Rucking vs. Running

Silhouette running
Written by Keren Dinkin

No doubt you know about running, but rucking? 

Rucking is another type of cardio exercise that incorporates strength training. It originated in the military when soldiers would carry backpacks containing essential equipment and supplies across great distances quickly. As you can imagine, it’s a great exercise that burns calories while building endurance. Due to the added weight from the backpacks, it also helps strengthen the leg and back muscles.

The name is derived from the word “rucksack.” “Ruck” is military slang for a rucksack and its civilian version entails filling a backpack with heavy loads like weights, ruck plates, sand, bricks, etc. for weight training. 

You’ll often see rucking compared to running since they share similarities. The key differences between rucking from running are it entails slower movement and includes weights on your back. 

If you’ve been curious about rucking and thinking about giving it a try to add variety to your exercise regime or because you struggle with running, we’ve prepared a comparison of the two to give you some perspective. 


Rucking and running are both intense activities with their own pros and cons.

Running employs a natural movement because the type of gait it produces results in the rapid movement of your legs and feet. It is one of the most common physical exercises because one doesn’t need special equipment for it and it’s something that can be done anytime.

Running is considered anaerobic high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This means that you can only run and perform the activity at maximum effort for a limited time.

Usually, a HIIT workout follows a pattern where you make your body work, let it rest, then work again. While running, you won’t necessarily run the entire time but will usually take a few seconds to a minute to cool down and catch your breath before going back to running.

This is why anaerobic means “without air.” As you run, your body relies on its stored energy instead of oxygen. During this time, it breaks down glucose to supply you with the energy you need.

Like many high-intensity exercises, the recommended duration for a run is between 10 minutes to half an hour. Studies show that this is the ideal amount of time for getting your metabolism going and for burning fat

While running is considered HIIT, rucking is categorized as aerobic low-intensity interval training or LIIT. Aerobic exercises like rucking condition your cardiovascular system and enhance circulation. 

Since you aren’t pushing your body as much as you would if you were running, rucking keeps your heart rate at a steady pace despite the distance covered. You may breathe a tad faster and your heart rate might go up a bit, but the intensity is less than when you run.

In rucking, you rely on oxygen as your primary source of energy and will often be advised to breathe in and out regularly throughout the duration.

Impact Level

Since you don’t move as quickly when rucking, the impact level is friendlier to your bones and joints. If you want to match running’s impact level, you’ll need to do rucking for longer and more frequently.

When deciding between the two, consider your goal and the timeline of your objective. If you are considering rucking or running because you want to burn off some calories, you’re better off running.

Running allows you to burn fat and progress your fitness level faster since it’s a high-intensity workout. If you’re just getting started and have been inactive for some time, aim to run 20 minutes twice a week to get you started.

Rucking is recommended for people looking for low-impact exercise due to medical conditions like arthritis. To achieve nearly the same results, you’ll simply have to increase the frequency and duration. 

Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article covering whether rucking is bad for your knees that you might be interested in.

Running ankle injury

Likelihood of Injuries

There will always be risks involved in every sport and physical activity. The simple act of walking can lead to injuries and unexpected accidents like tripping, falling, and sprains. Rucking and running expose you to these same risks. 

However, as long as it’s done correctly and with the right equipment, rucking is the safer option between rucking and running. Keep in mind that you can still get minor foot injuries like blisters and inflamed soles since you’re carrying more weight on your back. 

Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on how to care for blisters that you might be interested in.

On the other hand, running’s repetitive and weight-bearing motion has you going against gravity with every step. As a result, runners should keep an eye out for plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, shin splints, stress fractures, and Achilles tendonitis among others.

Required Gear

In any form of exercise, you need to consider the right gear based on the type of activity, its intensity, and the duration you’re aiming for. Having the right gear won’t just allow you to perform your exercise correctly, but will also protect you from injuries.

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, you need to have the right gear with you. 

Consider the following gear for running;

  • The right running shoe
  • Seamless running socks
  • A lightweight running outfit that’s appropriate for the weather
  • Lightweight and comfortable running gloves
  • Fluorescent bibs, reflection bands, or glow-in-the-dark body strips to make you visible especially if you run during the evenings
  • A hydration bottle

For rucking, you will need to have similar

  • Ruck (backpack)
  • Rucking weights
  • A hydration bottle
  • Fluorescent bibs, reflection bands, or glow in the dark body strips for when you head out early or go home late
  • Foot care and emergency kit
  • A lightweight and weather-appropriate outfit
  • Comfortable and well-cushioned shoes

Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on DIY Rucking Weights, which can save you from having to purchase rucking weights if you want to get started.

Cardio vs. Strength Training

Running is considered cardio training while rucking focuses more on strength training. You may be interested in taking up both activities because, though similar, they reap different benefits:

  • If your goal is to lose weight, running is excellent cardio to help you meet your weight loss goal.
  • For speed, strength, better balance, and a tighter core, consider rucking. Rucking develops speed by strengthening your muscles giving you overall stronger performance. 
  • For endurance, running is the better option.

Because of its ability to help you lose weight, running benefits include lower risks for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even specific types of cancer. 

An added benefit of rucking is it improves your posture. The added weight on your back pulls your back and shoulders into the proper alignment associated with good posture.

Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on using hiking for weight loss that you might be interested in.

Socializing run


Both activities offer opportunities to socialize with others. You can join a running or rucking club so you can work out with other people. 

Since rucking is done at a slower pace, however, you may find it easier to hold a conversation and do your rucking with other people than if you were running. 

If the opportunity for socializing is one of the things you look forward to when exercising, choose rucking. It’s a more group-oriented activity. Rucking encourages conversations and social interactions which makes the workout more pleasant.

With rucking, it’s easier to pick up your pace, ease up, and repeat the process without ruining your momentum. There’s less pressure and you can enjoy the time you spend by engaging in light conversation.

Running is a more independent activity. Since running requires you to set your own pace and route, most runners find it easier to be on their own. You might pass other runners, but maintaining a faster pace and the fact that it’s anaerobic exercise means that you may only be capable of giving fellow runners a quick nod, wave, or smile. You can stop to chat with another runner but it will ruin your pace, momentum, and time.


Burning fat, calories, and weight loss is one of the main motivators of exercise. 

An average person running for 30 minutes can burn 280 to 520 calories based on their speed and weight. Naturally, the calories you burn will be less if you run slowly. 

When it comes to rucking, the calorie burn is between walking and running. To give you an idea of how many calories you can burn, a 200-pound man walking briskly for an hour will burn around 391 calories. 

You can factor in the additional weight from your backpack by adding 40 to 50% of the calories burned from walking. 

The caloric burn between running and rucking isn’t too far from each other. Due to the higher intensity level and faster pace, running will always burn more calories. However, if past injuries or a medical condition prevents you from running, you can up the pace and the weight in rucking to achieve a similar burn.

The Best of Both Worlds: Running and Rucking

Running and rucking are both accessible and easy exercises that you can get into. All you need are running shoes, weights, and a backpack. 

Though they involve similar movements, you can get different benefits from the two. Keep in mind that if you want to burn calories, running is the answer. However, if you’d like to improve your strength, endurance, and speed, consider rucking.

Rucking is also a great alternative to running if you suffered an injury or can’t take the impact of running. By taking on a faster pace or adding weights to your pack, you can up the intensity and the calorie burn.

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Keren Dinkin