tighten enough on their slim upper bodies.
3 - Adurance Weighted Vest
I often go on evening runs, wearing the Adurance vest with its reflective strips, I felt more visible and secure.
I also liked the mesh pockets on the back. They are tight enough to keep a few things like your phone and keys or some snacks for longer runs.
- Material: Neoprene
- Weight: 6 to 18 lbs
- Reflective strips on the front and back
- Convenient mesh pocket on the back
- Very well balanced feeling even when running at faster speeds
- Parts of the straps seem to be a little bit rough
Just be careful with some areas of the straps where the material can rub on your skin a bit and make it sore.
4 - Cross101 weighted vest
I incorporated the Cross101 vest into my cross-training routine, and its ability to handle more weight made my sessions more intense and rewarding.
There’s also a water bottle holder that fits larger bottles and keeps them from bouncing around too much.
- Material: Nylon and Neoprene
- Weight: 20 to 80 lbs
- Available as heavier options for higher intensity training
- Includes a convenient water bottle holder
- Cool camouflage pattern
- Slightly limited range of motion due to full body design
Just keep in mind that you might have some limited movement with the vest if you plan to use it for other types of exercises.
5 - miR Air Flow Weighted Vest (Most Breathable)
I've experimented with the miR adjustable vest in both its design options during my workouts. One option with a fully closed front part to it and the other with a zipper that I found makes it easier to get on and off.
If you’re going for one of the heavier ones, then I think that could be a good idea.
The weights come out easily enough so that you can adjust it quickly enough if you want to switch from running to other types of exercises.
- Material: Washable Cotton
- Weight: 20 to 60 lbs
- Also available with a zipper front for easier removal
- Maximizes airflow to help you stay cool
- Easily adjustable with removable iron weights
- Position of the weights can limit deep breathing
The only thing I found with the miR adjustable weighted vest is that the weights sit quite high on your chest, which can limit your breathing.
6 - ZFOSports Weighted Vest
I've tried the ZFOSports vest during interval training, and its range of weights allowed me to easily adjust the intensity, making it a versatile choice for varied workouts.
We also liked that it fits tightly, which reduces the amount of bouncing or rubbing on the skin that can become very uncomfortable.
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 12 to 50 lbs
- Convenient front pocket to keep a phone and keys
- Fits tight but comfortable to reduce rubbing and bouncing
- Even weight distribution with wide straps to reduce pressure points
- It’s not the easiest to keep clean
Because of the material design, it tends to repel less sweat, which makes cleaning it more of a challenge.
7 - RunfastMax Pro Weighted Vest (Most Durable)
I took the RunfastMax Pro vest for a spin during an obstacle course challenge. Its durability shone through, handling the rugged conditions impressively.
Even with the higher weight limit, you’ll find that the straps are wide enough to properly distribute the pressure.
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 12 to 60 lbs
- Very durable materials even when used for obstacle courses
- Straps on tightly to reduce bounce when running faster
- Includes a phone pocket and water bottle holder
- Removing the weight plates is a bit difficult
It’s just not the simplest option to get the weights in and out, so keep that in mind if you like switching intensity in your running.
8 - Cap Barbell Adjustable Weighted Vest
I pushed my limits with the Cap Barbell Adjustable vest, especially during strength training sessions. Its weight range is perfect for those looking to seriously up their game.
It’s relatively quick and easy to swap out a weight if you need to, and I liked that the materials don’t tend to get sweaty and smelly. It should be easy enough to wipe down after use.
- Material: Nylon and Polyester
- Weight: 40 to 150 lbs
- One of the highest weight limits we could find
- Easy to adjust the weight vest pockets as needed
- Sweat-resistant so doesn’t get smelly
- The really heavy vest might not be suitable for running
I just found the 150-pound option didn’t sit quite comfortable enough for running or hiking, as it resulted in a few pressure points.
9 - GoFit Papped Adjustable Weighted Vest (Best Adjustable)
After seeing so many recommendations online, I decided to give the GoFit Papped vest a try. Its durability lived up to the hype, handling my rigorous routines with ease.
And if you tend to run in all weather conditions, you’ll like the fact that it repels water rather than get soggy and wet.
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 10 to 40 lbs
- Very durable materials should see you using it for years
- Water-repelling so it doesn’t get saturated in rain
- Large reflective strip on the front and back
- Difficult to remove the weights from the pouches
What I didn't like is that the pouches are tight, and that makes it tough to get the weights in and out.
10 - Pure Fitness Adjustable Weighted Belt (Best for Women & Reflective)
During my runs along busy roads, the Pure Fitness Adjustable Weighted Belt became my go-to. Its high reflectivity ensured I was always visible to oncoming traffic.
It’s also a good weighted vest for women and men, as the straps are highly adjustable to different body sizes.
- Material: Nylon and Terylene
- Weight: 20 lbs
- Highly reflective material for safer runs in the dark
- Snug fit means it won’t bounce around while running
- The vest comes with broad shoulder straps that spread out the weight better
- Switching out weights is quite difficult
I just wouldn’t buy this if you need to regularly adjust the weight as it’s difficult to get at them.
How We Tested Weighted Vests for Running
Here's how we chose the best weighted vests for running.
We subjected each vest to a series of stress tests, simulating the wear and tear they would undergo during regular use. This included exposure to various weather conditions, from scorching sun to pouring rain, and even some accidental drops.
We also took note of any signs of fraying, tearing, or degradation in the stitching and fastenings over time.
We categorized the vests into different price brackets, ensuring we had options for every budget. But it wasn't just about the cost; we wanted to ensure that each vest offered value for its price point.
This meant comparing features, build quality, and overall performance against its price tag. We also considered any additional benefits or accessories that came with the vest, such as extra weights, storage pockets, or reflective strips, to determine if they added genuine value or were just marketing gimmicks.
The material of a weighted vest directly impacts its comfort, breathability, and durability. We closely examined each vest's fabric, checking for breathability during intense runs and comfort during longer workouts.
It was essential for the material to be skin-friendly, preventing any chafing or irritation. We also tested the vests' resistance to sweat, ensuring they didn't become too heavy or uncomfortable when drenched.
Additionally, the weight pockets' material was scrutinized to ensure they securely held the weights without any risk of them falling out during dynamic movements.
Here are the areas that you want to keep in mind before making your final decision.
1. Water And Sweat Resistant
You want running vests to be heavy with sand or iron, not rain or sweat.
The most important thing for me is that I like to wash down my running vest with a wet cloth, rather than having to take out all the weights every time to put it in the wash.
The more sweat-resistant the materials are, the less smell you’ll notice. This can also be achieved with certain chemical treatments that work as an antibacterial barrier.
2. Weight Limits
There are two things you want to keep in mind here.
First of all, each vest will have an upper limit, and you should avoid going above that limit.
It happened to me before that I overloaded a vest, and it started to tear quickly.
“Wearing a weighted vest could help people lose weight by making them burn more calories and by tricking their body into reducing a person’s appetite so that they eat less, a new study has found.”
- Tom Bawden, Contributor at iNews.co.uk
It’s also a great option if you plan to use the same vest for running and other workouts like CrossFit, where you’ll need to make adjustments.
3. Weight Distribution
Uneven weight can lead to posture issues, increased strain on certain muscle groups, and even potential injuries.
A well-designed vest will distribute the weight uniformly across your torso, ensuring that no particular area bears excessive load. This is especially important during dynamic exercises where balance and stability are key.
Before purchasing, wear the vest and move around to feel if the weight feels balanced both front-to-back and side-to-side.
4. Type Of Weights
You’ll find two types commonly used.
Lighter vests will typically use either small bags and pockets of sand. The advantage of this is that it’s a cheaper solution and still works very well.
But, I have found a few vests where the sand pockets weren’t watertight. As a result, the sand becomes wet, and the vest is heavier.
My preferred option is dedicated iron weight plates that slip into tight pockets. These should make it a lot easier to adjust the weights, and they remain very accurate.
You might also notice some vests that have pockets of small iron balls. Apparently, they are a bit cheaper than the plates, and personally, I don’t think there should be an issue with them.
5. Breathability And Ventilation
You’ll find that running vests that only have straps on the front tend to provide the best amount of ventilation.
You'll also always have some part of the vest covering your upper and possibly lower back. This matters because the more sweat that doesn’t get away from your skin because of the weight vests can make things very uncomfortable and even sore.
This could cause you to develop some negative feelings toward your routines, making you less motivated to do them in the future.
The vest and your clothes could end up rubbing on your skin, causing blisters. Suffering from these setbacks could cause you to stop exercising, hence ruining your momentum.
Also, according to a study published on the IOP Science, nylon or neoprene material are the two best options, and a combination of both works great for breathability .
6. Type Of Padding
In order to get the most comfortable fit, you’ll need to take a close look at the straps and the padding.
First of all, the shoulder straps need to be wide enough to better distribute the pressure on your shoulders.
But they also need thick foam padding so that you don’t feel a lot of pressure in one place.
Also, a lot of vests are one size fits all, and that means you need to look for good adjustments to make it fit tight and comfortable enough.
7. Ease of Cleaning
Vests with removable weights are particularly convenient as we can take apart them and the fabric component can often be machine washed.
Additionally, according to an article on Cotton Monk, some materials can increase odors . Looking for materials that are sweat-resistant or have antimicrobial properties can be beneficial, as these reduce odors and ensure the vest remains fresh for longer durations.
It's always a good idea to check the care instructions before washing to ensure the longevity of the vest.
8. Purpose and Goals
Are you aiming to enhance your strength training regimen, or is cardiovascular endurance your primary goal? For those looking to build muscle, a vest that allows incremental weight addition is ideal, as it lets you increase resistance as your strength grows.
On the other hand, if you're focusing on endurance training, such as running or high-intensity interval training, a lighter vest with even weight distribution will prevent unnecessary strain and ensure you maintain proper form.
Additionally, if you're using the vest for rehabilitation purposes after an injury, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the right weight and ensure you don't exacerbate the injury.
9. Storage Pockets
If you regularly go on longer runs, then you might want more than just a small pocket for your smartphone.
It’s great to listen to some music while you’re running, but if you want to stay hydrated, then you’ll need somewhere to keep a water bottle.
The problem is that it needs to be a tight-fitting pocket. I had one vest where the bottle ended up being quite loose. And as a result, it slipped out regularly, which was a major pain in the you-know-what.
So, always check that there are either elasticated or adjustable straps on pockets to keep things safe.
Do Weighted Vests Hurt Your Back When Running?
No, weighted vests shouldn’t hurt your back when running unless you have pre-existing back problems. With the proper padding and shoulder strap design, you should be able to distribute the pressure to avoid any pain.
Does Running With a Weighted Vest Build Muscle?
Yes, running with a weighted vest can build muscle. Note that you need to run at high-intensity levels to strain your muscles fully. As a result, your body will respond by repairing the strained leg muscles and adding new muscle fibers.
How Many Extra Calories Does a Weighted Vest Burn?
A weighted vest can burn 10% to 15% more extra calories . Some studies have shown higher results, but this is a good average to work on. It mainly depends on the weight of the vest, the terrain you’re running, and the average speed you run at.
Is Running With a Weighted Vest Better Than With a Backpack?
Yes, running with a weighted vest is better than with a backpack. Most backpacks are not designed to fit your body closely, so it tends to bounce around. Also, a backpack is likely to start rubbing your shoulders and back, which can become very painful.
Our Verdict on the Best Weighted Vest For Running
Having tried multiple vests during my runs, I can confidently say that the Tone Fitness stands out.
Its open front design and snug straps make it feel almost like a second skin. It might not be the heaviest option out there, but it strikes the right balance between comfort and resistance.
If you're looking to elevate your running game, this vest is a worthy addition.
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