How to Lose Weight at the Gym When You Have Bad Feet

Exercise with Bad Feet
25 May

Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Michael Brockbank

Not everyone has the same capacity for cardio when their feet are sore. Past injuries, genetic complications, and a myriad of other issues can prevent you from walking, running, or riding. So, what can you do to burn fat at the gym when you can’t use your feet?

Actually, there is quite a bit you can do that doesn’t require the use of anything below your ankles. And gyms like Planet Fitness have them all in spades.

Welcome to the wonderful world of weight machines!

Getting Cardio without Your Feet on a Weight Machine?

Arguably, and scientifically proven, the best way to burn fat is through cardio activity. This is essentially any physical movement that elevates your heart rate and makes you work up a sweat.

Technically, vigorous house cleaning can be considered cardio. I know I’ve peaked my heart rate at 120+ bpm sweeping and mopping my kitchen.

Now, when you think about weight machines, you’re probably associating it with getting “pumped” and “ripped.” While it’s true that you can improve muscle mass and strength with machines, you can also elevate your heart and work up a sweat without grinding out thousands of pounds per session.

Low Weight, High Reps

The underlying point of cardio is to sustain an activity that can elevate the heart rate. Repeated movement forces your body to expend continuous energy, which it pulls from various sources.

This includes fat.

When you set the weights low on a machine, you’re able to get in that continuous movement for a longer duration, which will eventually work you up into a sweat.

It’s also a good idea to do low weight/high rep workouts simply because it will improve stamina of Type 1 muscle fibers.

Toning and Strengthening the Muscles

I know a lot of people are anti-weight machine. The truth of the matter is that they can offer a great workout, especially for those who don’t necessarily want to bulk up.

Not everyone wants to walk around like the Hulk.

Weight machines can still offer quite a bit in terms of toning and strengthening muscle mass. And even if you’re just looking to burn fat, adding a bit of strength is always a practical idea.

My favorite example is when I lifted that 50-pound bag of dog food with one hand and thought I bought the wrong bag because it didn’t feel nearly as heavy. I also have more energy and stamina to work in the garden, clean house, and go camping without getting winded.

Nearly Every Part of Your Body Can Be Worked

I can’t speak for all gyms. In fact, I’ve been in a couple where there wasn’t a weight machine to be seen. Usually, these were smaller, bodybuilder gyms.

But at Planet Fitness, no this isn’t a commercial, nearly every muscle group can be worked with nothing but weight machines. In my regular workout routine, I get a near-complete upper body workout.

Arms, core, back, and even legs can be worked on without using your feet. Well, aside from walking to each unit.

Most Weight Machines Don’t Involve Your Feet

The main takeaway from this is that most weight machines do not require the use of your feet. Outside of the leg press and a couple of others, it’s easy to stabilize yourself on a machine to get in a good workout.

In fact, there are quite a few leg machines you can use that don’t require putting a lot of weight on your feet as well.

That’s perhaps one of the highest selling points for using weight machines. The way they are built, you reduce strain on other parts of the body while conducting safe movements without worrying about form.

The tradeoff, though, is that free weights offer strength training in order to support those movements. So, something like dumbbells or performing a deadlift is better overall if you’re working on building muscle mass in various areas and improving balance.

However, if you’re injured or are unable to use certain parts of your body during a workout, machines can help isolate areas with little to no risk.

Other Feet-less Exercises You Can Do

What if you don’t have the monthly fee for a gym membership? Perhaps you’re unable to get to the gym on a regular routine. Well, there are a few things you can do at home that don’t require a lot of strain on your feet.

The trick is to find something you like and stick with it to the end.


First off, swimming is probably one of the most effective cardio exercises you can do. It’s an ultra-low-impact exercise and forces you to use a wide range of muscles just to stay afloat.

This goes along the lines of the Type 1 muscle fibers I mentioned earlier. It takes longer to get fatigued, so you’re able to sustain the activity for incredible amounts of time.

The only resistance is that of the water.


Although most positions in yoga do require the use of balancing on your feet, there are plenty of positions that do not. And there are a lot of people who stay in amazing shape doing nothing but yoga.

The best part is that yoga and other mind/body exercises are quite easy to learn. Especially when you take to YouTube…the second largest search engine in the world next to Google itself.

Anyway, yoga could be something you could easily do without putting undue strain on your bad foot.

Ab Roller

Using an ab roller is not for the faint of heart. It’s probably one of the most grueling core exercises I’ve ever done. Personally, I’d rather plank. But a proper plank will require the use of your feet.

Anyway, you can do an ab roller from the position of your knees. You’ll still have to use your core to roll out and then back.

If you’re not used to such an intense core workout, though, expect it to put you in the hurt locker tomorrow. After 10 reps, my abs were pretty sore from DOMS, but in a good way.

Various Bodyweight Exercises

There are tons of bodyweight exercises you can do right now that don’t utilize your feet. Just off the top of my head, I can think of:

  • Sit-ups
  • Knee Push-ups
  • Knee Planks
  • Pull-ups
  • Bicycle Kicks
  • Scissor Kicks
  • Dead Bugs

If you need some ideas, has more than 2,000 exercises available, most with videos to show you how they’re done.

Can a Vibration Board Help, Such as a Zaaz?

So, can a vibration board help with exercise when your feet are bad? That really depends on the kind of damage you’ve sustained. I know a lot of people who will attest to something like the Zaaz as helping with certain joint pain and relaxing muscles.

However, the vibrations could easily aggravate other types of injuries or complications. You could inadvertently cause more damage to the affected area.

A friend of mine found comfort when using the vibration board on a low setting for her foot pain. But again, it all depends on the underlying issue. For example, I doubt vibrating a broken foot would be of benefit.

Always Consult a Physician!

When you have specific health issues, it’s always best to consult your physician before doing any exercises. What works best for one person may actually cause more harm to you depending on your condition.

If it’s a common enough condition, your doctor could already have an exercise routine in mind that could be helpful.

Don’t Let Bad Feet Stop You From Reaching Your Goals

Overall, there are a lot of things you can do to lose weight and reach certain levels of fitness without the use of your feet. In fact, the majority of my time spent at the gym is sitting on a machine of some kind.

Combine this with the exercises you can do at home and you soon realize the only thing stopping you from reaching health and fitness goals is you.

Explore your options and find ways to work up a sweat without standing or otherwise using your feet. There are a lot of methods out there; you just need to find the one that works best for you.

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