what are zero drop shoes: 6 differences from Normal Shoes

Did you recently come across the term “zero drop shoes” and completely got lost about what it could be? Well, don’t worry!

Many new runners often get confused about this unusual name. You might associate it with something else and make a new scenario in your mind. If so, you’re not alone! Almost everyone gets surprised upon finding these shoes.

To keep you out of confusion, wearing zero drop running shoes does not mean you will walk barefoot. There is a completely unique design in these shoes. It makes them ideal for specific people while being different from regular running shoes.

So, keep reading to learn more about zero drop running shoes and whether they can be your next pick!

What are zero drop shoes?

Zero drop running shoes are shoes that have minimal to no cushioning. They keep your feet aligned while walking and running. The purpose of these shoes is to mimic the barefoot position. It keeps the feet on the ground without providing extra support.

The term “zero drop” basically refers to the difference in the height of our heels and forefoot. Regular running shoes tend to provide cushioning in the heels. This cushioning helps elevate the foot and provides an artificial position for running. Although it feels more comfortable, cushioning disturbs the natural alignment of the body.

But, the purpose of zero drop running shoes is to mimic the barefoot feeling. This way, our feet stay in the natural position while running and walking. We will discuss more about the differences between zero drop shoes and regular shoes later in the article.

Zero drop running shoes also come with variations in features. However, minimal cushioning is common to all. They come with reduced padding to minimize the difference in height between the heel and forefoot.

what are zero drop shoes

Is low drop better for running?

Before immediately switching to zero drop shoes, it is better to check whether they will suit you.

I heard several users say that zero drop shoes are good, it depends on several factors. These factors include foot shape, weight, running style, etc.

A drop below 6mm is considered a low drop. Several people say that low drop shoes suit them. It is because the shoes align their body in the natural position without providing additional support. 

Also, whether a low drop is better depends on your running style. It is ideal for runners that put their forefoot and midfoot on the ground first. In this way, the foot spreads and distributes the weight equally on the body. This gives a natural and neutral run.

Apart from that, low drop is better for running if you feel pain in your knees, lower back, and ankles. The natural stride puts less pressure on these areas, and you can run smoothly with low drop shoes in medical conditions.

Advantages of zero drop running shoes

While some people may not like the idea of barefoot running, zero drop shoes have multiple advantages. 

If you already wear these shoes, you probably know how convenient and healthy they can be. So, let’s discuss some advantages of zero drop running shoes.

  • Increased stability

The stability and support of zero drop running shoes are unmatched. The purpose of these running shoes is to eliminate the height difference between the heel and forefoot. This way, the body is more stable and feels more on the ground.

This feature allows more stability as you are not relying on artificial cushioning to get extra support. The shoes mimic your natural body position to keep you stable while running.

  • Less muscle pain

Regular running shoes tend to increase muscle pain due to disturbed posture. Your body stays in a neutral and natural position while running in zero drop shoes. 

Podiatrists often recommend zero drop shoes to patients with knee and lower back pain. It is because these shoes put less stress on the muscles while walking and running.

  • Natural running gait

As zero drop shoes provide a barefoot run, you can get a natural running gait in these shoes. Unlike regular running shoes, you get to stay more on the ground. This posture helps you get a natural stride, and you can feel the ground while walking and running.

Zero drop shoes are also better for people that aim to transition from walking to running. As they have less cushioning, you can enjoy a natural and neutral running gait.

wear zero drop shoes to run

Zero drop vs regular running shoes: 6 differences

While zero drop shoes often look the same as regular running shoes, they have several differences if we look a bit deeper. Most zero drop shoes have a significant design change. All of these changes tend to have a huge impact on the performance of the shoes.

Let’s have a look at the differences between zero drop and regular running shoes.

1. Foot biomechanics

The types of running shoes you select will depend on your foot biomechanics, which includes your foot shape and running style.

According to studies, foot shape can change after long-distance running. Therefore, it is necessary to determine your foot type and buy shoes according to it. The wet test is famous for this. In this test, you dip your feet in the water and stamp them on a paper towel. The prints on the paper towel help you determine your foot shape. We will discuss more about this test later in the article.

Mostly, people have a low, normal, or high arch. This difference will decide your foot shape and the type of shoes that suit you. If you have a high arch, zero drop running shoes are for you. However, these shoes are also suitable for neutral arches.

Apart from foot type, the running style also matters. Zero drop running shoes are ideal for people that put their forefoot and midfoot on the ground first. It is because the forefoot spreads, and the weight and pressure get equally distributed. 

The minimal cushioning of zero drop shoes will keep your heel and forefoot on the same level as you strike the ground. 

On the other hand, if you put your heel first on the ground while running, you should opt for regular running shoes with cushioning.

2. Training goals

Whether you should choose regular or zero drop shoes will depend on your training goals. Most runners aim to buy new shoes only to increase their speed. If that is your case, too, zero drop running shoes are ideal.

Unlike regular running shoes, zero drop running shoes provide a more natural running position. When your feet stay in contact with the ground quickly, you can run faster. Also, the body alignment stays natural, allowing you to stay more comfortable while running.

Apart from this, zero drop shoes can also help run faster. However, if you already have foot problems and rely on regular running shoes, transitioning to zero drop shoes will hurt your feet. When switching between these two types, you should always be slow to make your feet adapt to the change.

On the other hand, if you already suffer from foot problems, regular running shoes are better. It is because regular running shoes have more cushioning. It relaxes the feet and prevents excessive pain during and after running. 

For people who want to strengthen their foot muscles, zero drop shoes are a good choice. These shoes tend to target the knees, hips, ankles and lower back. Several studies also suggest that walking and running in zero drop shoes is effective. These shoes put pressure on the foot muscles, which in turn strengthens the other muscles as well. 

Thus, zero drop shoes are better for runners that aim to strengthen muscles and increase muscle mass. 

running everyday

3. Terrain and running surface

Several studies indicate that different factors influence your choice of running shoes. However, the terrain and running surface are the most crucial among them.

We already know that zero drop shoes have a low profile and minimal cushioning. Therefore, these shoes are better for running or walking on smooth terrains. These include road running and trail running. 

On the other hand, regular running shoes are good for running on uneven trails and bumpy areas. Their maximum cushioning provides shock absorption. It does not cause unnecessary pressure on the feet.

Zero drop shoes are also suitable for hiking and gym training. Their natural shape keeps the body aligned. As a natural alignment is necessary during weightlifting and training, zero drop shoes can be a great choice.

4. Injury history

People suffering from any muscle problem or injury should always be careful while choosing running shoes.

While zero drop shoes strengthen the foot muscles, they are not suitable for people with foot injuries. Such people should opt for cushioned shoes to get support and shock absorption.

Podiatrists recommend that people with plantar fasciitis, bunions, and hammertoes should avoid wearing zero drop shoes. They need more support and cushioning. Regular running shoes can help them maintain balance.

On the other hand, if you don’t have any medical condition related to feet or foot injury, zero drop shoes are good to go. In this case, these shoes can be beneficial for running. However, it’s always better to consult your podiatrist if you already suffer from foot problems.

5. Running preference

Runners have different preferences when it comes to their running style. Some runners would prefer to get a better feel of the ground. Otherwise, they feel like the run wasn’t worth it.

If you feel the same, zero drop shoes can be the ideal choice. They keep your feet in contact with the ground without providing an extra artificial layer. Several runners prefer this feeling of staying on the ground while running.

On the other hand, some runners prefer a more cushioned feel. They want to feel like walking on the clouds. The idea of staying grounded and feeling the rubble disturbs them and their running. That is why such runners would want cushioned shoes to stay comfortable and cozy. 

6. Shoe feel

The inside-shoe feeling also marks a difference between zero drop shoes and regular running shoes.

As regular running shoes have more cushioning, they give a caged feeling to your feet. However, the inside feel is still comfortable as you get maximum padding on the sides of the shoes as well.

But, zero drop running shoes provide plenty of space inside the shoes. Therefore, you can move your feet without feeling caged. These shoes also have large toe boxes, which is not the case with regular shoes.

So, zero drop shoes are great for runners with wide feet and those who want their feet to move freely inside the shoes.

running in the sun

Why zero drop shoes are bad: the disadvantages

Due to being different from regular running shoes, zero drop shoes can have some disadvantages.

However, using them the right way for the right type of foot can make them less painful.

Let’s have a look at some disadvantages of zero drop shoes.

  • Risk of injury

There are several controversies on whether zero drop shoes pose a risk of injuries or not. The truth is, zero drop shoes put pressure on your Achilles tendons. If you already suffer from foot problems, zero drop shoes can worsen the situation.

That is why podiatrists are often not in favor of barefoot running.

  • Not suitable for all terrains

You can walk and run in regular running shoes on many terrains due to their enhanced cushioning and comfortable fit.

But when it comes to zero drop shoes, they are not made for all terrains. The barefoot feel of these shoes makes them unsuitable for bumpy areas and uneven trails. That is why most podiatrists recommend that zero drop shoes are great for training and weightlifting.

If you don’t get bothered by the idea of changing shoes a few times a day, you can go for zero drop shoes!

  • Stress on muscles

Some podiatrists say that zero drop shoes put more stress on our feet and the rest of the body while walking and running.

Our feet were not designed to interact with hard surfaces again and again. When posed with constant stress, our muscles can become weak. This condition can lead to severe injuries and other health issues.

Can I switch between zero drop and regular running shoes?

Yes. You can switch between zero drop and regular running shoes.

However, it is better to take the process slowly. When used to wearing cushioned shoes, our feet can take time to adapt to a completely different barefoot feel.

In this way, your feet will be comfortable in both zero drop and cushioned shoes. Then, you can regularly switch between both. However, you should still not completely stick to one type of shoe. Otherwise, your feet will take time to adapt to other shoes again.

How can I determine my foot type?

You can determine your foot type by checking the shoes you wear the most. The marks of your feet on those shoes will help you determine it.

The foot types usually include a low arch, medium arch, and high arch.

Another idea is to use the Wet Test to check your foot type. Here is how to perform the test:

  • Pick a container and add water.
  • Place a paper towel or cloth on the side.
  • Dip your feet in the water.
  • Take them out and directly step on the paper towel.

The marks on the paper towel will indicate your foot type.

People with a low arch will have their complete foot design on the paper towel. However, a half-filled midfoot will indicate a neutral arch. If a slight portion of your midfoot is printed, you have a high arch.

Are zero drop shoes suitable for all runners?

Zero drop shoes are not suitable for all runners. But, most podiatrists recommend that runners should wear zero drop shoes to get maximum support and keep their bodies aligned.

Runners with foot problems or a history of injury should not wear zero drop shoes. These shoes put pressure on the foot muscles, which can make the condition worse. Runners with plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes, and Achilles tendonitis should stick to normal shoes.

running shoes

Will zero drop shoes help with plantar fasciitis?

Zero drop shoes have a direct impact on the calf muscles and Achilles tendons. People with plantar fasciitis do not have enough flexibility in these muscles. So, wearing zero drop shoes will worsen the situation.

But, if you do not have plantar fasciitis, you can wear zero drop shoes. In fact, these shoes will help prevent the condition by strengthening the foot muscles.

What are the potential dangers of transitioning to zero drop shoes too quickly?

When we wear cushioned shoes, our body gets used to artificial support. It also changes the body alignment. Thus, switching to zero drop shoes quickly can be risky. It will take time for our body to return to its natural alignment.

If we still do this, we can suffer from pain in the foot and calf muscles. The immediate and constant pressure can also cause severe pain in other body parts. The quick transition may also result in disturbed body alignment.

Therefore, it is always better to transition to zero drop shoes gradually. Once our body becomes used to slow stress on muscles, we can eventually increase it.

Are zero drop shoes suitable for walking?

Yes. Zero drop shoes are suitable for walking. In fact, it is better to walk in zero drop shoes before using them for running. In this way, our body becomes used to the fit and shape of these new shoes.

Once our feet get used to walking in zero drop shoes, transitioning to running becomes easier. 

Apart from this, walking also does not put much pressure on the feet. Thus, barefoot walking might not harm the feet much.

Are zero drop shoes good for your flat feet?

Zero drop shoes are not suitable for flat feet.

People with flat feet already have poor foot structure and need more arch support. Zero drop shoes already lack support due to less cushioning. It increases the risk of injuries in the foot.

When walking or running in zero drop shoes, the arches can collapse. Thus, people with flat feet should avoid wearing zero drop shoes. Running shoes with arch support can be a better option for them.

Conclusion

Zero drop shoes come with a unique design. But these shoes also have different features that make them suitable for certain foot types.

Whether you choose regular running shoes or zero drop shoes will depend on several factors. These include foot biomechanics, injury history, terrain and running surface, and running style. 

Also, zero drop shoes are great for strengthening muscles and preventing injuries. But if you already suffer from injuries or foot problems, you should stick to regular running shoes.

If you want to give zero drop shoes a try, make sure you take the process slowly. In this way, your body will become adapted to new shoes without causing any health problems.

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