Why Fitness Walkers Should Avoid Weighted Shoes

Heavy shoes may have more risks than benefits

Ready to Walk
Walking Shoes Ready to Walk. Sofie Delauw/Cultura/Getty Images

Weighted shoes are a product that most walking experts do not recommend for fitness walking. These are shoes specially designed to add 1 to 5 pounds to the sole of the shoe. The marketers claim that the heavy shoes allow you to burn more calories per mile and tone your muscles better than with walking with lighter shoes.

If you enjoy brisk walking workouts for 30 minutes or more per day as is recommended by health authorities, these shoes have more negatives than positives. The experts consulted included physical therapists, kinesiotherapists, a physiatry physician, an orthopedic physician, and several walking coaches. None of them recommend weighted shoes.

Orthopedic physician Dr. Jonathan Cluett says "There is no scientific data to support the use of a weighted shoe, and there is a reason to believe that there could be detrimental effects on joints from footwear that is heavily weighted."

Ergonomic expert Chris Adams examined the use of heavy shoes. He says that while they can be of benefit if used like ankle weights in specific strength training exercises, they increase the risk of strain if used for walking or running.

6 Reasons Not to Buy Weighted Shoes 

These are the rationales for avoiding this product when you walk briskly:

  • Heavy feet are unnatural: The human body wasn't designed to wear weights on the feet, ankles, or wrists. Weights added to those areas can cause strain in the joints above them. It is simple physics that weight added to the end of a pendulum causes more of an effect than weight added near the center of mass. Your joints will have to deal with that extra stress with every step. While some strain is good to make the body build muscle and burn more calories in moving the limb, it could contribute to repetitive strain injuries. The risk may be minor for a healthy young person using the weights or weighted shoes for a limited period when exercising. But wearing heavy shoes all day or for extended walking could be a problem.
  • You will burn only slightly more calories with weighted shoes: If your body has to move more weight, it will have to burn more energy with each step. But the difference is minor and easily made up for by just walking a little bit farther.
  • There are better ways to burn a few more calories: If you want to burn more calories in the same time period, you can buy fitness walking poles for less than the cost of weighted shoes. These burn 15 percent to 30 percent more calories per mile while reducing the strain on your hips, knees, and ankles. Why wouldn't you want to reduce the strain rather than add to it if you reach the same goal of burning more calories with each step?
  • It's hard to walk fast in heavy shoes: If you have only 30 minutes for your walking workout, you are bound to go slower wearing heavy shoes. As a result, you go a shorter distance and burn fewer calories. It is likely that the reduced distance could offset any extra calories you burn by wearing the weighted shoes.
  • Many kinds of weighted shoes are not flexible: Weighted shoes can feel extremely comfortable—until you try to walk. Walking shoes need to flex as your foot flexes through the step. If you can't twist and flex the soles, they are not suitable for fitness walking. This is true for any shoe—stiff shoes are not good for walking. Some weighted shoes may be designed to flex. Be sure to test them before you decide to buy.
  • Research is needed to support claims: No studies have been published in peer-reviewed medical research journals on the use of weighted walking shoes in the past 10 years. However, one study noted that heavy work boots can increase physical strain and the risk of injuries.

    A Word From Verywell

    If your goal is to burn more calories with your walks, you can do so by wearing flexible athletic shoes and using a good walking technique to go farther and faster. If a friend, salesperson, or athletic trainer suggests using weighted shoes, ask to see what research they have that they will provide benefits without increasing risks.

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