Tactical Fitness: How to Prepare for Your First Ruck March

A competitor in the Texas Military Department Joint Best Warrior Competition 2021 completes the ruck march event in Bastrop, Texas.
A competitor in the Texas Military Department Joint Best Warrior Competition 2021 completes the ruck march event in Bastrop, Texas, March 6, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Jordyn Fetter/U.S. Air National Guard photo)

Starting to ruck or wear boots while running or rucking without proper training can lead to nearly immediate pain and injury. Get smart and progress through running, then build upon that foundation with rucking and wearing boots. 

Here is an email from a teen seeking to prepare for the military by rucking.


I want to start ruck-marching to prepare for the military. I am new at this, and many websites contradict themselves. Sir, what bag do you recommend, and could you point me to a brand? I was looking at the 5.11 Rush 72 bag. Do you think it would be any good? I want to work up to heavier weights and longer marches. Also, I have my dad's issued Air Force combat boots to train in. Should I get a new pair of boots at the BX, or should they do fine? Thank you, sir, for any help given.  


Cameron --

Here is my advice to start out with rucking: Do not do it. Start off with running first. You want to have a decent foundation of running before adding weight to your fast walk or shuffle pace. See the running-related link below for a progressive plan.

Here is my advice to wearing your dad's old boots: Do not do it. First, start running in running shoes. Once you have built a foundation of running, you can start to add boots to your runs slowly, but you want good ones built for that kind of abuse. Wearing cushioned inserts will help with comfort, too. 

I like the Sorbothane brand insoles to make boots more comfortable and reduce the pain of impact. Once you have built a solid foundation of running with shoes and boots, you can try with a ruck. But progress over several months before you jump right into wearing a ruck and boots for the first time. Boots should fit well and be broken in to your feet, not your dad's.  

I like anything made by Bates. You may find the Bates 922 DuraShock at the BX or Navy Exchange for much less than online.

My advice for the backpack: Sure, the 5.11 is a fine pack, but you may find some better and more cost-efficient ideas on eBay by searching for MOLLE pack, ALICE pack or other brands

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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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