I started practicing medieval full contact, which means I have to fight for several minutes in a 30kg++ steel armour. For me to be physically fit for this sport, I decided (among other things) to start running with a backpack (aka rucking).

I have a good military backpack that doesn't bounce, stays in a good high position on my back and provides good support. I just started with a 10% (of my weight) load and my objective is to reach 20% in 6 months or so, depending on how I evolve.

However, I wish to know if running with weights on my back will be bad for my spine, shoulders, legs, etc.. I don't want to risk my health because of this, so would like to know your opinion. Thanks.


My objective is not running with the usual stuff I carry everyday, like other questions (Running with a backpack). I wish to know if I can start running with a certain weight in a backpack, and start adding more and more weight in a controlled manner, while not risking my health.

For weights I started using small bricks and water, I will then evolve to beans and later probably sand.

  • possible duplicate of Running with a backpack
    – Eric
    Apr 23, 2015 at 16:13
  • FYI, Rucking is just hiking at a quick pace with a backpack on. Ruck Running is what you are talking about.
    – Kevin
    Apr 23, 2015 at 18:36
  • 1
    It doesn't strike me as a duplicate. Apr 24, 2015 at 12:52
  • @BerinLoritsch - They are very close, but I voted to leave open as there was not a definitive answer on the other question, most of the answers were "Check out this backpack!" and similar. I did VTC the other as being a product recommendation.
    – JohnP
    Apr 24, 2015 at 18:27
  • 1
    Dude that's a lot of weight, be careful. Ultra running may have good advice since torso strength is important, don't neglect your back. Also consider what kind of shoes, or minimalist kind you'll be wearing. I support training on sand and even going barefoot. There's some good discussion in that point in this se.
    – nilon
    Jun 19, 2016 at 5:27

2 Answers 2


Your spine and shoulders should be fine, the biggest risk is to the knees. In particular, running with any kind of weights (vest, ruck sack, etc.) puts much more stress on your knees. If you have bad running form, it's even more of a problem. Some quick points to think about:

  • Make sure you have the right shoes for your total weight including the ruck sack. You'll find you need more cushion in the shoes as you get heavier.
  • Do your rucking on anything other than hard concrete. Grass and dirt are the most preferable, but even asphalt is better than concrete sidewalks.
  • Do quick paced walking and increase the weight. Walking will be much easier on your knees than running, and you'll be able to handle more weight when you do it. At the very least, alternate running and walking days when you exercise.
  • Run uphill, walk downhill. Running uphill reduces the impact on your knees and gets your heart rate up. Walking downhill will lower the impact on your knees and lets your heart rate cool down some.

Above all, listen to your body. No matter how young you are, you will likely get to a point where your knees are inflamed. During those times, take the ruck sack off, and do something that is much lower impact to get blood flowing through that area. Alternatives would include elliptical, swimming, water running, etc. The inflammation is temporary, so you can get back to rucking after the bout is over. You just need to reserve and protect your exercise time, but do something that doesn't make it worse so you don't have as hard a time getting back to your regular training.

  • 2
    Better yet, do your rucking on a soft sand beach if you're near one. Even less impact, and a greater muscular workout.
    – andrewb
    Apr 28, 2015 at 23:08
  • When choosing shoes, what should I be looking at?
    – Cthulhu
    Apr 29, 2015 at 9:09
  • 1
    I would go to a store that specializes in running and explain that you will have an extra 30 kg (over time). They'll analyze your gate, and help you decide based on whether you are a heel striker, toe striker, or mid-foot striker. Apr 29, 2015 at 13:04

I am 64 yrs, and had significant problems with my knees for injured ligaments near my knee. Even walking was a problem but very variable. I worked out eventually my knee problems were to do with muscle tension and weakness in my lower legs ankles and flat feet. I started with somatic exercises 4x daily to reduce tension in knees/intrinsic muscles of calf/foot and exercises to get my flat feet moving (I use vivobarefoot shoes during day now for walking). Moved on to running short steps and slowly in garden grass barefeet. Then added a small backpack with one brick as weight. Now I am up to 2 bricks 20mins per day. Posture and form is the key not speed, and short steps help. My knees are hugely improved for walking now (I also used a pine pollen extract supplement for testosterone balance). So if done for short periods in right way with small weights I would say it is a great way to strengthen legs. Worked for me as a part of broader programme. I will not go beyond 3 bricks - do not see the need.

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