Want to make your workouts a bit more challenging? The best ankle weights are simple and effective complements to your fitness routine that accomplish just that. They can help increase strength, add intensity to cardio, and provide variety to your exercise modalities. If you’re looking to build your lower-body strength with these wearable weights, SELF spoke with fitness trainers to learn more about the best ankle weights and their recommended uses.
“Since you don’t need to hold onto ankle weights in the same way you would dumbbells or free weights, ankle weights expand the types of exercises and planes of motion you can add resistance to,” Ashley Iwanicki, owner at The Collective Studios, tells SELF. This makes ankle weights a beneficial accessory to your home gym to shake up and intensify your everyday workouts.
As with any other fitness equipment, Matt Scarfo, a NASM-certified personal trainer, says you want to ease into using ankle weights as a beginner. “Walking is a great option because you can tailor your activity to how you’re feeling and cut your walk short, or take off the weights if you’re feeling tired,” he says. And since weights can also put some uneven pressure on your ankles, knees, and hips, he says it’s important to build the necessary strength before diving into longer use. Once you’re comfortable, you can use them to add resistance to a whole host of common lower-body exercises, like donkey kicks, fire hydrants, and glute kickbacks.
If you’re new to exercise or have any preexisting injuries, it’s best to consult your physician or trainer to find out which exercises are safe for you to do with ankle weights.
What to look for when buying ankle weights
There are three main things to look for when shopping for ankle weights: comfort, materials, and adjustability.
Since you’ll be wearing these while you work out, you want your ankle weights to feel, well, comfortable (i.e. no chafing.) “You should consider how easy it is to take your ankle weights on and off based on how often you’ll be using your ankle weights and the types of exercises you’ll be doing with your weights,” Iwanicki says. She mentions that if your ankle weights are a pain to use, this could be a “huge deterrent” to you actually incorporating them into your exercises. Scarfo also recommends not going much higher than 2–5 pounds on your ankle weights since anything heavier may cause joint problems. If you want to use more than 10 pounds of total resistance, he suggests exercising with a weighted vest or backpack to better distribute the weight and prevent injury.
There are several types of ankle weights that vary in materials, such as Velcro, silicone, and vegan leather. Whichever you choose, it’s important they feel breathable and lightweight for the activity you’re doing. Check to see if your ankle weights shift while you exercise (hint: they shouldn’t) and if the weight feels evenly distributed on your ankles. Assuming they fit comfortably, Scarfo says this can help you “build muscle slowly, getting stronger and more competent with the weight” so you can increase the resistance as you progress.
Whether you want ankle weights that are adjustable is dependent on preference. Some experts, like performance coach Keith Hodges, CPT, founder of Mind In Muscle Coaching in Los Angeles, say the best ankle weights have adjustability features, allowing you to easily add or subtract the amount of load or resistance needed while performing certain exercises. Additionally, Iwanicki advises looking for ankle weights that have a snug fit, ideally with adjustable straps, to ensure your weights stay in place and don’t hit against the top of your foot when you’re in motion.
Below, we selected 10 of the best ankle weights, according to fitness experts.