The purpose of this study was to compare the kinetic responses associated with ground reaction force measurements to both head-loading and back-loading in a group of Xhosa women. Altogether, 16 women were divided into two groups based on their experience of head-loading. They walked over a force plate in three conditions: unloaded or carrying 20 kg in either a backpack or on their head. The most striking finding was that there was no difference in kinetic response to head-loading as a consequence of previous experience. Considering the differences between the load carriage methods, most changes were consistent with increasing load. Head-loading was, however, associated with a shorter contact time, smaller thrust maximum and greater vertical force minimum than back-loading. Both loading conditions differed from unloaded walking for a number of temporal variables associated with the ground contact phase, e.g. vertical impact peak was delayed whilst vertical thrust maximum occurred earlier. Statement of Relevance: Consideration of the kinetics of head and back load carriage in African women is important from a health and safety perspective, providing an understanding of the mechanical adaptations associated with both forms of load carriage for a group of people for whom such load carriage is a daily necessity.