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Pros And Cons Of Zero Drop Running Shoes My Story

    I’ve wanted to write this for quite a while, the pros and cons of zero drop running shoes because people are always asking what better or worse, is zero-drop running shoe a minimalist shoe, better than a highly cushioned high drop shoe?

    And my reply to that is, it depends on what you want? And I think in this article I’m going to try and sidestep all the marketing that’s going on. Of course, if you sell minimal shoes, you will tell everybody they’re the right shoes. If you generally sell more cushioned shoes, you’re going to start to tell people that’s what they got to buy.

    And I think it’s like anything in life, the truth, quite often is somewhere in the middle, or it’s going to be the truth, for you.

    So I’m just going to look at the pros and cons of zero drop as I see it, and hopefully, it will help you make an informed choice.

    What Are Zero Drop Shoes?

    Pros And Cons Of Zero Drop Running Shoes

    Zero drop shoes are minimalist running shoes that the heel area is the same height and elevation as the toe of the running shoe.

    This can, of course, be sometimes a bit misleading as you could have a shoe that was 12mm at the back of the shoe to the front of the shoe!

    If this seems odd, look at the Saucony Endoprphian Shift…

    It is not a minimalist shoe, quite the opposite; however, its heel drop is only 4mm because it’s pretty high from the back right through to the midsole.

    That’s not to say it’s a bad shoe; just pointing out sometimes heel drop can be a bit misleading.

    So with that in mind, most runners, when talking about minimal shoes, will be referring to minimalist running shoes that do not have large areas of cushioning on the heel area and midsole.

    Heel Drop. From High To Zero.

    As I have mentioned, heel drop can sometimes be misleading; however, the chart below outlines the broad strokes of the different types of heel drops in running shoes and their pros and cons.

    This should give you an initial feel for the sort of running shoes that might work for you and if it’s likely to be a zero drop minimalist shoe.

    Heel Drop Diagram

    Heel DropProsCons
    High Drop (9-12mm)1.More heel padding.
    2.More support.
    1.Inhibits natural stride pattern. 2.Sometimes heavier.
    Mid Drop (5-8 mm)1.Great for neutral runners.
    2.Great place to start if unsure
    1.Less cushioning than high drop
    Low Drop (1-4mm)1.Natural stride
    2.More responsive
    1.Higher risk of injury to calves and Achilles
    Zero Drop (0mm)1.Very natural feel.
    2.Helps running form.
    1Will bring out weaknesses in lower legs if present.
    2.Need time to adapt.

    Zero Drop Or Not. It’s About Feet

    A Little History Lesson About Running Shoes

    It wasn’t till the 1970s that people started to think of running as something they did themselves up until then; probably running was mainly seen on the track or at the Olympics.

    However, if you did run before the early 70s, The only shoe you could have had was minimal; there was no other type of shoe. But like everything. Innovation is always just around the corner, and in the 1970s, two people, one called Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. The Cortez running shoe was brought to the world; the Cortez running shoe was the first cushioned running shoe with a cushioning in the shoe’s heel. And that changed the running game forever.

    And every runner knows that brand today is called Nike.

    Now the minimal shoes have had an even longer history. Still, it’s come in and out of fashion over the recent years depending on certain celebrities that have been seen running in either barefoot shoes or no shoes at all.

    I mean, I remember really vividly in the 1980s watching Zola Budd run barefoot. And of course, I think the book that really ignited the present trend in minimalist shoes and minimalist running was Chris McDougall’s book Born To Run.

    A Little Background On The Human Foot

    Consider the fact that human beings and the human foot were designed to run from the moment we could stand upright. That was one of our main benefits for us to survive.

    We had the ability to run, endure; many of our prey was faster over shorter distances than us. We had the ability to sweat to maintain endurance, and we could run long distances.

    Consider this about the foot. It has 26 bones in it, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles and tendons and ligaments, which provide all this support, and for 1000s of years, we didn’t wear anything on our feet.

    So we were, by definition, minimalists, so you can well understand why so many people are so keen to return to that because that is our ancestry of utilising these mechanical miracles called feet, which have the dexterity and sensitivity of nearly the same as our hands. And we don’t box our hands in; we use them!

    However, many people want to be minimalist because it is historically the way we began.

    The reality is that most of us have grown up throughout our life, having our feet encased in less than a minimalist shoe. We’ve tended to wear shoes that are very supportive and do not let our feet work hardly at all.

    So it’s essential that if you are considering going over to a zero drop shoe or minimalist shoes, to understand that there is some time needed for transition.

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    Benefits Of Zero Drop Shoes

    So what are the benefits of no-drop shoes?

    Improves Running Form

    When I’ve run in minimal shoes, one of the things that I’ve really found is that it could be called a negative, but it teaches you to run better, mainly because you can feel when you’re not running well.

    So, you could argue that he teaches you with pain to some degree, which obviously does have a downside, which we will come to later on.

    Improves Running Efficiency

    Another plus around this is you tend to become a more efficient runner because you’re more aware of how you’re running, you’re more aware of where your foots landing and how it feels.

    So you, you tend to become more efficient. You are letting all the muscles and tendons, and bones in your foot do the work they were designed to do.

    Throughout history, our feet have been there to do this job, and by wearing minimal shoes, you’re enabling your feet to do that job.

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    Downsides To Zero Drop Shoes

    What are the downsides to using no-drop shoes or another question you could be asking? Are cushion shoes going to be better for you than minimal shoes?

    I’ve done some running in minimal shoes, and I’ve run in cushion shoes, and I really don’t think it comes down to better or worse; it just comes down to different and what you will need personally.

    Increase The Risk Of Lower Leg Injuries

    You can find that barefoot shoes tend to increase the risk of calf injuries and Achilles, which is definitely something that I found myself.

    Not Great For Heel Strikers

    Suppose you tend to be a heel striker. This would definitely cause you problems because wearing cushioning shoes, particularly high heel drop shoes, supports heel strikers. The obvious fact is that minimal shoes have no shock absorption for that foot strike. So you’re going to be more likely to injure yourself.

    Not Great For People That Want Instant Gratification

    Imagine that you’ve never used your eyes before they work, but you’d never really use them. You’d always been in a darkened room. And then, one day, somebody leads you out into the blinding light. You would not want to use your eyes straight away. You would have some glasses that shielded you from the sun, and then you slowly adapted to the light over time.

    This is really the case with no drop shoes that there is an adaption. And if you are not up for that adaptation, it may be a big downside for you because it will increase the likelihood of injury.

    Are Zero Drop Shoes Bad For Knees?

    So, all no drop shoes, bad for your knees now.

    Logically, a lot of people, I think, would say yes. However, the correlation seems to be that if you get any issues with minimal shoes, it seems to be more in the lower leg, and people seem to have more injuries from, say, the knee or the hip area in more traditional cushioned shoes, which may go against what a lot of people would initially think.

    What causes this is that certain running trainers do not deal with actual weaknesses in a person running they tend to mask them.

    So, if you’re not aware of these issues, then they can get worse. So, for instance, if you’ve got problems with your knees, but you’re not aware that you’ve got a problem because your cushion trainers are shielding it, then it actually gives you an opportunity for that problem to get worse.

    Whereas if you weren’t running zero-drop minimal issues, you’d probably be much more aware of adapting your style, which would be more in line with ensuring your running was in alignment with your knees and your hips.

    But like I said earlier, the problems you do tend to get with no drop trainers are more from the lower leg, such as Achilles and calves. You’re utilising that part of your leg more in minimal shoes.

    Some Tips On Transitioning And Adapting To Low Drop Running Shoes

    I just wanted to finish this article with some tips on transitioning and adapting to low drop running shoes if you decide to do it.

    One tip I would say is to utilise the chart I gave you earlier to start coming down the levels of heel drops so, for example, if you want to get down to say zero-drop initially, why not go to a mid drop, then a low drop shoe and see how you go and see if you get injuries or if it doesn’t suit you and that way you can transition towards a zero drop shoe.

    For me personally, I’m not actually looking to always run in minimal shoes. I tend to try to be in that mid drop too low drop shoes. Generally, I’m pretty open-minded to the types of shoes I running.

    But one thing I do which I think is improved my running form generally is to most days when I’m not running is to wear minimal shoes when I’m actually walking around. I have a hairdressing salon, and throughout the day, I wear no-drop shoes. All-day, while I’m walking around the salon and I find that this is really helped my running form because I’m utilising my feet in a low impact way by walking a lot.

    You might be interested in this blog post about bare foot running benefits

    However, when I run, I tend to run in either mid drop or low drop shoes, though I have run in zero-drop as well.

    To finish off, I think you’ve really got to look at one of the type of runner you want to become. And also the time that you have or don’t have to adapt to minimal shoes.

    Personally, I absolutely love the idea of minimalist shoes. They suit me mentally, that idea of really feeling the ground.

    However, at 57 years old. I’m not sure I’ve got the time to always adapt to zero drop shoes. So this is why I’ve made this halfway house of wearing zero drop shoes throughout my daily life; however, I tend to use various levels of cushioning when I run.