Running as an activity has remained the same throughout the years. However, the gears used to do it have undergone many changes. Nowadays, there are many different versions of running shoes. Some of them aim to make the reader feel comfortable while running, some to improve the runner’s performance, whereas others focus solely on the aesthetic aspect of the shoe.
When reading about running shoe details, sometimes you will encounter the phrase “zero-drop.” But, what does zero-drop mean? Continue reading, and find out what zero drop running shoes are, their benefits, and how to transition to such a shoe if you decide you like them.
What Is Zero-Drop in Running Shoes?
“Zero-drop,” a term coined by Altra creators, refers to the heel-to-toe drop of the shoe being zero.
When calculating the heel-to-toe drop of shoes, we calculate the difference between the heel and forefoot height in a shoe. For example, if a shoe has 20 mm of material under the heel, and 15 mm under the toes, then the difference between the two is 5 mm and represents the heel-to-toe drop.
With that being said, zero-drop running shoes have the heel and forefoot in a level position, imitating the natural barefoot position on flat surfaces.
Zero-Drop vs. Regular Running Shoes
When comparing zero-drop and regular running shoes, the first major difference is their heel-to-toe drop level. We established that zero-drop running shoes have the heel and toes in the same height from the ground, whereas regular running shoes have one positioned higher than the other.
Zero drop running shoes are also more flexible than the regular ones because they mimic the foot’s natural movement when barefoot, whereas regular shoes are stiffer. According to an analysis on the biomechanics of barefoot walking, regarding the foot function in people who have never worn shoes, shoes shouldn’t restrict the foot’s biologically normal functions such as stretching, rolling, and bending.
Another comparison can be drawn in relation to the shoes’ weight. Generally, zero-drop running shoes are made from less material and don’t have any extra cushioning; therefore, they are lighter. On the other hand, regular running shoes can be heavier because of the cushioning, wide midsole, and choice of materials used.
Zero-drop running shoes are better than regular running shoes because of their minimalist design, resulting in a lighter and more natural appearance. The lightness of the shoe ensures less fatigue by helping with speed, efficiency, and stability.
Benefits of Zero-Drop Shoes
Zero-drop shoes are incredibly comfortable. That right there might be a reason enough to wear them. But, other benefits come from wearing zero drop shoes, too. The shoe’s design enables it to enhance your sense of motion through your feet and improve your posture and balance.
The natural feel they bring
Zero-drop running shoes imitate the moccasin construction of one of the first types of shoes created, with wraparound leather and incredibly thin midsoles held together on foot with lacings. The midsole design helps create the barefoot-like experience and ensures that, similarly to your ancestors, you feel more natural movements while running.
When people start wearing zero-drop running shoes, their posture should improve. Because the design of the shoes requires them to depend more on their muscles than the shoe itself, and the heel placement helps keep the spine properly aligned.
Zero-drop running shoes improve balance. Walking or running barefoot maximizes the level of proprioception. Meaning that because zero-drop running shoes imitate the foot’s natural movement when barefoot, the sensing of position, motion and equilibrium improves when wearing the shoes.
Improved running gait
Zero-drop shoes keep feet in a natural position. That, combined with the generally wider toe box design, lets runners stretch, roll, and bend their toes and feet easier. Thus, the shoes increase their stability when they land on their forefeet.
Disadvantages of Zero-Drop Shoes
Although there are many benefits of zero-drop shoes, there are also disadvantages. To begin, the zero-drop shoe can put a lot of pressure on your calf muscles. If you do not ease into these shoes, that pressure can damage calf muscles and tendons, which are important for jumping, running, and walking.
Another disadvantage is the lack of support given by the shoes when you are running through rough terrain. And if the zero-drop shoe has a thin sole, there is an increased risk of hurting the bottom of your feet, as well as potential growths of bunions, corns, and/or calluses.
Transitioning to a Zero-Drop Shoe
Suppose you are content with the idea of zero drop shoes and want to get some for yourself. That’s great! But, have in mind that switching from a regular shoe to a zero drop shoe can be a big change, especially if you have spent your life wearing shoes with substantial heel-to-toe drop. The best way to approach this transition is by following a technique that will gradually help you make the switch.
Begin by getting a pair of zero-drop everyday shoes, and wear them every day for a month. During that time, we would suggest you begin a strengthening program. As you become more comfortable with the different fit and feel, get a pair of zero drop running shoes, and start running in them for short periods of time. Slowly, start increasing the amount of time you run wearing the zero drop shoes until you feel comfortable running all your runs with the new shoes.
Zero drop shoes are an excellent choice of running footwear. Running in zero drop shoes helps you maximize the sense of motion and equilibrium, as well as your overall running performance. Transitioning from a regular shoe to a zero drop one can be challenging, but some methods will help you gradually make the switch. Zero drop shoes are definitely worth trying and seeing how they work for you.