In the comments on my running by default post, one of the more common responses was that people often have backpacks and a bouncing backpack is somewhere between "annoying" and "painful, risking bruising".

There was some discussion on how to set up your backpack to reduce bouncing. Tips:

  • Some backpacks have straps you can buckle across your front, or you can get add-on ones. Wear them super snug.

  • Put your water bottle inside where it's more central and less likely to fall out.

  • Figure out if there are things you don't need to be transporting so you can have a lighter pack.

  • Use a fancy backpack with good padding and a rigid back.

  • Hold the shoulder straps as you run to absorb jostling.

These all seem like fine ideas, but I don't do any of them. My backpack is relatively low-end ($27) and non-rigid, without any sternum or waist straps. I keep my water bottle in the outside pocket, I have many little things in it that I could probably carry fewer of, and I don't hold the shoulder straps. And yet I probably do the majority of my running with a backpack on: I'm commuting and I have things I need to bring with me. Even when I was trying to run fast and repeatedly beat my personal best times I had my pack.

What works for me instead is that I've learned to run with a gait that doesn't bounce my backpack. I take a lot (~190 bpm) of short strides which means I have less time to fall between steps, and I generally stay pretty level. I think this is probably also beneficial from a perspective of minimizing the impact forces on your joints (ex: a paper I skimmed). Whether my backpack is heavy or light, it mostly stays put on my back.

It's still less pleasant to run with the extra weight of a backpack since it's more work, but if I think of it as intentional exercise (a bit like a weighted vest you already have with you!) I don't mind it too much.

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I wear my backpack on my front rather than my back, and hug it as I run.

I started doing this after a trip to Tokyo, during which it was brought to my attention that it was rude of me to get on the subway and let my backpack on my back become a hazard to people around me, since I could not see what it was doing behind me.

When I was doing runs in the dozens of miles, I found it better to cache water ahead of time at the ten mile points.  On a hot day, you need more water than you can comfortably carry.

The kind of running I'm thinking about here is much shorter stretches as you go about your daily life: short enough that you don't even break a sweat (more).


I've had to replace my work laptop because of hardware issues every two or three years for the past nine years. I would expect a laptop to last on average at least five years before having sever enough hardware issues to warrant replacement. I wonder if my habit of full-on running with a laptop in my backpack has something to do with this.

I tried the quick gait:
1. running with a backpack
2. running for exercise without a backpack

I think I'm sold on it for 1, seems better than the long, loping gait I previously used for backpack running

Not sold for 2, seems to wear out my calves quickly

Thanks for reporting back!

I wonder if wearing out your calves quickly is just not being used to it yet? It wouldn't be surprising for it to use your muscles a bit differently and so be especially tiring in one area at first.

Yeah maybe -- I have a ton of calf problems in general when running, and I should probably see a running coach or something.

This pretty clearly did make the calf problems even worse than usual though :p


Interesting! I wonder if differences in leg/hip geometry contribute to some people finding less-bouncy running gaits comfortable, and others finding the smoother gaits notably less pleasant.

Definitely wouldn't surprise me! It's reasonably common that when I ask "why doesn't everyone else..." it turns out to be some way people vary I hadn't thought about.

(Though there are also a lot of cases where it turns out it does generalize.)


This sounds like some dark magic to me.

I put a towel inside my backpack to prevent the contents from rattling. I do up the straps quite tight and if needs be I put socks around the straps so they don’t chafe against my neck. If the pocket where I keep my phone and keys is not tight enough to stop my keys from jangling then I stuff a flannel in as well. I also put hairbands around the zippers to prevent jangling noises. I also try to finish the contents of my water bottle in one go because I don’t like to have a half full bottle sploshing around.